It was in the spring of "52" that we were warned that our Pipes & Drums would be part of the Edinburgh Tattoo the Aug and Sept. On the strength of that job, we were authorized to abandon our own regimental affiliations with a view for standardization of the Band`s uniforms. Our Regimental Commander and Regimental Sgt Major had both been Queen`s Own Cameron Highlanders during WW2, and because the "Camerons weren`t already involved with the lCHB, it was the logical choice. Measurements were taken, orders were made and when we left for the Edinburgh Tattoo we were proud to be wearing the Cameron Tartan. Early in the spring we received a list of the tunes that we`d be expected to play with the Massed Bands of the Scottish Command and we immediately went to work to learn and perfect this music. In our learning and rehearsing for the next 3 or 4 months, we spent a great deal of time on the parade square which paid off as, when we arrived in Scotland and played with the other bands, we aquitted ourselves very well. It wasn`t all work though. Hanover was pretty well located in the centre of the BAOR (British Army On the Rhine). A couple of times our Sgt`s Mess held dances in our Mess hosting WRAFs (Women`s Royal Air Force) and in the course of these dances, I met an attractive young lady named "Betty". She was from Leicester in England and her home station was no more than 30 miles from Hanover, therefore it wasn`t too difficult for us to date....at least on the week-ends. Betty was a very nice girl but at no time did I consider her as the "love of my life" but I found that she had been getting a wee bit too serious. She knew that after the Tattoo was finished our Band had two weeks leave and she wanted badly for me to go to Leicester to spend my leave with her parents.. Now I may have considered going there had she been there as well but she couldn`t and there was no way I wanted to go spend my leave with her parents whom I had never met.
My social life within the Military was pretty well confined to members of the Sgt`s Mess. My two best friends was "Shorty Akehurst" from Vancouver and Moe, "Doc" Pierson from Victoria. Moe was Medical Sgt and Shortie was Stretcher Bearer Sgt and the three of us got along just great. Although I had lots of friends besides these two, it was painful for me being a Sgt, I could not "buddy" with Pipers and Drummers which would have been the more normal course for me.
One day I had a pretty heavy disagreement with John Huggan....a real nice guy and a very good piper. I was invited to take off my stripes and fight.....I really didn`t want to as 1. I liked John and 2. I was a lousy fighter. I couldn`t back off though so John and I went into a room that was used to store metal lockers. Neither John nor I were the greatest of fighters so our "fight" deteriorated into a bit of a wrestling match, throwing each other around. We weren`t hurting each other and what we did do as we banged into these empty metal lockers was make one hell of a lot of noise and I suppose giving everyone outside the room the impression we were killing each other. You know, in 29 years in the Military, that was the first and last time I was in a so called, "fight". I guess I must be a better talker than a fighter.
As I`ve previously mentioned, we were working hard getting ready for the Tattoo learning new music and sharpening up our drill on the Parade Square. My not so good friend and Pipe Major, Keith Lee was a good soldier as well as Pipe Major and to give him the credit he deserved, he did an admirable job in preparing us for the Tattoo so that when we were there playing with the other Bands, we were second to none of them.
It was mid August when we left for Scotland and I should explain at this time that when we travelled from Germany to Britain, individually or in a group, we used trains that were strictly British Army Troop Trains and were colour coded (example, maybe red and green running east to west one day with Blue and bl;ack running west to east the next.) normally running from Hamburg, through Hanover and Cologne to the Hook of Holland, where the troops would embark on a huge ferry at approximately 7pm and wait at least five hours before the ferry set sail at midnight arrive at Harwich, England about 5am and the troops would disembark about 7am. Much to the delight of the Bandsmen, we discovered our Pipe Major would get seasick before we left the dock at the Hook. Our train to London wasn`t waiting for us when we disembarked so as we were waiting for it, we were sitting on our barrack boxes enjoying the sun and telling stories when our Conducting Officer, a Lieutenent whose name escapes me, came up to our group to ask, "Does anyone here know anything about watches?" Poor Angus Grant who used to brag about working in a jewellry store before enlisting, (as it turned out, he had been a delivery boy) put up his hand and said, "I do, Sir". The Lt. then replied, "then you watch my Barrack Box for me until we get to Edinburgh." Angus was learning, albeit, the hard way!!
Finally we arrived at Liverpool Street Station in London, disembarked the Military Train and were met by a Cdn Army Sgt Major named Bob who was part of the Canadian Army Liaison Establishment called CALE (Cay-lee) . It was his job to escort us from that Train Station to King`s Cross Station where we entrained for Edinburgh. It was early evening when we arrived at the "Waverly Street Station in Edinburgh and when we got off the train we were met by the Producer of the Tattoo, a Brigadier General from Scottish Command. His name was Allistair MacLean but all knew him as Scruff. I never did know if he knew what the Rank & File called him. I should explain that Scruff was something of an alcoholic and was a little more than slightly inebriated when he met us . He was accompanied by a reporter and a photographer from the "Scotsman" which was the #1 paper in Scotland. I think they considered our presence a big deal as we were the first organized body of Canadian Soldiers to set foot in Scotland since the end of the WW2. As the photographer started taking pictures and the reporter started writing shorthand into his notebook, Scruff started his welcoming speech, He glowingly discussed the "millions of Scots who had immigrated to Canada". I`m sure he meant to say there are more Scots in Canada than there are in Scotland. What he did slurringly say was, , "There are more Canadians in Canada than anyplace else in the world". I watched the reporter and had to chuckle when he started scratching out part of his shorthand notes.
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has always been held on the Esplanade of the Edinburgh Castle which is strategically located at the top of a large hill overlooking Princes Street which is the Main Street of Edinburgh. From the Esplanade to the bottom of the hill is a street which is known as the Royal Mile. At the bottom end of the Royal Mile is "Holyrood Palace" which is the residence of the Royal Family while in Edinburgh. Our 1st Cdn Highland Btn Pipes & Drums were housed at the "Castlehill School" which is the first building on the right as you leave the Esplanade and the Castle. A pretty near ideal place to stay if you are taking part in the Tattoo as you are situated in an area close to downtown and can save lots of money not having to take the bus. We also had more time than the other Bands who were housed at Redford or Dreghorn Barracks as they had to be ferried back and forth to the Castle by bus. Consider also that after the "Finale" of a performance, when we`d march from the Esplanade, we`d be right there at our quarters, where we could change out of Full Dress and into the old Battledress, then go out and do whatever you wanted, which couldn`t be a heck of a lot as at that time, Edinburgh was an unusually quiet city for one so large.
Our Band was the only Pipes & Drums at the "school" but another Band that stayed there was the Miliatary Band (Brass & Reed) from the RAF Regiment. The lead Coronet in that Band was a young Irishman named "Frank Brady" nicknamed Paddy. Paddy was quite the ladies man and was very accomplished at, "picking up" the girls, but he had no money. I was still a wee bit slow with the girls but had some money so it was only natural that Paddy and I would gravitate toward each other. We did the rounds of the "Pubs", did a bit of drinking without ever drinking too much (except once which will come later). It was obvious that Paddy was using me for my money.....not so obvious that I was using him for his prowess with the "opposite sex". Matter of fact if it hadn`t been for Paddy, I would never have met your Grandma!!
This was a great time for me as I just loved Scotland and the people. Maybe it was because we were always in uniform therefore, easy to spot as a Canadian and the Scots, like the Dutch, loved the Canadians. The food at the school was horrible and not much of it as we were under the wing of the Scottish Command of the British Army. During our five weeks in Edinburgh, we were visited once per week by Bob, our WO2 friend from CALE in London. It was Bob`s responsibility to ensure that we received our liquor and cigarette rations once a week and on time. We could have 2 - 40 oz. of liquor (usually Cdn Club Whiskey) at about the equivelent to $2.50 each. In tobacco we were allowed two Cartons of Players per week at $l.20. Wow!! some different to today`s prices. You can imagine how that kind of a "bonanza" would open doors to you, figuratively speaking.
The first week in Edinburgh we worked during the days on rehearsals so we were free in the evenings. When the Tattoo actually began, we worked mostly evenings, the reason it was called a "Searchlight Tattoo". Paddy and I would have a great time picking up the girls, having a drink and a laugh and one thing of which I`m not too proud, we`d make dates with them with absolutely no intention of keeping these dates. When I say we, it was mostly Paddy of course, but I was a willing accessory therefore I plead guilty. Our favorite place to go was the "Palais" which was a beautiful huge dance hall with a revolving stage and had tables and chairs and even easy chairs and sofas around the perimeter of the dance floor. They would have dances there every afternoon, then close for the supper hour, then re-open for the evening.
We eventually finished the rehearsals and the Tattoo started in ernest. As we were now working every evening we used to go to the Palais exclusively in the afternoons. We would drink enough but never forgot that we were working that evening. One afternoon shortly after the rehearsals were over and the Tattoo had began, Paddy and I were at the Palais, drinking just enough to have a good time, not forgetting we were working that evening. We had been dancing with different girls when I looked at my watch and suggested to Paddy that it was getting late and was near time we were back at the school. Paddy agreed and as we were walking down the side of the floor behind the tables and chairs, Paddy stopped, turned around and said, "there`s only one more dance....we may as well do it." I said OK and went right up to a table where two girls were sitting facing the dancefloor and their backs to Paddy and I. I went to the closest, put my head on her shoulder (scaring her) and asked for the dance. She accepted and we danced. The very first thing I said to this very attractive young lady was, " don`t tell me, let me guess....you come from a small town outside of Edinburgh." her reply was, "That`s right, how did you know?" I didn`t know of course....just a lucky guess. Paddy danced with her friend Mamie and invited them to come see the Tattoo that evening. The girls accepted; we went back to the school where Paddy saw his Band Officer who arranged seats (ordinary straight back chairs) for them right on the Esplanade. There was a double performance that evening so Paddy and I got permission to go see them off on the train to their hometown which was "Dunbar". We saw them off but not before making a date for the following week, when we knew there was no performance and we`d have the night off. Oh, I didn`t tell you her name; it was "Elizabeth" and everyone called her, "Beth".
Both Beth and Mamie worked in shops in Dunbar...Beth in a gift shop. They had that afternoon off and Mamie wanted to go into Edinburgh to shop for a new dress. At first Beth declined but because it had been a long time since she`d been to Edinburgh, she later said yes so they caught the noon train into the "big city". They did their shopping, Mamie got her dress and as they`d have a couple hours to wait for train back to Dunbar, they decided to spend the wait at the "Palais". That was when they met these two Bandsmen, saw the Tattoo and made a date to return to see these two fellows the following week. When they arrived the following week, those two rotters, Paddy and Don were nowhere to be found. They went to the Castlehill School but we weren`t there. The reason was that we were down the street a couple of blocks, upstairs over the Pub, drinking with the owner. It may have been the empty stomach and most definitely too much alcohol, the bottom line was that I got really sick so we returned to the school arriving after Beth and Mamie had been there. While they went down to Prince`s Street looking for us, we layed down and went to sleep. When they couldn`t find us downtown they thought we might be at the Palais so that was where they then went. Paddy and I slept most of the afternoon. I finally woke and still remember how hungry I was so we went down a couple blocks past the Palais to a small Cafe where they specialized in Haggis....I loved that place! While at the Palais, Beth and Mamie met Bill Crawford who was lead side drummer in my Band. They asked Bill where we might be and Bill told them we sometimes hang out at the "Market Bar" so they asked Bill if he would accompany them there when the Palais closed for supper. They did just that. Meanwhile Paddy and I finished eating and proceeded up the street to the Palais...tried the door, too late!! it was closed. We then started up the street. We were just in front of the Market Bar when we saw two girls coming up the street toward us. These two girls were among the few that we made dates with but didn`t keep so we ducked up the side street beside the Bar, then ducked into a side door and into the Bar. Who was sitting there but Beth and Mamie. I sat down beside Beth and she was so angry with me that she just ignored me and wouldn`t talk. Incidentally, the other two girls had seen us, followed us into the Bar, saw us sitting with others and thankfully I guess they didn`t want to create a scene so after having a drink, they got up and left. After some persuading Beth and Mamie came around, Bill left us, so we went to another dancehall called Fairley`s, a real dive. I never broke another date with this girl and now, 45 years later I`m still dating her.
At that time, Canadian Soldiers would carry their Pay-books with them while away on duty or on leave. As we had two weeks leave after the Tattoo finished, our Conducting Officer held our leave pay as well as our current pay. Most of us had spent more than we should have during the Tattoo so we persuaded the Lt. to release our leave pay long before we left on leave. Result, when it was time for leave and the Tattoo was finished ....no money or certainly not enough to go to France which was my intentions. I happened to mention to Beth that most of our pipers and drummers were spending their leave in and around Edinburgh with friends they met during the Tattoo, but as yet, I hadn`t had an invitation, so she was generous enough to invite me to come to Dunbar and spend my leave in her Grannie`s house which was just next door to her`s. Of course I accepted but first I wanted to go to Paddy`s home station at Catterick in England for the week-end.....just for the "hell" of it we hitch-hiked there taking a full day to get there. Sunday morning I said good-bye to Paddy...(never saw him again.), then hitch-hiked back up to Scotland. I finally got a good lift with a lorry driver who spoke very broad English which I had trouble understanding so I closed my eyes to feign sleep until I really was asleep. I finally woke up just in time to see, as we topped the brow of a hill, a big city`s lights. I asked the driver...what place is that, he said Edinburgh so I asked him what happened to Dunbar (which is on the A-1 Highway) and he said "oh, we came up the M-1", so I thanked him, got out of the Lorry in Edinburgh, made my way to the Waverly Street Station, waited for a train south and arrived in Dunbar shortly after midnight. After finding 48 Lammermuir Crescent which was in darkness, I went to the Royal Hotel for the remainder of the night. Next day I got up nice and early, washed, shaved and returned to Beth`s house..As I walked down the street, I saw Beth`s Mother in the back yard hanging laundry on the line to dry. I hadn`t known then that her Mother had said, "there will be no Canadian soldier coming to this house!!" If I had known that I would probably have turned around and hitch-hiked to France. When I went to the front door and knocked, Beth came to the door, saw it was me and was angry with me all over again as I had promised to send a telegram to tell her when I would arrive.......perhaps she wanted to meet me at the station to tell me to keep going......anyway, I was there. Beth had been putting on a fire in the fireplace, hadn`t yet washed and put on make-up so she was not at all pleased with me. I was quite oblivious to all this friction so when her Mother walked in, I acted as though it was natural for me to be there. I liked Beth`s Mom very much and it wasn`t more than a day or so that we were real buddies....matter of fact after a couple days...I could do no wrong. Like I said, I slept in Grannie`s house next door. I would wake in the morning, wash and shave and go over to Beth`s house and her Mum (I called her that) would make me a huge breakfast with three or four fried eggs with lots of ham and bacon. I told her not to make so much for me but she would not listen.... I felt real bad about that when I found out later they were still on meat rationing from WW2 and here I was using up all their ration. Beth would have already left for work so when Mum would go up the High Street to do her "Messages" (Groceries), I would accompany her. Part of the morning routine was to meet her lady friends at the "Lido" for coffee or tea or whatever they would have. I used to enjoy hot lemon there. I hit it off with the ladies and I think Mum was quite proud of her Canadian Soldier so this really cemented our relationship. I think what she was afraid of from the start was that this Canadian would eventually take her daughter away from home all the way to Canada, which of course was exactly what happened! I was still in battledress uniform and wearing the Canada patches and was obviously the first Canadian Soldier to be in Dunbar since WW2 so everyone in town knew who I was and to be truthful, I enjoyed my "almost celebrity" status. Although Beth`s Dad was always right there I never did get to know him well as he was hard to know. He worked with "Wimpy`s" in Edinburgh which was a big Construction Company specializing in stonework. Everytime I read "Andy Capp" I think of him as he used to wear his skip cap all the time, even when he was behind a newspaper in the house.
I should mention that before going on leave I wrote a "Dear Mary" letter to WRAF Betty in Germany telling her about meeting Beth and that I`d be spending my leave there in Dunbar. Poor Betty had written letters to me almost every day, the longest was 27 pages in length. Now, all these years later, I have no idea what she had said in all these letters. I did feel very sorry for her, but that was not enough to have a lasting relationship and you would have to agree that "honesty was the best policy." This reminds me that I had also been corresponding with two other girls in Canada. One "Laurie Skidmore" in New Glasgow NS, had been my favorite nurse when I was two and one-half months in hospital with busted arm. The other was Betty English from Halifax NS. I had met Betty when Dad and I were to Halifax playing with the "Pictou`s and Dad was a friend of her father`s so we got acquainted when we visited at her house. She was a beautiful girl that I only got to know through letters. If I had still been single when I returned to Canada who knows what might have happened. I spent two months in Halifax before my discharge from the Army in Feb 54 but thought it best not to show my face.
Beth and I spent the rest of my two weeks leave doing the "night spots" of Dunbar which consisted of the local "cinema and chip stand" I just loved the chips and the tea in Scotland. It was no time at all when it was time for me to return to Germany. When Beth and her Mother saw me off at the Station it was the Mother that had tears in the eyes and gave me a kiss good-bye while Beth stood in the background and watched, and so it was back to Germany and Pipe Major Lee.
It was probably that fall that the Battalion went to a training area on the Baltic Coast called "Putlos" It was there that the Band did a live broadcast back to Canada courtesy of the BBC which came over from London to do the program which I cannot remember was a full hour or a half. That was a big deal in those days, but I have never talked to anyone in Canada who had ever said they heard it. Earlier that day I had to go to a British Army dentist who extracted a molar which came out in pieces but only after some bone and gums were re-arranged. I don`t remember how many sutures I had, and I certainly expected that I would be excused from playing for the broadcast, but Keith Lee would have none of that so play I did. There were many good times though and the Band was rapidly improving. We spent much time on the parade square and were doing the old British drill. I have no doubt our drill was as sharp as any of the Guard Regiments. Our Base Drummer was also a Sgt named Mike Phelan who became my room-mate at that time. We got along very well and since Mike`s penmanship wasn`t so good, he would have me write his girl friend and Mother in Alberta. I was also writing Beth pretty regularly as well as my family back home. How nice it would have been to have a computer.
Now that I was corresponding with Beth on a regular basis, I abandoned my plans to visit France, Italy, Norway,etc on succeeding leaves. We were getting l6 days every four months so we certainly had the opportunity time wise. I preferred though to return to Scotland to see my new Scottish girl friend. It was on one of these leaves , I think March of "53" that I proposed. We had taken a day trip to Edinburgh and were in the Market Bar when I gathered the courage to pop the question. At first Beth said "No", but after I convinced her that she was making a mistake, she accepted, incidentally smack dab in the middle of a busy intersection. We then went to see a Danny Kaye Movie, "Hans Christian Anderson". When we went home to Dunbar and told Beth`s Mom, She cried....her worst fears about that Cdn soldier taking away her daughter had been realized. We had bought the ring while in Edinburgh so all that remained was for Beth to make the wedding plans and I had to apply to the Military. The reason for applying was really simple. Some of the soldiers that went to London on leave early '52" ended up marrying Picadilly Commando`s who were looking for a free trip to Canada. Mind you, most of these prostitutes were young and attractive, but they sure weren`t good prospects for a long, happy marriage... One of the guys from "B" Coy, Johnson from Toronto married one of these girls. She came over to Germany to see him and when she arrived we were up to Putlos on Exercises. She hadn`t had a lot of money so started plying her trade with the Battalion`s Rear Party. When Johnson got the word, he went AWOL from the Field, went down to Hanover, found her and beat her up. He was arrested and was in our Guard room waiting trial. I was on duty at the guard room one day when she came to visit him and they ended up in a big fight......I still remember her screaming, "I`d rather sleep with a snake than sleep with you!!" Well they were divorced and it was the Military that had to pick up the tab. I assume this happened throughout the Brigade so Ottawa ruled that NATO members had to apply for marriage and then there would be a six month waiting period until the wedding. The bride-to-be also had to provide written affidavits from the Chief of Police, a clergyman and her family doctor. Of course one could say, to hell with them and go get married, but then the Military would not pay "marriage allowance" nor the Bride`s passage back to Canada.
Sometime in February of "52" our Monarch, King George V1 died. The then Princess Elizabeth was elevated to Queen Elizabeth 11. Her Coronation was held 02 June l953 and London during the whole month of June was the place to be. Unfortunately our Band did not take part in the Coronation Parade. The closest we got to it was to visit a British Army Base in the BAOR and play while horses were made to walk round and round us.....the reason being they were horses that were destined to be in the Coronation Parade, so the idea was to have them accustomed to bands without getting spooked. What we did though was arrive in London 05 June, three days after the Coronation, to participate in the Royal Tournament that was held at Earl`s Court. We, along with many of the British Army Bands were housed right in the Earl`s Court Complex. Reheasals were almost a week and the show was nightly. I probably enjoyed this job more than any other before or since. I loved London......without a doubt my favorite city. No matter what your taste, London has it. The show itself was indoors and very similiar to a searchlight Tattoo. There was a Royal Box and whoever took the salute from it would, after the show was finished , go out on a red carpet to their Limo`s. Every night there was what was called a, "Carpet Guard" where Bandsmen would line the red carpet while the Royalty (or otherwise) walked past. If you were on the Guard you would be as close as arm`s length to them....I therefore used to volunteer for the guard and that way got close to all the Royal Family and even the Prime Minister of the day, Clement Atlee. Also on the Tounament was the British Black Watch Pipes & Drums. Their Drum Major`s name was "Roy" so we hit it off pretty good. There was an item that was performed by hand-picked servicewomen from the three services. They were probably the prettiest, smartest and nicest girls of the whole British Forces. I met one of them and we went out a few times and after the Tournament was finished we had an 11 day "buck-shee" leave. This girl (a Wren) was from Wales and was going home on leave. She wanted me to go home with her. I said sorry, I am off to Scotland. Wonder what would have happened had I went to Wales instead.... I can`t even remember her name.
I did go to Dunbar on that 11 day leave and as was expected in Dunbar had a wonderful time. Forgetting Beth and her family I made many new friends there. Beth`s older brother David who is my age was away in the Royal Navy. Her younger brother Andrew was at home going to school. Later when he left school he joined the British Army and was with the "Seaforth Highlanders". Beth was still working but we still managed to spend lots of time togeather, and of course she brought me up-to-date with the wedding plans. The big day was to be the 19th of September,1953.
Eleven days went by very quickly and it was time for me to return to London where I reported to Chelsea Barracks which at that time was the home of the Grenadier Guards. We started rehearsals there for the White City Tattoo which was a huge Outdoor Searchlight Tattoo at the famous White City Stadium. On this job we played with some pretty outstanding Bands, one of whom was the Massed Pipes & Drums of the Brigade of Gurkha`s. It was getting to be old hat playing with the "Queen`s Own Cameron Highlanders, Black Watch, The Gordons, the Argyll`s as we massed Bands with them on the Edinburgh Tattoo. The White City Tattoo was only one week duration but was a great experience. After it finished we returned to Germany to get ready for the Edinburgh Tattoo which again was to be held the last half of August and into September.
We had only just returned to Hanover and Chatham Barracks when it was time to go to Putlos on the Baltic coast with the Battalion. While there we did a "Full Dress Retreat Ceremony" for an American Army Artillery Regiment. They thought we were just the greatest. Well we weren`t the greatest but we were pretty good! The Pipes & Drums were scheduled to return to Hanover a week before the Battalion so that we could use the Parade Square and rehearse for our Tattoo performance. The day before we were to leave, we went to a town just south of the Danish Border called Rensberg to play at a football game between the Danes and the Germans. On the return trip we were given an hour to look around the city of Kiel where the Submarine Pens were during WW2. I met my two friends Shorty Akehurst and Moe Pierson and we went pubbing... they persuaded me to stay til later that evening instead of returning with the Band. I did just that and was charged for being AWOL, therefore when the Band left the next day for Hanover, I remained behind to answer the charges which I eventually beat, but not before P/M Lee had reminded me who was "Boss". I was with the Band later when it was time to leave for Edinburgh.
This time we did not stay at the Castlehill School. Redford Barracks was our home for the next five weeks. These are a famous Barracks always frequented by Highland Regiments. The regiment that hosted us was the Queens Own Camerons and really it wasn`t such a bad place to stay but again, the food was terrible. The British Army at that time had a horrible habit of making their tea in huge urns, complete with reams of sugar and canned milk. I`ve always hated sugar with tea and I could never stand canned milk, in tea or otherwise. The only alternative was water....no coffee, no milk, just that awful tea....or water. During that Tattoo, I spent all my off time running (actually catching bus or train) back and forth to Dunbar to spend as much time with Beth as possible. This time there was no Paddy, no girls, no (or very little) drinking.
Now that I was engaged to a local girl, I was more welcome than ever in Dunbar. It was almost embarrassing too that if Beth and I had a disagreement (yes, it happened) her Mother would stick up for me. Again because Beth was working during the day, I was again accompanying her Mom to do the messages and meet the "girls" at the Lido. The time slipped by, the Tattoo came to an end and I was on two weeks leave. Two or three days later was l9 Sept. David, Beth`s older brother came home on leave from the Navy and the night before the wedding, he, Punch, David Sr. (Beth`s Dad), Uncle Bill, (Beth`s Uncle) and my best man Harold Hayden all went to one of the Pubs in Dunbar and had ourselves a party. When we came home we all walked up Lammermuir Cres singing and generally having a great time. Beth`s Dad took quite a scolding from her Mom as this was the first time in many years he`d had a drink.
Beth was a beautiful bride wearing a beautiful wedding gown and had made all the arrangements for a beautiful wedding. Harold and I wore the full dress of the Cameron`s. Two other Pipers from my band also attended the wedding... John Haining from Vancouver had married a Scottish girl 2 or 3 months previously so he was there with his new bride. Bill Maginnis was kind enough to consent to play the Pipes for the Ceremony. I assume it was because Beth was a popular local girl and she was marrying a Canadian Soldier, however, that day was considered a big enough day that half the shops in town closed their doors that afternoon so their staff could attend the wedding. It seemed that half the town was there for not only was the "Old Parish Church" full but there was a huge crowd outside the church. It was their custom to hire chauffered limosines to carry the Bride and Groom from the church to the site of the reception which in our case was the Royal Hotel the same place I spent my first night in Dunbar. From the church to the hotel was perhaps about one quarter mile and the whole stretch was lined with Dunbar folk who waved as we slowly drove by. Beth and I returned the waves and at one point I had to check to make sure it was Beth that was with me and not Queen Elizabeth. It was a very good reception with the appropriate speeches and "bottoms up" toasts. After the reception was over Beth and I had a room in the hotel where we changed into our travelling clothes so then along 20 or 30 of the guests and with the Pipes playing, we all marched up to the train station which was only a couple blocks. While we waited on the Station Platform we not only had the Pipes playing but some of the ladies were highland dancing as well. We had a wonderful send-off and I don`t think there was anyone on that train that didn`t know that Beth and I were leaving on our "honeymoon".
The first night was spent at the North British Hotel which is above the "Waverly Street Station in Edinburgh. Sunday morning we took the train to Glasgow , then flew to Belfast where we stayed at a nice hotel called "Moran`s" When we got out of the cab at the hotel, there was a Parade coming down the street being led by a Pipe Band!! A good omen I was sure. We had a good time in Belfast....there was no IRA problems there in those days, at least not evident. About five days later we took a train to Dublin and stayed there for a few days before catching a plane back to Edinburgh and then home to Dunbar. A memorable wedding to say the least! Harold had stayed at Dunbar the whole time we were in Ireland. He had himself a ball as well, but soon it was time for both of us to return to Germany. I took sick (really,) with temperature, sore throat, etc so had a note from the doctor that I wasn`t fit to travel. Harold left and took the note with him to explain my absence. He lost the note before he got back and I was consequently charged for being AWOL (again by P/M Lee). The charge was dropped when the Company Commander called me into his office, looked me in the eye and asked me if it was really true that I had been sick. I assured him it was true so he had the charge dropped.
I had made arrangements for Beth to immigrate to Canada and shortly after that, it was time for our Battalion to return. We sailed from Rotterdam the 30th November 1953 aboard the Home Line Steamer, SS Atlantic. This same ship was soon after sold to the Greek Line and re-named SS Canberra. Again the food aboard ship was just fantastic. After docking in Quebec City all members went on disembarkation leave to every province in Canada. It was a wonderful re-union with Dad, Mom, Al and Gloria, when they met my train at Truro, NS. Very shortly after my arrival I went up to St John, NB to meet the "Empress of France" and my new bride.. Poor Beth had been sea sick most of the crossing as they had encountered stormy weather. We took the train to Moncton where we were met by Al who drove us the rest of the way home to Plymouth Park where we stayed with Mom & Dad for a couple months until we found our own apartment.
When my leave was finished I reported to Halifax and applied for my release from the Army as this is what I had promised Beth I would do, after we married. It was 11 Feb that I was officially a civilian and at that time I felt wonderful that I would never have to see P/M Lee again. I was sure at the time that he was phsycotic and many years later I had heard that he, in fact had been admitted to a mental institution.
The first place that Beth and I lived in that was our own was a converted taxi stand on the Main Street in Stellarton. The head of our bed was against a large plate glass window so that as Beth and I laid in bed, we could hear people standing on the sidewalk talking. That room contained a bed, one chair,an end table and one table lamp. In the kitchen was our kitchen suite which was a card table and four folding chairs. Our stove was a double burner hot plate and the toilet was right in the kitchen with a small partition separating it. The rent was $l5 per month. A pretty basic set-up but we had a lot of fun and good memories from while we were there.
It was while we lived in that suite the 28th of June 54 that our first-born arrived. She was a daughter and weighed 7 lb 10 oz. and we named her "Laurie Heather". Why we named her like that I cannot remember for we never did refer to her as "Laurie", She`s always been Heather. I had taken Beth to the old Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow (which has since been torn down) about 7am and poor Beth had a long labour giving birth about 10:30pm that night. On the way to the hospital I dropped into "the Canteen" on Main St. Stellarton to tell them the news and they gave me a cigar sealed in a metal container. Forty-three years later (last summer) I gave that same cigar (still unopened) to Heather.
Later in the summer of "54" we moved from the converted Taxi Stand to a suite above Keith Fulton`s grocery store where I paid $25 a month rent. After I was released from the Army in Feb. I bought a 51 Chev Sedan Delivery which was set up with drawers for the purpose of selling tools, so I worked for "Snap-On" for the next several months. My territory was Northern Nova Scotia extending from Amherst to Mulgrave at the Strait of Canso. The job entailed calling at garages and/or anywhere else one could sell tools, talking to mechanics and Garage owners and for the first two or three months I did very well. Coal had been the back-bone of the economy in my territory and shortly after starting with Snap-on, the CNR converted from Steam Locomotives to Diesel....the coal mines lost their biggest market, laid off hundreds of miners who in turn stopped buying or running their cars, which affected everyone including me. I still had a territory to cover, meals to buy and travel expenses so it didn`t take long for me to go under. I left Snap-on and started working with an electrical appliance distributer in New Glasgow called "Central Tire & Services". Funny, it seemed I sold everything but tires. My territory was all of Nova Scotia and my clients were all electrical appliance stores. I had a company car, an expense account and I believe my salary was in the $200 range. The benefits were very poor though as there was no Pension plan, no sick days and only one week vacation with pay the first year.
Not long after I started this job, the Rep that covered New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was fired for moonlighting (selling other products on Company time). Instead of hiring a replacement, they extended my territory to include those two provinces. I was spending much more time away from home and was getting to be very unhappy as was Beth. I went through the whole winter on 54/55 and then the end of March 55 I was caught in a very bad snow storm and took 9 hours to travel from Bathurst to Dalhousie NB about 40 miles. Two travellers and an Army Major died in that storm when their cars were completely buried in the storm so when I arrived home the next day I was quite depressed . The next morning I had a visiter....Jack Fleming had also took his release from the army the year before so he arrived at the apartment armed with a case of beer and he told me he had been to Halifax that week to re-enlist and was home on the one week leave so he started working on me to re-enlist as well.. We had a long talk and it wasn`t much work for Jack to convince me I`d be better off back in the Army. I would have a pension plan, better vacation package, paid holidays, free Medical and dental but more important, I`d no doubt have more time at home with Beth and my future children.. I had Beth`s blessings so I went to Halifax a few days later and again enlisted in the Army, requesting to go to Aldershot, NS to join the Pipes & Drums of the 2nd Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada) 2RHC for short. I enrolled with the rank of Corporal and for the first month or so Beth remained in Stellarton until I was able to find an apartment in Wolville. I had met a new friend who invited me home with him to meet his wife and the old chemistry was there. That was the beginning of a "best Friends" relationship which has endure right up to the present day as I still correspond with Earl and Reta Neary who live in Oromocto, New Brunswick.
Finally Beth and my small amount of furniture arrived at our new residence which was at the rear of 6 Elm Ave. in Wolfville, NS. I went home one week-end to visit with Mom and Dad and ran into Harold Hayden who had also left the Army when we returned from Germany. I used the same reasoning with Harold that Jack did with me and sure enough, Harold re-enlisted as well. My new Pipe Major was Duncan Rankine, a crusty old Scot who had been with the Royal Scots during WW2. He was a very good Pipe Major and I learned a great deal from him....Best of all, I admired him a great deal. The new Drum Major was my old friend Mike Phelan who had been Bass Drummer in the Highland Btn. Band......best of all....Keith Lee was still a civilian in Toronto. My old friend that played the pipes at my wedding, Bill Magennis was now Pipe Major of the 1st Btn Black Watch.
We had a good group of pipers and drummers in that 2nd Bn Black Watch Band (2RHC), many of whom became life long friends; Wally Tye, a good side drummer from the old band had also re-enlisted and Bob Walton, another friend that was a soldier in Support Company in the Highland Btn had just joined our 2RHC as a tenor drummer... matter of fact, Bob was Eddie Walton`s brother. From Westville and already with 2RHC was Lew MacNaughton, Bass Drummer, and the two Marshall boys, both from Westville...Billy, tenor drummer and Bud, a piper. All of us became good friends; they were all married and like me had apartments in Wolfville. A new piper Bill Harvey just arrived from New Zealand with his new wife Gaile. I helped them find an apartment in Wolfville as well. About the same time we were honoured to have Roddie MacLeod, a good piper and a WW2 Vet join us. Roddie was the first (come to think of it, only) left handed piper I knewhand up and bag under the right arm. More good friends was Ernie Cunningham, that is he played with right tenor drummer from BC and the Patterson brothers from St John NB, Jim ,a piper and John, a drummer. At this time my previous Band which had since been redesignated the lst Bn Black Watch was also in Aldershot.....An excellent Band with lots of strong Pipers such as my old friends John Huggan, Tom Miller, Don Carrigan and Bill Maginnis who was like I said, the Pipe Major of that Band. We would occasionally team up with them and when you had both Black Watch bands playing togeather, what a Band that was!! Most jobs were pretty local, around about Nova Scotia, such as the Highland Games at Antigonish and we also went to the Field with the Battalion in June, which was most interesting as it was a Divisional Concentration, that is to say there were 12 Infantry Battalions with their supporting arms such as Armoured and Artillery. This was in the ,new concentration area of Gagetown NB where a brand new Base was being built.
The end of July saw us again teaming up with the 1st Bn Band, going to Montreal by rail and stayed at Barracks across the St Lawence at Longeiul. We stayed there a week rehearsing on the parade square when it was so hot the civilian staff were sent home. Lots of parade square and then as if we hadn`t enough, after hours we would walk across the Jacque Cartier Bridge and down St Catherine`s Street in Montreal, then walk back. Finally it was time to board ship which was the "Empress of France", the same ship that carried Beth from Britain to Canada. It was a good summer crossing and we were the only Military aboard a strictly civilian passenger liner! Every morning we would play on the Main Deck to the delight and pleasure of the passengers. Again the food was great! What a way to earn a living!! Five days later we landed at Liverpool, England where we were met by military transport which took us to a transient camp until it was time (next day) to catch a train back to my old stamping grounds of Edinburgh. Oh....didn`t I tell you?? yup, we are again playing on the Edinburgh Tattoo. This time we stayed at Dreghorn Barracks which was much the same as Redford and was somewhere on the western side of Edinburgh. There was excellent bus service and it was no problem getting to downtown Edinburgh. I went down there soon as possible as that was where I could catch a bus to go to Dunbar to see my in-laws. I expected it would be a bit awkward visiting there without Beth but I was wrong. It was obvious they wanted me with or without Beth. David was still away in the Royal Navy, but his wife Margaret and their wee daughter Elaine who ages with Heather was there. Poor Mum Brunton, here she was with her son-in-law and her daughter-in-law while her daughter and son couldn`t be there.
Nothing unusual about that Edinburgh Tattoo stands out except that we played again with the Brigade of Gurkha`s Pipes & Drums and you would recall we played with them at the White City Stadium in London. I did spend most of my spare time in Dunbar with my in-laws as I was always comfortable with them and I knew I was as welcome as their own sons. At that time Andrew (nicknamed "Punch") was still at home but no longer in school...he was now working on the boats. There was a quite unexpected developement.....before the Tattoo finished we found out there was a change in plans for us. Instead of returning to Canada when the Edinburgh job was finished, we were invited to be part of the Tattoo which was moved "lock, stock and barrel" to Copenhagen. A special train was used in moving the whole Tattoo from Edinburgh to Newcastle where we boarded a ship that took us to Esbjerg, Denmark and from there we entrained the rest of the way to Copenhagen.
It was a beautiful city and ordinarily one would really enjoy it but we had been looking forward to going home after Edinburgh and here we were in Copenhagen starting the whole thing over again. We were housed in a huge Sportplex in which there was a giant gymnasium filled with double decker bunks. One side was the British Army Pipe Bands and the other side was all the Brass and Reed types. The whole reason for being there was to underline a British Trade Fair which was taking place there and then. Besides the Tattoo every evening there was one Pipe Band followed by one Military (Brass & Reed) Band paraded down the same street to the Tivoli Gardens every day. When it was our turn, we paraded with the Band of the Lifeguards which was a fabulous outfit. We would play alternately and I enjoyed every minute of it.
The Danish public made us feel very welcome even to the point we were being harrassed for autographs each time we stepped out of our quarters. I think the guys were quite flattered at first but when they started signing Shirley Temple or Cary Grant instead of their own name, you just knew they weren`t taking themselves seriously anymore!
One day one of our drummers, Hank Marr was downtown window shopping. First I should explain that everytime we stepped out we had to wear the green Doublet (Drummer`s wore scarlet) with hair sporran and spats. Anyway Hank was looking in a store window at the display when a gentleman that had stood next to him initiated a conversation. Hank said he seemed very nice and when this gentleman invited Hank to Sunday Supper and suggested he bring two friends, Hank accepted. He gave Hank his address on a scrap of paper and suggested he get a taxi and leave the fare for he would pay it. Hank asked Harold Hayden and me to go with him. We said sure and on Sunday we got a taxi and gave this scrap of paper to the driver who looked at it and wanted to know if we were joking. We said we weren`t and asked why and then he told us that was the palace or residence of Prince Viggio who was the Uncle of the then King of Denmark King Frederick. He was also the leader of the Danish Underground during WW2. We took the invitation seriously and kept going and were glad we did because we spent a most entertaining day and had a beautiful supper with the Prince and his wonderful wife , his daughter and her husband who was a jet pilot with the Danish Air Force. They were very charming, down-to-earth people who made us very welcome.
This Tattoo eventually finished with all the Bands and Units going there own way. Where did we go? Not straight back home which would have been too simple....we were sent to the Soest Area in Germany where the Canadian Brigade was located after being moved from Hanover area. We stayed with the Engineers at "Fort Victoria" for about a week and every day played a concert for the Cdn troops. Then the big day!! we left for home....but first a little side trip to London where they put us in a Transient Camp which was nothing more than an abandoned Tube (Subway) Station. We stayed there for five days and thankfully had no duties as living conditions there were primative. There was no hot water and their breakfasts were cold greasy eggs and because there was no hot water we`d have a heck of a job getting all the grease off the plates. Each man kept his own plate! To come and go we had to go down (and up) a long winding staircase which had to have been at least one hundred feet down. This winding staircase had a small two man elevater in the centre which was out-of-bounds to other ranks. It was for officers only. After five days there we went to Liverpool by train and boarded the "SS Saxonia" a very nice ship which was a Cunard liner and again had all civilian passengers. More good food to make up for the past three months. We landed in Montreal, took a train to Nova Scotia and three and one-half months after leaving home, I walked in my door about 9:30pm, was dead tired, but still stayed up to watch an old black and white movie, with George Raft trying to escape from Alcatraz.... don`t remember if he made it or not!. It was our first television set which Beth bought while I was away. We could get only two stations, St. John and Moncton NB....both very snowy but we enjoyed every minute of "I Love Lucy" and the "Honeymooners"
When we lived in Wolfville our address had been 6 Elm Ave which had two apartments at the front, one up, one down and one apartment (ours) at the rear. I`m not sure how long we lived at the back, sometime in the middle of the three years we moved to the front, upstairs. Our rent there was $55 per month and we enjoyed the whole three years. It was about 10 miles from Wolfville to Aldershot and we made the trip each day with Earl Neary who was the only one of us who owned a car. Four couples that became very good friends.....Earl and Reta, Gerald and Avis Foster, Bill and Gaile Harvey and finally Beth and me. The four of us would do a lot togeather, the odd party, corn boils & barbeques, picnics at the beach, etc. Beth used to make beer which proved to be popular with many of the pipers and drummers because they used to come from Camp on Sunday afternoons and we`d have quiet wee parties. We had lots of good Band trips touring around Nova Scotia with lots of jobs at Halifax. All our travelling was usually done in a 40 passenger Army Bus called "Flyers". They were old busses and not always in the best repair. One trip, we were on our way to Charlottetown and came to a long approximately one mile hill. After two or three try`s to make that hill, the best we could do after a good run-on was short a couple hundred yards, so we all had to get out to push our way over the brow of that hill.....it just came back to me that it was very cold and I`ve just remembered we were going to play for the "Brier".
One day in "56" 40 of us packed on one of these old busses bound for New York City. The purpose of that trip was to play a concert or part of one at a huge armories for the New York St. Andrew`s Society. Our conducting Officer, one Capt. Davie Neish took his car, a huge Chrysler and the 2 Pipe Majors and 2 Drum Majors drove with him and one or two bandsmen drove with the driver of a two and one-half ton stake which followed us, carrying all our gear and instruments. We drove to Yarmouth then boarded a ferry to Bar Harbour, Maine and from there drove down the coast to NYC. One of the reasons we enjoyed this trip so much was that we were housed in the "Times Square Hotel" with free room service which included drinks or any food we desired. We certainly could not go overboard with the drinks though as we played in and around the city and God help you if you had too much to drink and could not perform!! One day we did a small concert at the City Hall (I still have the picture of the Band taken on the steps of this famous building). When we finished, I and my good friend, Ernie Cunningham (drummer) took a cab to a huge building where my Uncle Felix worked. He had sent me the address and asked if I would come up there to see him. Felix was an executive with an "Import/Export " Company so we enquired in the lobby,and were directed to an elevator to go something like 50 floors up. We expected that when we got off the elevator, we would go down a hall and find a wee office door....it didn`t work out like that. What happened was, when the elevator doors opened and we stepped out, we found ourselves looking into a huge office which took up the whole complete floor. There must have been a hundred desks with a hundred secretaries typing with a hundred typewriters (manual). You have to realize that Ernie and I were in the Full Dress of the Black Watch, Ernie with his scarlet tunic and I was wearing the dark green doublet, both of us with white spats, hair sporrans and although Feather Bonnets were part of the dress I don`t remember whether we were wearing them or carrying them. Anyway we must have been an impressive sight as the high noise of people talking and typewiters clicking gradually got quieter and quieter until everyone was silent and just stared at us as though we were aliens....My Uncle Felix got such a kick about that, he insisted on taking us to lunch....great time!! That Sunday morning I took a bus down to New Rochelle to visit him and my Aunt Dot, who was my Mother`s older sister. On the way back to Nova Scotia, we were travelling up through Conneticut when an axel broke on our Stake truck....They said a day to get a new axel and a day to fix it and there was no way we could hold a bus load so the driver had to stay with the truck while the two that rode with him, with all the cases and pipes and drums had to be loaded on our already packed bus... This was quite an experience. The aisle of the bus was loaded high, so when we had to stop for a meal of just a plain rest-stop, the bus had to be unloaded from the front and working the way to the back with everyone having to climb over the seats. We were lucky though, the bus didn`t break down. Not a lot of fun at the time, but when you are sitting having a beer with old buddies 35 -40 years later at a re-union, it is times like that you remember and that one was always good for a laugh!!
It was February of the following year "57" that we boarded a "North Star" Aircraft at Greenwood, NS which took us to Bermuda. These were old DC7`s with 4 noisy radial engines, The Aircraft wasn`t pressurized and therefore was so noisy that when we sat in our bucket seats with our back to the fuselage, you could scream into the ear of the man next to you and he could not hear you. Coming down into Bermuda, we flew into a tropical storm and were knocked around a wee bit so I was awfully glad to exit from that craft. Our quarters were on the top of a hill and we were the guests of an Infantry Company of a British Infantry Battalion of which I cannot remember the identity. Again the food was unbelievably bad....one morning Jack Fleming was suffering from a hang-over and when they put something cold and greasy on his plate, he lost it and threw the plate, contents and all against the wall. They were going to charge him for doing this and he invited them to go ahead!! he would love to see what they would say about it in the newspapers of both Britain and Canada. They let him off and I believe there was an improvement in the food after that. Another thing that used to bug us was that there were no windows in the Mess Hall so birds used to fly around inside (looking for scraps) and they would crap on the tables and the kitchen staff wouldn`t bother to clean it up before mealtime.
The purpose of this trip was another British Military Searchlight Tattoo which went very well. Bermuda of course was and is a beautiful island but the prices were very high as it was then and I`m sure, still is a tourist trap. You have to realize that when we went on these trips we weren`t paid any extra and our spending money was our own responsibility. Our pay wasn`t good at that time so we often would find ourselves in a sophisticated setting, we couldn`t take advantage of the amenities.
Another trip of note was during the summer of "56" that we went to Toronto to participate in the "Grandstand Show" at the Canadian National Exhibition. The accommodation wasn`t so bad here as we were quartered at the University of Toronto. The food was tolerabe and transportation around the city was convenient! It was during this CNE that we met an old Piper friend who had been in the Pictou`s Band with us. Bob Smith was then driving cab in Toronto and was stressed up to his ears so it wasn`t too difficult to talk him into joining the Army and coming to our Black Watch. While we were on rehearsal for the Grandstand show we had stopped for a smoke break right at the base of a huge tower which was in the final stages of construction. We had placed our pipes on top of drums and were standing around talking when someone sceamed....we looked and saw that the tower was starting to collapse. Just had time to scramble out of the road as the thing came crashing right where we had been standing. One set of Pipes and a couple drums were destroyed but more important, noone was hurt. The Pipes and drums were more than adequately replaced by the CNE Committee.
And then along came 1957 which was a good year because this was the year my number two daughter was born. This was Donna Marena Roy who was born 19 July l957 at the wee hospital in Wolfville. Donna was over two weeks old before I saw her because our Pipes & Drums was with the Battalion at Summer Concentration at Camp Gagetown in New Brunswick. I had received word on the Friday afternoon that she had been born and that Beth had a hard time. I applied for a pass for the week-end to go home to see Beth and the new Baby and was turned down. I told the Adjutant I was going anyway....he told me, "by all means go, but when you return I gaurantee that you will be demoted to a Private"....Pay was low and money scarce in those days so I swallowed my pride and stayed in the field. I was very bitter though when Harold Hayden was permitted to go home the following week because his wife Joan had a doctor`s note which told him that she was suffering from "nerves".
That same summer of "57" Queen Elizabeth was the guest of President "Ike" Eisenhauer at the White House in Washington, DC. While in Washington, the Queen hosted Eisenhauer at a garden party held on the grounds of the British Embassy. Our Pipes & Drums along with our Military Band had the honour of playing for this occasion. The queen came over to us while we were on a wee break and thanked us for being there.. Shook hands with some of the guys but I can`t remember that I was one of them. Not to worry!. We played a parade down Constitution Ave, played at the Pentagon and a full dress retreat at Fort Myers, Virginia where we stayed. What I remember best about Fort Myers was that it was while we were there that I had tasted my first "Pizza"! The week-end was free so Hank Marr and I decided we would get out on the road (wearing Kilt) to hitch-hike just to see how far we would get! We long since learned that it was dead easy to get a lift when we were in kilt. Besides, hitch-hiking was an inexpensive past-time and I`ve already explained we had to go on these trips with little money in pocket. A delightful couple picked us up and took us with them to their home in Baltimore, fed us supper which was beautiful chicken. We stayed with them overnight and the next morning they returned us to Fort Myers, Virginia. Our transport from Greenwood, Nova Scotia to Washington and return was two C-119`s twin fuselage cargo aircraft which carried the two Pipe Bands and the Military (Brass & Reed) Band... they were very much like the old North Star we travelled with.....noisy & interesting. Poor Beth stayed at home doing a good job of running a house (apartment) with two babies and a husband that was home only some of the time.
Wolfville was a nice quiet little town with the bragging rights of being the home of the Acadia University. Television was still in it`s infancy, therefore we enjoyed our friends, played cards, read books and just the things one does in a small town. As Wolfville is in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, there were apple orchards all over. Taking the route to Aldershot that we used to, we would stop (when the apples were ripe), raise the trunk and fill boxes full of apples. There was also a chicken farm that had an egg grading station on site so we would buy our eggs from them. You could buy a dozen cracked (you couldn`t even see the cracks) double yokers for l5 cents . Our pay was small but so was our expenses. Beth learned to be a great money manager as well as taking care of home emergencies in her stride when she was alone at home.
It was May of 1958 that our Battalion moved from Camp Aldershot Nova Scotia to the brand new Camp Gagetown with it`s brand new PMQ`s (Personnel Married Quarters). They were a wonderful improvement over some of the very small apartments we had been used to and we were very happy to move into a brand new one and one-half story, two bedroom PMQ at 280 MacKenzie Ave. in Oromocto which was the name of the new town built outside the Main Gate of the new Camp Gagetown. No landscaping had yet been done so everything was pure mud, however this improved in time. Our Pipes & Drums moved into a wing of D-23 which was a building in a section of the Base that was called St. Andrew`s Barracks. During working hours we were able to use the Common Area of the building so this gave us room to march inside during inclement weather. We were happy!!
Our original Pipe Major, Duncan Rankine retired about a year after the move. He was a good friend to us as well as a good Pipe Major and he was certainly missed. After Duncan`s departure we were very lucky to receive into the Band a new recruit who was easily the #l piper in Canada.......Bill Gilmour. Although Bill was new to the military, his promotion was very rapid due more to his piping ability. Later it was evident that his leadership abilities were also exceptional and 2RHC Pipes & Drums were destined to flourish under the leadership of this excellent Pipe Major. Mike Phelan was still Drum Major and although he wasn`t accomplished in, "man management', he was still a good disciplinarian. Actually Mike was disliked by many of the bandsmen but he was always my friend and I did my best for him. As well as discipline, Mike took it upon himself to be responsible for the administration, and in the process, delegated that job to me. That winter, Lew MacNaughton and I went on a medium Machine gun course. The weapon was the 30 calibre Browning, an air cooled bipod operated fairly accurate weapon of WW2 vintage. We took the Course in the middle of the winter and we ended it with a 3 day exercise moving through the bush with all these guns.....lots of fun. Lew came first, I came second on the course. Very good considering we were Bandsmen that weren`t supposed to be better than the others who had been doing nothing but soldiering.
In 1958 we toured the smaller towns of the Maritimes and had a great reception everywhere we went. Our best reception was in Cape Breton which really wasn`t surprising to any of us. Toward the end of the year I left home again....this time alone to a Sr NCO Course at Camp Borden, outside of Barry, Ontario. I had an old l95l Pontiac which I used to travel to Ontario. The Course was held by the " RCS of I" which was the Royal Canadian School of Infantry and they had a fearsome reputation for toughness. For six weeks I endured the pettiness of some of the Instructors who must have had some kind of competition to see who could be the most miserable. We had been preparing to go on a 3 -4 day exercise in the Bush and before leaving, were issued with RBLT`s (Rubber Bottom Leather Topped Boots). I was the last to be issued and with nothing left that was my size, I had to settle for a pair that was about two sizes too big, consequently the first day out I developed huge blisters on my heels as well as the balls of my feet. I had to go all the way which was tortorous in itself, however when we returned to Barracks, my feet were in bad shape and I couldn`t continue on the course so was medically RTU`d. (Returned To Unit). The day I left, I was out of bed at 5:30am and pulled out of Borden at 12 noon as I remember the noon siren was sounding. The TransCanada Highway did not exist then and the old #2 Highway was only two lane the whole way and went through all the wee towns and villages. Also there had been a storm in Quebec which made the road snowy and icey. It took me 26 hours of straight driving to do the trip which was a personal record for me. I didn`t have money for a motel, besides I was rather anxious to get home. The night I arrived there was a good fight coming on the TV. Yvonne Durrell vs Archie Moore. I really wanted to see that fight. All of us had a personal stake in rooting for Durrell as his sister was married to one of the Corporals in out Battalion. As it turned out she and her husband (Arnold and Pat Flieger) later became close friends and neighbours when we lived in Germany. Beth was going to her "Card party" and as she was going out the door she said, "Don`t go to sleep and miss your fight" I said, "don`t worry, I won`t ". That was all I remember until she came home and woke me up! I never did see the fight. Oh! incidentally, Archie Moore won the fight.
Brother Al had been doing very well with his Fairbanks-Morse so they wanted to transfer him to head office in Montreal. He didn`t want to leave Nova Scotia and especially not to Montreal.. They warned him that if he didn`t accept the transfer, they no longer wanted him. He said fine and quit. Eventually he and his wife Joyce packed their car and left for Los Angeles, California. They stopped for a short visit at Oromocto on the way through and that was the last that he and Joyce lived in Canada.
Not long after that trip I sold the Pontiac and bought a "56" Dodge which had low mileage and was in beautiful condition. I liked that car....We had good neighbours across the street named "Bert Hickey" Bert was with the Engineers. They were posted away so we applied for their house which was a three bedroom bungalow. We got it!! A bunch of my friends helped me with the move....we just simply carried everything across the street. The address was 3 Carleton Crescent. We had great neighbours and used to take turns hosting parties....We had some dandy`s in the basement which had more space than we`ve ever had previously. I had been out on Concentration with the Battalion when one day we found an abandoned baby skunk so I took it home to see if we could tame it... someone had advised me to put it in the basement and just leave it alone. This proved to be bad advice and the thing got pretty wild. When he gave me a bad bite on the finger we sold him....the fellow who bought him was successful in taming him. Oh yes, of course we had the Vet de-scent him right after taking him out of the woods.
It was in August of "59 that our Band played for a mini Tattoo on the North Commons of Halifax. We had our "Flyer" and when we passed through the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick Border on the return trip, I had the bus stop just long enough that I could jump off to say Hi to Dad who was playing the Pipes there in the beautiful sunken garden. Dad said when he finished there mid-Sept, he would come up to Oromocto to visit me for a couple weeks. We hugged good-bye (we were both huggers) and I never saw Dad again. He was killed in a car accident outside Moncton NB in a car accident the 30th August "59". He had his 56th birthday 3 days earlier on Aug 27th. It was a terrible shock to everyone who knew him as I think Dad was loved by all who knew him. I was devestated at the time as Dad and I had been particularely close I think mostly because I had become a good piper and he was so proud of me for that reason. Gloria had also learned the Pipes and was a member of the "Stellarton Girls Pipe Band" so Dad was doubly pleased. Al had come home from Los Angeles and before leaving N.S. to return to L.A. he had talked Mom into selling the furniture and the house and moving to California which she did. She and Gloria left Nova Scotia before the end of the year but not before I sold my lovely Dodge and bought Mom`s '56 Austin" This was a car that Mom had nothing but good luck and after I bought it, had nothing but bad luck.
That fall, my 2RHC Pipes & Drums went on a trip to Montreal....another mini Tattoo. After we finished there we went on to Philadelphia where we played at (of all things) a CFL Game. Canada was trying to promote Canadian Football in the States so two teams went to the City of Brotherly Love to play a couple games there. While we were on that trip I started having trouble with my left leg. It proved to be a bad case of varicose veins supposedly caused by slamming down my leg on the Parade Square......you know it never occurred to me until writing this account, but I`m wondering if the job I had with Brookfield Construction banging my leg down on ceiling panels could have contributed. They thought the best course was to strip three veins from my leg. All these years later I`m convinced they shouldn`t have done that to a 29 year old soldier when there were alternatives.. It was amusing at the time...some of the guys looked it up and found the medical encyclopedia described "varicose veins" as a condition of middle-aged or pregnant women!! I also wonder if the same thing that caused the poor veins in my left leg may have been the same reason I`ve always had a bad back!!
Besides having some good parties in our basemant, we also had some good ones in the Base Recreation Centre. We would take turns organizing them and each would try to outdo the other. The result was very well organized parties. One feature was each man or maybe person would have to tell a joke or sing......Public speaking had always terrified me so I would sing. I had always been close to being the very worst singer in the Canadian Army so I would belt out a particular song which noone had ever heard before called "Jitterbug Joe". When I`d sing, my voice would break like a teenager`s, I`d have my audience rolling in the aisle. When Al and I were kids in Stellarton, Mom bought a small Victrola. Much of the music was related to the War. Al and I really liked this Jitterbug Joe and used to sing it togeather.... I`ve never run across anyone since who had even heard of it. It went like this:--
Let me tell ya Let me
bout a boy I know,
Folks all call him Jitterbug Joe,
He was long and lean and thin,
and he didn`t have a lot of whiskers on his chin
His hair was slick like a horse`s mane, shone like a headlight on a train
Life to him was "Bo-dodee-oh", this kid called Jitterbug Joe.
His highschool grades were awful, and they never did improve
but when it come to dancing, he could do the boogie woogie
and be rite-in-the-groove.
He took 1st prize at the County Fair, for dancin longer
than anyone there.
But he`d go to sleep on the end of a hoe....
This kid called Jitterbug Joe
Now the old town gossip shook their head
And said My, My, it`s just too bad
He puts grease in his hair, the little brat
He`ll never be nothin but a darn Happy-Cat
Yaller tie and checkered socks,
He sure is headed right straight for the rocks
If he was mine, I`d lay down the rule,
I`d send him to a reform school
Then Joe left town one midnight, and didn`t they all ha ha,
They smiled and smirked and whispered,
He`s gone and done somethin and he`s dodging the law
Just a bunch of buzzards looking smug,
Another grave they thought they dug,
But several things they didn`t know
About the kid called Jitterbug Joe.
Now a year passed by, and then one day
As the buzzards met in their usual way
From "all-over" gossip, old and new
A man walked up and said, " How do you do"
Three bright stripes were on his arm,
A medal was pinned on his uniform,
His eyes were clear and his voice was low,
It was Sgt Jitterbug Joe.
Oh all you gossip mongers, don`t your tongues ever get in a cramp
Why if it wasn`t for kids just like Jitterbug Joe
You`d be Heiling Hitler in a Concentration Camp
They`re out there fighting while you sit around
With nothin to do but run folks down
So take off your hats and bow down low
To kids like Jitterbug Joe!!
Of course this song was very much dated, but served a purpose during WW2 and during our parties many years later. I, of course pretty well slaughtered it, but we all had a great laugh!
Poor Heather and Donna were to have a rough time and I believe it was sometime in 1960 that they both at the same time developed large lumps on their throats, Heather`s on one side, Donna`s on the other. When we took them to a Pediatrician in Fredericton, he, Dr. Stickles was immediately concerned and ordered a biopsy be done. He told us later that he was very concerned that it was leukemia but thank God those fears were unfounded...it proved to be tubercular. They were both removed surgically but that did not stop the Provincial medical authorities having Heather admitted to the Provincial Sanitorium at St. John NB. At the same time Donna was admitted to the city Hospital in Fredericton. Beth and I had questioned the necessity of this as there was no evidence of TB anywhere else including their lungs and since the lymph gland was removed already then what was the point?? Dr. Stickles agreed but could do nothing as it was in the hands of the Provincial Authorities. It was then that our good doctor sent the case histories to the foremost authority on Tuberculosis in North America, a female doctor in New York. She agreed with Dr, Stickles` prognosis so armed with a written statement from this specialist Beth and I presented the new facts to the San. They were adamant that Heather would stay. The situation was resolved when we said, "NO, NO" and went to the San and physically removed her, but not before they had us sign release forms that absolved them from further responsibility. My lifelong regret about the whole scenario was that poor Heather had to spend almost three months in that place for no other reason than the $`s they would receive for having her in there. To this day there has been no recurrence.
Early in the summer of "61" our Pipes & Drums left Gagetown for Halifax to play a mini Tattoo on the North Commons at Halifax where Queen Elizabeth was there to take the Salute. The next morning (Sunday) we boarded a plane (Viscount) for Toronto where we changed planes (Vanguard) for Vancouver. We had a four hour wait in the Toronto Airport. Bob Smith and I were walking just passing time when we spotted a lady in an expensive looking fur coat with two afgans on a leash. We recognized her as being Mimi Hines who was the female half of a comic team called "Ford & Hines". They would very often appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. We stopped and struck up a conversation with her and of course she was curious to know where these kilted Bandsmen were going. When we told her we were on our way to Vancouver to participate in the "Pacific National Exhibition" she made us promise that we would visit her mother who owned and operated a small restaurant in Vancouver. We kept our promise on a day off and made some good new friends. While in Vancouver we were quartered at Jericho Beach. A beautiful place in the middle of the summer. The guys used to spend a lot of time on the beach. So did lots of women.
After a few days rehearsals we put on a show with many other bands at the old "Empire Stadium". One evening while waiting to go on an old friend and piper from the 1CHB Band, John Haining came to us to say hello. It was great to see him again but we were disappointed to learn that his Scottish bride had went back to Scotland and they were divorced. The job lasted for almost three weeks and in addition to the PNE Show, we played in a parade through the streets of Vancouver and the final day there, we competed at a Band Competition. We flew back to Fredericton NB in a Boeing 707. This was my first flight in a passenger jet.. The day after arriving home we played at the same airport for a British Battalion as they boarded an aircraft to return to Britain after training for a few weeks at Gagetown.
It was probably that fall that one of my best friends, Jack Fleming collapsed from having a heart attack as we were doing a run-down on a rifle range. Jack was of course effectively removed from all Band and Infantry activities, was released from the army and died shortly after we left for Germany in February of the next year, 1962. There was a large "shifting" of personnel prior for leaving for Germany as for various reasons, many of our good friends couldn`t make the trip. Lew MacNaughton, our Bass Drummer had too many children (9). Bobbie Walton, tenor drummer couldn`t go as his wife suffered badly from Asthma. Bob Smith, piper didn`t go as his wife wouldn`t go to Germany and threatened to leave him if he went. He didn`t go and she left him anyway. We were sorry to leave other close friends....Earl and Reta Neary; Earl was posted to the Black Watch Depot.....Don and Melina Colburne (Don was Armoured Corps).
And so it came to pass that on 02 Feb 62 we left Oromocto by bus bound for St. John NB to board ship for Germany. Even the bus trip was memorable as Heather became car sick and was going to throw up. The bus driver couldn`t stop as there was a ship waiting.....there were no sickness bags! What to do...quick thinking Beth saved the day by snatching off Heather`s boot which made an excellent receptacle for the "stuff". The ship was the Cunard Liner, "Saxonia" which was the same ship we crossed the Atlantic on in "55". It was a nice ship and we had a nice stateroom and the food was fantastic. When we boarded the ship, we were assigned a certain table in the dining room and had to attend meals the same sitting. Also assigned to the same table was Rosie Christie, along with her wee son and wee daughter. Rosie was travelling without her husband who was a clerk in Battalion HQ`s and was sent to Germany earlier with the Advance Party. She was the type person who believed everything she was told. It was Rosie`s habit that as she and her children sat at the table, the first thing she would do would be to reach for the huge picture of fresh milk that was always in the centre of the table. She would pour the kids a glass of milk and then they would order...One day the sea was quite rough from heavy swells. I and my family were already seated when Rosie and her children arrived. As she sat, she looked for the milk which was not on the table. She looked at me and asked, "where`s the milk?" I said that there wouldn`t be milk today as the sea was too rough. She asked what does the weather have to do with the milk. I told her the cows would likely be sea-sick. She asked, "what cows?" I said "the cows in the hold". She said "Go on, there`s no cows on the ship. I replied, " Rosie, where do you think you were getting your fresh milk from every day??" Rosie said, "Gee, I never knew that!" Later when we were living in PMQ`s in Werl, Rosie and family lived across the hall from Harold and Joan Hayden, they used to "coffee" togeather. One evening they were having a "cuppa" and discussing cigarettes and who or what country had the best. Of course everyone agreed that you couldn`t beat the Canadian cigarettes when Harold looked at Rosie and said, "have you heard about the new cigarette that was just introduced back in Canada." Rosie said she hadn`t. Harold said it has the cork tip in the centre of the cigarette. Rosie asked "why would they do that??" Harold said, "so when you are in the dark you can`t put the wrong end in your mouth ". Rosie said, "Gee, what a good idea". Anyway she did brighten a trip that had it`s negative moments as Beth and daughters eventually became sick. I just kept eating and never did get "under the weather".
Don Roy E-mail:
BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO