Thursday, 2 July 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat - Part 10 - Back to the Beginning (Sort of)

During the summer of 1972, we packed up our bags for the last time and moved from Uplands (Ottawa) Ontario, up the highway to North Bay, 22 Wing/ Canadian Forces Base North Bay, for Dad's last transfer. We moved into PMQs until his retirement, living on Market Street, in a big duplex. Oddly enough, this house was just around the corner from where we were living when I was born.

In North Bay, I finished off High School at Widdifield Secondary School. This section might take two posts so more about high school then. These two years were two of my happiest. I enjoyed the life at North Bay; my friends, the activities, just life in general.

North Bay is a small city, on Lake Nipissing, at the time it was about 50,000 people. (I don't think it's much bigger now.) The base is at the top of Airport Hill and coexists with the civilian airport. When we moved up there, we spent some time at a motel on Lakeshore Drive until our furniture arrived. It was shad fly season and when we left for breakfast our first morning, the walls, the sidewalks, everything was coated in a layer of shad flies. They are a useless bug, just blow in off the Lake and stick to anything. Don't park your car under a street light! I seem to recall that Dad had a shad fly appetiser as we walked to breakfast, making the mistake of talking while they were still blowing about.

It didn't take long to settle into life in PMQs once again. I think it was a bit of old home week for my parents, knowing the area, finding out what might have changed. Our home was one of the bigger places we'd ever lived in, three nice size bedrooms upstairs, and a nice kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs.

We were all pretty active. Dad worked with the 414 Black Knight Squadron, but he also continued with his other activities; ice maker at the Base Curling club, manager/ projectionist at the Base Theatre. Mom started working at the Base Post Office, which was located in the same building as the Theatre and gymnasium. John was still just a little one, 8 years old. He went to school on base until
Dad finally retired and we moved off-base. That was during my final year in Widdifield.

I continued with curling, playing in the Base Teens league both years, usually skipping a team in the league. In the summer I played centre field in the Base Intersection fastball league, playing for a Teens team. We had a great time and didn't do too poorly. I also helped Dad running the Base Theatre. I sold tickets for every show, for awhile also cleaned the theatre after the movies and helped him pay for the movies and order them as well. We took at least one trip down to Toronto, visiting Rick, who was stationed there, while we were there and making the rounds of the Movie companies, checking out their lists of available films and booking for the next few months. The films for the week arrived at the base in big film canisters each Monday. We used to have a Saturday matinee for the kids, a Sunday/ Monday film and a Wednesday/ Thursday film, as I recall. Unfortunately, because North Bay had three cinemas of its own and a drive in theatre open in the summer, the base couldn't bring in the new movies so we had to be imaginative to try and attract a reasonable crowd. It was fun anyway.

North Bay had a fair bit of activities as well. As I mentioned, there were three movie cinemas downtown; the Capitol, the Odeon and the Bay. There was a junior hockey team and a big curling rink and another as well. I used to take John to play hockey when he was little, his games were Saturday morning. Of course, that was once I got my driver's licence. :)

It just seemed like there was always something to do, road hockey in the winter, the base swimming pool in the summer (it was an outdoor pool) and the other activities I mentioned. I used to bike or walk downtown, even out onto Lakeshore drive in search of book stores. My favourite place was Allison the Bookman. I still go there now when I visit. He always seemed to have the best selection of used books. There was also a record store on the main drag, just by the Capitol Cinema. 45's for $1.00, which is what I tended to buy.

Base life was great and all in all, finishing high school in North Bay was a happy time. I think Dad retired in November 73, my last year in High School and my parent's bought their first house, on 677 Moffatt. John's school was just down the street and I could walk to Widdifield in 10 minutes. He finished his military career in 1973 and I started mine the following year, upon graduation when I went to University of Toronto on a ROTP scholarship. More to follow on that. Next post I'll try to highlight a bit about Widdifield Secondary School, which coincidentally is having its 50th Anniversary Reunion next spring.

More to follow.

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