Wednesday June 16, 1943
The Earth Trembles
George Douglas Blair is born in Toronto, Ontario, the eldest child of third generation Scottish immigrants, Howard & Mable Blair.
Named after his grandfather George, his grandparents are the only ones to use his first name.
The Blairs settle 40km north west of Toronto in the rural village of Nashville, Ontario. Howard works at the local mill while Mable raises five children and makes under-cooked pies.
10¢ / row
Raised with a protestant work ethic, Doug gets his first job at age 10. He's paid 10¢ per row pulling weeds at a neighbouring farm.
In primary school Doug attends a one-room school house that's up hill both ways. By the end of high school Doug holds several records for track and field races.
The Blair's lived was down the street from a busy railway line which inspired a life-long fascination with trains and steam locomotives.
Doug is related to one of the West's most famed Christian evangelicals and missionaries, Rowland Victor Bingham of East Grinstead, Sussex. Rowland Bingham was the cofounder and longtime director of the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM).
In 1893, at age 20, Rowland left Canada to join his friends Walter Gowans and Thomas Kent on an expedition to evangelize the African interior where few missionaries ventured. Rowland was the only one to return alive.
By the time of his death, SIM had grown into what was arguably the largest Protestant presence in Africa with 400 missionaries, and hundreds of churches established. He died in 1942, one year before Doug's birth.
South Bound and Down
At age 17 Doug packs his bags and leaves rural Ontario life for the American South where he enrolls in the conservative Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.
Doug departed Canada from Toronto Union Station. At a stop over at Chicago Union Station he leaves his luggage by a bench while he uses the men's room. He never sees his suitcases again.
After three years of keeping a low profile Doug is awarded a liberal arts degree in theology.
[Speaking about Bob Jones, another pastor once tells Doug, "I fugure if you're going to go to jail you may as well murder somebody first".]
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Doug's next stop is Dallas Theological Seminary where he spends the next four years studying theology and preparing for the ministry.
He attends First Baptist Church of Dallas where he meets a young Christian woman named Detra in his Sunday School class.
Their first exchange:
Doug: "Would you like to sit with me in Church?"
Detra: "I don't believe we've been properly introduced."
Detra Lorene Wade
An old school southern belle from a tough family, Detra was born and raised in a working class neighbourhood in Dallas, Texas.
- As a small child, Detra was adopted by her grandparents while staying close to her mother down the street.
- Detra's great-grandfather fought in the American civil war and later, according family legend, rode with Jesse James.
- Her maternal great-grandmother was full blood Cherokee nation.
- Detra had polio as an eight year old girl. After four months in the hospital she continued to miss a full year of school.
- On November 22, 1963 Detra joined her office mates to watch president John F. Kennedy's motorcade parade past her office. Twenty minutes later he was assassinated.
Detra discovers the Canadian winter
Doug takes Detra back to Rural Ontario to meet his family. When he takes her skating on the local pond, she discover what real cold feels like and that pond skating doesn't only happen in postcards.
To have and to hold
Doug and Detra are married by the reverend Dr. W.A. Criswell at First Baptist Church of Dallas. Criswell mispronounces Detra's name.
On the wedding day Doug's mother pulls him aside and says "you know, she's too good for you". The same morning Detra's mother pulls her aside and also says, "You know, he's too good for you".
The newlywed's first home is a 2nd floor garage apartment [without air conditioning]. Rent was $40/month.
Doug and Detra travel to California for a belated honeymoon.
Doug photographs Detra on the train, and keeps the framed photo on his desk for the next 49 years and counting.
Master of Theology
After four years of study Doug is awarded a Master of Theology in New Testament Exegesis. He's ready to start preaching and lead his first congregation.
Doug's first church is in the town of West, Texas where he serves as the interim pastor to a congregation with long Eastern European names he can't pronounce.
Doug & Detra move move the small town of Pembroke, Ontario where he leads Calvary Baptist Church.
In 1970 Doug invites his friend Dr. Elmer Townes to speak on a Sunday morning. Nearly the entire congregation responds to the altar call.
In 1971 Doug leads the church in building a new place of worship.
The random jobs of Douglas Blair
- Pulling weeds at the neighbours farm
- Raising chickens and selling the eggs
- Milk truck delivery driver
- Door-to-door bible salesman
- High school French teacher
- High school substitute teacher
- Super 8 film camera and projector salesman
- Property owner / landlord
Doug & Detra make three new human people. the first born Philip Daniel (1971), the middle child Graham Kyle (1973) and the baby, Joel Andrew (1974).
The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada invite Doug to plant a new church in the city of Sarnia in Southwestern Ontario, [not to be confused with Narnia].
Seven families from Temple Baptist church volunteer to join him as the founding members of the new Bluewater Baptist Church.
The young congregation meets at St. Clair Secondary School for a decade, where Stan Martin single-handedly clears chairs stacked twelve at a time.
At age 40 Doug takes a break and fulfils a life-long dream to travel to Israel and "walk in Jesus footsteps". After two weeks, he returns home with one of his famous slide shows.
During his absence a rare tornado hits Southwestern Ontario, leaving severe damage in Reeces Corners and blowing roofing tiles off the family's Sarnia home.)
[Do you have a favourite recorded? We would like to include it here.]
A sermon 10 years in the making and one of Pastor Blair's greatest hits.
Thoughts on the nature of life, death and the hubris of man. (First delivered in the late 80s)
"Sins of the father"
Doug's great uncle, Frederick Charles Blair, was the director of the Government of Canada's Department of Immigration, the Department of Mines and Resources from 1936 to 1943. Fred Blair developed and rigorously enforced strict immigration policies based on race and is most remembered for his successful effort to keep Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany out of Canada during the 1930s and the war years that followed. His rigorous enforcement of anti-Semitic immigration policies sealed the fate of thousands of European Jews who would have escaped death had Canada not turned them away.
The consequence of F.C. Blair's policies were most starkly shown in his refusal in June 1939 to allow the M.S. St. Louis, the so-called "Voyage of the Damned", to dock in Halifax with 907 Jewish emigrants aboard. After Canada's rejection (the final refusal in a series of rejections by the United States, Mexico and other Latin and South American countries), the St. Louis was forced to return to Europe where 254 of the passengers perished at the hands of the Nazis.
Although many Jewish refugee ships were denied entry by western nations and forgotten, the St. Louis saga was well publicized and exploited by the Nazis for propaganda. The St. Louis snub helped convince Hitler he could launch his Final Solution without opposition from the West.
November 5th, 2000
"Will you forgive me?"
Chateau Laurier Hotel, Ottawa.
In 2000 a grass roots movement across Canadian churches begins a project to welcome the remaining survivors of the M.S. St. Louis to Canada, 61 years after they were first denied entry as children.
Twenty-eight Jewish survivors and their spouses cautiously accept the invitation. Each of them know the name Blair and the role it played in their lives. During a formal banquet, Douglas anxiously addresses the survivors. Joel has never seen his father so nervous.
"I have come to beg your forgiveness for the deep, deep wrong that was done to you. I understand very well that my name is not one dear to your heart . . . will you forgive me and let me call you my friends?"
The group spontaneously rises and surrounds Douglas to embrace him and accept his apology. There are lots of tears.
Jewish organizations in Canada now count Doug a friend and supporter. In 2001 he is invited to speak at the oldest synagogue in Vancouver.
February 22, 2006
Doug & Detra welcome the new generation, Joel's son Julian. He is their sole grandchild, and shares Doug's love of trains.
Republic of Nicaragua
Doug and Detra begin a ministry to mentor Baptist pastors at the Skylark Pastor's & Wives Conference. Both lead classes, seminars and workshops. They make annual trips to run the conference for six years.
May 7, 2017
70th Anniversary at Calvary Baptist
In 2017 Doug & Detra travelled back to Pembroke, Ontario where Doug was invited to speak at the 70th anniversary of Calvary Baptist Church, 39 years after he first left.
June 25, 2017
After 39 years, Pastor Blair preaches his last sermon at Bluewater Baptist. Pastor Tim Cressman, on staff since 2002, continues as the senior pastor.
Doug continues to serves on the CAPPS board of directors, in various positions in the Fellowship, and as an interim pastor across Ontario.
He also has an extensive model railroad in the basement that needs attention.