They Remain With Us Through Remembering.

This morning, at 11:00 on the 11th day of the 11th month…I will remember.  I am forever-grateful for the service of my family members…some of them acknowledged here.  I especially remember the 100th anniversary of the armistice and those who represented Canada in World War I, the Great War.  Click on the individual images in order to enlarge.
   

Attics of My Life

I took liberties, borrowing this title…Grateful Dead’s title for a tune on their album, American Beauty.  My brother was listening to Grateful Dead and Gregg Allman (RIP), when I was listening to Three Dog Night and Gordan Lightfoot.

Over the years, I’ve kept some excessively sentimental journal entries, scattered, some in notebooks and some typed up.  I’ve belonged to Brat Newsgroups and followed writing by other children of military fathers.  An excellent novel is based on a very similar life experience during the Cold War: Anne-Marie Macdonald’s Where the Crow Flies.

In The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald takes us back to the early 1960’s, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War–-a world filtered through the imagination of Madeleine McCarthy, a spirited nine-year-old. Unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets, she at first welcomes her family’s posting to a sleepy air force base in southern Ontario.

The base, however, is home to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froehlich family, and the odd Mr. March, whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry. Then tragedy strikes, and a local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As tension in the McCarthy’s household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalty lies, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality–a lesson that will become clear only when the quest for the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.

As Father’s Day approaches and I’m thinking a lot about Dad and my family, but especially Dad, I’m putting together a bit of a reflection.  I am proud of my Dad.  I’m also pleased, in looking back, that I lived what I imagine is an unusual life, with very unique experiences.  As you dwell a bit on your father, you will think the same.  I’ve snapped some photos of bits and pieces and put them in chronological order here.  The writing is sappy and poorly executed for the most part, but, I’m glad that I’ve documented some things.

Sherbrooke, Quebec and my parents met and fell in love.  My parents knew and loved the Fortier family.  We made trips to visit my Gramma and Grampa once we moved away. I remember my Grandmother’s home and her gardens.

Mom and Dad and cool car from old negative

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Summer 2009 100

My brother, John, was born.

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John, Dad and Winston, the dog.  This is either Sherbrooke or Falconbridge; I’m not certain.

Falconbridge, Ontario (Sudbury)

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And a year later, I was born.

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RCAF Falconbridge Circa 50s

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RCAF Falconbridge

Ste. Sylvestre, Quebec…50 miles from Quebec City. Brutal winters with banks of snow up to the tops of our windows.  The birth of my brother, Stuart. Playing in a creek bed some distance from the house. Back yard clotheslines.  Mom, alone, a lot.  I watched my mother sew the dress that she is wearing in the photograph below.  I remember it.

1957 Mom and Dad New Years

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RCAF Ste. Sylvestre

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RCAF Ste. Sylvestre

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Family Car

Ste. Sylvestre with Dad January 1960

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Ste. Margaret’s, New Brunswick...some miles from Chatham.

I guess we didn’t have a camera to snap photographs in Ste. Margaret’s in New Brunswick.  I haven’t any archive for this period, apart from a few bits of ephemera. An old fashioned bell rung outside of the school for my kindergarten and grade one year. I remember my coat hook.  I remember faking that I could play the notes on my recorder.   I remember secretly loving Holmer Berthiaume.  I remember clam digging and clam chowder.  I remember neighbourhood fun.  And, my brother, Cliff, was born.  I broke my collar bone.

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Kath St. Margarets

A neighbour-photographer asked my parents if he could grab some photos of me.  This is one.

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Chatham New Brunswick Rec Center 1967

Recreation Center

Chatham New Brunswick Guard Gate 1966

 

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Battle Creek, Michigan

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This Blog Post was a tribute to a friend, Laurel Barclay, a friend I never forgot.

North Bay, Ontario…three different postings and some very special years.  The dock, Chief Commanda, Expo ’67 and a field trip to Montreal, Winter Carnivals, fishing…

Big Fish

Trout Lake, Cabin stays and learning to play Cribbage, Mr. Carlin and the first inkling that I loved art, hiking through the gully, Gus.

Gus Road Tripping

Gus and the Rambler Station Wagon.

North Bay Couch

My sister, Val, was born.

Mom and Val four months North Bay

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Air Shows 

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My brother, Cliff (Hammer), at one of our annual air shows.

 

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Teen Town

Teen Town RCAF North Bay

 

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I have reconnected with many of the people in this photograph over the years.  Social Media has been a blessing for Military ‘Brats’.IMG_6172

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On I went, during our second posting, to Widdifield High School, grade nine.  My friends were lunch time friends, including Kathleen and Susan.  Debbie Harris took the bus with me to Hornell Heights.  We were walking-to-school friends.  I have since, lost her. Later in life, I painted Miss Mitchell, the librarian, and the Library Club, using a photograph in the 1969 Pendulum as a reference.

Patricia Kirton

Widdifield Year Book 1969 002Widdifield Year Book 1969 001Widdifield Year Book 1969 009

I treasured, most, my time in the art room.  I still have some of my sketches from that time. I reconnected with David Carlin some years ago as he had an exhibit in Callandar when I was on one of my Trans Canada migrations.

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Great Falls, Montana for Grade 10, 11 and 12.  Ramona and I have done well to stay in touch all of these years.

5 of us Great Falls

Livin’ it up on Fox Farm Road!

 

CMR Mona

My best friend, CMR, Ramona

The thing about military people is that they DO have attached to them, many group photographs and records.  I will spare you this collection, but for the sake of my family members, I have photographed Dad’s collection and accessed several that he did not have from on-line research.  If ever you want these, please be in touch.

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Dad, you mean the world to me.  I’m grateful for your love.

Painting Narratives: Saying Enough

Last evening I wrapped up a panel that I’ve been working on over the past few weeks.  I was thinking a lot about the act of painting someone’s story and the privilege of that opportunity.  I think that it’s important to be true to the story, but also to incorporate your own style and approach.  It’s a balance.

The greater themes here are father and child, service to country, sacrifice, connection and transcendence.  I received excellent biographical information from the little girl in this photograph…a young lady now.  Her story is a potent one and initially, it brought me to tears.

Text comes from Walt Whitman’s preface to Leaves of Grass…these were adhered to the panel through transfer. As well, the words Blood and Memory.  To say that Lawrence Hill did not impact this piece would be a fib.  I began painting the commission after listening to him speak of universal truths…I see an artist’s images like he sees the written word and so there is a true responsibility in the marks that I make.

“But I have long loved the written word, and come to see in it the power of the sleeping lion. This is my name. This is who I am. This is how I got here. In the absence of an audience, I will write down my story so that it waits like a restful beast with lungs breathing and heart beating.”
Lawrence Hill, Someone Knows My Name

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem.” Whitman

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Where are you David Carlin?

I painted on a Masonite board while in Mr. Carlin’s class…I still have the original sketches for the painting, “Adam”, that I worked on independently through his grade nine class in 1969.  They were tucked away in my portfolio.  The oil painting has long since disappeared; likely on one of our military moves it didn’t make it onto a truck.  A muscular Adam had his leg wound up tight by a serpent…a very symbolic piece for such a young girl.  It makes me smile today, to remember.

P1120999 P1130001 P1130002It wasn’t long ago that I re-connected with ‘Mr.’ Carlin (amazing how we find difficulty attaching first names to our forever-teachers) through social media and was very excited to acquire one of his amazing pieces, ‘Jester Trickster’, through a 2011 exhibit/fund raiser where he sold his collection in order to generously support his daughter, Sarah, in a new treatment protocol offered in Albany, New York.

Jester Trickster 30 x 22 mixed media

Jester Trickster 30 x 22 mixed media

Mr. Carlin was such an inspiring mentor!  I will never forget him and his ways.  Particularly, I will always remember his sense of humour!  He was so encouraging.  As I journey back in blog-time to the visit with Dad in Ontario (wanted to blog away the poignant moments that held so many lessons while home…but Dad’s computer was too darned slow at the time!), I find myself remembering the decision to miss my 40th high school reunion in Great Falls, Montana and focus, instead, on what it was my Dad and I had to learn together through our grief.  That didn’t mean there weren’t going to be a couple of side trips though.  The trip to Hamilton had been such a blessing later in June.

I knew that my sister was a health nurse at Camp Tawingo again this past summer.  One of the joyful memories of my life was the magic of bumping into Val some years ago at a hotel parking lot in North Bay.  I was on my fourth night of driving east, pulling in from Thunder Bay and she was having her 48 hour break from camp.  It was a fortunate and very serendipitous moment.

a-huge-surprise Why not repeat it?  We decided to combine the opportunity to enjoy an exhibit, Intransit, of David Carlin’s new works with a reunion at the same Super 8 Hotel.  It was a dream to step into the Alex Dufresne Gallery in Callander and have the art work sing out the way it did.  It was spectacular, as was the feeling of excitement that was going on inside me.

As I signed the guest book, Mr. Carlin stepped up behind me, recognizing me immediately.  What a spark of magic that was!  I will never forget it…A drum ceremony opened the event and I felt washed over by good will and creativity.  It was an event I will not soon forget.  It was very quick…very spontaneous…but I needed Mr. Carlin to know that I have never forgotten him.  I also needed to see his work up close.  If ever my readers have the chance to see his art, please do!  Thank you, dear Mr. Carlin, for having been my teacher.

P1110660 P1110662 P1110663 P1110664 P1110665 P1110666PLEASE read this interview for a true sense of who David Carlin is!

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty 

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Five

1973 Christmas Hamilton Trip 006The last time that all five of us were together in one place was Christmas 1973 in North Bay, Ontario.

The thing about being raised in a military family was that it was within me to BE Canadian…I didn’t grow up with a sense of having a home town, but rather, considered our beautiful nation my home.  When I drove the Trans Canada highway recently, each new province held its memories of camp fire singing, of water gazing, of miles of “I Spy” and warnings from the front seat to behave.  I was the person in my group of friends who had to look up my own telephone number in the phone book. My brothers, sister and I fall into a group of Canadians aptly referred to as Military BRATS (Borne, Raised And Transferred Somewhere). As a result of five of us having similar, but different, experiences of military life, we settled across the nation, raised our families and missed one or the other at every single event since those Christmas festivities of 1973, forty years of together-apart and apart-together.

After 40 years, we stood together, a tribute to our parents,late…but at last.

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The Pinetree Line: My Rhyolite, Nevada (Ghost Town of the Mojave Desert)

Ste. Sylvestre 1957

 
Reading this got me thinking about my own Rhyolite, Nevada…not a place somewhere in the Mojave Desert, but a place that drifted off somewhere with the cliched sands of time, regardless. Dad was with NORAD.  In peacetime, he was able to serve Canada for 30 years of his life.  When I was really young, in my mind, my Dad was keeping the entire country stitched together and safe.  Never REALLY feeling secure, we had  bomb shelters in our basements or bunkers nearby.  This was the story of families living on the Pinetree Line.  And now, our homes are ghost towns.
 
Some time ago, Sam of this site, gave me permission to publish his collected photos of one of my own Rhyolite locations as it appears now, abandoned and without purpose.  In some cases, portions of our home bases were re-purposed, but for the most part, for the military ‘brats’ of Canada, these are our ghost towns.  I will try to publish some photos that capture a sense of what one of these bases was like in the 1950s through the 1960s. 
 
It was a different thing to have shuffled from place to place while growing up.  It was a distinct culture and likely our expectations as children were different from those of our civilian friends.  Nothing really felt permanent although our mothers learned to be resourceful, adapting kitchen curtains to fit a whole number of kitchen windows, making furnishings out of apple crates and that sort of thing.  My mother, being particularly skilled, reupholstered sitting chairs from military waiting rooms…things that otherwise, were being tossed for their damaged vinyl seats.  Being on the move required a certain mindset and that was nurtured in all of us.
 

1957 Ste. Sylvestre

 
I know that we bonded closely with our friends, but for a very temporary time.  My parents had us throw candies out the open station wagon windows as we drove away with each new transfer…and through tears, we would watch our friends gather them up while trying to wave good-bye. 
 

My Brother Pulls Me (Sitting in Wagon) Behind His Bike: Ste. Sylvestre

 
Following, is my summary of the facts about a single radar base that I once called home, a place where on more than one occasion, my mother was left alone without a car or driver’s licence, to take care of a growing family while my father made extended trips to both the Mid Canada Line and the Dew Line.  This was Ste. Sylvestre, 50 miles outside of Quebec City.
 

Pinetree Line

 
 
History of the Military Base (1954-1964)
 
In the early fifties, the fear of a Russian invasion from the north prompted the federal government of Canada and the United States to build numerous radar stations.
 
The highest peak of the Quebec territory was Mont Sainte-Marguerite, a part of the Appalachians . This mountain was and still is commonly known as Mont-Radar because of its connection with a military history. Mount Ste-Marguerite in St-Sylvestre, Lotbinière was chosen by the military because of its 2225 foot altitude. Indeed, between 1952 and 1964, during the Cold War , a military base communications administered by the ”  Royal Canadian Air Force  ” was installed. Its existence was placed in the context of NORAD , like about thirty similar bases on the same meridian, which is a shield of observation and communication called the Pinetree Line [1].
 
After four years of construction and an investment of more than five million dollars, a military base six hundred square acres in size, opened its doors September 15, 1953. In January of 1955, it was named  “No. 13 Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron “(13th Squadron). The DND had constructed three control towers operating day and night in order to sustain its adequate aerial surveillance of the area. “Tower Top Secret” whose structure is still present today was built on top of Mount Radar (Mount Ste-Marguerite). The other two, the TX, constructed on top of Mount Handkerchief (2000 ft. alt.) and the RX, were tower transceivers located a kilometer away on the surrounding mountains.
 

Epic Building Construction and Vintage Car

 
The direction of the military base rested on the shoulders of the commander with the support of up to 30 officers. For each section, there was a sergeant, a corporal, airmen and civilians (approximately 90 employees) throughout the year. Activities were organized at the base to improve the social life of people: sports competitions, maple sugar days, winter festivals, air shows and that sort of thing. All of these social activities helped to improve the relationship between the neighbouring town’s people and the military. In the large gatherings, the population was near 800 people, including women and children; only 200 to 300 were soldiers.
 
The village consisted of a number of buildings. At the entrance of the base was the guard house where the identification of persons and objects was required at both the entrance and exit.  This is something I remember on the approach to every community where I lived, something my civilian friends would not have understood or found a little odd.  
 
The buildings on base included the administration offices. The hospital served the civilian and the military population and in close proximity, was a dental clinic.  I was more than once, in awe of my mother when she related the story of a day when my older brother managed to open the oven door.  He was likely five years old at the time and I was a year younger.  It was a cold oven, but no less dangerous than had it been turned on!  He prompted me to climb onto the door alongside him and over the oven came on top of the two of us.  As my mother tells it, she put us, one under each arm, bleeding from our noses, ears and mouths and headed on foot, to the hospital!  God love her!
 

Military Hospital: Mont-Radar

 
A church was divided into two (Catholic and Protestant chapels) to meet the needs of the ethnic communities. Two schools were also built.  They welcomed 140 to 150 students from kindergarten to ninth grade. The Rec Center offered the services of a post office and housed the hairdresser (barber), gift shop, snack bar, grocery store, theater, library, gym, heated swimming pool and bowling alley. What a dream! The fire station, with its rigorous daily inspections, reported no major fires in a decade. A garage ensured the maintenance of military machinery. There was also a filtration plant, a heating chamber, a warehouse and kitchen building. In the latter there were two very busy bars, typically called clubs, offering beer for 10 cents!  To accommodate all these people, there were about seventy-five houses and shacks. Thirty mobile homes and a dozen trailers were added in the early seventies. The decision to cut back began March 12, 1964. The fact was that advances in telecommunications were making ​​redundant the expenses of maintaining such military bases. Soldiers and civilians were gradually transferred to other military bases, including those of St-Hubert, Mount Apica (Laurentides), Valcartier and Moses (Sept-Îles).
 

Summer Ste. Sylvestre

 
 
From 1996 to 2010, two entrepreneurs tried to develop an ecovillage, despite financial difficulties that were exposed in 2010 by a report on Radio-Canada [2] . In 2010 a new developer purchased the domain.
 
My parents have traveled back to the location of the radar base, finding some worn paths and little more than a ghost town.  I have made the same journey back to other homes, to find a similar story.  I will include some photos here.
 

The Hospital

It is possible to see a list of abandoned and partially abandoned sites here.  Thanks to Bruce Forsyth for his research.

Ste. Sylvestre Mont-Radar Courtesy of Borderline Black

 

Going and Coming: Norman Rockwell