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The resonant tone of the half-ton bell would not be taken for granted if it were in a valley that would reverberate its ringing. While we on the prairie, in Portage la Prairie, take it for granted, we know that we would miss it if the clapper ceased to strike at its usual hours and perform its duties on important occasions.
No-one can deny that the town and city of Portage has been well-served by the V2 ton bell, which for almost 65 years has rung out the hours. There is also the "quarter bell" at 8.45 a.m. to warn children of the approaching school hour. Through the years, how many parents have said to their children at the breakfast table, "There goes the "quarter bell" now SCOOT"? And how many have set clocks and watches by its dependable ringing?
The ben has seen many events and occasions, some of them gay and many of them sad, and in turn it has marked each. It has been heard joyously ringing out the old year and bringing in a new one, well over 60 of them; it has tolled the death of prominent men and' women; and it has for years tolled the silence as Portage remembered its war dead.
In addition, the sudden, sharp and urgently spaced clanging of the bell has sounded the call to firemen and volunteers from all corners of the city, summoning them to join in fighting conflagrations of varying size, many of them, in 60 years, of a disastrous nature.
These services cost the Portage Fire Brigade 25c a pound, and the bell weighs 1027 pounds. When firemen reached a decision, in 1890, to purchase a new bell, they naturally "shopped around." Following is one of the letters sent to J. P. Young, in charge of the committee, by a representative of the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore: Quote - "I am just in receipt of a reply to my letter to the manufacturers and the best offer that I can make you now is 25c per pound, and for the bell metal of the old bell I will allow 14c per pound, i.e., on new bell and old bell, and I to furnish the manufacturer's guarantee with the bell against breakage. I think this is a better deal than the old one as I now pay the freights on the old bell as well as the new one and all you will have to pay is the duty."
The deal was made and the bell was shipped to Portage. It was hoisted to the top of the old fire hall where it began its service in what was then the 'town' of Portage la Prairie.
Today it sits in its own private little tower atop the City Hall, still a faithful servant sending out messages to the people.