DON ROY NARRATIVE
Of course we enjoyed our last visit with Beth‘s parents, but it was always evident that they suspected they wouldn‘t see us again and they were right. It wasn‘t long after, that Beth‘s dad died and shortly thereafter her Mom moved to Australia to live with her older brother David, who if you will recall joined the Australian Navy in 56 or 57. Eventually David obtained his release from the Australian Navy and they settled in a town in New South Wales called Albury.
David and Margaret had two daughters, Elaine and Diane and two sons, David and Andrew who are now all grown up resulting in hordes of grandchildren. Until Mom Brunton‘s death I had always carried on a correspondence with her…. After she died it seemed natural that I would continue this correspondence with Beth‘s brother David. To this day we still correspond.
It was when we returned from that last leave in Scotland that when reporting back to my Unit, found that Al, Jack and I were, while staying on the Battalions strength, we were to be employed in the Base Dental Clinic under the Base Dental Officer, Major Fred Begin. Major Begin was a good teacher, gentleman and an excellent man to work with. I've always remembered him with much fondness. The first day I worked in the clinic, I assisted Fred at the chair while he performed a fairly involved surgical operation called an "apiectomy," which consisted in effect baring of an entire tooth right to the base of the root and removing all infection from the apex of the root. Nothing like jumping in feet first! I surprised even myself… It did not bother me at all and I looked forward to surgical procedures after that experience. Both Al and I were ready willing and able and for the remainder of our stay at Fort St Louis and Germany, we remained working in that clinic which was situated right at the Main gate where we could view our Pipes and Drums in their Mercedes bus as they left our base bound for different jobs all over the country. Yes, it did feel strange and sometimes I did wonder if I had done the right thing.
Remembering events while working in the Dental clinic turns out to be quite different than while working, travelling and performing with the Pipes & Drums. High points in the life of a dental assistant while in Germany were probably setting up the Van for Exercises and Concentrations or just being part of our Battalion`s Bug-outs. Our role was simply to accompany the Battalion to a Defensive position (usually about 2am) and sit there until the exercise was finished and we were ordered back to our Camp. While on Concentrations we would set up our Van and do the necessary dental work in it. My best (and worst) memory of that was on a Sunday, it was our turn to go to the Shower point which were temporary showers set up at the same location as the Artillery spotter aircraft (L-19`s). I had finished my shower and was on my way to our truck when I met John Spenser, an old piper friend who had been with our Band until he transferred out to learn a new trade of Aircraft mechanic. We talked of what is new and who is where when John asked me if I would like to go up in one of the L-19s. I said of course I would. John said his Pilot was taking up their aircraft in 15 minutes and he would ask if I could go along with him. The pilot agreed, John loaned my his helmet, tucked me in the seat, buckled me up and away we went. If I had known that the pilot was a frustrated acrobatic stunt pilot, I would never have got in that aircraft. As long as we were within the confines of the Military training area, there were no regulations confining the pilot to what he must or must not do. I suspect he did everything that the aircraft would allow and after approximately 30 minutes of this I told the pilot (we conversed by radio) he had better get back to his landing strip quickly or there would be some kind of a mess at my feet (no paper bag). I guess that I was some shade of green when we landed. That darned sensitive stomach of mine!!
That last year in Germany was a good one for our Battalion as we won most of the team sporting events including hockey. There was a fierce competition between the Artillery regiment and our Battalion in which the Black Watch prevailed. It was the only hockey we saw (no Hockey Night in Canada) and we took it very seriously. Lots of good memories. Because Al (Jack) and I no longer played with the Band, we always took in the Games together. That last year in Germany, I and my family went to Cassels where we bought a white Miniature Poodle and named her "Freya" pronounced, "Fry-a". She was a pretty good wee dog and we used to enjoy our Sundays when Trevor Paquin and I used to go on long hikes with our dogs. Trevor also had a poodle, though he was black and slightly bigger than Freya. Eiffel and Freya got along very well (male and female). Trevor and Laurie owned a Volkwagon Van and used to take some pretty wonderful trips and would never dream of leaving Eiffel behind.
It seemed (on looking back) no time at all and it was time to prepare for our move back to Canada. More than six months before departure I shopped for a new car to take back and because I could not make a trade for a Peugeot 404 or a Mercedes, I ended up buying a new 1964 Morris Oxford Station Wagon. That was a good car which I kept for four years. The one thing I really liked about it was, when the weather was damp, the darned thing just refused to start… no problem; get out, get the crank, insert it in the engine through the grill, give one rotation and it never failed to start. A couple of weeks before our Departure date, the cars were all shipped to Hamburg where they were loaded on a cargo ship and sailed to Canada. The idea of course was that when we landed in Canada, our cars would be there waiting for us. It didn`t work quite like that as half way across the Atlantic, the ship`s engine broke down. It took a week to effect repairs, therefore when we arrived at CFB Trenton, no car. We had flown from Dusseldorf in a Canadian Military Aircraft which at that time was a four propellor engined "Yukon." The flight from Dusseldorf to Trenton took eleven hours so when we arrived we were pretty weary. We had a room in the Yukon Lodge on Base for a couple days and to make room for more incoming personnel, we were moved to a civilian motel near the Base. I made a phone call to Wally Tye, an ex Black Watch drummer and a close friend since "51". Wally and family lived at "Carleton Place" a nice wee town close to Ottawa. Wally came down to Trenton to fetch us so we spent the next four days with him and his family. A very nice visit as we had always enjoyed Wally and June and visited with them frequently in Gagetown (Oromocto), prior to moving to Germany. Finally we received word that the cars had arrived and our beautiful little black Morris Oxford Station Wagon was sitting in the compound waiting for us.
Well we must have been awfully anxious to get to Oromocto or maybe we were made of "the real stuff" or maybe we were broke, anyway we drove through the night and arrived in Oromocto about 9am. Where to go? Why to Lew MacNaughton`s of course. Lew, Joyce and family did not go to Germany; Lew had transferred to the Service Corps and became a cook, and a darn good one at that!! I remember that we had breakfast, a good reunion and realized that Donna had been gone a long time. She had taken a ride in one of Lew`s kid`s bicycles and became lost. We had to go looking for her. I don`t remember, but I`m sure we did eventually find her. We had a "March-in" to a spanking brand new PMQ, albeit, row housing but that was OK we were glad to settle down in our own place again. Back on MacKenzie Avenue again. This time at 143 with all of McElroy Crescent at our back door. I reported to the Dental Clinic as my transfer to the Dental Corps took effect when my disembarkation leave had finished. It was a multi-chair Clinic and the Base Dental Officer was Major Ty Cobb, one of the best Officers I had ever met. He and his wife Joan were really "down-to-earth" people and our association, which was to last six years, was a happy one. Ty was later promoted to Lt Col and probably about the same time I became his assistant.
Shortly after a compulsory period of "On Job Training" Al Jack and I went to the CF Dental School at Camp Borden to become officially qualified. We had been working with Dental well over a year by then and had absolutely no problem on the course. Al was a very clever type individual and had top marks. I of course being Mr. Average, was unspectacular, but being a fairly hard worker and always dependable, I was considered a valuable member of the staff. When we finished the course we were promoted to Cpl, therefore we were on the long road back. I enjoyed the work and the contact with patients. I think one reason I liked being an Assistant was that I empathized with the patients and was pretty good at having them take their minds off themselves.
Our next door neighbours at 145 MacKenzie was Roddie and Vi MacLeod. Roddie was still a piper with the Band so I was always in touch with what was "going on". We continued a close friendship although I was no longer "Black Watch".
1967 was Canada`s one hundredth Anniversary and that year was when Montreal held their "Expo 67". We couldn`t miss this "once in a lifetime event" so we loaded up our wee Morris Oxford. Packed a tent on the roof-rack and away we went to Montreal. An uneventful trip until we were coming into a Quebec town called "St Jean Port Jolie" I had a blowout, with our heavy roof-rack shifting the balance of the car, I lost control and veered to the opposite side of the road. Very lucky to have missed on-coming traffic and very lucky that we were travelling only some thirty odd mph. We arrived at the Airbase in Montreal called St Jean and pitched our tent with many hundreds of others in a wee tent city. From there we commuted to the Expo site. It was tremendous show and a good experience for Heather and Donna. I wonder how much of it they actually remember. Heather would have been 13 yrs old and Donna 10.
One thing that always bothered me in those days was that I was still so far away from my Mother, Brother and Sister. It seemed that Los Angeles was so far away and to go that far on a holiday was out of the question. On a Cpls pay, there was not always a lot of cash left over after the bills, food and clothing were tended to. I had always been faithful at writing, therefore was pretty well informed as to how they were, what they were doing, etc. That didn`t stop me from being in a state of shock one day when I received a Sympathy Card and a letter from Avis Foster expressing sympathy on the death of my Mother. There was nothing wrong with Mom although I had to phone her just to be 100% sure.
A friend of Avis and Gerald had seen a death notice in the New Glasgow Evening News re: the death of my Aunt Jenny. They thought it was my Mother and told Avis. Al and Joyce had holiday`d in Nova Scotia and were spending the day with friends at a lake close to Moncton. I took Heather and Donna there and was able to spend only two hours with my brother.
As I had previously stated, money was in short supply during those years, so I took a job driving Taxi out of Oromocto. I enjoyed driving Cab but had to put in some awfully long hours for $1 an hour. For a time I also delivered take-outs from A&W and worked with one of the Dental Officers in the evening at a Dental Clinic close to the Oromocto Shopping Center. I eventually sold my Morris Oxford and bought a 1967 Ford country sedan. This was a huge Station Wagon and had a standard shift with a very sensitive clutch. Not an easy car to drive, but this was the car that Beth learned to drive. She was by then working at Reitman`s in the Shopping Centre and would use the Car to travel to and from her work. I would sometimes walk into the Base and sometimes get a lift. I was a good walker in those days and it didn`t bother me in the least.
As I have mentioned, out PMW was a unit in a row housing complex, therefore as soon as we moved in, I applied to be moved to a single or a duplex Unit. We waited through a three-year waiting period and sometime in 1969 we moved into a duplex, 1 and 3 Cowichan Drive. Ours was #1 and through the wall in #3 was good neighbour Bill Green. Bill and his wife had two young boys, so that Heather used to be able to earn a little spending money baby-sitting for the Greens.
It was sometime in 1966 that I started getting attacks in my mid-section. I saw our M.O. who had me tested for ……………. It was negative and without further testing he said I had a "nervous" stomach (I knew he was wrong) and would have to control it with Anti-acids. This was no help at all and for two more years I suffered these attacks which always occurred close to Midnight and lasted until approximately 7am so I was always worn out the next day at work. One morning when I was in this shape, I had a new Doctor in our dental chair for an examination. While waiting for Colonel Cobb, he asked me if I had known the "big" piper, Wally Roy. I said Yes, he was my Father. After that I was good friends with him and told him of these attacks. He said the next time I had one he would admit me to the Hospital and there I would stay until they found out was causing them. It turned out that I had Gall Bladder stones pretty bad so it was shortly after that, I had my Gall bladder removed and Wow! no more attacks.
The 1st Bn Black Watch had left Canada for peace keeping duties in Cyprus which caused a problem for Bill Gilmour who was still Pipe Major of the the 2nd Bn when he received a tasking order that he was to provide his Band`s services to the British Military Tattoo which was to be held in Jamaica in Feb of that year. It was Bill`s desire to have four blocks of four pipers and unfortunately he had only 14 pipers, therefore needed to find two more pipers. Bill had asked George Ogilvie, an ex member of the 1st Bn and was then working in the Base Museum. George accepted so then Bill came to see me at work one morning in the Dental Clinic. When he invited me to accompany them to Jamaica, I took him to my Operator`s office, the Base Dental Officer Lcol Ty Cobb. The Colonel was the very best and asked who was he to stand in the way of his assistant having three weeks duty in Jamaica.
I commenced working on the repetoire the Band was playing and a month later when we left for Jamaica -- it was like I had never been away from the pipes. In Feb 68 we flew out of Fredericton NB in a Canadian Forces Cosmopolitan. As there was still room on the plane other than the Band, the Pilot took along his wife and two children. Hours after take-off, we landed at West Palm Beach, Florida for refuelling. As we were prepared to take off, the Aircraft Commander came on the P.A. to announce there was a problem in the starboard engine and that we would have to return to the terminal to have it checked out. It turned out that the alternator was faulty, necessitating our staying at the George Washington Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach until receiving another alternator from the Squadron in Ottawa which was suffering a sleet storm and all planes were grounded, which resulted in our being "stranded" in West Palm Beach from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon.
Good friend and Piper, Davie MacIntyre and I sat in the Lobby of this Lovely Hotel after breakfast Sunday Morning. As we were always in uniform (kilt) we created some healthy curiosity from a gentleman who asked us if we would like to go with him as he went apartment hunting. We had nothing better to do so accepted and spent the remainder of the morning with him. He was the first representative for Volkswagon who arrived in the city prior to opening a dealership there. He let us out at a dog race track outside the city as Dave had been (and still is) a professional dog handler, breeder and now, a well-known and respected judge for International Dog Shows. We watched the races for awhile, Dave talked to the handlers so we then left and hitch-hiked back to the City. A very nice retired British Couple picked us up in their beautiful big old Rolls Royce. They took us home with them, fed us supper and then took us on a tour up the coast away from the city… a perfect day!
We finally arrived in Kingston, Jamaica and after settling into Jamaicain Defence Force Barracks (Uptown Camp) we participated in the remainder of the rehearsals and ultimately the Tattoo. During our stay we also played a concert at a local hospital and on the local television station. On a day off we were transported via Jamiacain Defence Force Bus with a civilian driver to Ochos Rios on the northern coast. We carried with us our own ice chest full of beer not realizing that as many drinks as we could handle were to be provided free of charge. The result was that when we left to return to Kingston, almost everyone was highly intoxicated including the driver. I was sitting on the front seat and sobered rather quickly when I became aware of the erratic driving, and this over mountainous roads which came to a climax when our bus bounced off a rock face on the right side of the road and careened across the road where there was a sheer drop of who knows how far! The driver somehow managed to avert disaster and our members seemed to sober very quickly. A really close call!
The Tattoo itself was a good one but the thing that sticks in my mind the most was the fact that almost every night, an average of 3 or 4 Jamaican Children, who were part of a "Native Dance" item, used to faint each and every night. We noticed they had their own doctor and when we questioned him as to why this was happening, he explained that they suffered from malnutrition. They were never hungry as such, but ate too much on one type food (fruit) and not enough meats and cereals (protein). All good things come to an end so we returned and landed at Fredericton Airport late one wintry evening. The one thing that struck me as I walked out of the Terminal was how dirty our cars were as compared to the cars in Jamaica. Not much wonder ehhh??
Besides enjoying my work at the Dental clinic; around about 1969-70 I decided I needed a second job. I drove Taxi for $1.00 an hour. Usually a night or two a week but mostly on Saturdays from 9 am to about 3 am Sunday morning. It was a long shift but I rather enjoyed it and didn`t mind the long hours in the least... probably because I was (and am) lazy and this job allowed me to sit most of the day… and when I wasn`t just sitting, then I was driving and I`ve always enjoyed driving, so what more could I ask. The great thing about driving Cab is that you meet many kinds of people. I think the one I remember the most was a rather attractive red-head who hitched a ride with me when I was returning to Oromocto from Fredericton. She asked my maritial status, and after I told her I was married with two daughters, she propositioned me. I, of course had to account for all my time so it wasn`t possible for me (nor did I want) to accept her invitatons. I never saw her again but one of our assistants while returning to Gagetown from The Aircraft Carrier, "Bonaventure" (which was in Dry-Dock in St John) one week-end, saw her hitch-hiking and picked her up. Jim dated her a few times after that and then she dropped out of sight after which poor Jim was killed in an auto accident.
I guess I must have driven Cab for approximately a year and at the same time worked with one of our young Dental Officers in the Civilian Clinic in Oromocto. This paid better… $2 an hr. Funny the things a person remembers, but my most vivid memory of working this job was one evening when we started at 6pm, we had a waiting room full of patients (overbooked as usual) and the first patient was a wee girl of about four years old. She was very nervous and kept saying, (her Mother was there the whole time) "Mommy, I`m going to be sick" Her Mother kept saying, "pay no attention to her, she just wants to get out of sitting in the Dental Chair". Well it turned out the Mother was wrong and the Child was sick. Boy was she sick!! All over the dental Chair. Give you one guess who had to clean the mess... yeauch!!
We had so many good friends during this time but I do think the best friends we had were Earl and Reta Neary. Close behind was Don and Melina Colburne. We would enjoy visiting back and forth with all these and more. Also, two of my best friends from then were Trevor and Laurie Paquin who you will remember were in Germany with us. Roddie MacLeod and family were next door and Bill and Gaile Harvey were about five units away while Harold and Joan Hayden lived across the street, so even though I was no longer with the Pipes & Drums, they were still close by. Who can forget some of the excellent parties Trev and Laurie had in their huge house outside of Oromocto at Geary. We would go on Sleigh Rides with a huge sleigh and horses, complete with "Jingle Bells", then party down in their basement. What a wonderful time and what great friends we had!
Beth thought that she would like to work, so during this period from about 68 to 70, she worked as a clerk in a lady`s Clothing store (Reitman`s) in the Oromocto Shopping Centre. She did enjoy that work and most of all enjoyed working with the staff and meeting the public. She had also developed a healthy passion for antiques and collectibles, so it seemed the natural thing to do was open her own shop in the Oromocto shopping Centre. I had made enquiries, and was assured that there wasn`t much chance I would be transferred for another 2 or 3 years. Oh yeah!!! Six months after we bought a house and opened the shop, I received a message from Ottawa informing me that I was posted to CFB Shilo. Shilo??? Where`s that? I knew that our lab sgt, John Christianson had been in Shilo so I went to him and asked where is it. He told me it is two hours west of Winnipeg, close to a small town called Brandon. I asked him what was it like. He said, "well, you and the family will arrive there and settle in and six months to a year later you`ll have your first leave, then you and the family will pack your car and head off down the TransCanada Highway to go on a nice long holiday. A half hour after leaving Brandon you will notice along side the road, a small hill about waist high. The children will be excited and will be pointing at it while you get out the camera and take pictures of it. This of course was untrue, as Brandon itself is on the side of a hill and Westman (Western Manitoba) isn`t as flat as strangers and tourists might expect.
So we had to sell the house, sell all Beth`s stock from the store… much of it at a loss of course. We moved back into PMQ`s again on MacKenzie Ave. I was driving this huge Ford Country Sedan at the time, and didn`t want to take it across country. It was just a hard car to drive. I traded it on a Brand new Peugeot 404 Station Wagon with automatic shift. Wow, what a nice car to drive! Beth, being a stubborn Scot refused to drive it because it had a automatic shift and to this day (June 2000) she has never been behind the wheel again.
We had our going away parties, and last visits with our friends and finally at the end of June 1971, it was time for us to strike out for this far off Province of Manitoba, but first we stopped in Detroit and visited with my Cousin Doug and his good wife Pat. It was with them I spent Christmas Day, 1947 and although we had kept an occasional correspondence, I had not see Doug since then. We had an excellent visit, with Doug and Pat being perfect hosts. Detroit was overwhelming to a small town boy like me, but Doug looked after us well and even took us to a Major League Ball Game between the "Detroit Tigers" and I think, the "Cleveland Indians." Unfortunately, I cannot remember who won the game. I do not believe though I have ever suffered from such heat. The whole time we were in Detroit they had a heat wave and the temperatures were often around 105 Fahrenheit. When we left Detroit I travelled to the upper Michigan Peninsula and took #2 Highway across to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and north through North Dakota and into Manitoba. We were surprised to see so many cute wee animals standing up along side the road. These were our first glimpses of gophers. It was almost midnight 03 July when we arrived at Canadian Forces Base Shilo and when I stepped out of the car to report in at the Main Gate, I was almost knocked over with such a strong stench!!. We were informed that it was only when the wind was just right, the smell of a nearby Hog Farm invaded Shilo. After having a look at the Dental Clinic, we went into Brandon and finally found the last Motel space in all of Brandon.The Provincial Exhibition was going on so we were lucky to have found space anywhere.
When we arose Sunday morning we went downtown to look for a restaurant where we could have breakfast. We found the only place open was the Greyhound Bus Terminal on Princess Ave. That was the first and last meal in that particular establishment. We then checked into Barney`s Motel on TransCanada Highway and stayed there the next four days while waiting for our furniture to arrive. Our new PMQ was at 26 Esquimalt Crescent. It was across the street from the Queen Elizabeth School so Heather and Donna certainly didn`t have far to walk. It didn`t take long to settle in to both our new PMQ and my new position of Clinic Manager. End October saw me headed east again, this time without my family. I went to CFB Borden to attend a Pay Level Six Course which went along with my promotion to Sgt. The Course lasted until a week before Christmas so I had been away almost two months. There wasn`t much to remember about that Course and it is strange that the sharpest memory of it had nothing to do with the Course itself. One Friday Night, Al Jack and I with two more "Buddies" were celebrating the arrival of the week end in the Cpl`s Mess. We must have had a wee bit to drink because we decided we would walk back to Barracks which was only about half a mile. No problem, except when we were to drive to breakfast the next morning, the car wasn't in its normal space in the Parking Lot. Not one of us remembered that we left the car at the Cpl's Club the previous night. It wasn't until after we called Base Police and they were taking our statements as to when we last saw the car, we remembered! Did we feel stupid?? You bet we did!
Soon after settling in, there was a Dog Show on Base which we attended, fell in love with a wee West Highland White Terrier whose name was Kelly. Of course we still had Freya whom we took with us back from Germany. Freya was rapidly aging and was becoming lame with worn out patella`s (knees). Kelly and I had a close man/dog relationship which was to last almost sixteen years. Since then, my absolute favorite breed of dog has been, "Westies"
Part of my job was in "Preventative Dentistry" so after I took a local course and became qualified in operating a 16mm Bell and Howell Movie Projector, I initiated our "Brush-in" Program. Each morning I would lecture from six to ten soldiers on the How`s and Why`s of using the toothbrush and Dental Floss, all the while showing films and slides. I then took Bite wing X-Rays of each participant, then sat each one in turn in the Dental Chair where they would receive a Dental Check and appointments if necessary from one of our Dental Officers. Early in 1972, we began looking at houses in Brandon, ending up buying a place at 350-2nd Street. I enjoyed our PMQ (next door neighbour used to sunbathe) but I found the 20 minute drive from Dental Clinic to house in town, allowed me time to unwind so I realized that I didn`t take stress home with me after the move.
Shortly after moving into Brandon, I started taking my practice chanter to work, with the idea of maybe catching up on a little practice during the lunch hour. One day, a gentleman by the name of Bob Chamberlain came into the Dental Clinic to do a routine check of our air compressor. After he checked it, we headed to my office to do paperwork. When we walked past our coffee room, Bob happened to look inside and spotted my chanter on top of the refrigerator. He asked me who was the owner of the practice chanter. When I told him it was me, he asked if I was a piper. I told him I used to be with the Black Watch. He asked me to play a tune, which I did. Bob then informed me he was the lead tip (side drum) for the Pipe Band of the 26th Field Reg`t in Brandon and that they have their Band Practice in the Brandon Armories every Tuesday and Thursday. Since that was a Tuesday, Bob asked if I would be his guest at tonight`s Practice. I told him I had no desire to start playing again much less join a Pipe Band, but that didn`t discourage him and he insisted I accompany him -- so I did just that. When we arrived in the Band room the pipers were sitting around the table having chanter practice. After introductions I was asked to play a couple tunes with them. I did and the Pipe Major, who then was Ken Creighton asked if I would join the Band. I declined and told him I had no Pipes and no uniform. Ken asked me to come to practice on Thursday as they would be having a full practice with the Drums on the Armory Floor. I accepted and when I showed up that evening, Ken took me to the pipers room where they had a set of Pipes and a full uniform laying on the table for me. I played with them that night and I`ve never slowed down since then.
When it became widely recognized that Sgt Roy in the Dental Clinic was a piper, I found that there was a great deal of demand for playing both Officer`s and Sgt`s Mess Dinners, Curling Bonspiels, etc. I enjoyed playing with the 26th Field which was a fairly good Band for the size of Brandon. I became good friends with the Pipe Major, Ken Creighton, his Pipe Sgt Murdoch MacIntosh, Piper Angus Brown, Piper Jim Reid who operated a Scottish import business from his home and of course the "lead tip" Bob Chamberlain.
About the same time we moved from PMQ`s in Shilo, to 2nd Street in Brandon, we applied to be Foster Parents. One of our first charges was a young 4 year old girl named Roberta Hill who stayed with us almost 1-1/2 years. At the same time we had dozens of children come stay with us on a short term basis of anywhere from a few hours to a couple weeks. It was a hard time for Beth but she thrived on the challenge. I found the hardest part was having a child for a couple weeks, getting attached to said child and then suffering from losing the child to its mother. During the spring of "73" we received an infant boy just out of hospital about a week old. His name was "Derek Ducharme". His Mother was Metis and given 3 months in which to settle down with a job and she would be allowed to have her baby. As it was, she kept changing her mind and things dragged on and on until Derek was adopted two years later by a couple in Mississauga, Ontario. He and I had a bit of a "love affair" and I missed him terribly when he finally left us.
This was a grand old house on 2nd Street but needed lots of work, so I bought wallpaper and we papered the bathroom. Hey!! I didn`t do such a bad job after all and found that I had a wee bit of a talent at hanging paper. In the year and a half we lived there I papered every room and every hallway in the house, and painted all the wood-work as well. Beth and I attended many auctions and in due course met and became good friends with a "Charlie Ridgin." Charlie owned and operated the only antique store in Down-town Brandon at that time. Also good friends and neighbours at that time were Ed and Shirley Holmes. Shirley would spend much time at our house visiting and having a "cuppa". She and Ed were not getting along too well and Ed, who was in the Forces, had to go to Wainwright for Summer Concentration. He was away about four weeks and when he arrived home one Sunday night, he walked into his home and found that Shirley was gone and taken most of the furniture with her. Ed thought she might be at our house and came banging loudly on the front door. When I opened the door he accused me of harbouring her. I hadn`t even known she was gone and when Ed realized I told the truth, he left. I made the mistake of telling Shirley some time later what Ed had said when I answered the door. She sued him for a divorce and her lawyer subpoened me to testify at the trial. I found it very difficult to repeat while on the witness stand what Ed had said at the door, however the divorce was granted and Shirley took up residence with an "Edgar" and after two or three years moved away from Brandon.
December 23rd, 1973 was moving day. We bought a twelve suite apartment block at 536/534 Louise Ave. That was a terrible day I shall never forget. One, because Beth and I worked so hard, doing the move ourselves with a borrowed Pick-up truck, and two, it was a cold snowy day. I had been carrying lots of odds and ends into a door which led to the Basement. I had been carrying gallons of paint and the steps became very slippery from snow on the boots. Yes, I slipped on the steps and the paint cans went flying. One almost full can of grey paint burst open and covered the stairs as well as me. Two days later it was Christmas. Don`t ask how we did it, but we dealt with Christmas and two days later I left poor Beth and she dealt with everything as I flew off to Los Angeles with the Winnipeg Massed Pipes and Drums.
For the previous two months, we had been travelling to the Air Base in Winnipeg each Sunday to rehearse with that Pipe Band in preparation to leading the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Years morning It was a good experience and an enjoyable parade but undoubtedly the bonus for me was that my Mother, brother and sister were all living in various parts of Los Angeles County so I was therefore able to visit with them. The Band also played at City Hall in Pasadena, at the Queen Mary tied up at Long Beach and last but certainly not least at Disneyland. We paraded right down Disneyland`s "Main Street" for their Christmas Parade. I was so totally captivated by the whole atmosphere and professionalism of the parade performers. We were housed at the UCLA Residence where the accommodations were wonderful, as was the food and hospitality. I spent as much time as possible with Mom and Gloria and got acquainted with my two wee nieces Chrissie and Shauna. I was able to stay the last evening with Mom and when I returned to the Residence to re-join the Band for the trip home, I witnessed the shambles that this Cdn Band left when they moved out. Mostly the younger element in the Band had partied the prior night and were sick in the washrooms leaving a terrible mess and even some broken beer bottles. I promised myself at that time never to play again with this particular Massed Band. I kept that promise even though I missed a return trip to Pasadena the following year as well as trips to Sweden and Austria when they played there for the "Silver Broom" The musical quality of this group of 200 to 250 pipers and drummers left much to be desired. It would be interesting to play with these same kids now. I`m convinced it would be a totally different experience as they have matured since then and also the standard of piping has improved dramatically.
Early in 74 we were fortunate to receive a new Pipe Major who had just then immigrated from Scotland to Canada His name is Alex Cupples who served with the Gordon Highr`s as a boy soldier (piper) before WW2 and was Pipe Major of the 1st and 2nd Btns, during the War. Alex was employed as a civilian worker at CFB Shilo so I finally had company playing at the many functions. As a Pipe Major he was second to none and while with the 26th Field, he produced a very fine Band that won most competitions in Gr 3 during the last half of the 70s. Alex doesn`t blow the GHB anymore but still plays the practice chanter and instructs. We are still the best of friends and matter of fact coffee`d together just this morning. Alex had accomplished so much in the Piping world and not only Brandon, but all of the Prairie Provinces as well. He has been the driving force for a Piping and Drumming indoor competition almost from the time he arrived. One particular job I shall never forget playing with Alex was at a wedding in Whitewood, Saskatchewan. It was performed in the local Cdn Legion Hall and was a most unusual ceremony. The Groom`s name was MacMillan and the Bride`s name was MacDonald. The Bride and Groom performed the ceremony themselves without benefit of clergy. They sat on chairs on the stage facing each other. They sang to each other, both playing guitars. They said their vows to each other and the whole thing was utterly charming. This, however, wasn`t why I`ll never forget that job. Something happened with Alex and me. We were asked to play while the wedding photo`s were taken. Alex and I were tuned into each other perfectly and for over thirty minutes we played almost without a stop but what was unusual was never declaring which tune we would play but starting in together each time we chose a new tune in our minds. That had never happened to me before or since. An unusual and most satisfying experience.
BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO