FOR THE GRANDKIDS AND
ANYONE ELSE WHO MAY BE INTERESTED
Where does one start when a project like this is initiated. I don`t intend that this narrative to be one of the great "I am" but what got me thinking to do this was when we talked to Heather by phone a few nights ago and she told us that Josh had a school project which he completed by doing a Biography of me, his Grampa. Very flattering Josh...I just hope I`m worthy of the interest. Heather had said that Josh had been under the mistaken impression that I had served with the Canadian Army during the Second World War. I of course was only l5 years old when the war finished and this made me realize that, "hey, my Grandkids don`t know that much about me after-all." I also have always had an interest in my "Roots" and thought how great it would have been to have some kind of a narrative or, if you prefer, "autobiography" of my Grandfather, great-uncle or whoever.
I am already in possession of an account describing a short history of the "Roys" which begins in the mid l800`s and refers to my Great-Grandfather, James Roy who left Scotland on the Schooner, "Tomkitaboo" to work in the Coal Mines of Nova Scotia. I shall not re-hash all that as it can be studied as a separate entity. Suffice to say that my Father`s Father was Ben Roy of whom I know almost nothing except he was a coal miner all his life and died as the result of a mine accident a couple of years before my birth. Ben had married his first cousin which was not unusual at that point in time. She was "Isabelle Wallace" and they married in April, l888. They had ten children (three died young) and my father, "William Wallace Roy", was the seventh child. Dad was born in Inverness, Cape Breton where the family lived for a few years before moving back to Pictou County and to be precise, "Stellarton". I don`t know anything of my father`s childhood except that he had been quite tall and thin and suffered from Bronchitis as a child. Acting on advice from the family doctor, my Grandmother had her son Wally take up the Bagpipes. The resulting exercise on the lungs appeared to have worked as Dad never suffered lung trouble after starting the Pipes. He left school at a very early age and started working in the coal mines at the age of thirteen. He had been working in the Allan Shaft when one day he was quite ill but still wanted to go to work. His Mother would have none of it and insisted he stay home that shift. Very fortunate as the Mine blew up that night killing 98 miners. The area where Dad worked was totally destroyed with no survivors. Anyway, he stuck with the Mines and the Bagpipes and survived to grow up and marry, " Reta Olive Pelley", my Mother. My Mom was born at Abercrombie, in Pictou County just about eight miles out of New Glasgow.Her Father was Charles Pelley and her Mother was .......Wooden, the Daughter of an English Seaman. Mom had two sisters, Grace and Dorothy (Dot) and a younger brother named "Ernest Wellington", but thankfully was nicknamed "Ted" which stayed with him all his life.
My Dad, Wallace Roy, was born 27 August, l903 and my Mother was born 24 July, l908. Although I remember my Grampa "Charlie" quite well, I had never been close to him. I don`t really remember that any of his family were close to him as I rember him to be a strict disciplinarian without a sense of humor. One wee story I remember my Mom telling me was one Sunday afternoon when she was a child, the family was sitting out on their front veranda when the neighbours across the street came out to sit on their own veranda. Their family name was, " Damm". My Mom, who was just a wee girl at the time said, "Look, there`s the whole Damm Family". For this she received quite a beating which included "the boot" from her father....anyway, she managed to grow up in spite of her Father and she married my Dad in l928. They had their first child, a boy, my brother Al (Allison Charles Roy) who was born 07 April, l929. The second child, cutest little baby you ever did see, was me, "Donald Wallace Roy", born l5 July, l930; the third child, a girl "Gloria Jane Roy" was born l5 years later, l4 January, l946. As there were only fifteen months between Al and I, we were just about inseparable as we grew up until, unfortunately Al discovered girls. Both of us were born at home, Al at King Street in Stellarton and I at Plymouth Park, just outside Stellarton. When I was only one year old we moved back to Stellarton to a big double house across the Stellarton High School on Victoria Avenue where we stayed until I was seven. Like most kids I had many good memories of the first home I could remember. Our neighbors on the other side of the house were very nice people, the family of Wylie Robertson, a Conductor on the CNR (Canadian National Railroad). I guess you could say that Al and I were pretty good kids, at least the neighbouring adults thought so....but we did have our moments. Stellarton was a fairly small town, Population then of about seven thousand with two Coal Mines and was also a Railroad centre.
Our Parents must have had implicit faith in their two sons as I can never remember being restricted to staying in the yard or "don`t go away" and I remember we used to roam pretty well all over town. One of my first memories was when Al and I went to a local cemetery and took a beautiful spray of flowers from a grave and took it home to present to our Mom. We just couldn`t understand why we had to return it to the grave. When I was three, Al and I got out of bed early one morning and started playing with a big box of matches, somehow setting fire to a big bucket of lard. Somehow, our good neighbour Wylie, who was out of bed getting ready to go to work, had smelled the smoke, ran over to our side of the house and extinguished the flames. Luckily noone was hurt and not a great deal of structural damage. Our pride and joy was a large Majestic Radio. That same day Al and I managed to push this poor radio (which stood on legs) over on it`s face. That wasn`t quite enough for later, when Mom was on the back veranda hanging out her wash (no electric dryers then), Al dared me to stick my fingers in the wringer of the washing machine, which I did.... Mom heard the screams, rushed in, hit the release and rescued my hand from the wringer, but not before the index finger was severely torn requiring twelve stitches. I recall the worst of that experience was waking sick from the general anesthetic which at that time was chloroform. This was always a happy home though and I always remembered that my Mom and Dad got along so well. My Dad was a very easy going sort of a guy, six foot, four and strikingly good looking....for a man. He was Pipe Major of the local Militia Pipe Band , the Pictou Highlanders. Often the Band would come to our house to hold their practice and as they marched around our living and dining room, I would sit on the floor so that they would march by just inches from my head. Used to put me to sleep every time. Dad was very well liked by his friends, neighbors and work-mates and to my knowledge he never had an enemy in the world.
One day my brother and I, probably about three and four at the time, were watching a black man on the top of a ladder as he was painting the house next door. We hadn`t much contact with Blacks and I can`t remember why we started taunting him by calling him, "Nigger"". He came down the ladder after us and followed us right into the house where we promptly hid under the kitchen table. Dad was in the kitchen and wanted to know why he was chasing his two sons. After he told Dad why he was after us, Dad sat us down, had a good talk with us and to this day I find that word very distastful and have never used it again.
Of course it was the "dirty thirties" and we were in the midst of a severe depression, therefore Al and I weren`t spoiled by a plethora of clothes and toys but Mom always kept us dressed well and we never went hungry. We were very lucky to have Uncles and Aunts living in the same town. Al and I used to visit our Uncle Weldon and Aunt Peg on a regular basis. As well as being best friends, we were influenced I suspect by Aunt Peg`s pastries. One could never enter their home without having a liberal sampling of her cookies, gingerbread and biscuits. Their oldest was a daughter, Mary and to this day Mary and I are best friends although separated by two thousand miles. Second was son John who became a teacher in the Stellarton Schools and finally David who became an RCMP Officer stationed for many years in the Arctic and now on the final days of his career serving in Alberta. Also living in Stellarton at that time was another brother of Dad`s. Allie was also a coal miner. His wife Jenny and he had two sons Carl and Wally. Our back to back neighbour was Frank Sobey, who as well as being Mayor of Stellarton, owned a conglomerate of groceterias in the Maritime Provinces. Also, next door to us on Victoria Avenue was Keith Fulton who also owned a grocery store. Frank Sobey`s two sons, Bill and David aged with Al and me. My memories of that period of my life varied from playing with neighborhood friends to the dozens of visitors that came to our home to visit. Every Saturday noon was payday for the Miners and in spite of the depression, it was traditional for a case or two of Moosehead to find it`s way to our home where they would all sit around and party for an hour or two or three. I can still remember how tickled I was one day when one of the Miners gave me a nickel so that I could go buy myself a double decker ice cream cone. Of course Al and I were enterprising to the degree we would go to the CNR Station each day to meet the "Maritime Express" from Halifax. We would pay two cents each for two copies of the Halifax Paper, go up to Foord Street which was Stellarton`s Main St. and we would holler "HAL-I-FAX HER-ALD!! at the top of our voices. We would sell them for three cents each and with our profit of two cents each we would go buy hard-hats or honeymoons,two for a penny and the candy of choice at the time. Our favorite candy store was "Minnie`s" which was owned and operated by a delightful older lady named, guess what?? "Minnie". She was a delightful elderly lady whom we visited frequently whether we had pennies or none.
Those were the days that Don Messer and His Islanders got their start and when they were in our area used to come to our house. Another visitor from Charlottetown was L A Art MacDonald who was managing director of Radio Station CFCY which for much of my childhood was the only radio station we could receive. He would have a fifteen minute program on his Station every day at 11:45am and the music was exclusively Marches, Military and/or otherwise. We were all big on martial music in those days and my Mother`s favorite March was one named, "Sword and Lance". Art very often played this tune and would dedicate it to Mom whose habit it was to turn up the volume to full and open the doors and windows. I`ve already mentioned that across the street from our house was the Stellarton High School and you guessed it.....the music was distracting to the students so the Principal, Elston Dunbar would send one of the students across the street to ask Mom to turn down the radio. I guess it got to be a bit of a game for the two of them who knew each other quite well as they were first cousins.
Travelling wasn`t the thing to do in those days as most people could not afford it. What seemed to me to be a long trip was when we went to New Waterford in Cape Breton to visit with Dad`s Sister, my Aunt Katie and her children, Allie and Frances Cummings. I was probably about five years old at the time and what sticks in my memory was walking into the bathroom when my Aunt was sitting on the ''seat" and when we went visiting to a farm where there was a huge Hog and I don`t know where I got them but I fed the Hog chicken bones who then had a hard time with them but survived after giving me a huge scare.
I was Five years, two months when I started right into Grade One, (no Kindergarten then) so I remember that all the way through school I was always one of the youngest in my class. Was that a disadvantage? I don`t think so. I don`t remember an awful lot about my first days at school. I really don`t think it was too traumatic for me to get started as Al went the year before me so I therefore probably looked forward to it......I do remember one day though, my Mom dressed me in shorts which must not have been in vogue in those days as I put up an awful fuss.......didn`t do any good though as, more credit to Mom, she stuck to her guns and I went to school in shorts.
I don`t think I was what one would call a "bad" boy at school but I do recall that I used to get the strap (five on each hand) quite frequently for minor infractions such as turning around to talk to the kid (usually a girl) behind me.......I must have been very bad one day as the teacher sent me home very early as punishment. Mom asked me why I was home so early?? I told her that it was a reward for being a good boy. I don`t remember whether she believed that or not....I`ve always felt a wee bit guilty about it but now that I look back on it...I`ve dismissed it as being in the category of a little boy`s innocent "white lie".
Dad worked at the Albion Coal Mine at that time and worked an 8 hour shift for $2 and odds per day. I can still see him going out on the back veranda at 2pm to listen for the mine whistle. If it blew twice, there was work the next day and if it blew three times, there would be no work. More often than not, it blew three times. In l937 we were evicted from our house as we could not pay the rent which was the princely sum of $7 per month. We moved to a very small upstairs apartment on Bridge Street. My most vivid memory of living there was Mom being very run down and had to spend some time in the hospital. We had a housemaid for that time and her name was "Amy Langille". I don`t remember anything of her before or after but she was very nice and Al and I liked her very much. I also remember one day I had started swinging on a limb of a tall tree that was just outside my bedroom window. This was Ok except I couldn`t get back. I screamed for Al who came running.....I expected him to reach me and pull me back in.....instead he grabbed a pillow from the bed, ran downstairs and placed the pillow on the ground under me and said it was Ok to fall now so I did. No, I wasn`t hurt.
Mom`s younger brother Ted was a single man at that time and always had a car. He had a l936 Plymouth Coupe which had only one seat but still managed to take Mom, her best friend Margaret McKay, Margaret`s three children Bud, Reta and Lorraine, Al and me swimming or picnicing, etc. The 3 adults were naturally on the seat inside the car. The five kids....guess where...in the trunk with the lid propped open. We had a ball. The reason I mention this is to illustrate the things a person would do in those days which would be unthinkable now. It was a great area of the country to grow up!! The Salt Water Beaches were as close as a half hour drive and if you leaned to picnicing beside a small river or stream, beautifully grassed and treed, this was it!!.
When I was six years old in Grade two, I experienced the dreaded chloroform again! Dad sent Al and I downtown to pick up some tobacco for him......when we were returning home, we were fooling around like a six and seven year old will. On this particular street there were no street lights. I "tagged " Al and ran across the street smack dab in front of a bike which was going full tilt. I had a fractured tibula and fibula, both just above the ankle. It was pretty shocking for me to see the leg bent the wrong way as though there was a joint there. I do remember that I didn`t cry and my only concern when I woke from the anesthetic was that I had missed my favorite radio program which was called, "Cecil and Sally". In those days there were no walking casts, therefore I was immobile for six weeks......I did however enjoy the visits of lots of friends, my own and my parents. Six weeks later when I was just beginning to get around, my class and school were having their Christmas Concert, which I desperately wanted to attend. The cloakroom for my class was along and behind the front wall of the classroom. At the corner in front of the cloakroom door the class had erected and decorated a huge beautiful tree.. The class was ordered not to use that door. Noone told me, so after I hung my coat, I opened the door to enter the classroom and promptly knocked over their beautiful big tree. This about l5 minutes before the Concert was to start.... Life`s embarrassing moments!!...
It was sometime early 1939 that we moved from Bridge Street to King Street into three rooms, a Kitchen a bedroom and a bed sitting room which was upstairs in the same house that lived my Uncle Allie, Aunt Jenny, Carl and Wally. I don`t remember what the rent was but it couldn`t have been much as we had no sink or running water in the kitchen. I shall never forget how we had to do dishes on the kitchen table in a pan with water drawn from the bathtub in the bathroom down the hall. We also had to share the bathroom with Allie`s family which lead to a great deal of inconvenience. All my early life our heating was provided by a coal furnace in the basement and a coal stove in the kitchen. With the two families living in the same house we were forced to use the same coal source in the Basement and to get to the basement we had to travel through Allie`s kitchen. Also, we used a common back door to come and go. Every time we entered or left our"digs" (I cannot bring myself to call it an apartment or suite) we had to cover about ten feet of the kitchen. We did have our moments of getting in each other`s hair but you know, when I look back on it I`m amazed that we got along as well as we did. I lived in that house from 1939 - 45 and there was naturally a certain amount of fondness for Uncle Allie and Aunt Jenny and had often went back for visits. My favorites though were my Uncle Weldon and Aunt Peg so it was natural Al and I used to spend more time at their place. As we got older we used to spend more time at our Grandma`s house in Trenton. This was my Mother`s Mother. I had never known my other Grandmother as she died about three months before I was born. At that time we were very strong on family and used to spend much of our time with them.
The first important event I remember after moving into that King Street house was the l0th of Sept 1939 which was the day Canada declared War on Germany. It was a Sunday and Uncle Ted had come with his car to take Mom, Al and I to Pictou....for what, I cannot remember. When Britain declared War on Germany exactly one week earlier, Canada started preparing their recruiting Depots. Stellarton`s was in a hall only two blocks from our house. It was while we were in Pictou that the Declaration of War became official and the doors to the recruiting depots were opened and before we returned home my Dad and a friend named Davie Connors went to the recruiting hall and joined the Canadian Army. Later, when they had their Medicals, it was found that poor Davie had tuberculosis. He had to go to the Sanitorium in Kentville where he had to spend almost the remainder of his life.
Dad had been with the Pictou Highlander`s Pipes & Drums all of the 30`s so when the battalion was mobilized he was a member of that Unit. He had been a Military Policeman the first several months of the War but wasn`t suited to being a Cop as he was too soft hearted and not severe enough with so many of his friends. For an example, Dad was sent to Halifax to apprehend a friend of his who had gone absent. After making this old friend his prisoner, on the way back to their Battalion, they had to pass through Stellarton. Dad knew his friend would be locked up for some time therefore he let him go home to visit his wife for the night before continuing the journey the next morning.....some Cop eh??
The Pictou Highlanders were under Canvas at Sand Point near Mulgrave on the Strait of Canso. Their tasking was Coastal Defence and of course a great deal of Basic Training. Sand Point was only two hours from home by train so occasionally, Mom, Al and I would make the trip to visit with Dad. Travelling the train in those days was a real experience for a kid. They were always so crowded to capacity with Servicemen (and women) that they were sleeping on the floors. I didn`t mention that our house on King Street was overlooking the train tracks which was very interesting most of the time as we got to know my of the train crews and whether we knew them or not, most of them would wave from their engines as they were leaving or entering town. There was a "W" sign in front of our house which meant that outbound trains had to blow their whistles for a crossing which was a few hundred yards from our house. These were steam locomotives and their whistles were shrill and very loud, however it seemed no time at all that we became accustomed to them and they no longer woke us at night. Living right beside the tracks it was only natural that Al and I used to play in the Rail Yards which we did without getting into too much trouble. Early one evening Al and I were playing behind a building where railcar wheels were repaired. There was a trolley beside the rails which Al and I were trying to lift onto the rail. My hand slipped and was pinned between the trolley and the ground. Al ran to me, and with me screaming and his adrenalin flowing, he managed to lift the car of my hand. Many times after that he tried the same lift but could never manage it. Lucky my hand wasn`t damaged permanently. That could have changed the whole course of my life and therefore where would you be now??
I believe it was shortly after Dad had left for the Army that Mom answered an ad from the " New Glasgow Evening News" and came home with an old beat-up bike that she bought for $10, which was lots of money then. Matter of fact, and I don`t know why I remember this, but Mom`s paycheque from the Government was $79 per month. How much Dad would have been able to keep for himself before the $79 was sent to us I have no idea....but knowing my father, it would have been minimal. This old bike was a wonderful thing to happen to us and we sure loved it. Both Al and I were paperboys for the "Evening News" so I was able to save enough to eventually buy my own bike which changed things for us as, rather than take turns using the bike, at last we could go togeather.
We would have some good day trips from Al`s class at school. Even though I wasn`t part of the class, they all knew me, and now that I look back on it, they must have liked me to let me tag along. An incident I shall never forget although I wasn`t the subject involved. We had been with Al`s class on a day trip to Greenhill Look-off which was up a very high hill probably a mile to get to the bottom. On the way down, the brakes failed on the old bike which Al was riding. Instead of jumping, he rode it to the bottom. He must have been doing 60mph as he hit the highway and narrowly missed two cars going in opposite directions a la Hollywood thriller.....nothing damaged except our confidence in the old bike. Sundays, we would bike to Abercrombie which was 9 to 10 miles from home. We`d have a whale of a time there as it was salt water swimming and it had a long wharf with a diving tower. We`d jump off the top of the tower with no problem but I always wanted to try a dive. One day after watching experienced divers I thought it was time for me to have a "go". I hit the water badly and twisted my back and it was all I could do to swim back and climb onto the wharf. Whether this was the cause or just part of it, I`ve never known, but I`ve had back problems all my life. I loved swimming in the salt water.....mostly I think, because it was so easy to float and one didn`t have to work so hard to swim. Often there were lots of big pretty purple Jelly-fish which, after getting stung , you learned to avoid them as much as possible. It`s strange but when I think of it, there were never any girls included in these swimming trips. Was it because they didn`t own bikes; didn`t want to pedal 10 miles to get there; didn`t want the dust and dirt from the cars as they passed you (dirt road) or maybe after all was said and done, we were too young to worry about girls. Probably a good thing for yours truly as I was quite shy as a kid. Matter of fact that lasted a certain degree until I was a young adult which was a curse to me as only God knows the fun I had missed.
During the War Years, our Uncle Ted used to board with us but only for a year or so and he used to take Al and I hunting and fishing. My memories of fishing were going out several miles to a beautiful stream or brook and dangling a line in the water with nothing ever happening. For a l2 -l3 year old boy, this can be pretty boring so I therefore never grew up to be big on fishing. Understand that Uncle Ted used to work in a Bank at that time and didn`t like to work inside. It was a joy for him just to pick up and go out in the woods....which takes me to our hunting trips. He would take us away out in the woods and we`d march across the fields and meadows and through the trees all the time loudly talking if not singing. I have no doubt there was lots of game which of course we`d scare away long before we ever got close. To this day I`ve never shot an animal and of course have no intention of ever starting....nor would I want to.
This all would have been about l94l -42 and of course the WW2 was well underway. We used to hear Adolf Hitler spouting off on the radio and uncle Ted used to mimic him. For years I was convinced that Ted could speak German. Of course he had been pulling my leg. He was good at that or maybe I was pretty gullible (or just plain dumb) example, he used to tell me how difficult it was to grow Sauerkraut but of course he knew more than anyone else the secret of growing it successfully.Chuckle!!
Al and I were sitting on our front doorstep. I was probably eleven, Al twelve. It was a Sunday, early evening. Our next door neighbours, the Roublee`s were just leaving in their half ton pick-up to go to Black Point which was a salt water beach re-nowned for it`s good clams. Al and I must have looked awfully bored as the Roublee`s suddenly stopped and they asked us if we`d like to go with them. We said sure so after asking Mom if it was OK, away we went with them. Later while we were all on the beach the Roublees were sitting around a huge bon-fire with their friends while Al and I were wading in the water. All of a sudden the bottom of my foot felt kind of itchy. I lifted my right foot and looked at it to discover that it had a huge deep gash. I sat beside Mrs Roublee and they talked. Someone had noticed I looked pale and asked me what was wrong....I lifted my foot and poor Mrs Roublee almost fainted. Again I suffered the dreaded chloroform. I forget how many sutures it took to close it. One of the men found that I had walked right onto a broken medicine bottle. .
During those years that Dad was away in the Army, Mom was of course a single parent and on retrospect did an admirable job.....Look how I turned out. Chuckle!! She wasn`t adverse to the occasional corporal punishment, the worst of which was the time that Al and I decided to play chicken on the train tracks with a train coming. There was no real danger as it was incoming, therefore going rather slow, huffing and puffing coming up the grade.. Mom spotted us from the kitchen window which you`ll recall was upstairs. She was screaming at us to get off the tracks but of course we couldn`t hear her because of the train noise. We were on our feet with the train going by when all of a sudden, there was Mom. She dragged us both by the ear back to the house where she got a piece of kindling wood from the oven and administered our punishment. The licking with the kindling wood was bad enough but have you ever been dragged a hundred yards by the ear?? If you were wondering why was the kindling in the oven?? Because the kindling was used to start the fire in the coalstove prior to adding the coal. Since it was expected to start a fire it had to be dry, therefore the oven. A daily chore was to chop kindling wood and carry this and buckets of coal up from the basement. When it wasn`t your week to do that duty...then it was your week to do the dishes.
Across the tracks from our house was a house by itself and behind that house was the East River And along side the River for a couple hundred yards was an area of such thick growth that we used to call it the "Jungle"....Great place for kids to play and we had some great times there involved in Games sling shots or Pea Shooters. For kids we developed quite a skill for sneaking up on your prey or just lying patiently ready to make your ambush.
It seems looking back at the 40`s that we had lots of snow. The first railroad track down the bank from our back door led to the Freight Shed and was used by a Shunter only two or three times daily. When the snow was deep, the train`s snowplow used to clean the tracks, leaving a beautiful smooth wall of packed snow right beside the track. Beautiful to a twelve or thirteen year old boy that is. Perfect for building an elaborate tunnel running next to and parallel with the track. It was terrifying at first when you were in the tunnel and a locomotive would be on the track not more than two feet from you. We got accustomed to it though and it was a real adventure for as long as it lasted, especially when the engineer would blow the steam from his tanks which would fill our tunnel. I never did know the "Why`s" that this type of steam was non-scalding and therefore not dangerous, but the noise of it being released from the tanks was tremendous to a young boy. Quite a thrill, always remembered.
Speaking of steam locomotives, we had a family friend named Brent McPhail who was an engineer on the CNR. One night he took a freight train run to Mulgrave and invited Al and me to go along. We did the whole trip in the cab of the engine, stayed overnight in the Crewmen`s "Bunkhouse" and returned to Stellarton the next day in the Cab of the "Maritime Express". I still recall with wonder the huge furious fire in the firebox of those mighty locomotives. When I look back on these adventures, I`m amazed of the latitude and trust our Mother extended to her two sons. I could not allow my children to do now what my brother and I did then. Of course I had two daughters and no sons but also the world was a different place then with people trusting people; exactly what parents these days must teach their children..."what not to do"
Now I can`t be sure of the year but I would think that it would be about l943, my Uncle Ted became fed up with his job so quit and moved to Halifax. He took a job as a janitor of an apartment block and lived in a small suite in the basement. He had invited me to go stay with him for a week and I was glad to accept. Maybe it was the latent military blood flowing in my veins. That was the time Halifax was all Military with Navy, Army and Air Force from all over the world. Name it and Halifax had it. As a matter of fact it wasn`t until years later that Ted told me that he had been living there for a considerable time before realizing that practicing Prostitutes were entertaining in their suite. I still remember the Restaurant across the Street called the , "Green Lantern", always filled with Servicemen, perhaps propositioning the girls that, "worked across the street. I would really enjoy walking the streets of the city although nothing of note ever happened except maybe the day I passed by the Capital Theatre. There was a long line up waiting to go in to see the movie which was, "Crash Dive" with I believe, Tyrone Power. I was fascinated by the mechanized method that the ticket and change was dispensed by the cashier, not having seen one until that moment. An American Sailor, accompanied by a young lady he was probably trying to impress, came up to me, handed me fifty cents and said, "Here son, go see the movie". I did take the money and I did see the movie. Another favorite past-time was going down to the waterfront to watch the warships and the Freighters heading into and out of the"Bedford Basin". This was an immense body of water inland from Halifax Harbour where the Convoys would assemble prior to leaving for England. An experience for a small boy never to be forgotten.
Maybe it was because I was a Paperboy all the time I was in school that I remember some of the big headlines of the War, in particular, the sinking of the "Hood", then the "Bismark", the unforgettable "Pearl Harbour" and most of all the Invasion of Europe at Normandie. Our family was very fortunate that the Pictou`s were assigned to provide Defense for the Airport at Gander Newfoundland, therefore it was possible for Dad to come home during his "furlough" which was what they called their two weeks leave. It was late, "43" that Dad came home to stay. He had been injured in Newfoundland and when he was hospitalized it was learned that he had very high blood pressure and 4 plus Diabetes.. He was medically discharged and came home to go back into the coal mines....great to have a Dad again!
I guess I must have been something of a "Capitalist" because I used to buy my own clothes and let Al keep the old $l0 bike when I bought a new one. I don`t recall why Al sold his, perhaps it was just worn out and fell apart. Anyway the point was we were again down to one bike, however it was my property which Al tended to forget. One day I wanted to use it and it was gone...Al had it!! I was quite perturbed so I laid down the law and told my brother, that from now on when he wanted the bike, he should ask me first!. I guess he must have taken me very seriously because it wasn`t long after that we had our 24th of May holiday. It was a beautiful warm day as the May`s normally are in Nova Scotia. Dad and my Uncle Allie were sitting on the back doorstep having a cigarette and talking. Al was uptown and I was helping Mom with the lunch dishes (on the kitchen table). The kitchen window overlooking the back yard was open. All of a sudden Al ran into the yard and, ignoring Dad and Allie, he started hollering for me. At first I ignored him but when he persisited I went to the window and leaning out asking him what he wanted. He asked if he could borrow my bike. I asked him why he wanted it. He replied, "The house is on fire and I want to go ring in the alarm". Needless to say everyone jumped....it was true!! the roof was on fire. Al spotted it when he was on his way home and walking down the hill toward the house. The Fire Department came and put out the fire but not before there was a hole in the roof big enough one could have driven a truck through it. That is if one could get a truck up there (Chuckle). This sounds too silly to have happened but I assure you it did happen and just like I described it.
It was during the summer of "44"" there was a "War Bond Drive. In New Glasgow there were troops on parade, displays of military equipment including a German Heinkel 111 (one-eleven) which had been shot down over England. Anyway, as part of the Bond Drive, Dad`s old Pipe Band, The Pictou`s, came to New Glasgow to perform a Ceremonial Retreat Ceremony. Naturally Dad would never have missed it so he and Mom, Al and I went to New Glasgow to see (and hear) it. It was in a beautiful setting called Carmichael Park which is situated alongside the East River. In the Park was/is a Statue of a Piper in full dress bigger than life and actually resembled Dad who was a big good looking man standing 6 Ft 4 In. Many people thought that Dad had modelled for it. I don`t believe that`s true but just realized that I never did know the story behind it. This ceremonial retreat was in front of the statue and had a profound effect on me. I was thoroughly enjoying it and happened to look at Dad and noticed the tears rolling down his cheeks. That was it!! That was the moment I decided I wanted to learn the Pipes. Dad must have been waiting for me to ask as he readily agreed, sent for practice chanters which led to Al and I starting in mid-August, l944. Al had the potential and talent to be an exceptional piper, but he didn`t have the desire so after a couple months, gave it up. I kept at it and here I am 53 years later as heavily involved as ever.
It was a distinct advantage having my Father teach me the Pipes as he would give me a lesson, I`d go off, practice and perfect the movement and be right back looking for the next step. I was always so keen and ambitious to learn that I would always have a long pencil at school and would practice using the pencil under the desk so the teacher wouldn`t see me. At lunch time I`d run home, have a quick lunch then off to my room to practice until it was time to run back to school. I must have been in great shape in those days as I also used to run my whole Paper route.
Even though I had started learning the pipes in Aug 44, it wasn`t until April, 45 that I had joined the local Reserve Army Pipe Band (the Pictou`s) and for the first time played a set of bagpipes. The very first time I played with the band wasn`t at a practice but was a big parade right up the Main Street of New Glasgow and I had the honour of being right in the front rank and beside the Pipe Major who was Fraser Holmes. I wasn`t the least nervous and was made to feel welcome by all the guys so this was a very proud and happy time of my life. The next month was V.E. Day (Victory in Europe) and when we received the news that Germany had surrendered and the War in Europe was officially over, we got in the back of an Army Truck and toured Stellarton , New Glasgow, Westville and Trenton with the Band playing through the Main Streets of these Pictou County towns. V.J. Day (Victory in Japan) followed soon after (Aug 45) and by pure coincidence, the Band was playing a job at Greenhill Look-off. The boose was flowing and everyone was celebrating and besides Dad being fairly inebriated (I was not), he had sprained his ankle and walked with great difficulty. When we arrived home, it was quite late and I had to help Dad up the stairs. To say we made lots of noise is an understatement. I believe that was the worst I`ve ever seen Mom lay into Dad for setting a bad example to his son. The way I looked at it then and now was that I could have drank behind the backs of my parents as was the custom of my friends. As it was I drank with my Dad, who surely liked his beer, but he was reasonable with it and certainly never set a bad example to me. As it was I developed into a moderate drinker at best. I probably have not been really inebriated for 30 years.
One night which had to have been in the spring of "45" I had been to band practice in New Glasgow in the early evening. It had been raining all afternoon and evening and when I went to bed the rain was heavy. About two a.m., the Shunter Crew which was up the line at Stellarton Station saw flames down the track, jumped in their engine and raced down to our house to see what was on fire. Behind our house was a big old barn with not much of any value in it except my bike. When the crew saw it was the barn that was on fire they sat adjascent to our house and dragged on the whistle. I awoke with a start, jumped up on the bed, looked out the window and all I could see was a mass of flames blowing from what I thought was the back end of the house. I shook Al awake, told him the house was on fire then ran into our parents bedroom, woke them and told them the same thing. By the time I got back to my bedroom, Al was sleeping again so I literally dragged him out of bed. When we made our way to the back of the house we saw that it was in fact the barn that was in flames. The fire was burning so furiously it looked as though there had been gas and/or oil feeding the flames. The mystery was that because of the heavy rain and the absense of flammable material in the barn, it was assumed the fire had been deliberately set. Other than that we never did find out the truth. My bike had been totally destroyed. Actually it was the psychological effect it had on me that was worse than any material loss. Every night for months when the Maritime Express would roar by blowing it`s whistle I would awake with heart pounding and be up to and looking out the window looking for a fire that wasn`t there. It took me a long time to get over that.
The first half of July l945 was my first experience with the Pipe Band at Summer Camp. It was at Beach Grove on the outskirts of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Fraser Holmes was still Pipe Major and really took me under his wing. Dad had not re-joined the Band yet and couldn`t afford to take a vacation to go with us so I was on my own. What I remember the best (or worst) about this Camp was the terrible food. I bonded with one of the drummers, Eddie Walton who became a close friend. Eddie had a friend who was a chef in the "Charlottetown Hotel" and when we went to see him one evening he invited us into the Kitchen of the Hotel to feed us Milk and Sandwiches. The Manager of the Hotel walked in on us, gave the friend particular "hell" and threw us out.
I had been in touch with L.A. Art MacDonald who, you will recall was Managing Directer of Radio Station CFCY. The Band, "Don Messer and His Islanders" had a half hour show on the radio every week night and I was invited to play the Pipes on the "Show". Fraser accompanied me for moral support which I don`t think I needed as I wasn`t really nervous and all went well. A few days later our Pipes & Drums did a half hour broadcast from the Charlottetown Armories. There was one solo played during the broadcast and that was "yours truly". I didn`t drink much during that Camp...I suppose it was because I couldn`t afford it!. I remember Eddie and I were downtown doing what, I don`t even remember. The reason this night was a big deal to me was that it was the first time I stayed up all night and carried on right into the next day. Funny how I thought that was a big deal at the time.
After I arrived home from Charlottetown, I repacked, changed uniforms and left for Air Cadet Camp at Pennfield Ridge in New Brunswick. I really enjoyed the Air Cadets which, during the War Years was taken very seriously and the training was of a high standard. Al and I belonged to a Drill Team which performed a routine as well as any I`ve seen in the Regular Army. I almost got in a pack of trouble at this camp though as I had my pipes with me and one evening I was dared to march through the W,D.`s Barracks playing the pipes. Naturally the W.D.`s Barracks were out of bounds to all males. Maybe it was because I was young or maybe it was because playing the pipes through barracks could not be construed as "sneaking in". The Air Cadets were responsible for my first (and what could have been my last) flight. It was actually during March of 45 that our Cadet Squadron had arranged with the RCAF at Camp Debert that five Cadets would spend a week-end, every week end at the Air Base. I and four friends were the first group to go. The trip was very poorly organized at the Debert end and we were left pretty well to fend for ourselves. It was the first time I slept in barracks with Regular Force people and that was an experience in itself. Three of us were lounging around the Operations Block when a pilot asked us if we would like to go up for a flip. He was a fighter pilot who was sent back to Canada to train on Multi-engined Aircraft. We readily accepted so he had us outfitted with parachutes and harness. When we entered the two engined Oxford Trainer he had us unhook the parachutes from our harness and hang them on hooks on the wall of the fusilage. As we took off my two buddies were up front with the pilot. The only window in the fusilage was on the door and this was where I stood so I could see the ground, etc. After take-off the pilot banked heavily to port (left) which caused me to lean with all my weight on a bar that was on the door. This bar turned out to be an emergency devise....press down on bar....door falls off. If I had been a little heavier, I might have fallen out minus a parachute. Isn`t it interesting to speculate what that would have meant to you (my Grandchildren??)
It was that summer that I played solo at a funeral at Antigonish. The deceased had been the Chief Nursing Sister for the Canadians during the First World War. This was probably my first funeral and it was attended by Cardinals, Bishops and Priests from all over the world. I don`t remember being so nervous before or since. My legs were actually shaking. I was so bad that while playing the Lament at the head of the grave I was thinking how disgraced I would be if my legs gave out and I fell into it. Of course that didn`t happen and I played well with noone realizing my state of mind.
Speaking of Antigonish, I attened my first Highland Games that summer at that town. Neil O`Brien from Pictou had been a piper during WW2 and very shortly after D-Day had been playing at the "sharp end" as had been the policy then. Neil had his pipes shot out from under his arm and was taken prisoner and remained thus until the end of the war. He came to the Highland Games with Dad and I and both entered competition. Neil came first, an air force piper came second and I came third. Certainly there was more than three....there was eight in the competition.
Another funeral I remember well was about l947 or 48. The American Government had finally authorized the return of bodies of fallen Servicemen from Europe to their homes in USA and in this case, Canada. The first Canadian to be killed while serving with the American Army was returned and was to be re-interned in a small country cemetery on the side of a beautifully treed hill in Pictou County. There was a great deal of publicity and I had been honoured to be chosen to play the Lament. Before the ceremony started, a photographer approached me to ask where I would be standing and other details of my part of the Service. He introduced himself as being a photographer for "Life" Magazine which at that time was the number one magazine in the world. He promised me that if he got a good shot, it would result in a full page picture in the magazine, Possibly even on the cover. Through the service there was a heavy cloud cover which kept building up and just as I was about to play the Lament, a huge cloudburst. It was a big old camera with an open shutter. A drop of rain got into that shutter and at the critical moment did not work!!. No, I was not nervous...
Another funeral I remembered well was not because of the deceased but because of the Bugler who played the"Last Post". He was a gentleman who was named, "Red Rod MacDonald", a big man with, Yup, flaming red hair and beard. He had been an RSM during WW2 but I cannot remember with which regiment. I went to the funeral with him in his car. As he didn`t want to attend the Service, we waited in his car across the street from the church. While we were sitting, he said," Don, you see that little building over there??" Of couse I did and said so, and he said, "it was in that building that the first movie in Pictou County was held. I was there and we sat in ordinary straight back chairs. During the movie it showed a train coming toward the camera which was right on the track. As the train came closer the women screamed and everyone panicked. Chairs were knocked over and people were hurt in the mad rush to get out of the hall." For your information this was on the Main Street of Westville. It`s beginning to sound like all my Piping was solo which of course wasn`t true. I was very happy to be a member of the Band and happier still when Dad finally became a full member. We had an influx of new members when veteren pipers returned home after the War was over. I remember an ad in the Papers requesting Pipers for the Occupation Forces in Germany. I applied but of course wasn`t accepted as I was only fifteen years old. I was very disappointed though and started thinking how nice it would be to be a Piper in the Army. Meanwhile I kept going to school which I always enjoyed but to a limited extent. I think my biggest problem was that when I finally realized that hey! these girls are pretty nice...I was always too shy to fool around like many of my Peers. You have to realize it was a different world then with the girls wearing skirts, silk stockings and more often than not....tight sweaters! What a difference from the "blue jeans" that are the standard dress for the girls of today. When I think now of all the fun I had missed! Like I`ve always said, "Youth is wasted on the young".
It was probably sometime in l946 that I used to tag along with Al and Don (Duck) MacLean when they used to go out to Westville to hang around the Hubley twins, Lyla and Willa. Now there was a house where everyone was genuinely welcome and I used to get along great with the Mother and Father, "Archie and Marg". One Sunday evening we arrived there and I had hidden in my pocket one phoney snake that looked very real. Berna, the twins eldest sister who had red hair and a temper to match, was in the Pantry slicing bread with a big butcher knife (you couldn`t buy sliced bread in those days). I sneaked up behind her and dangled the snake in front of her face... big mistake. Berna really lost it and before I could re-act, she turned around and tried to plunge the knife into my mid-section. As luck would have it, I was wearing a heavy winter jacket which had a heavy wide zipper. The point of the knife hit the zipper and broke. Another case in point of how lucky you (my grandchildren) are. This incident had taught me a valuable lesson and never again did I sneak up behind anyone to surprise them, with or without a snake, phoney or otherwise.
When we entered the summer vacation of l946, Al and I got summer jobs with the CNR working on the Extra Gang laying new rails and ties. There was no machinery to do all the work so you could say the work was tough but the pay was good(.48 cents per hr.) and we worked ten hour days. It was a hard but satisfying summer.This was the first time that Al and I rode "the rails" which is to say we rode between passenger cars on the outside. This was going back to our work which at that time was at Merigomish, about 30 minutes out of New Glasgow. Many of our work-mates were ex-servicemen so we enjoyed the War Stories, true or otherwise. We lived in boarding cars which were very primitive and the food was horrible. One day we did have bad meat so perhaps about 2am it seemed everyone was stricken with Diahorrea at the same time. We had wooden planks from the boarding car door to the ground. The guy in front of me couldn`t hold it....let it go on the plank making it slippy, causing me to slip on it. Altogeather an unpleasant night and one etched deeply into the memory banks.
When I was going into Grade l2, the first day of school coincided with the Lobster Carnival in the town of Pictou. My Militia Pipe Band was to play at the Carnival and of course this was more important (to me) than going to school so I went to Pictou with the Band. When I showed up at classes the next day, I had no books, scribblers,etc. I took it on the chin from each teacher at each new period.....next day I`m ready to go to school, hating the very thought of it, turned around to Mom and said, "Mom, I`m quitting school!"....surprisingly she said, "O.K. but if you do you`ll have to find a job right away....don`t think you`re going to hang around the house". That was the end of my school days! I found a job almost right away at "Sunshine Laundrey and Dry Cleaners" in New Glasgow, working in the Dry Cleaners Section. I worked at the Wet Wash scrubbing all sorts of items but mostly men`s trousers. First time I knew that trousers were cleaned wet before they were dry cleaned. It was a sweat shop with improper ventilation and the temperature used to soar. I worked a 54+a half hours at (you won`t believe this) $l0 a week. My bus fare was $l,20 a week which left me with $8.80. After a month I asked my Boss, Mr. Julien, for a raise. He said that I hadn`t been there long enough to expect a raise. My reply to that was that I`d been there long enough for him to be aware of the quality of my work. He told me that if I stayed with them long enough I would one day be Manager of the establishment. I told him there was no way I would want to be Manager there.
Very shortly after I was looking for a new job when along came a friend of mine from Westville, George Weatherbee. He said that he and another friend Waldo Monroe were going to Annapolis Valley to find a job picking apples. They were looking for a third to go with them and heard that I was "uncommitted" I accepted and away we went. We hitch-hiked and had good luck getting in Kentville that evening. We bummed around the town and as we didn`t have a lot of money we asked the law if we could spend the night in their lock-up. Their normal jail was being renovated so they put us in a small one- roomed brick building with one tiny window near the top of one wall. Two others were already there so when the cop left he locked the door. The bunks were made of chicken wire with huge holes in them and they sagged terribly. There were no blankets and after we settled down it got terribly cold. There was a pot bellied stove in the middle of the floor, with newspaper and broken orange crates in the room. After it got really cold, one of the other guys started making a fire in the stove. It got red it was so hot and with very little ventilation we were almost sick from the heat. It was a tortuous long night. We couldn`t get anyone`s attention so had to suffer it out until the cop came in the morning to let us out. We were too late to get a job "picking" as the season was almost over so instead of returning home we thought that for the "hell of it" we`d hike to Halifax. We walked the streets there, after midnight tried to sleep in the lobby of the huge Nova Scotian Hotel. I was just about to pop off in one of their very comfortable sofa`s when someone came along, kicked our feet and then kicked us out of there. We then went down to the railroad yards looking for an empty passenger car but a RR cop saw us, guessed what we were looking for and put the run to us. We ended up walking out of the city and not getting a lift until about 7am the next morning. Incidentally, that same Waldo Monroe is the one and same that ended up as piano player with "Don Messer and His Islanders".
My next job was with Brookfield Constuction who had the contract to demolish most of the Military buildings in Debert. I had the dirtiest job that ever was. I, with two others, used to go up into the attics of the old barracks, administration buildings, mess hall,etc. It was our job to pound the panel ceilings which were usually Beaverboard and sometime Gyproc to the floor where other would hammer out the nails. The only way we could pound out these panels were with our boots. There was always a heavy layer of dust and we had no masks or respirators. When we`d come down from there we`d be black with dust and our spit would take hours to come clean. A bit dangerous as well for there was mostly nothing to hold onto while you were pounding with your foot. It was when we were in a drill hall with a very high ceiling and a concrete floor that I almost did fall. That, plus the absolute dirt of the job convinced me there was better jobs to be had.
In l944 Mom had surprised everyone; she was pregnant!! I can`t remember what I thought of that at the time but I`m sure this new baby was most welcome...especially when she was born and great!! it`s a girl!! Gloria Jane Roy was born l4 January, l946 and I think after that I had claimed her as my own. I had went to the hospital to bring Mom home (Taxi) and I had the honour of carrying my new sister up the stairs when we arrived home. My one regret was that, not many years later I was gone into the Army and I never had the opportunity to help her grow. Gloria and I were always close though, in spirit if not geography and when I`m visiting with her at her home in Idaho, we marvel at how we think and act alike. She is a very special person.....
Late l945 we moved from our house on King Street (and the Railroad tracks) to a nice old house in Plymouth Park which was probably about a mile from Stellarton. It was a longer walk to come and go but I enjoyed living there and I believe the rest of the family liked it as well.....it was probably about then that Al and I decided we would go to work in the Coal Mines. We told Dad what we intended to do and although he wasn`t happy with it , he gave us his blessing. We left the house to go down to the Allan Shaft where Dad worked and after we had left the house, Dad phoned the Mine Manager, told him that his two sons were on their way there and that he was to let us fill out job applications, then after we left, garbage those same applications. It took us many years to find out what had happened and even then, it wasn`t from Dad. That was the reason we never became coal miners.... thanks Dad!.....
That July I went back to the CNR and the Extra Gang. I think this was when Al got a job in the Comptroller`s Office at Trenton Steel Works. It was 09 July, l947 that I had a slight accident. We were laying new rails at West River when my partner and I finished early. Instead of waiting for the main body of workers, we rode back to our boarding cars early.. Our transport was a self-driven steam crane hauling two flat cars. The first car was for the workers to ride on...the second was loaded with angle bars and barrels of nuts & bolts and spikes. When we arrived back to the boarding cars, the driver decided because there were only two riders, he`d slow down instead of stopping. We jumped off. I slipped on the loose roadbed and fell back and under the wheel of the loaded car. I never remembered exactly what happened but a friend of mine, Harold Nickerson was standing in the car door and witnessed it. The way he descibed it was that my head hit the rail, I knocked my head off the rail with my arm and then the flange of the wheel caught the arm. I remember looking at the arm and thinking, "My God! I`ll never play the Pipes again!" It was severely lacerated with the top of the forearm wide open showing lots of bone, tendons and muscle hanging out the edge. At least two inches of the artery was completely exposed and could be clearly seen pumping but thank God, it wasn`t damaged!. First Aid kits were in the Foreman`s boarding car but they weren`t used at all. I walked about a kilometer holding the arm, to the train station where the Timekeeper kept his car,,,he didn`t want to get blood on the upholstery, so they tore a strip of the Cookee`s apron which was dirty from old grease and grub. They then tied a tournaquet around the arm and we drove to the hospital, first stopping at the CNR`s Compensation Doctor who was Dr, Benvie, who was a gruff, cranky old Scot who I came to love dearly. It took an hour to get me there and they hadn`t once loosened off the tournequet so I was in pretty bad pain. To make a long story short, I suffered from infection because of the germs in the wound and very nearly lost the arm because of it. I had a skin graft operation late August which wasn`t a complete success because of the infection. When I was released from the hospital in mid Sept. I couldn`t open my hand and was limping badly from complications where the graft was removed from my leg. I started exercising the hand with a rubber ball and it was no time that I was back playing the Pipes. All`s well with the world.
After I was home from the hospital and still recuperating, I would go up to Uncle Weldon`s house, call for him and we`d limp togeather to the Jubilee Theatre to see the movie. Poor Weldon who worked in the Roundhouse with the CNR had injured his knee while working on a locomotive and was recovering from surgical removal of the knee. I was limping from the infected site on my leg. People wondered why Don Roy was limping when it was his arm that had been injured. Most people were really glad to see me though as the stories that were going around town the night of my injury were pretty bad. They varied from my being cut in half to just losing my arm.
Queen Elizabeth (then " Princess") and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh married on the 20th of November, l947. That same day I was on a train with a friend, one Danny Stewart from New Glasgow and we were headed to Kitchener, Ontario where we were going to find a job and make a fortune. As Danny was also a Piper, we were going to join a Pipe Band there and live happily ever after. Of course nothing turns out the way you plan it. We did get jobs like we planned but where was the big money everyone talked about. As far as I can remember, we made about 90 cents per hour, more on night shift which we worked lots because we were single and not living with family. We were used. Our jobs were in a rubber factory on King Street Kitchener. We were on an assembley line making rubber boots and I had a position on the unit that precluded the full use of my recovering arm. This was of course my first time away from home and I was extremely homesick. I joined the local Militia Pipe Band which was the Royal Scots Fusiliers but it was a very poor Band and the guys were not at all friendly. All I did the six months I was there was eat, sleep and work. Of course I had noone to blame but myself, however, I was still a bit of an introvert, too shy to ask a girl out so it was just a matter of time that I gave it up to return to Nova Scotia. It didn`t make things easier for me that Danny`s brother lived in Guelph, not far from Kitchener. His brother would call for him every week-end to take him home where they rode horses, played golf and Danny would come back on Sunday night to tell me what a great time he had.. Not once was I invited to go along!. In May 48 we hit the road and hitch-hiked home to N.S.. That was an interesting trip. We had good luck through Ontario, but in Quebec, especially north of Levis, we found it very difficult to get a drive. In the end we had to (after walking l6 miles and sleeping about 3 hours in a Farmer`s Barn) catch a train at a town called Ste. Anne De La Pocatiere. How great it was to arrive home after the first trip away. As young as Gloria was , she still remembered her big brother.
Of course one of the first things I did after arriving home was re-join the Pictou Highlanders Pipe Band. I then started a job at Maritime Steel & Foundries in New Glasgow as an apprentice Coremaker. Another hard, dirty, low paying job....how do I keep landing these type jobs? As part of the job entailed spraying completed cores with silica wash prior to baking, it was an very unhealthy job as again, respirators or masks were not provided.....it just seemed an accepted fact that by the time you were fifty to sixty you`d have silicosis. As miserable as this place was, I enjoyed it ...a wee bit. I made some good friends there, the closest being Bob (wife-Joyce) Nicholson who to this day, still lives in Plymouth. Bob and I used to work togeather . Our night shift had pretty dumb hours starting at 6pm....10 to 10:30 pm for lunch and finish at 2:30am. We`d then go to the Coffee Pot on Provost Street for a coffee then head home. I`d have to walk all the way to Plymouth Park which would be about three miles by the Stellarton Road or, if I chose to take a short-cut, I would walk up the rail track across the "Iron" Bridge then through an old cemetery... this would cut off about a mile. One night about three in the morning I`m walking along the RR track when along came an engine headed for Stellarton. I put up my thumb and surprise!! they stopped...I got a big kick out of successfully hitch-hiking a RR Locomotive.
Sometimes Bob and I would stay to help unload a box car full of special moulding sand. We`d usually be part of a gang of six men who would start shovelling at 2:30 am and we`d have it finished before the day shift started at 8am, go home and sleep and be back to work at six. Sometimes we do the Car on a Friday night, or Saturday morning, go home, catch a couple hours sleep and go to the dance at the IOOF Hall that Sat.night. In the late 40s there weren`t as many Pipe Bands as in later years so we used to have many engagements all over Nova Scotia and occasionally down to Cape Breton. We always had a great time but it wasn`t easy as we always travelled in the back of Army Trucks. They were gasoline powered 60 hundred weights with the exhaust at the back so that when we rode we were subject to the fumes of the Monoxide...I couldn`t take that and used to be sick on many of the trips.
In l947 the Compensation Board had decided they would not award compensation to me for my accident while with the CNR. This was disastrous for me as it also meant that I was responsible for the hospital bill incurred for 2 months, two weeks in the hospital and the cost of the two surgeries. The reasoning was that the accident happened because I had jumped from a moving railroad car and on the CNR the only workman authorized to move onto and off moving units were Brakemen. I appealed and as a result I had to appear twice before the Compensation Board in Halifax. I finally won the case when I had threatened to sue the CNR for neglect as a result of not using First Aid Kits when the accident happened therefore endangering my life and complicating the injury. I couldn`t lose as Dr. Benvie who was the CNR Doctor had testified on my behalf. A deal was made...I was awarded the Compensation, my Hospital bill was paid and I was awarded a Pension of $l0 per month.
One day in l948, I received a letter from the Compensation Board explaining they had reviewed my case and had decided to award me a settlement of $1110.79 and they followed up the letter immediately with a cheque. At no time was I asked if I concurred with the settlement so when I received the cheque I made a big mistake....I cashed it!! Actually, two mistakes. First, I should not have accepted the cheque. If I`d kept the pension and had the payments go into a seperate account it would have multiplied many times. Second, after I cashed the cheque, I bought a car. If I`d invested it, again it probably would have multiplied. It would have been interesting to know how much each scenario would have yielded by my 65th birthday. Oh well, I sure did enjoy that car!!. It was a "39" Dodge and a good car except the engine was shot which I didn`t know until it was too late. I recall when my best friend at the time, Bob Moss and I took a week-end trip to Sydney, Cape Breton to visit brother Al who at that time was a "Field Man for "Household Finance". Al didn`t keep that job for very long as it was for someone with no heart. What he had to do was visit people who were delinquint in their payments and make arrangements for them to start making payments. One day Al knocked on a door where a few steel workers were having a party. When he was invited in, they made him drink "Moonshine" which was a pretty potent drink. I can`t recall what kind of shape Al was in when they let him leave. The call that decided Al to quit was when a worn out young Mother answered the door with a baby in her arms....she had just had another baby die and her husband just left her.She cried and rather than give her a bad time, Al went back to the office and called it a day.
I would think it was about this time I became a little less shy. Enough so that I had a girl friend. Her name was Sally and I really liked her but the romance was doomed from the first as she was Roman Catholic and stopped seeing me on the advise (or orders) of a favorite Nun. That was OK though because then I started seeing another girl named Helen. Sally was Polish Canadian, Helen was Greek Canadian. Both had jet black hair which I was partial to at that time. Still am as a matter of fact although I like blondes and red-heads too!!
Sometime in "49 I left the Foundry and became a "Fuller Brush Man". As you`d probably never heard of such an animal, the job was simply going door to door to sell brushes and the like. It was a funny thing though, the most memorable call I had was the very first house on the very first day. I was in a suburb of New Glasgow, quite nervous, looked at a house and thought I had to start somewhere so this was it!! I went to the back door, knocked, no answer, knocked again, still no answer so I started down the walk from the door when it opened and a young attractive housewife said, I`m home, "Come-on back". I introduced myself and went in the house. We sat at the kitchen table. A selling gimmick was to open your sample case on the floor, remove the samples one by one and placing them on the floor so the customer had to pick up and handle any item she may be interested in. Once they handle it, more chance of buying it. What I hadn`t mentioned was that she was wearing only a negligee. Everytime she bent over to pick up a sample, the negligee would fall away from her body. She asked me questions, I would answer them and that was as intimate as I got......I was incredible!!!
At that time I was driving a "41" Chevvie which had a good engine but the body was in bad shape. The previous owner had lived right beside the Atlantic Ocean and suffered from the salt exposure. It was amazing how good he had that car looking when I bought it and how quickly it deteriorated soon after. I obviously had, "Sucker" written on my forehead. That car was so bad that although one of my rear fenders was held up with hay wire, one day on the way home from work the wire broke and the fender simply dropped of the car and onto the ground. The alignment of the body was affected so badly that when I would turn right, the left hand doors would fly open and when I made a left turn, the right hand doors would open. Girls in those days wore skirts and nylons. There were holes in the floorboard of the car so that when we`d go riding on a dirt road (lots of them then), their nylons would get splattered with mud. I lost more girl friends that way!! Chuckle.... What was most amazing was that this was the wedding car when my good friend Eddie Walton got married to his Janie. I was best man and chauffeur.
1950 was more or less an uneventful year for me. I was again "best man" at a wedding. This time it was my big brother, Al. He married Joyce Lochart from New Glasgow. Joyce was and is a wonderful person and in two more years they will have their golden anniversary! When Al was courting Joyce, I would go to a movie and loan Al my car. After the movie was over Al would return the car and I would pick up my girl friend Helen. The unfortunate part of this romance was that her father disallowed her to have a Canadian boy friend that was not Greek descent, so we therefore were forced to sneak around everywhere we went. Under those conditions, it couldn`t last, and didn`t.
I was still working at the Maritime Steel and got in the habit of stopping at the shower point at the Allen Shaft to keep clean. As our home in Plymouth Park had no running water, this was a great alternative to having sponge baths in the pantry! Yes, we had an outdoor biffy and boy! was that ever a cold place in the winter!. Dad was still working at the Allan Shaft until one night when he was on Shift, the Mine suffered an explosion. I was also on night shift at the Maritime Steel and had noticed that the guys were avoiding me. I felt something was wrong and then I was wanted on the phone in the office...highly unusual! It was Al telling me not to worry, Dad got out OK. I asked him, "out of where...what happened?" He was surprised to learn that I knew nothing of the Shaft exploding. Dad was lucky, he was working on a haulage engine which was close to the shaft and on a different level from the explosion. There was a large number of casualties and we thanked God that Dad wasn`t hurt. He and I had a lot of good times togeather playing in the Pipe Band and of course we were both so happy that my arm was almost fully recovered from the accident and I was back playing the Pipes like nothing had ever happened. I was very close to my Dad in those days. I had a close relationship with Mom as well. I`ve lots of happy memories of going bike riding with her. she had bought herself a bike and she, Al and I would take off on picnics with the bikes. A tradition that we had at Christmas time was Mom and I taking the Jitney (self-driven one-unit railroad car)about twenty miles out of Stellarton, cutting down a Christmas Tree, waiting for the next Jitney and returning home with, almost always a beautiful tree. It helped that we, most of the time knew the train crew so we had no trouble taking the tree on the Jitney with us. Mom and I would walk togeather from town to Plymouth Park, which would take us beside the Roundhouse. We used to walk sometimes arm in arm (unheard of today) and it got back to us that some of the employees in the Roundhouse thought that lady was terrible for she was robbing the Cradle. I was Mom and Dad`s built-in baby-sitter and actually enjoyed looking after my wee sister. A good memory was when I was with the Band playing at the Lobster Carnival at Pictou and Mom had Gloria there dressed like a highland dancer and when I played the pipes for her, she mimicked the fling and did it well. She was cute as a button and couldn`t have been more than three years old at that time.
One day in the spring of l95l I opened the New Glasgow Evening News to find a full page advert which requested all interested Pipers and Drummers to join the Canadian Army as, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, there would be Highland Regiments in the Canadian Army. A new Brigade, the 27th was being organized to serve with the newly created NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). I was really excited when I read that and thought, "That`s for me!". The next day I was at work in the Foundry when in walked Eddie Walton and another friend Alex Foster. They said they were going to Halifax to join the Army and I was to come with them. I agreed so the three of us went to Matheson`s Foundry where another friend, Bob Hoare worked. It wasn`t difficult to talk him into coming with us and when we went downtown we ran into another friend, "Satch Sarson" from Pictou. Satch was a tenor drummer in the Pictou`s and was a wee bit slow but a real good guy. The five of us went to Halifax the very next day and tried to sign up. I said, "tried" as out of the five only two of us actually made it. Satch was eliminated by the "M" test which is an intelligence test of a sorts. In one part of the test there were pictures of objects which had pieces missing ; you would draw in the missing piece....example, bicycle minus a chain. You would draw in the chain and proceed to the next picture quickly as there was a time limit so speed was essential. When Satch came to a picture of a kettle without a handle, he drew in the handle OK, but then took the time to draw a nice pretty fire burning under it complete with steam coming out the spout. He failed the test. Eddie had made it to that point but then had to abandon his plans as his new wife threatened to leave him if he joined up. Alex Foster was turned down as, after investigation they discovered that he had gone AWOL in England during WW2 and hadn`t reported back until after D Day.
The previous year of l950 saw the Canadian Government sends the 20th Brigade Group to Korea, therefore when the politians committed a Brigade Group to serve in Europe with NATO, they were unable to provide the troops. An emergency recruiting drive was the answer. They accepted WW2 Veterens giving them the rank they held when discharged at the end of hostilities and also accepted members of the Reserve Army and allowed them to retain the rank they held with the Reserves. Because I was a half decent Piper in a Band with mostly not-so-good Pipers, I held the Rank of Sgt in the Reserve Band. In all other aspects of soldiering, I was completely ignorant . When I joined regular I was accepted as a Sgt which was the Rank I retained until my discharge in February, 54. Bob Hoare and I reported to Aldershot where "E" Company of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders was raised. While most other young soldiers started to undergo Basic Training, I was employed in QM Stores. After a month at Aldershot, the Company was moved to Camp Valcartier, Quebec which was about 15 miles out of Quebec City. At the same time, other Companies were arriving from all over Canada to form our Battalion which was known as the 1st Canadian Highland Battalion. The Break-down was as follows:- "A" Coy (Company) was Black Watch from Montreal, "B" Coy was 48th Highlanders from Toronto, "C" Coy was Seaforth Highlanders from Vancouver, "D" Coy was Canadian Scottish from Victoria, Support Coy was North Nova Scotia Highlanders and Headquarters Coy along with Battalion HQ`s and the Pipes and Drums contained personnel from all of them. We were therefore a mixture of five different tartan kilts, different sporrans, different everything which didn`t do one little thing in the bonding department. Our Pipe Major was one Keith Lee who came from the 48th Highlanders. He had a big job on his hands to take pipers from one coast to the other and transform us from a bunch of individuals into a team. He was an excellent man for the job, starting all of us back to the basics and having all of us play the same tunes the same way. The 30 odd months I spent with him were profitable in that I learned much from him....soldiering as well as piping. The unfortunate part of our relationship was that we couldn`t stand each other. We tolerated each other on the job, while our social relationship was nil. It was a difficult time for me as he made things pretty rough for me the whole time. At the same time I couldn`t bond with the Junior Ranks. At that point of time the Canadian Army was quite implicit about fraternization between the Senior and Junior Ranks. Here I was, after losing some shyness, coming out of my shell so to speak, I`m forced through circumstance to be a loner. Being a resilient individual though, I did manage to live a life quite seperate from Keith Lee. My room mate for that summer was an Artillery Sgt named Grover Boland. We were good friends at that time but after leaving Valcartier that Dec. I had never seen him again. My memories that summer ranged from working part time with the Pipes & Drums and the rest of the time with Tech Stores. I had a girl friend for awhile but it didn`t last long as I suspect I moved a little slow for her. She was very nice though, a telephone operater and therefore quite bilingual.. We split on the best of terms.
Only a month or two after arriving in Valcartier we received two new Pipers who were very good friends I had served with in the Pictou Highlanders. The first was Jack Fleming who served during WW2 and went into the coal mines after the War. The second was Harold Hayden from Pictou who was two years later to become my "best man". Because this 27th Brigade Group that was thrown togeather in Valcartier were from one end of Canada to the other and were part of composite units such as was the Highland Btn., there was little " Esprit De Corps" consequently when soldiers were on pass in Downtown Quebec City there was lots of fighting. It was therefore prudent for the Military to have their own Security Patrols. Our Pipes & Drums were occasionally tasked to serve on these Patrols. One night we were on what was called "Standing Patrol" and were housed in the basement of the city Police Station. At one point we were standing in a rough circle probably telling jokes,etc. when a loud, shrill bell sounded. Two things I did not mention, first Jack Fleming had been a Boxer during WW2., Second, a couple days previous I had received a vaccination on the arm. The site of it was infected, swollen and tender to the touch. When Jack heard the bell he turned and pounded me on the arm...right on the vaccination. Forty-six years ago....I still feel it!
One duty I had while at Valcartier was I and a Cpl from Toronto named Tommy Brant were sent to Sydney N.S. to pick up a prisoner and escort him back to Valcartier. All travelling during that period was of course by train. Because my home was on the main line we stopped there for a short visit, then carried on to Sydney. We arrived at 7am and right away went to a "greasy spoon" for breakfast. Later we were in a small shop passing time until the Armories opened where we were to pick up our prisoner. Tommy was buying postcards to send home and while I was standing waiting for him, I became extremely dizzy and sick. Tommy had me taken to hospital where I spent the remainder of that day being very sick. The following day I was quite fine except I was very weak. Tommy wasn`t affected at all, even though it was determined that I had a case of food poisoning. After all that, our prisoner had been sent to Halifax and was no longer our responsibility. Not a great trip and to top it off, Tommy had borrowed $l2 from me and never returned it!
On the l5th of July 51 it was my 21st birthday. I could think of no better gift to myself than a phone call home. Today you would say; "so what`s the big deal? Well it was a big deal back then and not done very often. When I talked to my wee sister Gloria, she said, "when are you coming home Don?" and she started to cry. Dad took the phone but couldn`t talk as he got choked up so he gave the phone to Mom and she started crying so there I was. Did I cry as well?? I really don`t remember...I suspect I may have.
Later that summer on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. I went to brunch, felt fine, got a bowl of soup, looked at it and couldn`t hack it...all of a sudden I`m sick again. I looked terrible, felt worse and was taken by Ambulance to Quebec Military Hospital where I was diagnosed with "Jaundice". I was pretty sick for awhile but what I remember best (or worst) was the depression that accompanied the illness. I was in that hospital for 3 weeks and had a real cute nurse who had same name as Mom....Reta Roy. Prior to shipping out to Germany, I went home on embarkation leave. I`m sure I had a great time saying "good-bye" to the girls but what I remember best was that when I went to see Uncle Weldon and Aunt Peg, by coincidence uncle Allie and Jenny were there as well. As I`ve already said, I was always big on family so I enjoyed my visit with them and have to admit,enjoyed the attention as well. When the visit was over and I was leaving, Weldon said to me that he fully expected I would take a page out of his book and bring a Scottish bride home with me....How prophetic!! Weldon and I had a great relationship especially after the two of us were crippled in 47 and went limping down the street togeather on the way to the Jubilee theatre`s matinees.
It was early in the morning of 02 December, l95l that a Troopship called the S.S. Canberra slipped it`s moorings at Quebec City to sail up the St. Lawrence River and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Aboard the ship was the 1st Canadian Highland Battalion of the 27th Brigade along with supporting elements, mostly Service Corps. The Canberra was a small, old and round bottomed ship and part of the "Greek Line". It was very prone to roll heavily in swells and the North Atlantic in Dec is very subject for swells. Every day when possible, the Pipes & Drums would assemble on the Main Deck to play a few tunes for our comrades. A good part of the time was spent on calisthenics and running around the deck. But most of the time was liesure with lots of cribbage and whist. I had given my head a nasty bump one day when I was off balance during a heavy roll and I literally went flying into the bulkhead (wall). Lucky thing I hit headfirst or I may have really hurt myself (chuckle). Without a doubt the best part of the whole trip was the food.....I bet I gained ten pounds in the 11 days it took us to reach Rotterdam in the Netherlands. When we arrived there we boarded a troop train which took us to Hanover arriving late that night. Our home for the next two years was called "Chatham Barracks", situated about three miles from Downtown Hanover and right alongside our Barracks was the main Autobahn, Germany`s super highway running from Cologne to Hamburg.
Our Battalion and Brigade were the first NATO troops in Germany. Until our arrival Germany had been occupied by British, American and French Forces which were all part of the Occupation Army that stayed in Germany on the termination of WW2. NATO troops were strictly operational status and very much resented by the German populous, therefore we were anything but welcome on our arrival in Hanover, which was a hot-bed of the Nazi`s before and during the War. We had been under very strict orders to avoid any confrontations and/or incidents with the German citizens. Not long after our arrival I was standing at a streetcar stop adjascent to our Main Gate. I made the unforgiveable error of standing on the "Bike Path" which ran along immediately beside the sidewalk. The first German to come along on his bicycle ran right into me. The only thing that was hurt was my dignity. We quickly learned what that second sidewalk was used for and never to stand on it. Hanover had been pounded very heavily by Allied Bombers during the later stages of the War with over 50,000 lives lost in one evening when the city was bombed so heavy by incendiary bombs that it produced a "fire-storm", so we had to realize that most residents had lost friends and relatives and were still very bitter. Our Pipes & Drums were reminded of this very vividly when, just two days after Christmas, one of our Tenor Drummers, "Kennie Tough" had stepped off a streetcar and as he was walking toward the Main Gate was run down deliberately by a German civilian who went out of his road to pass on the right side of the Streetcar so he could hit Kennie who died two days later. The German driver was never charged!
Because we were operational, we were under severe restrictions during our two year tour in Germany. The married personnel could not bring their spouses there and we were allowed five passes per week that expired at 10:30pm and two passes which expired at midnight. No big deal really as there were several places where the fence surrounding the Barracks were in bad repair allowing any red-blooded, enterprising young Canadian soldier to stay out late, assuming he had made a previous arrangement with the Duty NCO who would neglect to discover an empty bed at bed-check after lights out. As it was less than five years from the end of WW2, Hanover was still mostly in ruins which was very evident coming from downtown out to Chatham Barracks. That 3 mile street called Georgestrasse was mostly flattened. Germany was just beginning to get on it`s feet and started re-building when we arrived. It was positively unbelievable how that stretch of Georgestrasse looked when we left there two years later, being rebuilt with dozens of new apartment blocks.
Chatham Barracks was a good barracks to spend two years as it was too small to contain any more units than our Highland Btn. At the same time it was big enough to have a huge indoor swimming pool and a NAAFI Cinema which was run by the British. After our arrival we were on British rations and until our new scale of rations was organized, we had Brussel Sprouts for Breakfast, Dinner and Supper. Yeauch!!
One day in February of "52", we received word that our King, George VI had died. Our Battalion had "stood down" that morning but had an impromtu parade on the Square that afternoon. I hadn`t been warned for the parade and was sound asleep when the sound of the Band awoke me. Pipe Major Keith Lee charged me for being Absent from place of Parade. I had no problem beating the "Charge" as Jack Fleming, who had been Duty NCO testified on my behalf that he neglected to warn me.
We were allowed 2 weeks leave every four month and my turn came in May of "52" so my good friend Harold Hayden from Pictou and I went to London, England. We had an excellent trip and when in London we stayed at a "Bed & Breakfast that was almost a private home. They were very nice and very helpful people and we were made to feel very welcome. During the first two years in Europe all Canadians that were part of NATO were forbidden to wear civilian clothing which unlike today was no real problem as we wore and were proud to wear the old khaki battledress with the Canadian patches on the shoulder and Brigade Sheild on the arm, therefore everywhere we went we were recognized as Canadian Soldiers and were made welcome. While in London we decided to take a side trip to Brighton for the Week-end. Our reasoning to visit this particular city was that the Canadians stayed in that area (amongst others) during WW2. We were right. .We again were welcomed everywhere. When we arrived at the train station there an English gentleman took hold of us, paid for a taxi and took us to a very nice Bed & Breakfast. Just when we were starting to suspect him of ulterior motives, he wished us a happy stay and said good-bye. Another thing that surprised us was the many ex-Cdn soldiers who married English girls during the War and either stayed in or returned to Britain after the war was over. We learned that a great many of them were homesick for Canada and would have liked to move back, but they mostly had low paying jobs and couldn`t afford the move. Back in London, we spent much of our time at a Servicemen`s Club called the, "Nuffield Centre" which was a nice place to eat, drink, write a letter, attend a dance, pick up a girl, etc. An outstanding feature of the Club was that every day they would call from the service desk for anyone interested in attending live or filmed shows. That way Harold and I saw some very enjoyable shows. One time the two of us were "escorted" to a movie theatre to be special guests of the cast of a movie that was having it`s "premier showing" that evening. The movie was , "Eight Iron Men" and the memory of it is dimmed but was about a squad of American Soldiers in the thick of the fighting in Europe. One of them was always day dreaming about the special treatment he would get after the war was over. In his day dream he had a beautiful woman come up to him to explain that she had a bottle of whiskey, a carton of cigarettes, etc. and the only thing she still needed was someone to share this with her. The actress` name was Mary Castle and before the movie we had pictures taken with her (friendly pictures) in the lobby. We thought we had it made and that we`d be going to a party after the movie....don`t they always have parties?? As it turned out that one scene was the only part she had in the 99% male movie. Of course they used us for the Photo Op and after the movie finished we were strictly on our own.
One word about London prostitutes....before leaving for England, Harold and I were told by friends who had already had leave there, to be sure to take a walk from Picadilly Circus to Leicester Square. We were assured that we would be accosted by hordes of beautiful girls, albeit prostitutes. As soon as we arrived in London, settled in the Bed and Breakfast and asked, "How do we get to Picadilly??" we took the "Tube" there,exited right onto Picadilly Circus, got pointed in the right direction to Leicester Square, then proceeded to make that famous (or infamous) walk. I`m not kidding....I was stopped by one prostitute; she was approximately 50 years old, short, quite fat and had a prominent wart on her cheek. In case you are wondering, "No, I did not take advantage of her services". We checked out Westminster Abbey, Madame Toussoud`s Wax Museum,Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard and most of those tourist things, then returned to Germany with no harm done.
Don Roy E-mail:
BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO