November 14, 2007
Some fond memories are shared here about our dads whose jobs brought us to Gander. We were inspired by Ken Barnes’ piece about his dad under Past Reflections. Remember if you want to share memories or photos about your special dad, we’d love to hear about him.
My father, Maxwell P. Mckinnon (1921-98), was born and raised in Mill Village, Queen’s County, N.S. With the outbreak of WW2, he and three of his brothers joined the Canadian Army. He first served as a Commonwealth recruit trainer in Camp Aldershot, N.S. and was then transferred to Cape Spear, NF with the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) for coastal defense. St. John’s (like Halifax) was a staging point for convoys to Great Britain, and Bell Island was a major source of iron ore for the war effort. Therefore, many German U-boats concentrated around that area.
On his trip to NF, dad was supposed to sail on the SS Caribou but (as he put it) he missed his train connection in Truro and had to sail the next day on the SS Northern Ranger. Mom said he got drunk with his friends and missed the ferry. That night the SS Caribou was sunk by a German U-boat with a tremendous loss of life. During his stay in St. John’s, dad met and married my mother. Mom also had a close call with a U-boat. While traveling to North Sydney, her ferry was diverted to Louisburg because a U-boat was sighted outside Sydney harbour.
At the end of the war dad was retrained as an electrician but took a job in the weather office at Fort Point, Liverpool, N.S. In 1951 he was transferred to the weather office at Gander, NF for a 10-year term. I remember he used to take us kids to work and show us how he made hydrogen gas which he would use to fill those huge weather balloons. He really enjoyed his stay there because he was in a great place for his favorite pastimes, hunting and fishing. In the 1950’s you could catch fish in just about every ditch or gully but dad had to find some new fishing hole that involved a lot of walking. Of course he always brought us kids along.
He was involved in the Rod and Gun Club and the Boy Scout Movement while in Gander. Since we had relatives in St. John’s, we often took the Newfie Bullet there to visit granny and grandpa and the uncles would visit us in Gander where dad would take them to his favorite hunting and fishing spots.
In 1961 he was transferred to the weather office on Hollis St. in Halifax, which later moved to Bedford. We drove to N.S. in the old 1953 baby blue Chevy, which he purchased in Gander.
Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s - Class of 1961
My dad Waldo (Wally) Lewis came back from World War 2 when I was almost 3 years old. We had never met, because he left with the Canadian Air Force before I was born. He was stationed in England on the Isle of Wight and earlier, in Dover, England for training.
He was warmly welcomed home by everyone, especially my mom. I can remember the day he walked in and we were introduced (I know it is hard to believe) but I do. I was convinced that my father was the framed photo on the bureau, not this man. And who was this guy to come in and disrupt the great relationship that my mother and I had?
But time proved the winner, and so was I, because my dad was a wonderful father. The strong one who never let his emotions show—always bolstering us up when we got down. I remember we were walking home from the grocery store where he worked with his father and uncle. He was carrying me on his shoulders and we found a piece of paper in the bushes. It would entitle us to a ‘free’ ride aboard an airplane. A week later, there we were in a piper cub high above the town of Yarmouth, N.S. and at 5 years old I was a scared. Dad had an ear-to-ear smile and assured me that we’d be okay.
He never really liked the grocery business… so, when his father and uncle died, it wasn’t long before he enlisted back in the air force and a career as a radar technician. When TV first came out he got into the repair business and I don’t think he sat down to a supper with us in a couple of years as folks would call him to get their TVs back on air in time for the nightly news.
It wasn’t until I had an eye operation at age 14 that I remember seeing him with tears in his eyes after my successful surgery. I recall thinking at the time, “He really and truly does love me”. You see, those were the days when some parents didn’t express their feelings as openly as they do today.
Anyway, this strong man who I only remember raising his voice to me one time, and never spanked or slapped me, always commanded my respect. (My mother was the disciplinarian). I cherish the times we did share before dad’s sudden death of a heart attack at age 64.
- Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959
My Dad was a fireman in Gander. He moved there during the war from Trinity Bay and moved the family shortly afterward. First we lived where the airport is now, then we moved on the other side of the runway and then into Gander as it is now. It was a new town when we moved in. My mon still lives in the same house that was built all those years ago.
Guess one of my best memories of my dad was we used to go down to Joe Batts pond for picnics on Sundays in the summer. He used to take us on his back to the middle of the pond and swim beside us back to the shore. Unfortunately, I was not the success my brothers and sisters were. I never did learn to swim very well. We used to do at lot of berry picking also.
- Gertie (Price) Collins, Class of 1958
My father was totally opposed to Newfoundland joining Canada in 1949, mainly because of the way it was decided and therefore hated Joey Smallwood and his Liberal party with a great passion. He made no secret of how he felt and how he voted.
In 1997 he suffered a stroke, which left him somewhat mentally confused but surprising, physically okay. While recuperating in hospital he would continually complain of the fact that he was not sick and wanted to go home. I tried with great persuasion to explain to him the facts of his illness but to no avail.
During his stay in hospital, a Federal Election was held. On visiting him on the evening of election day, I enquired if he had voted. He told me how they allowed him to vote from his hospital bed to which I asked him, with some amusement, who he had voted for. He said, " I voted for that young fellow, George Baker". I started to laugh, informing him that George was a "Liberal".
"Oh my God" he cried " I voted Liberal! You are right,.. I must be sick".
The complaining stopped from then on.
I smile during every election day of this memory.
- Jack Pinsent, Class of 1960
Frank Stirling was pleased to read about Ken Barnes’ dad (posted under Past Reflections on this site) and shared these thoughts…
Nice piece, Ken.
Wonderful recollections of your father.. My Father had his first heart attack at the age of 48 and was saved by a fantastic heart surgeon in Ithica, NY. where he was on a business trip. He survived and lived to the age of 75 after having 3 more heart attacks, one by-pass surgery and three strokes as well. He died in 1988.
I met some of your Topsail relatives Ken, a couple of times, while visiting with my relatives, at their place, in Topsail while they were still alive.
Thanks for sharing that piece.
- Frank Stirling, Class of 1961
Thanks Frank, great to hear from you.
Remember going for Sunday afternoon drives in your family car on the dirt road to Glenwood?. Now that brings back memories. Yes, you’re lucky the surgeon was there and truth is good health care in a timely fashion makes a huge difference. Glad to hear your Dad lived a good life.
I still miss my father who had an untimely death. He was patient, a stern disciplinarian and had an impish sense of humor. At one time collected some headstone epitaphs, and we went back to the family plot in Topsail overlooking Conception Bay to bury him.
If you went there you would read his favorite tombstone saying on his headstone:
“Look on me now,
As you pass by
As you are now
So once was I
As I am now
So you will be
So please prepare to follow me…”
- Ken Barnes, Class of 1960
Please email me at email@example.com and the webster will help us get it posted.