December 14, 2006

 

Getting ready for the holidays, so we’ll entertain you with some odds and ends from our memory banks, as we submit this for your holiday reading.

 

David Naish checked in with a

Special Memory of Christmas Eve in Gander - 1958

Snow was falling on the way out from town to the Army side that night. Luminescent stuff that seemed to light up the road ahead.

It was not my habit to be out this late on a Christmas Eve but I was meeting someone.

We were going to the Anglican Church service at midnight.

I had been in Gander about six months at that point. Air Force family. We had arrived on the “Bullet” that past July.

Within the next year the Anglican Church would move to the new town, as would many families; leaving behind the old wartime buildings and the way of life people had come to know in that community of communities.

The wind was picking up now and I was just starting to feel a bit chilled when the car pulled over.

It was Pete Hoyles. He was heading in the same direction and stopped to offer a ride. In keeping with the spirit of the season he offered a warming dram of Christmas cheer. The only stipulation  was that both my feet had to be inside the car and the door had to be closed. Not ajar. Closed. Something to do with the liquor statutes of Newfoundland in 1958, as I discovered years later when reading that they had been subsequently amended.

I arrived at the Army side in good time and everything went as planned. After the goodnights, I was back out on the road again for the walk back to town. It was starting to really snow now. I had not gone far when a car pulled up. As luck would have it, it was Pete Hoyles again. He kindly offered me a ride back to town and another warming wee dram in celebration of Christmas (if anyone reading this is shocked and appalled, please be assured I had both feet in the car, and the door was closed). 

And so it was on that night 48 years ago when the Anglican Church served to commune on Christmas matters spiritual, and Pete Hoyles served to commune on Christmas matters temporal.

This upcoming Christmas 2006, all the family will be away. My son and his family will be in Costa Rica, my eldest daughter will stay in Flatrock Newfoundland with her husband to await the arrival of our 5th grandchild, and my youngest daughter will be in Ennis County Clare, Ireland with her husband and our two month old 4th grandchild.

On Christmas Eve, my wife and I will be among a party of friends for dinner. I am going to tell this story of Christmas Eve 1958 in Gander, and raise my glass to Pete Hoyles.

My wife is going to look at me and say, “David, what the hell are you talking about!”

You had to be there…

Now, if anyone does not know Pete Hoyles, take a look at the reunion photo for the class of 1957. He’s on the far left. Not sure what Pete’s holding in his right hand.

Merry Christmas Pete…and compliments of the season to all,

Dave Naish, Class of ’60

 

 

Referring to the telecast of the World War II Ferry Command, Campbell Pritchett had this to say:

“Unfortunately we won't get to see it because we're in Florida. But I would like to tell everyone on this e-mail, that two brothers originally from St. John's, and eventually of course Gander during WWII were very instrumental in the war effort, and hence the Ferry Command which ferried hundreds of aircraft across the Atlantic in the early 1940's.

“I speak of the Murphy brothers, John and Frances (Fa Murphy). As many of you are aware they played a major roll in the Newfoundland Hockey arena, and it was John, who I used to deliver the news paper too in the 1950's, and was hockey coach in those days, was a major player in the war movement as a dispatcher at Gander for the military aircraft that were ferrying across the ocean. It was common knowledge that John had a photographic memory, and during the transit of these aircraft, he was quite at ease remembering the aircraft, and the names of the crew who were flying them.

John retired to Tucson Arizona from TWA in the early 1980's, and unfortunately I do not know if he is still alive. The word was that John knew, and remembered every aircraft and crew on his particular shift, and from a historic point of view, he should have been a part of the ceremony that is now taking place to remember these brave heroes of the early North Atlantic flying days. John was also instrumental in helping with the identification of the
remains of those who crashed during departure from Gander, and didn't make it to tell any stories.

 John, as some of you may know was transferred to New York, Idlewild, in the late 1950's, that eventually became JFKennedy International Airport. He was a very recognizable diplomat at JFK, and was well known by many of the celebrities who flew on TWA.

I knew John, as I was a member of the Kennedy Airport Airlines Management Council, and had the opportunity to socialize (infrequently unfortunately) with John. In any event, John was a very knowledgeable aviation management person, and his guidance in many aviation events in the New York Metropolitan area was well recognized by many in the aviation community. I say this, because it should be recognized by all that his contribution to the WWII war effort was above and beyond, and especially should be recognized by all Newfoundlanders, and Canadians alike.

If anyone is aware that John is still alive, I think CBC should at least in some way, try to contact him and try to interview him, (if in fact he is alive and in good mental health). From my knowledge of John, my hat's off to him for his dedication and contribution to the WWII war movement.

As a Vietnam war veteran, and I know how we sacrificed much of the everyday way of life to achieve some sort of social balance in our society. (Not that the Vietnam war was right or wrong), we had to follow orders from above.

I'm sure most of you do remember John as a valuable player in the Gander All Stars. I suppose there are a few others from Nfld who in some way were directly or indirectly involved in the Ferry Command, and to those I wish to say thank you and well done for your hard work.

(Just a bit of Gander history that some may have forgotten or were not aware of).
Very best regards to you all.
- Campbell Pritchett, Class of 1959

 

 

David Naish says, “Thanks for forwarding those e-mail responses to the CBC movie. I watched it as well, but missed the first hour on the first night, thinking as Audrey did that it was a 9: p.m. start. Maybe if I'd seen the first hour I'd have gotten a better sense of which characters were real, and which were composite characters to simplify the story telling. There was a lot going on there.

“The most credible characters were the two guys in the control tower. Real Newfoundlanders played by real Newfoundlanders. Actually, I should extend that to include Leah Lewis's character. I thought she did a good job with it.

“I expect the way the R.A.F. came in and took over the operations was more heavy handed in reality than depicted in the movie. I imagine that takeover would have ticked everybody off. On top of that, with confederation still 8 to 9 years away, the Canadian military brass were probably instructed to watch their step. Years ago my father-in-law told me a very unpublic story that at the end of the war the Government of Canada was very concerned about the number of illegitimate births that resulted from the military presence in Newfoundland. The Federal Government offered to pay for the trouble caused to the young women, and to take the children away to orphanages and foster homes on the mainland. Joey Smallwood said no. Newfoundland wanted those children. There was also a lot more going on with Banting than depicted in the movie. I suppose it would have taken away from the main story to expand on that role. Banting's plane went down in Musgrave Harbour in 1941. Some claim today that it was sabotage; that spies were about in Gander; that they knew that Banting was on his way to England to work on weapons development for chemical and biological warfare. The remains of his plane in Musgrave Harbour were said to have shown signs of tampering with the fuel system. Others have claimed it was a leak  in the oil cooler that took the plane down.

“The early designs of the oil coolers in those planes were known to be problematic. But as the movie showed in the cockpit scenes, those early ferry flights were extremely dangerous for many reasons. Minimal protections for the pilots and crew. Every one of those flights across the North Atlantic was heroic.

That's my take on it.
Dave Naish, Class of 1960

 

Wishing each and every classmate of Gander Academy and Hunt Memorial as well as our teachers, a safe and happy Christmas season.

Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959