Aug 20, 2010


Mystery Photo from last time prompted the following responses from our classmates:



Time for a quick follow-up on last column as we are heading out to the grand reunion of 2010 in Gander on Aug. 20-23…. We have received more on the topic: ‘toys we made’ along with memories of how much we enjoyed them at the time… But first, this mystery photo above generated some good response and thanks to David Naish and Bob Pelley who identified the key figure in the middle. There is more information from Gerri Fitzgerald Nimmo and Ken Barnes. (By the Way, the photo is courtesy of Bob Pelley who purchased a disk of photos of Gander scenes on ebay, which the seller, apparently a serviceman stationed in Gander in the early 1960s, had captured on film).


Well I recognize the guy in the middle of the photo as Yuri Gagarin (Russian) who became the first man in outer space in 1961 - and the plane is Russian - CCCP signifies USSR.  Also Gagarin did a tour of Canada in 1962 to promote the Russian achievement so I figure he may have landed in Gander on his Canadian tour?.  Will work on those two others guys and may come up with more details.   Could the guy behind be the Hon. George Hees who used to Min. of Transport? Anyway will check further,   Always fun solving mysteries.  

             Gerri Fitzgerald Nimmo


And Gerri could not let it rest at that. The following day she came up with:


That's Dag Hammarskjold, Sec. Gen of the U.N., Juri Gagarin,  and General Nikolai Kamanin, who was in charge of Cosmonaut Training in the Soviet Union and the photo might have been taken as they landed in Gander for refueling, perhaps on their way to Cuba, as part of their tour to promote the Soviet's achievement of putting the first man in space - possibly in August of 1961.

Isn't that a lot of detail for a guess!! Probably some small town Gander guys welcoming Juri Gagarin.

Gerri Fitzgerald Nimmo, SJ Class of 1959


Man, that was a thrill. This is a pix of Yurin Gagarin, the first man in space. One and only flight in space was April 12, 1961. He came to Gander shortly thereafter (’61 or early ’62) and not sure where he went from there.. He may have gone to Cuba or Ottawa. Purpose was for a publicity tour so Russia could rub the USA’s nose into the fact Russians were first in space.

I was an Air Canada tarmac flunky (unloading baggage) when the Russian plane carrying him landed. After the formalities were over (don’t know the faces in pix), he stayed next to the exit stairs and there was no one around for a brief minute. So in my Air Canada coveralls I simply walked over, stuck out my hand, and said “congratulations, an honor to meet you.” He shook it enthusiastically and gave me a big smile. So it was a thrill.

Yuri died in a fighter jet crash in March 1968. He was very athletic, the Russians tried to keep him out of planes as a national icon but did not succeed. Which is why his profile is nothing like John Glen’s.

But as the “crossroads of the world” Yurin Gagarin did indeed visit Gander.

                Ken Barnes, GA Class of 1960


Now on the topic of things (toys?) we made ourselves…


I did a far amount of the usual stuff but always seemed to get involved in things a bit off the beaten track.

 Let give you an example.  I always liked guns and would have liked to try something more interesting than a single shot  .22 caliber Cooey that most teenage boys in Gander had access to. I wanted something a bit more exciting. Don’t ask me how I figured it out but one day I was looking at the metal handle on a particular model of very common floor ashtray.  The handle was in fact a metal tube of which the size intrigued me. I took the ashtray apart and closely examined the handle, to discover to my great delight that the inside diameter was exactly .22 inches, a excellent and tight fit for a .22 caliber bullet.

Another thing in my favour is that a .22 bullet is a “rimfire” which means that it would go off easily.  So I cut off the curved parts of the handle,  which gave me a straight “barrel” of about 5 or so inches long. I made up a handle, along with the hammer from a cap gun. I reinforced the barrel and attached it to the handle section and used a number of springs or elastics until I got the hammer to work properly. However, I realized quickly enough that the ashtray handle was made of very cheap, poor quality metal and decided not to attempt fate any longer.  I didn’t tell anyone about how to make one when I realized the possible dangers.  But I must say that I was pretty pleased about my home-made “pistol” for the time it lasted!

Another ”toy” I tried was a “fishing bow” that I had seen in some book about the Indians in the US. It was much smaller than a normal bow because it had to be carried in rough country. And didn’t need to fire very far.  I made up very sharp and narrow arrows with metal tip and a barb on each side. You had to see the fish in order to use it which meant going down a stream.  I quickly learned that a dry fly or a worm worked much better!

 I also got a kit to make up a “Theremin”.  This is a ”musical instrument” that changes tone and volume depending on how far your hands are from its two ”antennas”.  It has the eeriest sound (used by experts for a few movies) but I soon learned that in my case, a record player was a better way to go.

A few other things we used to make up were crystal radios and rings made from aluminum tubing connectors that came from the airplane dump.

Am I wrong when I think that we were better off not having a Toys’r’Us just around the corner???

                Bob Pelley, GA Class of 1962


Tree Houses

 Construction of tree houses followed the same pattern and methods as the playhouse and rope had to be acquired to get some of the pieces of wood and our tools where we wanted them to go.  We didn’t have far to search to find a good hefty tree that would lend itself to the erection of our house.  There was always a stand of trees around our homes or behind the school or on the way to Deadman’s Pond or down in the Gander Lake shore area. 

Use of the tree house varied . . a hideout, club house (for our Stealthy Prowlers Club) when we found ourselves emulating the exploits of  Nancy Drew or a place to stash our comic books and other treasurers that our parents referred to as junk and asked/told us to throw in the garbage. 

 Now, I ask you, who could throw away a most useful and recyclable blue Noxema jar which was prized as a waterproof security box for decoder rings or your prized marbles (aggies).  Besides, those jars came in different sizes.  When one of my sisters and her friends became a little older and were exploring the use of cigarettes (no, I never smoked) those Noxema jars came in handy to stash their butts when they heard our parents approaching declaring that they could smell smoke.  The hiding place for the butt-filled Noxema jar was under the dresser and the “borrowed” stash of cigarettes was in the fuse box - and yes, Dad finally found the cigarettes but not the Noxema jar.  Perfume atomizers were also useful as they sprayed water on our foes.

Tree houses were usually outfitted with homemade benches, sleeping bags, old blankets and a first aid kit.  Pen knives or a good pocket (Jack) knife was also a must.  Food, if required, was brought from home wrapped in waxed paper.  Drinks carried in their own bottle or in a Mason Jar.  Carrier was a paper bag.  We did not have a lunch box as we lived too close to the school and went home for lunch.  Whatever we did, had to be practical, economical and administered to a “T.”  No one wanted to trek back home to get some forgotten item.  If we did that, we usually encountered an adult who had a job for us to do and unlike kids of today, we did not dare say we were busy or would do it later, we “hopped to it” immediately or suffered the consequences!!


Rafts were required to navigate the runoff waters (small ponds to us) of the runways and subsequent “sandbars.”  We lived in MARS at this time.  We were lucky kids because the men working in the Airport Control Tower kept a close eye on us when we were experiencing these childhood adventures.  If /when the runway, where we were playing, was to be utilized the Control Tower workers alerted the men who serviced the runways who came, via truck, to tell us we had to skedaddle.  Move we did but only to take a leisurely jog to the airline commissaries where food always awaited us and the workers had us regale our exploits of the day.  Most of these men and women were young and had no family living in Gander.  They resided in a gender specific barracks.

                Patricia Dempsey Hiscock, GA Class of  1956


Thanks everyone for providing this jaunt down memory lane. Next time,  Pat Hiscock will continue her adventures in ‘old town’ Gander …and who would have guessed she would have gone on to share many of those experiences with Girl Guides over the years.

See you right back here again, after the reunion where many of us will reconnect, renewing old friendships and making many new ones.