Oct 28, 2008

Here’s more on Gander’s Early Weather Office


 From Jim Butler…” I Just finished reading the latest issue of 'your blog'. Carol (Mercer Walsh) certainly stirred up a storm with her item on the Met Office. I remember most of the people mentioned in the correspondence that followed the article.

Just after I left high school I worked with CN maintaining the teletype equipment in the weather office at Gander airport. A lot of the people mentioned were working there then: Fred Mercer, Ed Cooper, Graham Skanes, Clyde Burt, Eric Bowering, Reg Hutchings, Peter Stacey are just a few that I remember off the top of my head. (This was in the early 1960s.) In the teletype room Cal Abbott, Rex Coffin, Jim Freake, Stirling Barnes, Fred Lannon are some that I remember now.

 I remember the weather balloons that they used at the office; by the time I got to become closely associated with launching them (as a guest observer) they used Helium to fill the balloons, but the story of the explosion of one of the hydrogen balloons was still making the rounds at that time. They did, indeed, attach a disposable battery pack and light to the balloons that were launched at night, so they could be tracked with a theodolite to record wind speeds and direction. During the day they used white balloons on a clear day and red ones when it was cloudy.

 In the late 1940s a Hollahan family lived in the building across the street from us on the Army Side. I remember two boys, whom I thought were brothers, as Tom and Elias. A few years ago I saw an obit for Tom in the St. John's paper and discovered that they were not brothers at all. Tom worked for many years with the weather office in Gander and later in St. John's. 

 I wonder if the Starks family that Bob McKinnon mentioned was Bob Starks who was our Scoutmaster for a few years in the early 1950s. Starks worked either at Met or ATC and was an avid photographer and used his photos as part of some of the activities we had in Scouts. I recall babysitting one night after Scouts so Bob and his wife could go to the 9 pm movie at the Globe Theatre.

I cannot remember how many kids he had as they were in bed by the time I started my babysitting. I know I so did not want the kids to wake up that I hardly moved out of my chair during the two, or so, hours I was there. He lived in the same building that Bob Warren’s family lived in across the street from the Gander church on the Canadian Side.

I also remember he was at the 1954 camp at Gleneagles when we went to the 1946 Sabena airplane crash to the south of Gander Lake. One of the men associated with the rescue work at that crash has a lot of info posted to a web page. The crash site was later called "St. Martin's-in-the-Woods". I used to think that it was named after St. Martin's Anglican church in Gander; but later discovered that it was named after Capt. Samuel Martin, a US Military physician, and one of the rescue workers.

 Anyway, enough ramblings for tonight.

 - Jim Butler, Class of 1959

Yes Jim, It probably was that Bob Stark. I've attached a picture (borrowed from Eileen (Chafe) Elms) on the flight. The building right in the middle of the arch was our apartment building. The Starks lived on the top floor, far end. Underneath them was Gordie Geans (and Family). We lived in the next apartment over from the Starks (top floor). Underneath us was the Chafes’. The next apartment over from us (top floor) was the Warrens. I don't know who lived in the other three apartments.

- Bob McKinnon, St. Joe’s Class 1961




In response to a previous question about famous people you have met (in Gander or elsewhere?) we got the following FLASH…


Soooo! Pelley kissed the Carter kid.


Bet she was right back up on the stage with big daddy Wilf. How come I didn't see that show in Gander? I liked some of Wilf's cowboy stuff….

Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s Class of 1961


In answer to my question of  “Who from our younger days in Gander influenced your life or made an impact, in any way, or played a part in your growing up years…? Some may be surprised to learn of such  a tribute/memory


Hi Faye, good topic.

Without a doubt, George Baker, and I'm sure the other four members of the band plus the late Arthur Rockwood, would agree. George was radio announcer at CBC Radio in Gander, and he gave us the opportunity to do a short program on Saturday afternoons. George gave us the run of the studio every Saturday, and we had access to the record library, which gave us the opportunity to learn lots of new songs by artists we had never heard tell of. Art Rockwood was the MC for the program, and George was the technician. We got lots of work from people hearing the program, but most of all, for me anyway, it was the chance to learn more about the music we loved so much. We didn't ever have a record player at home.

Whenever George was on one of my flights in subsequent years, it was always a pleasure to have him visit the cockpit and have a chat, you know, a few jokes and the like. He's a good man.

Royal Cooper was chief pilot of the bush operation at EPA, and his instruction and advice over the years are probably one of the reasons I'm alive today. Just knowing he was there, and that he had such an understanding of the conditions under which we worked made all the difference. He was one of the most practical people I've known. I miss him.

 Marshal Jones was VP of Flight Ops, and was always there if I needed to talk, or needed advice on something. He has the driest sense of humor I've known, and it took a few years to catch on to him. It was such a pleasure to spend a day flying with Capt. Jones, usually the Labrador run in the B737. He was an excellent pilot, and an exceptional human being. Some things are private, and if he reads this he'll know what I'm talking about, but suffice it to say, he is a very compassionate person, and he enriched my life.

 Those are just a few Faye, and I should have written about them earlier. It's not like I didn't think about it.


Denny Pritchett, Class of 1963


‘Bout it for now gang. The well is starting to run dry here. Send along your thoughts or brief memories or responses to earlier topics and we’ll get them posted, post haste. You can email me: