June 10, 2007

OK kids, it’s been awhile since  I posed the question about upcoming ‘Father’s Day’ tribute, asking if anyone could tell us about their special dad’s contribution to life in Gander while growing up  there. Got this response from one classmate…


My father, Jim Dempsey, was one of the original Ganderites, went there in 1937  b4 the war with the British  Ministry. He was considered an essential homeland member, wasn't allowed to join the military because he was already a radio officer at Gander  attached to the British Military. 

Dad was with the  Federal Department of Transport in Gander at Air Radio, he maintained the ILS system at the airport and equipment at the towers for the air traffic controllers, plus the light house equipment around the  central Nfld area,  ’til he retired.  Then he spent years on the Coast Guard  ships, steamlines out of Montreal (Maloney's ship line)  and CN costal boats on the Port Aux Basque/North Sydney  run - as  ships’ radio officer.  His last ship was the John Cabot, when it went to Ireland for the Air India crash recovery.

He kept diaries for years, which my sister transcribed into a journal , mainly for family information. Quite an interesting ol'  coot now 93 yrs old and living in Halifax with my older sister, Patricia.  His long term memory is excellent.

-          Jane Dempsey Donnelly, Class of  1960


And another Dempsey gal heard from…


“Sorry, I’ve got no car stories to add to the last column. My Dad (Jim Dempsey) couldn't afford a car until I was about 12 years old.

Movie stars - I saw one or two at a distance.  We only got to go to the terminal to get a coke on Sunday afternoons anda that was only "if the bus came before our Sunday School teacher did."

Even as kids, when we lived in MARS building, we were not allowed to hang out in or around the terminal!!

My Mom helped out with the Hungarian refuges thus, we were permitted to go with her to play with, or look after, the Hungarian children and do whatever else we could.”

-          Pat Dempsey Hiscock, Class of  1956


Some of us, especially me, neglected to pay attention to much of what their dads did for a living while in Gander. My dad (Waldo Lewis) was transferred there as part of the RCAF and worked as a radar technician. I didn’t even get to go to where he worked. Nor do I remember any of his fellow employees there.  He must have known David Naish’s father and perhaps Gary Dyck’s father, but I don’t know that.  Anyway, if anyone could tell me more about the facility, or people there, it would be fun to know more. Unfortunately, my dad died at age 64, leaving us much too soon. 

Today, there is so much I wish I could ask him, about his World War II experiences, serving on the Isle of Wight for three years. Or maybe when he was a little boy growing up in Milton, Massachusetts, before his parents moved back to Canada when the Depression hit and they lost everything.... But that’s not to be….

- Faye Raynard, Class of 1959


… more armchair conversation with classmates brought about discussion of clear cutting of trees and the devastation it sometimes causes.


“There were huge timber cutting operations going on around Gander Lake for years without us really knowing about it when we were kids because it was happening across the lake or up around the Appleton area.  It was only in later years that I learned about it after I met people who had worked in the area while I was growing up in Gander. 

 The cutting was sustainable, quiet and inconspicuous because it was done with manual labor and only the larger usable trees were marked for cutting.  In fact, I think Bob Warren's father and his brother used to go across the Lake back in those days selling chain saws at the woods camps when chain saws came out in the early 50's.  After a cutting operation had passed through, what was left didn't look half as bad as it does now and I'm sure it regenerated much faster with the smaller trees that were left acting as re-juvenating seedlings. 

With clear cutting, the run off is awful and flooding is occurring on a regular basis with no tree roots to control the erosion of the soil.  I was up the Lake in boat a number of years ago and went into Gleneagles - all I saw was brown gravel and bog sluicing down into the water - very sad.  Especially when one considers that back in the days of the Commission Government and before - in the 20's and 30's - there was a resort there owned and operated by the Reid family who built and ran the Nfld railway. There are books and newspaper articles written in the US and English main papers of the day that describe the magnificence of the area in terms of scenery and wild life. The fact is, there were woods operations around this area long before the airport was built -  the area was known as "Hattie's camp" after the name of a guy that used to run a woods cutting operation in the area and there was a railway siding spur line for loading wood on railway flat cars there, as well.

-          Ron Mosher, Class of 1959


 “I remember the sewage treatment plant very well. Morley's father, Charlie Smith, worked there at one time and he gave some kids, well, at least Morley and me, a tour of the facility and I remember well him saying that the water coming out of the plant, after treatment, was fit for drinking, although I don't recall anyone taking him up on that at the time!

 Great summary of the water environments in the Gander area. You always manage to send a good read, Ron.”

-          Jim Butler, Class of 1959


“With regards to Gander Lake - there was never any town sewer running into the lake other than from Glenwood and that was at the west end of the lake where it dumped into the river running north to Gander Bay.  The only sewer that could have run there was from the cabins that were built in the area just after the war.  Even they had to be closed up in the sixties because of fear of pollution - there weren't very many there to begin with. 

“In the mid or late fifties when we were involved with the Boy Scouts, two guys from the air force were running it - Bob Clarke and Jack Ledbetter.  We planned a trip to Gleneagles for a May 24th camping trip - remember that place?  Anyway, Bob and Jack got the airforce survival unit to test the water in Gander Lake and they found that it was fit for drinking even without boiling at that time.  They said it was one of the most pure lakes in Nfld.  That lake is one of the biggest, and it is the deepest lakes in Nfld. 

There is a guy in Memorial University who has studied the lake and the area over a period of 15 to 20 years and has written a number of reports for the government on it. The statistics are astounding. The brown water that is seen now in the lake is a result of the tannin from the trees that have been harvested on the shores over the past 50 years. 

Now, that is the atrocity - many of the beautiful areas that existed when we were kids are destroyed.  Remember the huge birch trees that were up around Gleneagles and over on the other side?  All gone now with the strip cutting harvesting methods of the two paper companies. 

Some think it is one of the prices of progress - I don't happen to adhere to that particular opinion.  It doesn't cost much more and in the long run is cheaper, to tailor the harvesting methods, whether talking about forest, fishing or farming, to sustainable pollution free operations and technology.

-          Ron Mosher, Class of 1959


Please feel free to send along any memories you have about our next topic: “Childhood Illnesses” that we survived. And all the remedies that we had to endure to stay healthy. Whatever tidbits you can share would be most welcome. Email to faye@villagereporter.com