OK folks, here’s a variety of email topics for your reading pleasure. Hopefully, some of this will spark a memory or two for others to add their thoughts. Keep the information coming, we are getting some good feedback. I was pleased to see Denny Pritchett do a wonderful piece about ‘getting lost’ in the woods near Gander and spending a night (a really cold one) in the woods. And this week I heard from David Naish who promises to send in his fond recollections of living on ‘the Rock’.
Last time I posed a question about which side was best to live on: Army, U.S., whatever, in old Gander town. Nobody claimed to have the best but some memories brought forward via emails kind of makes us want “to go home again” to another era, after reading…
- Faye, Class of 1959
“Gander was the best place in the world to grow up. It was fantastic. I was a Boy Scout until I was 16. And of course there were the ball games and hockey games that I loved to play. It was my intention to go back to Gander after I got out of the Army, but I never moved back.
“Going to the airport and meeting up with famous people was always fun. I met Hopalong Cassidy and got to talk to him about a half an hour while they were working on his aircraft.
“Robert Mitchum was another. He was asleep and I went over to sit down and I sat on him.
“He said to me, ‘oh, I am sorry’ after I SAT on HIM.
“Gene Kelley stopped over when his aircraft almost crashed while coming over the Atlantic. To keep the passengers calm on that flight, he got up and did a dance in the aisle of the plane, just to take their minds off the danger.”
“I used to date girls in Gander but there was one special girl out in Gander Bay, A Regina Peckford…
-Rod Hippern, Class of 1956.
And Cam Pritchett recalls: “I do remember the Co-op store on the American side as well, where I used to go for my mother, to buy the necessities for the table.
I remember Skinny Griffin's drink storage cellar which was the hill we used to ride down on the sheets of cardboard.
I remember clearly the mess hall where the cooks used to give us pies and cakes.
Who remembers Jack O’Brien?
“I recall the old airplane dumps, and I remember one time when Jack O'Brien, who's father Jim worked for Pan Am, he operated the GCA Approach Control, Jack and I found a 55 gallon drum of jet fuel while riding our bikes down near one of the old hangars, and we opened the cap and put a stick in to find out what it was, and it smelled like kerosene, so we put some on our bike chains so they wouldn't rust. Well, about 3 days later our bike chains disintegrated, and we had to explain it to our father's when we told them we needed new chains.
“The picture of the Air France Connie that's in the museum pictures crashed because the nose wheel was stuck to the left, and while landing on runway 32 the main wheels touched down normally and when the pilot lowered the nose wheel at a speed of about 80 MPH the aircraft took a sudden left turn and ran off the runway and across the 8 foot drainage ditch. I woke that morning at about 7AM and turned on our radio (CBG Gander) while I was having some cereal, and heard about it and ran out of the house and jumped on my bike and rode to the scene. I was able to walk up to a few hundred feet of the plane and no one told me to leave. (Those were days you didn't concern yourself with security), anyway, I think I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time.
“I think you remember Jack O'Brien? He moved back to the states and his father began working for NASA at Cape Canaveral, then to become Cape Kennedy. He was involved in the rocket and eventually the space flight launches up until his retirement. Jack graduated and went to the Air Force Academy and spent 6 years in the Air Force flying C-135's (the old B-707's). After the Air Force he joined Pan Am as a pilot and was eventually furloughed and went to work at the Air Line Pilot's Association in their headquarters in Washington, DC. He just retired from there a year or so ago.
“I met up with Jack in 1974 when I was Manager Flight Operations USA for British Airways. I had to go to Washington for meetings as I was the International Air Transport Association Technical Representative for 5 years, and called the ALPA office headquarters to talk to the Engineering Director about a known technical fault on the B737 which BA flew in the UK and Europe. Well, low and behold when Jack came on the phone he said, ‘Do you mean the Campbell Pritchett from Gander Newfoundland?’ and I said "yes", and he told me he almost fell off the chair. I had no idea it was the Jack O'Brien that I knew in Gander, because he was calling himself John. So we had some long conversations after that, including attending a few meetings together. As you know he went to the RC school and lived in our building on the American side.
“ Back in Gander--one cold fall day Jack and I were sitting on the back of their couch in their living room getting warm by the radiator, and looking at airplanes landing on runway 14 just opposite their living room window, and Jim had his car, a beautiful new Packard, if you recall, parked on the side of the road right outside of their living room window. When we saw this pickup truck with two men in it, and they pulled up in front of Jim's car and put it in reverse and backed into the front of the Packard with a lot of force and damaged the car. Jim was in bed asleep after working late that night, and Jack ran in and told him.
“So all three of us jumped in the Packard, which could operate even with the damage, and drove to the RCMP station down by the hospital, and went in. Jack and I told the RCMP what we saw and a description of the pickup, and the RCMP knew the vehicle, so we jumped in the RCMP car and drove to the location and sure enough we found the two men there and they were drunk and the RCMP arrested them. I remember when their trial came up Mr. O'Brien gave me $5.00 for appearing in court as witness.”
- Campbell Pritchett, Class of 1959
Speaking of getting hit with a car. After we moved to Lewisporte we used to drive to Gander to watch the hockey games. Now my father thought he was a race driver or at least my mother thought so. He used to go all the way up to 40 miles per hour sometimes on the highway.
Anyway, one of those nights that we went to the hockey game we were on our way back home and it was quite dark and my father was speeding, again around 20 mph, and the next thing you know there was a solid thump. My mother said, “Fred you just hit some one and he said, “Go way maid I didn't,” but he proceeded to stop to see just what happened. This happened down near the end of what we called the new runway which went by our house on Washington Ave so there was quite a ditch there.
“About 30 feet behind the car there was a guy standing there looking down in the ditch so my father went up to him and as he got there this other guy was crawling up out of the ditch. My father realized that he had hit someone and he was horrified. He told the guy to get in the car and he would drive him to the hospital but the guy insisted that he was ok and said he would wait until the next day. There was no way he was going to get in the car.
Anyway a couple of days later my brother Bert was at the airport and walked into the washroom and lo and behold here was this guy standing there with his pants half down. My brother knew him very well and asked him what happened because he was black and blue from the waist down. The Guy looked at him and said that some idiotic old guy had hit him with the car one night on the way from the hockey game.
My brother started to laugh and the guy said, “what’s so funny?
Bert told him that the idiotic guy was his father.
Ross Patey, Class of 1959
OK folks…“Where are the photos of where we lived, played cowboys (or doctor!) on the Army side? What about Lush's canteen or the Salvation Army Church or those big swings on the "parade square", near the Star Theatre, that were so high that they almost scared the sh.. out of us when we swung too hard?
“And the temporary school, near the Globe Theatre (where I gave some visitor's engagement and wedding rings to my first (so it thought!) girlfriend, M, who knows who she is!!)
“How about the American side - you must remember the "Coop Hill" - at least as high as Mount Everest - where we would slide on cardboard boxes until our behinds froze. And the fly-filled garbage shelters near the ditch behind Bldg 67 which must have been designed and put there on purpose so that kids could climb on them and jump in the snow almost up to their shoulders? And the airplane dump where we refought the Second World War, conveniently located by the potato gardens which provided emergency food if we got caught behind enemy lines?
“I never see photos of the stadium hanger where Gander would regularly beat Grand Falls and the Faulkner brothers - one time out of 5.
“I have said to my kids that they are lucky - they will be able to show their own kids where they grew up. But in the case of those who grew up in early Gander, their heritage has been confiscated by the dark forces of progress - and for the most part, we don't even have a good photo album to make up for it.
- Bob Pelley, Class of 1962
Be patient Bob, people are coming ‘out of the woodwork’ as we speak. They have photos, they just need to dig them out of their attics and albums and share them with us. They will.
On another note, let’s talk hockey, rinks, ice skating, and such next time? Heard from Rowena Lehr Goodman (out in Alberta now) and she promises to come forth with some good stuff on that topic.
Thanks for sharing--Faye Lewis Raynard