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It's A Family Affair

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

It's A Family Affair

From the song "Dust In The Wind" by the group "Kansas", off of the "Point of Know Return" album, 1977

"I close my eyes, only for a moment & the moment's gone. It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy.
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind."

Unlike the Navy, beards weren't common. But looking at the old photos, it seemed that just about every one of us airmen had a mustache, at one time or another. It was the "in" thing. It was dashing & harked back to the age of silk scarves, leather flying helmets & goggles. Even some of the girls had a mustache. It wasn't their fault. Blame their parents genes.

The Air Reserve was a kind of microcosm of Metro Toronto. We had representatives of all the ethnic, racial, religious, and regional persuasions. Blacks, Orientals, Slavs, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, French Canadians, Maritimers and even a few of what my ethnic buddies & I referred to as "The Anglos". It was a United Nations in green. On the surface, it was a family. Figuratively, we even called each other brother, as in "Brudda Mo". Every guy was a brother & every girl a sister. But it literally was a family affair, as there were many blood brothers & sisters, husbands & wives, sons & daughters, working together in the units.

There were quite a few husband & wife teams. Dave & Samantha Helyer, Nathan & Donna Lugey, Ron & Diane Smyley, and Ken & Dyan Mills, to name a few. Some of the couples met & wed as a result of the Reserve. Such as Debbie Giroux, who married pilot Mike Carpenter. That union, like most all the others, wasn't meant to last. Maybe it was the times, maybe the people. You couldn't blame the Reserve for all the relationships that went sour but the place did offer its share of temptations & stress for each marital partner.

There were the father & son teams. Chip Ray, for instance, was the son of the RSU CO & pilot, Major Chuck Ray. The Major was a class guy, a former jet jock over in Europe during the 1960's. Chip was a good kid & a fine addition to our squadron. He joined when he was 15 years old, so his nickname was "Puppy Tags". He was far too
young for dog tags! Another pilot was Captain Beaudoin. His son, Pierre, joined for a bit. This kid could eat! If you didn't finish something on your plate at the Mess, he'd wolf it down. He'd get in line for seconds, then thirds. He didn't get fat. I figure he was feeding a monster tapeworm. I also recall a father & daughter pair. Dan Leech was a RSU technician that came along one day. He was a greasy guy, a joker that reminded me of a pervert. His claim to fame was bringing half a dozen cokes to A/C Servicing to get him through the day. Great teeth, as a result. I couldn't see him as much of a father. But he was a dad and his daughter, Darlene Leech, joined our squadron. She was a young cutey that some of us came to know well, but not well enough. Some of the members of the Reserve were also "Base Brats" (children of military parents living on the Base), like Darlene. Thankfully, these parents worked in different units, so they didn't have to see how slutty their kids were behaving! Wally Wellington also had a son, Fred, who was in the unit. He was gone before I joined. Besides being a fuck-up, he was also a thief. The story went that he stole someone's wallet at one of the Summer Camps in North Bay. He got caught & was sent home. I believe he was also discharged but not honourably. His example would serve as an object lesson for us new recruits. "Don't be like that fuckin' Fred"!

Chip Ray aka Puppy Tags, at center

Then there were the brother & sister acts. The most famous siblings were the "Cooper Clan". They were "Anglos", but we won't hold that against them. Dave was the eldest. He wore glasses, and was mellow with a deep voice. Dave was Air Frame, so I worked closely with him over the years. He & his brother Al were in the squadron when I joined. Al was a Crewman & an Aero Engine tech. He had a higher rank than his brother did, as he probably was the first of the clan to join. Al was a smiling happy go lucky type. An engineering graduate, he was also handsome, like a leading man in the movies. Their brother Rob came later. Rob went into our trade Air Frame. Rob was quiet & also wore glasses like his brother Dave. I recall supervising Rob on various tasks & serving with him during B Class at the RSU. GiGi also came later. Tall, blonde, striking, young, fresh, and she also possessed a head full of air. She'd break some hearts & balls. They'd all have their squadron romances. They were a nice, popular family. Their mother was a class lady. We got to know her from the large number of pool & other squadron parties the family hosted. Many were the times that everyone was invited to the beautiful home at 41 Lower Links. They did a lot towards morale & cohesiveness during those years. Didn't know their dad. He died during my first Summer Camp in North Bay. Apparently, he had been sick for some time. I can still see Dave sitting in the hangar, looking silently at the floor. They were going to fly him home to Toronto. All I could do was offer a hand on the shoulder. Didn't know the right thing to say. At that time, I didn't know what it was like to lose a parent.

Al Cooper wasn't quite the eldest of the clan but he was the first of the four to enter 400, was an Aircrewman, and the most senior in rank of the family

Joe Grinch was an Engine tech & Crewman, who did have a beard. He was short and of Maltese descent. We got to know Joe & his wife Marg very well, as they were hosts of many Christmas gatherings at their home in Willowdale. Joe was mature & his wife was working on post-graduate degrees. It's too bad that they eventually split after many years. Joe encouraged his brother Dave to join. Dave was quieter than his brother was. I don't know what happened to Dave but Joe went on to work at deHavilland aircraft with many of the other lads.

Joe Grinch at left.

Clever Trevor

Debbie Giroux, the lady who later marries a pilot, also had a brother in the squadron. Trevor Giroux was a cool guy. I called him "Clever Trevor". He didn't stay in the military for the long term, like his sister. Too bad because I liked him. He looked me up once in 1993 when he had returned from the West Coast. It was good to see him & reminisce about old times.

Debbie Giroux (after being thrown in the lake with Freddy K

 Cam HorvathThen there were the Horvath brothers, Cam & Chas. Chas was one of our pilots. A handsome older guy, blonde haired & confident. He looked a little like a young Joseph Stalin with his mustache & Slavic features. He was a ladies man & a partyer. Cam was similar except for being dark haired & having a darker complexion, and he was an AF Tech. Cam was also a Crewman - one of "Lockett's Boys". Cam had many nicknames: Camel, Koboss (after an ethnic sausage that he was fond of), Gypsy, C.J. (his initials, which Lockett use to say stood for "Cock Jaw"). The brothers were part of the Hungarian Connection at the squadron. Together with Andy Gyorffy, they could carry on conversations in Hungarian and thus exclude the "Anglos" from what was being said. Over time, I would manage to pick up a few words. They were proud of all things Hungarian, even a terribly rank wine that was poured down your throat from a wine skin. It had a name that sounded like "Sex on Saturday", which was what we called it. I'm sure it was employed towards obtaining sex on that day & others. Both brothers were musical. Chas would play his violin & Cam & I were into guitar. When Cam & I played together for the group, we sometimes called ourselves "The Slavs". Hey, it's what they called us anyway. Cam loved spicy food & putting Tobacco sauce on everything - eggs, coffee, you name it. He'd gobble down the hottest chili peppers imaginable & complain that he couldn't find any hot enough. He'd get the braver souls to give it a try. We'd say that it burned twice, on the way in & on the way out. We'd also say that he must have a "Ring of Fire" for an asshole. On one occasion he must have overdid it, as he couldn't sit without the aid of a special cushion! To this day, some of us still use a little hot sauce, on occasion.                 

Chas Horvath

I aspired to be like Chas. He was once a technician & was selected for pilot training. On rare occasions, candidates were chosen to fill pilot vacancies & were sent on the "Short-Short" program (it could have been called simply the "Short Program". Why the need for repetition, I don't know.). Chas spent 16 months with the Regular Force flying everything. They then sent him back to the squadron. He built up flying hours & got a job as an airline pilot. His timing was perfect & did well for himself.

At times, you felt like an oddity if you were a single dude without a family connection. Indeed, the connection at times could be like nepotism & ensure that you were taken care of. A few rare individuals were accepted into the extended families. Dougy Wilkins, forinstance, as a buddy to members of the Cooper Clan became part of the family and almost the fifth sibling. A close association that exists even to this day. At times, the squadron was also like a Peyton Place in uniform. "As The Prop Turns" someone called it. The romantic liaisons were numerous & short-lived. You almost needed a guidebook to keep track of who was doing who, and who was presently not talking to so-and-so.

Dougy Wilkins

Cam & I were becoming buddies. I was on the way to being part of the Horvath family. We'd share some bizarre adventures and some bizarre women. Some of the first ones would take place at CFB North Bay.

Next Article: North, To North Bay.

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