Dealing with storms during our youth
by J Pinsent
Let me say first that as a kid I cannot remember any
particular storm, only incidents that happened as a result of a large amount of
snow or rain that fell during a short period of time. One incident in particular that
brings to mind was when I had my first pair of long rubber boots. I must have
been 7 or 8 years old but it was after a rain storm that I wanted to try out
these new rubbers. My mother dressed me up in my raincoat and rubber boots and
away I go looking for large puddles of water to walk in.
As I left our apartment building, looking across the old
parade field on the Army side, towards the Star Theatre, I set out to test my
new boots. The field was like a lake, the ground being completely covered with
water. Tufts of grass could be seen sticking up through the surface in the more
shallow areas .Walking about in 3-4 inches of water was boring. I wanted to
walk in water deeper than I could wearing my old knee rubbers. Down by the drill
hall, past the swings, seemed like a good area. So off I go. We must have had a
huge amount of rain because even the ditches had disappeared. I thought I
remembered where the road way was, leading from the field to the drill hall, but
I misjudged. The next thing I know I am up to my neck in water. I had completely
walked into the ditch.
My mother gave me heck when I went home drenching wet with
water running out from the top of my new long rubber boots. Not so much from
getting wet, she later told me, but the fact I could have drowned. My first
lesson learned. You could not walk in water deeper than the length of your boots
or over your head. I can also remember lightening striking one of the fuel
tanks. I am not sure if it was the same storm or not but I can remember hearing
the explosion. I can also remember looking at the result of the explosion with
Now snow was a different matter. I loved snow. There were
so many things to do after a huge snow fall. Huge drifts would allow you to dig
tunnels, make snow forts and best of all, high snow banks or drifts gave you
that extra bit of height to climb onto areas that were not assessable before.
Once up onto a shed or building you could jump into the deep snow below. I was
not afraid of heights and I just loved to jump. If I was given an aptitude test
at that early age I’m sure I would have been accepted into training on high
steel construction or maybe the paratroopers.
There was one incident, of many, involving roof jumping. It
was during lunch time while on our way to school we discovered a way to
climb onto Jack Lush’s shed roof, where he stored the empty drink and beer
bottles. Not wanting to wait till school was finished for the day to start our
fun, I was going to give it a try. The snow was a little softer than anticipated
and I sunk to my armpits when I landed. I was completely stuck. There was no way
I could move. The few boys in the group tried to free me but without any luck.
Time was running out. School would soon start and it was a fair distance to
walk. Finally it was decided, I was to be abandoned on the field of battle.
Rather than risk being late the boys left me, all except one. Roy Rideout stayed
and was determined to get me out of this predicament. He found this long piece
of board, using it as a shovel, started to dig me out. Getting out of that hole
was a relief so it was off to school and face the music. It was 50 lines of “I
must not jump off roofs” and 50 lines of “I must not be late for school” and we
were out of school for the day and back to Lush’s shed to get in a few jumps
A problem we had living on the Army side was the lack of
vertical snow. Some of us had sleds or coasters but no place to really put them
to their proper use. We could slide down the banks of the gravel pit or down the
piles of snow that were left from the snow plows but it wasn’t a very long trip
down those embankments. Later when we moved into the new town we had access to
the hills leading down to Gander lake. It was great going down but I hated that
walk back. Besides I was getting a little too old for those childish games by
this time. I was going on fourteen.
We would dig miles of tunnels through the snow drifts
during the course of a winter. Spending hours digging out secret lairs only
having it foundered in by someone walking overhead. Fortress were built
generally atop those giant banks of snow plied high from street clearing. From
these castles of ice, the snow ball battles were carried out. We would spend
hours just making piles of snow balls for the reserves in the event of a frontal
attack by the enemy. We would even have a volunteer bunch of sappers who would
secretly out flank the enemy fortress and destroy their snow ball reserves. On a
signal from them, when their mission was complete, we would attack. Only to find
out that their sappers were waiting to destroy our snow balls while we were on
the attack leaving a retreat perilous.
One of the drawbacks, as a result of a large snowfall, it
made those shut cuts disappear. No longer could we take that trail up past the
power plant and hennery going to school. We had to walk the road. My father had
a mini set of snowshoes made for me and like the long rubbers, I quickly learned
you couldn’t walk every where, especially in soft fluffy snow. But when the snow
did settle, it allowed me to walk over the old WWII barb wire barriers that
surrounded the Army side wooded areas, creating even shorter short cuts. But it
didn’t last a long time. Maybe a day or two and you would tangle in the wire
sticking up through the snow as the levels sank. The tangles weren’t so bad but
the ripped snow pants led to trouble at home.
Schools didn’t close because of snow storms back in those
days. The only closures were if the school furnace didn’t operate, which
happened occasionally. You would only find out about it then after you arrived
There were no school buses. Those living on the American or
RAF side traveled via the public bus operated by Jon & Robert Newhook’s parents.
The RCAF had a bus to transport their kids to school but was restricted to only
RCAF dependants. If the bus couldn’t get the kids down from the American side
because the streets weren’t plowed, then they just missed school unless they
were willing to walk. Runways were plowed first, then the streets.
Sometimes parents would keep the little kids home but the
bigger ones went to school. I would complain about the weather, any excuse to
stay home from school but my mother would say “If it is too stormy for you to go
to school, then it is too stormy for you to go out side and play” so off to
school I would go. There was no way I was staying indoors all day. Besides you
could even be late and not be punished. The class would be half full so no new
lessons would be taught. The teacher would dream of all sorts of things to amuse
us. It would be just a fun day. It also made us feel like we were more of an
adventurer than others, braving all that snowy weather. Of course the diversions
with all that snow made the coming and going more enjoyable as well.
A lot of snow or a lot of rain, only led to excitement and
fun for a kid while growing up in Gander back in those days. The important thing
is still to keep these memories.
Morley & I