Notes from a Dependent Brat: CF-104 "Starfighter"
Writing my recent piece (here) on the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Canadair CC-106 "Yukon" transport aircraft stirred up more memories regarding my "brat" past: Memories about RCAF Station/CFB Baden-Soellingen (4 Wing).
Back in those days, the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s, the RCAF's main front-line jet fighter/interceptor was the CF-104 "Starfighter". Built under license (from Lockheed) by Canadair at its Cartierville Airport plant in the Montreal suburb of Saint-Laurent, the "one-o-four" went on to enjoy a long life with Canada's Finest Service; eventually being replaced by the CF-18.
With such a high-performance aircraft, especially one originally designed for high-altitude interception but re-geared for a low-level strike and reconnaissance role, there were bound to be more than a few accidents. During the years I lived in Iffezheim, West Germany, 'we' lost several 104s from 4 Wing. The most memorable incident happened in July of 1969 when two collided over the countryside. I remember vividly my father darting off for two weeks as part of the recovery/investigation team and, upon his returning, with redundant bags of sugar and other such foodstuffs, him recounting the commotion at the crash scene when they arrived: "It (a farmer's field) was crawling with Polizei". Apparently the two jets "locked wings" which sealed their fate; one pilot managed to eject while the other went down with his machine -- some of what my dad described about the impact site was pretty gruesome.
There was another: Soon after I got to school one morning my teacher told the class that a Starfighter had crashed not long after we had been bused in. (My family and I lived off-base, and not in the local "PMQs" [Private Married Quarters]. I have long been thankful that my parents wanted to live with the Germans, and not in a semi-sheltered environment called "Kleinkanada". There were lots of Canadian kids in my neighbourhood -- offspring of other smart parents.) If I remember correctly, that pilot managed to eject safely from his aircraft, despite the fact that he was in "take-off" mode.
Perhaps my fondest memory regarding the CF-104 Starfighter is of the machine's sound; that sound. One would hear the roar of jets in formation, and look up to see whether they were Canadian or German -- the Luftwaffe, too, operated the Starfighter. One beautifully sunny day my Grade 2 school teacher walked us out to the airfield; why exactly I did not know -- I'm sure Mrs. Gunnery said something, but I could not have been paying attention (surprise?). Upon taking position at our stations my school mates and I looked off over the flatness of the strip to the horizon. Suddenly there were several descending trails of black smoke which, of course, I was familiar with; moments later I noticed a series of landing lights seemingly suspended over the field. Suffice to say the 104s were flying very low, just over the deck, as they raced past us: What a noise! I love jets, and the racket they make, but really!
Ah, yes. The blessedly interesting life of a brat....
Stay tuned, Brat Fans, for my next blog posting. Same Brat Time; same Brat Channel!
From April 9, 2016:
Hercules: Magnificent Transporter of the RCAF
For a Canadian Air Force Brat it is not an uncommon privilege to enjoy a trip on a transport aircraft like the Lockheed CC-130 "Hercules". This hitch-a-ride in the RCAF is referred to as a "flip". If there's space beside the cargo a serviceman/servicewoman and their dependents can hop on, but this cannot happen with just any flight, obviously: In the 1970s my dad escorted a cargo of explosives aboard a Herc on an overseas flight to England.
After many years my experiences flying on this machine are still vivid and memorable. "An Air Pocket Over Europe: film at eleven!" Soon.
This past Tuesday a CC-130E Hercules made its final trip after 50 years of service, leaving 8 Wing CFB Trenton for the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. This story is described in County Live.
My father served with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force (and the Canadian Armed Forces), and my mother served with the Royal Air Force. I served with no air force. Great.
At least I was a brat.
From May 2, 2016:The Astral Theatre in CFB Borden, Ontario, was a veritable movie funhouse of eclectic and varied flicks, old and new. In essence it was a rep cinema. Most new and big releases, and anything of prestige, were on the other side of the base at the mighty Terra Theatre.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (From a Dependent Brat)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (From a Dependent Brat)
One of many films I saw in or about my thirteen year had a very special trailer. A preview which ended up haunting me: Triple Avalanche of Terror
The hook was a certain sustained shot that was more important to me, ultimately, than the variety of quickly cut clips that followed. This affecting scene -- shot in a mental institution, apparently -- was the real keeper. While substantial image grain danced before our eyes, an ominous voice-over explained that 'this man watched Triple Avalanche of Terror and went insane'. (Really? Seriously.)
A straight-jacketed wretch squirmed as two attendants hovered over, comforting him as he did the bit of business taught in acting school when one wants to evoke "crazy". "No!...No!!..."
As advertised, in order to watch the film one had to accept an insurance policy before entering the theatre. Cool. It's not something I'd want to have to cash in, but cool.
I bought it, the preview, that is, so much so that I knew I had to see the film, even though it was to be a midnight presentation. Oh, no.
As we left the theatre after watching the now forgotten feature presentation, my friends and I discussed the trailer, that spooky trailer. One friend, Glen Scott, seemed to know that we'd been had:
"It's a publicity stunt!
"It's a publicity stunt!", he reiterated as the rest of us, in his eyes, were overly concerned that we too would go insane.
But, we all agreed: Must see movie.
This is where trouble followed.
The next day I raved enthusiastically to my mother about the nerve-splitting trailer I had seen, and in the process I let it out that the anticipated movie itself was to be shown as a late-late show. She wasted no time in saying "no". When the day got closer, I asked again:
Mum, I wanna see Triple Avalanche of Terror!
I told you, you're not seeing it.
Because...I don't want you prancing about at all hours of the night.
Now that's final.
("I guess I'm not going to be seeing Triple Avalanche of Terror.")
I wish I had possessed the verbal wit of Family Guy's "Stewie": "How dare you deprive me of some devilishly gruesome entertainment. I shall be forever stunted by your absolute malicious disregard for my personal development!"
I didn't get my mother's reasoning. Geographically speaking, the Astral was not far from Elm Street, our street. The route consisted of a quick walk to School Street, then along Maple Drive; up a little further was the palace of dreams.
How was the Terrible Avalanche, you ask? The next day I asked Glen what he thought. After all, he and the gang were allowed to walk about at all hours of the previous night.
"It wasn't very good."
Of course, to a pre-teen, that was code for: "It was awesome!" Either that, or I was becoming concerned for Glen's sanity.
"Carry On Camping is on this Saturday?" I was allowed to see that one, however. Not a lot makes sense when you're a kid. (Those of you who have seen that British comedy classic, or just about any Carry On movie, for that matter, will know what I'm getting at.) Now I know why Camping was acceptable fare: It was shown during regular business hours. The prevailing issue wasn't so much one of content.
The Astral, along with all the PMQs (houses) on Elm, School, Hemlock, and Maple Drive, is now gone as that part of CFB Borden was razed a few years ago, but my memories of that special dream-maker always remain strong -- even if a certain title is missing.
From November 7, 2016:
Notes From a Brat: On and Off the Ice
Forty-two odd years later I must come clean:
Dyte Hall was our local hockey rink when my family lived at CFB Borden. Along with the Andy Anderson Arena, the Hall, a large brown-brick structure, one which may or may not have been a purpose-built building, was the place where my ice hockey career began and ended. It was there where I scored my few goals and let in more than a few goals (my team was a bad one). On weekends I would often saunter over and catch whatever ice hockey action was on tap; at times my favourite sport was not on the schedule ("Broomball? No!").
One of my strongest memories of the hall, besides Nancy Getty blowing a puck by me as we attempted to thwart a girls' team, is of schoolmate Mike Walker skating across the ice between the face off circles in front of my goal and delivering one of his wicked slap shots: I caught the puck in the fore of my right arm, right at the joint, effectively doing my job; unfortunately, the disc of smokin' rubber struck the seam in my protective equipment, rendering my catchers' mitt useless as it dangled beneath my now powerless arm. ("Systems Failure!") However, by shifting my hips I could get some life out of the glove. Thankfully the power loss lasted just a few seconds. A most memorable Sunday afternoon.
The most powerful memory for me of Dyte Hall did not happen on the ice:
The Base Borden Minor Hockey Association held a fundraiser one lovely weekend; one could buy a series pass in order to take in all the games, or single tickets. Since one of my friends had a pass, I decided there was an effective way to maximize its potential. My friends and I gathered in front of Dyte Hall and I, on the spot, hatched a plan:
"Okay guys, this is what we'll do.... (inaudible)."
Fade to black.
As 'author' I initiated the devious cycle. With pass in hand I somewhat apprehensively and self consciously approached the ticket table. There was no problem in executing my plan; the pleasant ladies smiled and said "thank you". Once safely through the checkpoint I made for the mens' room and passed the pass through the opened window to one of my waiting buddies outside.
Repeat once, then:
Norman was next in line; as per the by now perfected routine he entered the special transfer room and proceeded to hand off the pass. Guess who decided to relieve himself at that moment....you guessed it: Norm's dad! A man born and bred in England could only say one thing after quickly figuring out what sneaky and reprehensible act played out before him: (Something like) "You little bastard."
Needless to say I "heard" about it all afterwards, and Norm, being the son of a Brit in the Canadian Armed Forces, no doubt "got it" afterwards.
You must not forget, dear reader, that although the punchline did not involve me directly, I'm the fellow who drew up the plan. I was, as Wally Cleaver may have stated, the "little creep!".
From January 18, 2017:
Notes from a Brat: The TV Lunchbox Kids
I remember sitting on the school bus one day, waiting for the vehicle to finish loading up kids outside of the CFB Baden Elementary School (in West Germany). A fellow traveller in the seat immediately in front of mine had in his possession what must have looked to me like a pretty specimen of a lunchbox: It had a rich green trim; it showed some futuristic vehicle; it was adorned with the title Land of the Giants. (What's Land of the Giants? I learned something new and important.)
My favourite of the TV lunchboxes was the one for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The artwork, lame on many themed boxes for some inexplicable reason, was absolutely dynamic here: The front-of-box illustration depicted the submarine "Seaview" approaching a giant (giant!) octopus that was resting, but looking mighty angry, with the Flying Sub in its tentacles, on the ocean floor.
I never did get that lunchbox, simply because I never asked for it. My own box was of no TV-theme. It had a tartan pattern with the thermos inside sharing the same pattern. For all its blandness, that lunchbox served me well. When we moved back to Canada there was no need for this piece of school equipment as my school, Frederick Campbell Elementary in CFB Borden, was a few minutes walk from the house. I'd go home, eat, and pop on CFTO and meet The Flintstones.
Also, by this time the television series' Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Land of the Giants had been cancelled. Suddenly their tie-in lunchboxes had become worthless....
Check back here soon for Part Two....