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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Exploring abandoned and interesting places: Red Cliff Air Radar Station

I am surprised how many people in St. John’s don’t know that hidden away off Red Cliff Road is a
piece of American Cold War history. Red Cliff Air Radar Station is an abandoned American Surveillance Radar station. It is located 5.8 miles (9.3 km) north-northeast of St. John's.
The original radar station

The American Air Force built the site in 1951 as a General Surveillance Radar station. Northeast Air Command stationed the 642nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron at the station on 1 January 1953. The 642nd's role was to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit's radar scopes.

The staircase to the radar tower
The Red Cliff Air Radar Station was a complete community once it became operational. At one point it housed military personal in barracks, had a warehouse, a dining hall and recreational areas.

Red Cliff Air Radar Station was closed on October 01, 1961. Today the site is abandoned and unused. Some of the structures remain, but are deteriorating or have fallen completely. On the day I visited the only people there were weekend warriors playing air rifle games, hikers using the East Coast Trail and three teenaged vandals spray painting the already over vandalized buildings.
The staircase to a hidden underground bunker

It is a shame that in this year when we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Beaumont Hamel and the First World War that this site that played such an important role at one time is left to disappear into an overgrown forest.

If it had been kept up it surely would have been one of the top visited tourist sites in the 
Inside of the mess hall
province. People travel all over the world to see old military sites and experience history. It is a missed opportunity for us for sure.

A window in an abandoned office
Remains of the electrical plant
Read about the full history of Red Cliff Radar Station at

Red Cliff

Inside of the radar tower

Exploring abandoned and interesting places: The Brookfield Drive-In

My sister and her husband had a car. This was rare in my family. My Mother didn’t drive so we

The original Brookfield Drive-In ticket booth
depended on buses, taxis or walking. Back then the bigger the car the cooler you were. I can’t remember what she drove but I know it had to be huge. On the weekend, my sister, her husband, their three boys, my mother and me piled into that car and went to the Brookfield Drive-In to see a movie.

This cash machine never took ATM cards
It was a real treat! I was ten years old when it opened in 1973. The lot could hold over 600 cars and there were nights it was filled to capacity. The cost of a movie was $1.75 - $3.50 a person and many will tell you they hid in the trunk of their friend’s car to avoid the cost of a ticket.

The canteen was the hub of excitement at the drive-in. You would never know who you would see there. It really was the place for families to see and be seen. They served popcorn in huge buckets, delicious corn dogs and pop. The food was the best part.

We drove up to the speaker pole and pulled the old fashioned speaker head inside the widow and watched movies dressed in our pajamas cuddled under a big old blanket gnawing on hot buttered popcorn and treats.

An original speaker holder
Those days are gone now. Buried under Alder Bushes and abandoned in a large field off Tobin’s Road, the Brookfield Drive-In is no more. The large screen blew down during one of Newfoundland’s famous wind storms in 1992. By that time every family had a VCR and watched movies at home anyway.

Today the remains are still behind the Old Mill Night Club on Brookfield Road. You take a left on Tobin’s Road and drive to the top. You’ll see big boulders to stop you from driving in. Look for the old road and you will have to walk a short distance to see the remains of the ticket booth. Once inside you’ll have to use your imagination or your memories to put everything back in place.

What is left of the canteen. It burned down in a fire years after the drive in closed.
Discarded speaker holders
I stood on the concrete platform that was once the canteen and looked out into the overgrown field. When I closed my eyes I could still smell the hot buttered popcorn and corn dogs. I could hear my mother calling “Come on the movie is about to start.” We would run across the lot, in the cool night air, lost, looking for the car. My brother-in-law would flash the lights to remind us where we were parked and we would run towards it laughing, spilling a popcorn trail along the way.
The last seat at the Brookfield Drive-In