Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on November 24, 1927, was cold and blustery. It was also Thanksgiving Day. The following is a story that was in the Soo Evening Newspaper on Friday, November 25, 1927. As I was going through some papers recently, I was drawn to a file I had kept from that date. Norman Lever was my paternal grandfather. As a piece of Sault history, I thought I would share the story here. All punctuation and grammar are intact as they appeared in the newspaper, be mindful there are quite a few errors. – Laurie Davis
NORMAN LEVER IS DROWNED
Carbide Employee is Victim of Breaking Ladder.
Was Aiding in Unloading Stone from Steamer.
Norman Lever, 30, millwright for the Union Carbide Company was drowned Thursday night when a ladder on which he was climbing from the Carbide pier to the Steamer, Calcite, broke, throwing him against the side of the boat and into the water.
The accident occurred at 9 p.m. The body was found by coast guardsmen two hours later.
Lever was employed with a crew of men at the Carbide “slip” unloading limestone from the “Calcite.” A long wooden ladder was stretched from the pier to the boat, used as a gangplank. Lever was climbing aboard and was halfway across when the ladder snapped under him. Lever plunged down 15 feet to rest against the side of the boat and then into the water.
Didn’t Come to Surface
Workmen looked for him to give assistance but Lever did not come up to the surface again. Coast guardsmen were called and they began dragging.
The body was found by A.J. Davidson and E.C. Teughe, members of the coast guard service at 11 p.m., where Lever had gone into the water.
Coroner E.A. Cornell was called when the body was found and he ordered it removed. It was taken to the Vanderhook Undertaking Parlor.
After a cursory examination, Coroner Cornell said there would be no inquest. There was a gash in Lever’s head believed to have been caused either by striking against the ladder or the boat.
RECORD IS BROKEN
This accident stops the Union Carbide Company record of two years and ten months without a lost time accident. The last accident at the plant was January 09, 1925. While John White, superintendent of the Union Carbide plant here said that the accident breaks the plant’s record, the accident was really the fault of the boat. The ladder, which broke and caused Lever’s death was owned on the boat and was not the property of the Carbide company.
Lever leaves his widow, Dail Lever, one son Chester, 4, and one daughter Erna May, 2. He spent most of his life in the Sault. Funeral arrangements have not been made.
The following was written by J. Cole, one of the employees
in the Maintenance Department, as tribute to his departed friend,
Oh listen, men and maidens a story I’ll relate
Concerning a companion who met a dreadful fate.
It was early in the evening, the 24th of November
It was Thanksgiving night, Oh that I shall remember,
We went to work in the best of cheer, as we’d often done before,
The Steamer Calcite came to dock and we tied her to the shore
And we started to unload, her cargo of lime rock
Not thinking that death would visit us before she left the dock.
Norman Lever was our foreman, he was always on the spot.
And if I live a century I shall ne’er forget his lot.
He climbed aboard the vessel and was talking to the crew
He left them and was returning when the ladder broke in two.
He plunged into the icy waters and soon was out of sight
I pray that I am never called upon to put in just such another night.
The coast guards they were notified to drag the river bed,
They brought him to the surface, but his spirit it had fled.
He had gone beyond the border forever there to stay
And soon the undertaker prepared him for the clay.
Oh we never know the hour, death will give us a call,
So be prepared to meet it, I’d advise you one and all.
– A Companion
Note: The newspaper said that my grandfather was climbing aboard the “Calcite” when the accident occurred. J. Cole in his poem said that he was leaving the boat when the ladder snapped in two. J. Cole was accurate. My grandfather was climbing down the ladder when it broke.
On November 26, 1927, the Carbide put out its plant paper called the “Carbide Crucible.” I believe it was a monthly paper. Below is a copy. There was another short article about my grandfather. I found the whole paper interesting. I think many of you will see the last names of local families that will be recognized. In the 1920s, the Carbide plant in the Sault employed 1,000 men.