Fairview Cove and Bert Cooper

Submitted by Devonna Edwards

Fairview Cove was a beautiful place before the government railroad cut up the area for its tracks in the 1850s. The Cove remained a popular swimming spot before and after the railroad was built. Today a large Container Terminal now occupies the area.

An older Fairview resident told me that his grandmother said years ago thousands of dollar fish used to wash up on the shore of Fairview Cove. These fish were collected and pickled by the locals.

Fairview Cove had a Public Bathing Pavilion on the shores of the Bedford Basin known in the 1930s as the North End Public Bathing Pavilion. Swimmers had to sign their name and address in a registry book before entering the water. Bert Cooper was the Lifeguard at that time. In the newspaper dated August 6, 1937 there is a picture of this, although not very clear. In the picture children where shown in front of the Pavilion, on the rocky shore in the section where the bathing resort was. The Pavilion was described as having four rooms of rather curtailed dimensions. The beach had no sand only rock and gravel but that did not curtail the swimmers or the tourist visiting Halifax. Relief workers were entrusted with daily cleaning up the area but the public thought that regularly employed men should be hired to do the job, since on one day alone, there were a hundred registered bathers at the Bath Pavilion but it was estimated that between 200 and 300 bathers utilized the accommodations without signing their names. It was said that for a quarter of a mile along this section of shore, bathers were seen in crowds. The newspaper said the visitors that came to swim at Fairview Cove came from places such as Detroit, Buffalo and New York to name a few. They were particularly attracted by the warmth of the water and its cleanliness. The newspaper went on to complain that more adequate bathing facilities should be provided due to the fact that hundreds of people use the baths daily when the weather was hot. It went on to say that the lockers provided in the small Pavilion were too few and the surrounding bushes were utilized as a make shift dressing room, a condition not desirable. Tourist wondered why more suitable facilities were not provided at the Fairview Resort.

In the newspaper for July 28, 1937, the paper expressed that there was fear that an accident will occur in which injuries will be suffered by a number of those who frequent the Public Beach at Fairview and may even result in tragedy by many who have witnessed crowds massed on the inadequate “raft” anchored off the beach. There was a feeling among those who utilized the swimming resort that there should be a proper float constructed and anchored off the Public Bath House. Concern was raised about the raft, which was practically submerged at times, having so many people resting on it, would tip over from the weight. Many people thought that there should also be a policeman on hand to keep things in order when big crowds gathered at the beach.

Other popular Public Baths were located at Horseshoe Island, at the Arm and at the Bedford Pavilion.

Bert Cooper, who I mentioned previously was the Lifeguard at Fairview Cove, was in charge of the bathing place. He had a number of rescues to his credit during the time he was there, including one boy who fell from the nearby Oil Wharf and was saved by Bert. On July 7, 1936, he pulled Robert Purcell, a thirteen year old boy, who lived on Agricola Street, from a near death. The youth had been fishing with his sister from a wharf at the extreme end of the beach and had attempted along with other boys to climb a fence on the wharf. His hands, slippery from the handling of his catch, had allowed him to fall into the water and almost to his death. His sister yelled to the Lifeguard, Bert raced 300 yards, jumped in and saved him from a watery grave. The boy was bought to the shore unconscious and Bert Cooper worked steadily on him, applying Artificial Respiration for more than half an hour before the victim showed signs of life. He was then immediately taken to the Victoria General Hospital.

On July 29, 1938, the newspaper reported the heroic rescue performed in the Bedford Basin water where the quick action of Bert Cooper prevented a tragedy when sixteen year old Edward Singer (16 Almon Street) became exhausted while swimming for a float, 150 feet from the shore. Mr. Cooper plunged into the water without stopping to remove his shoes and brought the boy to shore.

Bert took special First-Aid courses which came handy while he was a Lifeguard at Fairview Cove. There was first-aid equipment on hand and he had to apply bandages and disinfection for many cuts and bruises suffered along the rocky beach.

Bert was a remarkable swimmer. By 1942, Bert Cooper was the holder of the Maritime Long Distance Swimming Championship. He was now a war worker employed as a radio-technician at the Dockyard.By 1943, he was no longer a Lifeguard. He held a record of saving twenty-six lives during his years as a Lifeguard and was recommended for the Carnegie Medal (medal in recognition of lifesaving efforts). He had already been awarded the Royal Human Society Parchment Award.

Bert Cooper lived on 6427 Lady Hammond Road where he owned a full acre of land. He had a home and business on his property. He operated a Zoo there which was stocked with animals bought from a touring circus. For a small fee, the public could gaze at a variety of Canadian and foreign animals.

A television program once filmed at the Zoo during which he wrestled with bears from Alberta. About 1957, he sold the land on which the Zoo was located but kept a few animals at his home. He sold the land to the British Oil and a Service Station stood on the property in 1967. In 1967, he also sold another part of the property to Renault Automobile Canada Ltd. The car company built a warehouse on the property.

He also had a pool called the Cooper Swimming Pool, said to be one of the largest in North America, and measured 150 feet by 50 feet and 12 feet deep in one part. It was used by the local citizens until about 1964.

Bert Cooper also claimed to have the first Trailer Park and the first Drive-In-Movie in the area, both developed on land which he sold.
He was an electrical contractor and owned Fairview Radio and Sound Insulations at his home on Lady Hammond Road.