Chapter 05: North, To North Bay

posted 16 Mar 2013, 17:22 by Garry Alexander   [ updated 25 May 2014, 14:52 by Bill Bishop ]

"ON GUARD"
By Fred Kuzyk. Copyright 2001, Freddy The K Communications. No reproduction without permission.

North, to North Bay

"Summer lovin' had me a blast, Summer lovin' happened so fast."

Gateway to the North

Those were great days. We packed a lot of living into two weeks. There was a lot of good-natured high-jinx. Well, at least nobody landed in jail. Every day seems like it was sunny & warm in hindsight. I know each couldn't have possibly been, but it does seem like they were. The Summer Camps of 1978 & 1979 were held at the historic base at North Bay, Ontario. The two summers now tend to blend together. The differences were that in 1978, it was my first time, and the next year I was a veteran. The first year I was only there for the two weeks of 400 Sqn's camp. For the sequel, I was there for the entire month, working full-time with the 2 RSU on "B Class" pay.

The Otters were flown up & the equipment went up by truck. I could have gone by either but I had to have my wheels, my 1966 Mustang convertible (in various shades of primer & exhibiting battle damage). A bunch of us convoyed with our cars. I remember Eugene "The Jeep" Pietro's car stalling on Highway 11. I diagnosed the problem to a clogged fuel filter, which we blew out at the roadside. It's curious but although we worked on planes as mechanics, a lot of the guys didn't work on their cars & were clueless about them. It was also peculiar but the junior ranks often had the nice new cars, while the pilot's drove shit boxes like mine. Except for Chas Horvath, who drove a great Corvette. Somehow, our convoy arrived.

CFB North Bay had a long & exciting history. It was home to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) or command centre for the Canadian region of NORAD. In the 1970's, it was the HQ for Fighter Group. In the 1950's, it was the home for a squadron of RCAF Air Defence Command's CF-100 fighter jets. Those were the days when Canada had squadrons of front-line fighters throughout the country and thousands of aircraft. We set up shop in the old Alert Hangars, which were once used by jets. During earlier times, these hangars housed pairs of North American Air Defence (NORAD) interceptors which stood ready, 24 hours a day, to intercept Russian bombers before they could get close to the populated south. At a moment's notice, aircrew and ground crew would fire them up right in the hangar. They'd roll out and being by the end of the runway, they'd practically takeoff right out the door.

Clunks & Frights

Standing at the end of the runway, I remember the sight of the last remaining CF-l00 Canucks (nicknamed "Clunks", "Lead Sleds" or "Double Nothings") passing overhead on takeoff. These craft were over 25 years old. Although obsolete and dated, they were still air-worthy and looked great. At one time, there were almost 700 of these birds. Some were even purchased by the Belgian Air Force. Built by A.V. Roe (AVRO) Aircraft of Toronto, this was the first and last all-Canadian operational jet fighter. It was a twin-engine, all weather subsonic interceptor. When I was there, 414 "Black Knight" squadron was the last "Clunk" squadron. No longer in a combat role, they were being used for electronic warfare, which was playing the part of bad guys in exercises and trying to jam our radar. I tried my hand one-day on the CF-100 simulator. What an experience! One moment you're at several thousand feet, the next, on the deck. Trying to land it, I crashed and burned three miles short of the runway. My thirty-five hours as a pilot in a Cessna didn't prepare me to be a jet-jock! Anyway, the Clunks were retired in 1981, on their 30th anniversary of operational service. Their airframe life span had exceeded all expectations; it's just that they couldn't get the engines for them from Orenda any longer.

CFB North Bay shared the runways with the civil airport. This led to some interesting sights. Like an Air Canada airliner waiting while one of our Otters landed. Or waiting while one of the Clunks or transient jet fighters took off. I'm sure the airline passengers always had an interesting show to watch - I know I did. You'd see Voodoos, Tutors, and Starfighters. Sometimes these planes would get permission from the tower to do a low-level high- speed pass. One day, while working on an Otter at our area, I was startled to see a USAF B-52 bomber drop from the clouds to do a pass very low to the runway. Marvellous! On another day, 411 pilot Wally Sweetman was flying an Otter with passengers. Wally was a sweet guy. He also gained a reputation for pushing the envelope with the Otter. His plane was quickly approaching the Alert Hangar when he pulls the plane up into a vertical climb right above the hangar! I didn't think an Otter was capable of that kind of rate-of-climb. I trust that Wally had permission for this stunt. I'm certain some of the passengers needed an underwear change.

A request was received to provide a flyby down to Orillia or Barrie, as part of some celebration they were having. Two Otters were dispatched for the task. I believe that Wally Sweetman was the pilot on one of them and that was the plane I was on for the ride. The two aircraft did a couple of passes over the town, performing steep formation turns, etc. Nice view of Lake Simcoe & the flight there & back was most enjoyable.

Not just the pilots did the flying. Some of us techs had private pilot licences or student pilot permits. Tom Binns & I went up in a Cessna 180 he rented. Tom was a slow talking AE tech. He use to drive the RSU nuts with his meticulous manner. There were some kind of inductor coils or something that were part of the engine checklist. None had worked since Columbus was a boy. I mean some of our planes were 25 years old. Whatever these things did was inconsequential. The RSU guys would tell him this & he'd still snag the planes for it. Anyway, Tom was interested in aerobatics. He really wanted to rent a CITABOREA (which is aerobatic spelled backwards. Clever, eh?) but the rent-a-plane people didn't have one. Probably just as well, as that plane could fly upside down. So we end up going for a few hours worth of taking turns doing take-offs & landings in the 180. Tom ends up doing some moves that pushed the envelope as well. He also had a little running joke that he'd frequently tell. "There I was at 40,000 feet. Nothing on the clock but the maker's name - RPM". I never flew with Tom again. I think he had a death wish, like the judge in the movie "And Justice for All". The one who keeps testing & extending his fuel range until he runs out. It was neat watching fighters take off below us while we were doing circuits. North Bay was that kind of place where you had commercial airliners, high performance military jets, and small private planes - all using the same airport at that time.

Where's The Nukes?

Although I never went looking, I was told you could still find the remains of the Bomarc missile bunkers up in the hills. The Bomarcs were large anti-bomber missiles (Surface to Air Missiles or SAMs) equipped with nuclear warheads. In the early '60s there was a big debate about these weapons, which helped bring down the Diefenbaker government. Bomarcs weren't accurate enough without the nuke warheads, so they were eventually fitted. Although we had the missiles, I'm told American personnel held the keys to arm the warheads, as they owned these sensitive weapons! Dief-the-Chief bought into the theory that planes were obsolete due to ICBM & SAM missiles. There's even the belief that our government was forced to deploy Bomarcs by the Americans. If we didn't, the theory goes; Dief was told the Yanks would then deploy them on their side of the Great Lakes. Any nuclear detonation would then be over places like Toronto, instead of up north. The Bomarcs were a boondoggle, and shortly after their inception it was announced that further implementation was cancelled. It could never replace a manned fighter. As a result, 446 Missile Squadron at North Bay was one of only two batteries that came into being. By 1972, these were finally scrapped and air defence was solely the realm of fighters once more.

Video Clips from CBC Archives

These two clips from the CBC archives show how it was back in 1965.  The first shows the building of SAGE at North Bay and the second shows the completed station in action with a simulated launch of Bomarc missles from North Bay.  They look to me like a Grade B movie take-off on the classic movie 'Dr. Strangelove'.

Welcome to "The Hole"

One day, a tour was arranged to see the SAGE, better known as "the hole". The nerve centre here receives signals from the radar stations of the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line, and co-ordinates the fighter defences in our region. Over six hundred feet below ground through the solid rock of the Canadian Shield, a three-story building sits within a cavern. Access is via two tunnels, the main one over a mile long. Propane buses take you down past the thick blast doors. The complex can be totally self-contained, when "buttoned-up". Having its own power plant, water supply, sanitation, hospital and food stores - it was meant to survive a direct nuclear attack. The building even sits on rubber insulators, to minimise shock. The place was awesome to visit! It housed the two largest computers in the world with 50,000 vacuum tubes. Occupying whole rooms, they were state of the art in 1959 but bulky and antiquated in the late 1970's. Our tour guide shows us a memory cell, a large cube filled with wires. Today, he said it was the equivalent of a pocket calculator. IBM staff did constant maintenance, mostly replacing tubes according to schedules. Controllers monitored radar screens. They'd touch a light pen onto an unknown on the screen. The computer identified planes by referring to flight plans. The war room was shades of "Dr. Strangelove" with its maps, displays, and boards showing the current threat to North America and our stage of alert readiness. I decided if I had to be somewhere during atomic attack, this was the place!

The SAS

In '78 we got to know members of Britain's Special Air Service (SAS). These modern day Commandos were an elite unit, right up there with the Green Berets, US Navy Seals, or our own Airbourne Regiment. It was said that these people trained the Israelis for the raid on Entebbe. How it came to be that these fellows found themselves training here on there own without air transport & support…I don't know. Apparently, they tried to get what they needed through regular channels to no avail. After speaking about their dilemma to our CO, Ron Pierce, our aircraft & resources were placed at their disposal. Anything for our brothers-in-arms from the "old country". We'd take them up for parachute drops or night landings at primitive strips where they could practice counter-insurgency. This added a great deal of prestige to our Summer Camp and new vitality for our old Otters. Imagine we were stealth transports for trained killers! I remember sitting in the mess with some of them one evening. They didn't look like military types. Their hair was quite long & they dressed in civvies when they weren't jumping out of perfectly good aircraft. I suppose they tried to blend in at all times inorder to infiltrate & fight terrorists. I don't believe they wore dog tags or carried military ID, as a rule. All very clandestine. Their dialects & manner was like that of most Brits, but they were tough. On some, the muscles were evident. One of them told me about his buddy, James. You didn't come behind him & touch him. His own child had done that & he instinctively reacted, hurting his son. I guess many of them had hair-triggers. Much later I learned that it isn't easy to condition people to be such killing machines. It's harder still to turn them off. It was an exciting episode, though. I made sure not to sneak up on James. There were no nasty incidents during the two weeks with them. Afterall, we weren't fighters. We saw ourselves as lovers & partyers.

SAR

While there in '78, I went on my first long trip and SAR (Search And Rescue) in an Otter. We flew out of Sudbury. They put us over night in the Holiday Inn for the weekend. We spent daylight for 8 or 9 hours flying back & forth along search grids. My task was the same as the others in the cabin - a "spotter" looking out of the window at the bush for any sign of the missing. What with the heat, monotony, vibrations, and being hung over; I began to feel quite poor & used the barf bag. For trips away like this, they'd provide us with box lunches. They were better than K-rations but not much. The box would contain a sandwich, maybe a can of pop & an apple. Mess food was great in comparison. I don't know if the box lunch contributed to my illness, but it sure didn't help. I kept trying to adjust the air vent above me to get some fresh air. Bob Stopp gave me some "helpful" advice that was useless. RSU Crewman Chuck Concubine gave me some real pity as well as some gravol, which helped. We didn't have the honour of finding the missing party. I don't know if this was the same search but I recall that a couple of clowns were found in their missing floatplane. They never filed a flight plan, miscalculated their fuel, and had to put down on a small uninhabited lake. They had no food or supplies, other than beer for their fishing trip. When found, they were very pissed & were waving empty beer cans. A massive search had been staged. There was then a rumour that these idiots were to be billed for the cost. If true, they'd probably still be making instalment payments today!

Back at the hangars, training & servicing continued. Pilots did aerial photo challenges, para drops, & such. We did maintenance & repairs. I remember assisting Doug Wilkins on a repair to a cable that was a classic "field repair". Without parts, the item was rigged in a clever manner so that the plane could get back to Toronto. Sometimes you had to improvise & sometimes you were recognised for going above & beyond. As long as nobody loses an eye, it's all fun.

Pay Parade

Since our unit was away from home, a pay parade was conducted to receive your earnings. This was conducted by the Finance Officer, Captain Pool, who later would become a chopper pilot. We lined up in the Alert Hangar & approached his desk. Your SIN (Social Insurance Number) was always required for matters dealing with your pay, so I memorised mine & it's another piece of trivia that I carry around in my head today. It was great that they brought the money to you. Recently, Chip Ray was telling me that the Forces paid you in the currency of the country you were in, while you were overseas. This was good for you. Not so good for any family back home if you pissed it all away & your wife or dependants didn't receive any of it. Many an airman would return home & find their family gone. Small wonder!


Distractions

All wasn't just military & airplanes. Our workday ran from 7AM to 3PM, which gave us lots of free time afterwards. I had brought my books & papers from college, with the idea of being productive but not much work was done. There was always lots going on, especially parties! There were no strip clubs that I recall (were there we'd be there every night) but there were plenty of bars. Such as the lounge at the Ramada Inn. I recall one night there drinking zombies with the group. Gary LePere, who normally was in a miserable mood & hated his subordinates, was my buddy after enough zombies kicked in. There was also Ladies Night at the Elk's Club. This was a "grab a granny" type of evening with plenty of older women. I didn't get lucky there but we had a few laughs. One night, someone suggested we go for a ride to Temiscaming. This was a town in Quebec that wasn't very far up Highway 63. It was like driving to Trout Creek. The attraction was that it was in La Belle Province & the bars were open later than ours were. It gave me an opportunity to use my broken high school French. We didn't cause any scenes or inflame the provincial rivalry. The anglais airmen picked up no French nymphs that night. Even if you didn't go off base, there was always the mess and plenty of parties in the barracks rooms.

I brought my .22 calibre rifle with me one year. Bill Khyber also brought his gun. Bill was with 411 Squadron & some called him the "Mad Iranian". Sometimes aka "Wild Bill". Obviously, he was of Iranian descent. His father was a former army officer under the Shaw. Bill was very excitable & animated. Anyway, we took our guns to the dump & plinked cans one afternoon. Bill would probably have enjoyed killing something.


One day while the "kids" of the squadrons were doing their thing, we old guys spent a day on the links playing golf. Beside myself, there was Capt. Townley-Smythe, Ron Smyley, Capt. Irwin Terrifico, Chuck Concubine, and perhaps a few more. At the time, I played quite often. My cousin was a golf pro. I'd even get my dad out for a round or two back home. The North Bay course wasn't of Myrtle Beach calibre but better than some. Who can remember how the play went that day, but all had a good time?




Going to the movies was popular. Since I was one of the guys who had a car there, we'd load up the available cars & hit the flicks. Now these were the days before the "Cineplexes" became popular, so you went to grand, old movie theatres that played only one film at a time. I recall seeing a number of shows - Omen II, one of the Jaws series, one of the Rocky flicks. Others remember seeing ET there. But the best for me was Grease. I saw the stage version in 1974 at Hamilton Place when I was in the chorus of a local musical there. Saw some of the rehearsals & liked it so much that my high-school sweetheart & I bought tickets. Anyway, so I knew the story & some of the songs. The bunch of us in North Bay just thought it was excellent. We were on a high leaving the theatre. We piled into the Mustang, put the top down, and belted out the songs while cruising the main drag. "Go greased lightning you're burning up the quarter mile". Yep, we were lovin' summer & having a blast!

I had a CB in my car with a PA speaker under the hood. A couple of our characters had some fun with this. They just couldn't help playing with it & making comments to the natives. I remember one incident where Huey keyed the mike as we were coming up to a girl on a bike. He shouted, "Hey your wheels are turning!" It nearly scared her right off the bike. Not exactly the way to pick up girls, but when I wasn't totally embarrassed by someone's actions, it did cause me to chuckle.

The one downside to being in North Bay in the summer was the shadflies. For a period of a few days, these pesky insects would inundate the city in enormous numbers. They were everywhere. They didn't bite; you just couldn't escape them. I recall going for pizza. The girls in our party were completely grossed out, as the shadflies swarmed the pizzeria & were crawling all over the pizza. Driving down the road, my tires would make a strange sound as they crunched the ones on the pavement. The windshield became caked with their carcasses as they struck it. I put the wipers & washers on. Error! The guts just smeared into opaque goo. Thankfully, they died, as their life span was blessedly short. The remains would linger for awhile until dispersed or eaten by other bugs. A reprieve until next summer when they would fly in from Lake Nippissing to occupy the city once more.

We never saw some of our buddies the whole time there. They were having closed-door sessions in their rooms with girlfriends. Having private parties instead of socialising with the group. Andy Gyorffy was one of them. He didn't drink nor do any drugs. He did spend all his free time with Cheryl Setter the one year. When that relationship ended, the next summer he was under the covers with Joanne Pilsener. Clever Trevor also spent time with a beauty named Jackie McGuiness. She could have been a model and looked mighty fine in uniform but I'd bet even better out of uniform! About twenty years of age, she was drop-dead gorgeous. Jackie was a new clerk up in the Wing. She took a fancy to Trevor. Somehow, something went wrong & he blew it. Towards the end of the camp, you'd see Jackie in the company of Joe Tinker, the comical middle-aged Newfie in the RSU. He said that Trevor blew it. I met with Trevor in 1993. Even years later, he said, "I blew it". I don't what it was that he actually blew, but it seems he could have had her on a silver platter. I think she wanted marriage. She was far too good looking to be in the military. After that summer camp, she was gone. I'd have a couple closed-doors, too. Mine didn't last the whole camp. More like one day.

Stopp's Doll

During 1978's camp, someone tried to set-up Bob Stopp with a lady at the base. Bob was a social misfit. He never had a girlfriend or any encounters that we knew of. Rumour had it that he was a "twenty something" virgin & still lived at home with mom. It's not difficult to see why. He acted nerdy & had an irritating laugh. He also had a fur fetish. He was forever pissing the girls off by stroking their hair. They'd be sitting somewhere & he'd come from behind & begin fondling their hair. They'd yell, "Stop, Stopp". Sometimes, you'd catch him stroking with glee the fur on our winter parkas. We hated winter. He was destined to be a Master Corporal forever.

So, they found this lady who was hot to trot and who also shared some interest with Bob, like SCUBA (he'd bring his tanks to camp). Anyway, Bob did get her in his room and all that happens is he shows her his rock collection! I guess geology was another interest. He just didn't get it that the lady wanted to get his "rocks off", but not the quartz variety. Now in addition to North Bay's bars, booze & beer stores, Canadian Tire, & supermarkets, which we'd frequent for supplies, the town also had a sex shop. A couple of us found this one-day. I recall being on the mission that purchased an inflatable female love doll with three (count 'em) orifices. She was a gift for Stopp, which we presented in front of the entire group at the wind-up party. It was meant as a put down for his failure with his previous date. Bob spoiled our fun by being ecstatic. You'd think he'd be embarrassed but instead he brought "air girl" to next year's camp! It's said she accompanied him on EVERY trip. I think he liked dressing her up in new outfits. Recently I learned that Stopp was still in the Reserve, until they finally forced him to leave a short time ago. Some people had no life outside of the squadrons, and no life inside it.

Dammit Janet

Major Chas Horvath had a squeeze, Monica, in North Bay. Like the stereotypical sailor, he probably had one in every port. Monica was a real party girl. To some of us younger guys, she seemed very suggestive & unshockable. She appeared to be in her late thirties and had a bit of a pot. Tons of fun she was & could drink & joke with the best of us. Met her for the first time at the Ramada Inn lounge during one of our zombie sessions. She brought along her friend, Janet. Janet had a similar personality & was perhaps a little younger. She just oozed sensuality. It turns out that my buddy Cam had an evening with Janet shortly after this meeting. I recall Cam telling me about the episode. She was TOO hot to handle. She was a savage fuck & he found it too uncomfortable to repeat. She'd scream at him "Fuck me harder, you bastard. Come on you pig." That sort of thing. Thus began the pattern of Freddy Deadly being thrown some of Cam's dregs. The beginning of my association as Cam's sidekick. He suggests that I have her. I was game for most things & her brand of lovemaking was different. My faux pas was deciding to take her to the base for one of our shack parties.

I pick her up & we arrive. She looked hot. But as the drinks flowed, she acted positively slutty. Not with me, with everyone. She teased verbally & physically, grinding her loins into men's groins while dancing or sitting on a lap with her ass gyrating someone into a hard-on. I remember one of the pilots, McKay, sitting there drunk, staring at her with drool coming from the side of his mouth! Some began to think that she would fuck us all right there on the floor. She was my "date" and it was getting embarrassing & infuriating. I suggested that we go home, but she wasn't buying. About this time Chas approaches me & asks about my feelings towards her. I tell him that I'm not impressed by her "interest" in me. I'm quickly realising that she's not the kind to give your heart to. Well, his approach was novel: he believed we could have a threesome with this one. This took me aback. This was beyond my experience at the time. It must have been the ultimate fantasy for the Horvath brothers, as the thought would rear its head on a few occasions. Somehow, I don't think this was a first for Chas. It presented some interesting facets. Considering that Chas would then be having the same broad that Cam had the day earlier. Monica wasn't present this evening. Chas no doubt had Monica yesterday. Tonight we would then be having a piece of her girlfriend, too. I can understand his motivations. Chas was persuasive. He was "an Officer & a gentleman". I'd like to be in his good books. It sounded pretty exciting. "What the hell", says I. With my "green light", "Operation Let's Both Fuck Her Till She Feints" was now a go.

Now it was SOP that if your roommate brought in a date, you would vacate the premises & find another room to bunk. The details are a bit hazy but I believe we take her to my room. Poor Brian Mulberry. He was an older Brit, an IE Tech, and also a born-again Christian. He must have been mortified by all the sin that was going on. I doubt if he was my roommate. More likely he was displaced from his room. All he wanted was some sleep & now he had to find another refuge. We're having some laughs but Chas realises things would be better in his room. He's got booze & his violin there. So off we stagger. Mulberry must have ended up with Chas's partner, a pilot name of McLennon. I'll always remember Mulberry painfully exclaiming "Oh no, not again!" But he gets up again to leave, followed by McLennon, who is in his jockey shorts & grinning like the Cheshire Cat. There we are, Chas making his moves while the liquor flows. He begins by doing some tunes on the Stradivarius. Then it was a little sweet-talking. He pulls down her top & we remove the bra. While I work that region, he begins on her skirt area. She'd half-heartedly protest & pull on one garment while we'd remove another. "Chas, stop it." "Fred, I thought you were nice." "Not that nice", I reply while licking a breast. Chas then pulls off his shorts. This liquor-induced ballet went on for hours. I offered her an out several times, but she wasn't ready for a ride home. She wasn't going to satisfy the two of us, either. It was a classic Mexican standoff. Finally he realises this, as I had, and gives up on her. He says, "Take her home" and rolls over to sleep. As the Mustang pulls up beside the townhouse, a guy appears at the door, waiting & watching. It's almost daylight. It appears that she left her kids with her common-law or boyfriend, while she was out all night. "Oh shit" was what came out as she left the car. She goes in. Heated yelling & slamming door. I figure that chivalry had been served in getting her back. I wasn't going to intervene in a domestic fight. Besides, this was Chas's idea and he's asleep while I'm doing the proper thing.

Cam was eager for the details the next day. We hear from Monica that Janet is sporting a black eye & won't be coming around the base no more. It's an example of the pain & pleasure that happens when 400 comes to town! We came up short in this escapade. Besides the eye, Janet did get serviced by Cam and he got his rocks off. We got teased. Chas would remember our "almost 2 on 1" for a number of years. As a result, I was an "OK guy".

I've never hit a woman. A few have tempted me, though. I pitied Janet's sorry existence & the game she was playing at home. Perhaps if it were I waiting at her home, I would have belted her, too. It's a funny story but also pathetic. Chas & I weren't exactly honourable either. Before knowing the score with Janet, I would have given her all my pent-up desire & youthful stamina. After knowing what she was about, I'm glad I didn't screw with her. She was no longer sensuous or attractive. Later, I discovered that one didn't need wretched creatures, barroom bimbos, pissed to the point of passing out, to have a threesome. All you needed was a classified ad & an intelligent, willing participant. More than one's curiosity would be satisfied. That's another story.

McGuiness & the Banzai Bonnets

Mike McGuiness was a character. He had the same last name as Jackie but  they weren't related. Which was good because she looked a hell of a lot better than he did (were they related she might not have been so beautiful). Met Mike for the first time at that 1979 Camp. He was a new 411 Squadron tech. In his real life, I believe he worked at a Bi-Way or department store. He was an adequate technician, not a fuck-up by any means, but his forte was comedy. He loved to yuck-it-up in a good-natured way. He must have been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic, for when he heard the song "Another One Bites The Dust" he'd always swap the lyrics with those of Weird Al's "Another One Rides The Bus", which I hadn't heard before. I seem to recall that he was once in the army cadets and thus knew a lot of our "squadron" songs. Not only did he know our verses for "The North Atlantic Squadron" but he also had a whole bunch more. (There are many versions of The North Atlantic Squadron. We even had one when I was 14 in the Sea Cadets where the Chorus had the last line of "In the RCSCC Lion", instead of "In the North Atlantic Squadron". Then I remember the Engineers at U of T printed a whole bunch of lyric variations in their newspaper "The Toike Oikie", when I was in university.).

Physically, Mac was a tad chunky, but not obese, clean-shaven, & light haired. He had a rubber face that he could mould into myriad expressions. Not a handsome face but a kind one. As a former acting student in the theatre department at York University, I appreciated Mac's quick wit & his penchant for improvisation. He had a knack for sight gags & was constantly mugging to get a laugh.

One night at the mess, he introduced us to "flaming assholes". He bought a round of Drambuie, which we then set alight. We had to down them. This was novel! A few moustaches were singed in this macho exhibition. It was memorable & Mac had begun to cement his place in our collective memory. Many years later, we'd remember the antics he inspired. I've even wondered if he was a real person. He could have been an angel or a muse sent down to inspire us. To teach us to enjoy the day & not take any of this too seriously. I can't recall him doing anything that was for himself - he didn't hustle broads or scammed to get something he wanted. His whole purpose seemed to be the entertainment of others. To motivate myself & the group to have fun.

Mac wearing a Banzai Bonnet & giving his salute, while in my 1966 Mustang convertible. The car has it's share of battle damage!During the 411 Camp, Mac got hold of a roll of some heavy-duty paper. Stronger than paper towels and minus the perforations. He took red & black markers & made a rising sun & mock Japanese letters. This became a headband like the type worn by Japanese Kamikaze pilots in WW II. Mac began a routine of speaking faux Japanese combined with gestures that were hilarious. "Banzai", he'd shout with his arms thrusting into the air. He'd bow & play the character to the hilt. He made more headbands for us, which we dubbed "Banzai Bonnets". Driving around town in my Mustang, we'd stop at a light. He'd stand up in the car wearing the headgear & we'd launch into the Banzai routine. Some people were utterly speechless but most laughed. The Air Reserve was making its presence felt on the inhabitants of North Bay! In today's politically correct times, such behaviour might be considered grossly inappropriate & racist. But in this time & place it was magic. This shtick took on a life of its own. Wearing caps into the Mess was a major no-no (it would cost you a round of drinks). I can't remember any rules against headbands & I think they began appearing there during drinking sessions with the accompanying & expanding routines.


I remember being at the Alert Hangar flight line. Mac is sitting outside in a chair. He turns his wedge cap sideways, thrusts a hand into his shirt, and in that moment becomes Napoleon, spouting a monologue about Josephine. The next moment, he changes into a Nazi Gestapo Major, shouting orders to his subordinates. "We have ways of making you talk", he says, switching from a French dialect to German. He finds a chalkboard pointer & employs it under his arm like a British Sergeant Major's swagger stick. His dialogue now switches to a British accent. "Put some discipline into those men, will you Sergeant-Major". "Very Good, Sir", he replies as he stiffens to attention. "All right now you rabble, let's look alive", he says as he reviews us & struts around. Then suddenly he'd begin speaking "Japanese" and point with the pointer at some imaginary enemy aircraft (like the Fire Control Officers aboard a Japanese WW II warship did) in the blue, North Bay sky. On come the Banzai Bonnets & we'd exchange mock orders & cries. I'd pretend to operate an Ack-Ack gun. Officers or Crew Chiefs watching this show would shake their heads, laugh & walk away.

The routine lasted throughout the 411 Camp & carried over and grew during the 400 Camp. One day, the Officers challenged the Other Ranks to a baseball game. Our whole team got into the Banzai spirit & wore the headgear. The antics were more fun than the game. We lost the match but we certainly entertained our more serious minded competitors. The Banzai goings on even continued on our boat trip to Keystone Island. Some of the lads used foliage with their Banzai Bonnets, using a branch as a rifle, and took POW's while on the island. Thus playing the part of straggler soldiers on this "Pacific" island. "Long live the Emperor", I say!

I don't know what happened to Mac, but would really like to see him again. He wasn't at any of the activities the next summer. I believe he quit the Reserve sometime after North Bay & no one in 411 seemed to know where he went. I had no idea what his goals, plans, or directions might have been. But honest to God, I can still distinctly hear him saying to me what he did while we were sitting there in North Bay: "Fred, listen to Mac. Trust Mac, he knows". Not "listen to me". He spoke in the third person on more than one occasion, like some disembodied voice of another being. Maybe he was psychotic? I did have a friend once who became schizophrenic. I now know that people can suffer misfortunes & untimely demises. I hope that none befell Mac & that he's still alive & well. I can picture him as a motivational leader of some sort. He would have made a great politician, selling people on an idea, subtlety, so as to believe it their own. I'd like to think that to every group he went on to touch, he brought a little positive mirth to everyone. Indeed, in only a short time, he influenced our large group, left only pleasant memories, and moved on. Who could ask for a better legacy? See the humour in every day and take nothing too seriously.

Not 100% of the group liked Mac. "Wild Bill" wanted to shoot him for his constant badgering of his Iranian descent. Bill had his rifle & called Mac outside. Fortunately Mac didn't accept the challenge. To make it more sporting, I could have offered Mac my rifle & thus a duel might have taken place. We'll never know if Bill was really serious. At any rate, Bill's life today is better for not having shot him. Besides, the bullets may not have done any harm. I don't think you can kill an angel.

Today, my favourite game on the Sony Playstation is Battlefield 1943. A game pitting the Marines against the Japanese on Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and Wake Island. Every time I hear a Japanese player exclaim "Banzai" - I can't help but think of Mac.

Chapter 6 North Bay Part Deux

Rank North, To North Bay

Messages Received on North, To North Bay