Friday, November 30, 2018

Arthur Thomas Steward Part 3 (1960-1970)

loading the Austin aboard the Italia

When Dad left Europe in late 1959 for his new posting in Canada he shipped his car and his family together on a sea crossing that, according to his memory, is best left forgotten. We first took the ferry in Calais across to England one more time again and boarded an Italian passenger ship, the 21,000 ton MS Italia. Mom was getting to be an old hand at this way of life. The voyage across the Atlantic that winter was the most horrendous (in his words) he and my mother had ever experienced, although he remembers me and the rest of my siblings thoroughly enjoyed the rough crossing. . I can imagine what a rambunctious lot we must have been. Arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia just before Christmas we brought in the new year of 1960 freezing in the back of an old Austin A55, wrapped in blankets and heading west across the United States, avoiding the cold Canadian prairies and Rocky Mountains. The new Highway Interstate System was still in its infancy then, only begun three years earlier under President Eisenhower, so it must have been a challenge for Dad to get across the continent in under two weeks. Crossing from Vancouver to Victoria on yet another ferry we made our way up the island to our new home for the next two years - CFB Comox.

The 'Italia'

CFB Comox was originally built as a British Commonwealth Air Training station in 1942 to guard against any possible Japanese threat to North America. It was used until the end of the war as a training squadron for Douglas Dakotas, then Lancasters, Neptunes and in later years the Canadair CP-107 Argus. But when Dad was there the planes of the day that I still remember flying overhead day and night were the 409 Squadron's Avro CF-100 Canuck, a twin engine all weather interceptor and the Canadair CT-33 Silver Star, the primary training aircraft.

CF-100  Canuck
CT-33 Silver Star

Comox, BC, Christmas Day, 1961

PMQ 103C, CFB Comox, British Columbia, 1962

We first lived in PMQs on the Base in PMQs before moving close by to an old house in the town of Courtenay across from the Courtenay River and a small inlet that we came to know as the Slough. It was here we befriended the local fishermen living in their houseboats and spent hours exploring along the riverbank. Dad taught me how to fish the river in Simms park for bullheads and occasionally he would take me hunting and fishing in the rugged Strathcona Provincial Park, a few hours away. We drove down to Victoria often and explored the small towns up and down the Island Highway, spending hours on the many beaches. It was a beautiful area to live in and grow up but, as usual in the military, we were soon uprooted again.

Me, PMQ 103C reading, my favorite pastime, 1961

Me and Lyn, Victoria, BC 1962

Dad and sons, CFB Comox, 1962

After less than two years Dad was on the move again and, surprisingly, it was back to Metz, France! Back in those days the Canadian government had no qualms about moving military personnel and their families back and forth with no regard for expense or the obvious disruption to the children's schooling. So we all said goodbye once more to the few true friends we had been able to make, took a memorable ride on the Canadian Pacific Scenic Dome train through the Rockies and to Ontario and boarded a Yukon aircraft back to Europe. This noisy four engine prop plane took ten hours to go from Trenton to Marville, France where we finally landed tired, hungry and wondering why we were back in France so soon after leaving. Dad headed back at work at the Chateau, in the teletype room and we headed back to finish another broken school year. Because the PMQs for the military personnel had yet to be completed we were housed in a trailer with a built on addition in the small village of Grigy, a few miles from the Headquarters where Dad worked. It was such a small place for a family of five that my brother and I used to shower with Dad in the gymnasium at the HQ every night. It got even more cramped when in May 1963 our youngest sister, Carolyn, was born at the RCAF Station Grostenquin (2 Wing), France, an hour away by car. The family was complete.

Canadair Sabre, Grostenquin, France, 1963

We were thrilled when we were able to move the next year to the newly built PMQs at the ruined remnants of Fort Bellecroix. It was here Richard and I spent our free time exploring the dangerous and scary deserted underground fortresses, often still littered with unexploded shells and  bits of pieces from the last war. Metz was the most heavily fortified city in Europe during this conflict and not the safest place to bring up curious children. In the summer of 1964 Lyn and I began our school year in the new Lycée Géneral Navereau High School, named after the French military governor of Metz. Naturally as he did during his last tour Dad traveled quite a bit whenever he could, taking us around Europe with him, from the WW1 battlefields of France to the Adriatic Sea. At first we all piled into an underpowered VW microbus, then later in a much bigger baby blue '59 Ford Custom car he purchased from an American serviceman who became a good friend to the family. 

Grigy Trailer Court, Grigy, France 1963-65

Canadian military cemetery, France, 1963, with new baby Carolyn

Mom, Dad, Dee, M. Perin. Metz, France 1964

Arromanche, France 1964

St Mark's Square, Venice, Italy 1964

After General DeGaulle's decision to discontinue Canadian and American NATO in 1966 Dad was transferred for a year to 4 Wing in Baden-Soellingen in the Black Forest of West Germany. This base was the home of the Canadair CF-104 Starfighter which we heard roaring overhead constantly. We enjoyed our year in this beautiful part of Europe and were sad to leave in the summer of 1967. And again, unbelievably, we were headed back to British Columbia! Before leaving Germany Dad bought a new car, a '67 Pontiac Tempest which he had shipped over to Canada. Once again we were to endure another long trek across the continent, this time in the hot summer month of July, driving and camping through the United States, before heading north to Vancouver.

Canadair CF-104 Starfighter

Mom with Carolyn and Diane, Pontiac Tempest, West Germany, 1967

Dad new posting was in Jericho Park, Vancouver and he settled the family into a small house in the town of Port Moody, just outside of  Vancouver at the end of Burrard Inlet. It was a beautiful area and a short drive into the city and I spent a lot of time there between school and friends. Mom found work as a secretary at a local flying school in Pitt Meadows, buying herself a little Mini to go back and forth. After graduating from high school I worked at various jobs, bought a car and the following summer joined the Canadian Navy. Dad stayed in BC until 1969 when new orders came in. It was again going to be another major move for him and the rest of the family - all the way to New Brunswick in the east coast. He bought a truck and trailer and said goodbye to the west coast one more time. He hated New Brunswick and the  cold, snow and ugly blocks of brown ice piling up in the Petitcodiac River visible from their new home. Canadian Forces Station Coverdale would be his last posting for with word of the planned closure of the Station in the following June and all personnel scheduled to be sent to Gander, Newfoundland as 770 Communications Research Squadron, Dad finally took up his brother Harry's advice and headed south to Florida. It was 1971.  gws

Mom, Pitt Meadows, BC, 1968
Me, sisters Diane and Carolyn, Port Moody, BC 1969

Harry and Jerri, St. Pete, Florida, 1970

Dad, Moncton, New Brunswick, 1970

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Arthur Thomas Steward Part 2 (1947-1959)

Dad, Durban, April 1947

After the war and his discharge from the Union Defence Force Dad decided to stay in Durban, until the death of his father in 1947.  His brother Harry, who had been released in good health from the prisoner of war camp in Germany in 1945, had gone to England and there, in the seaside resort town of Brighton, married his first wife Yvonne Worten. Dad felt it was finally time to go and introduce himself to my mother to whom he had been writing for about four years now. Late that year he boarded a Union Castle liner for Southampton. Mom was waiting on the jetty when he arrived and they met for the first time. They took the train to Canterbury to meet Mom's parents, William and Hilda Arman and, after a few months, announced their engagement.

Mom, May 1947, Canterbury, England, age 19

Mom and Dad, Chartham Hatch, England, 1948

outside the comedian Tommy Trinder show at the London Palladium, 1948

Dad, Ashford Road, near Chartham Hatch, 1948

On June 26, 1948 my mother and father were married in the 700 year old parish church of St. Mary's in the village of Chartham, a few miles outside Canterbury. The reception was held in an old windmill converted to a restaurant, the Windmill Tea Rooms in Canterbury. They didn't remain long in England after the wedding, having booked passage back to South Africa. They had to wait until September as the ships were booked to capacity with new immigrants. South Africa had just gone through a general election a few months earlier, a turning point in the country's history, when the winning National Party officially ushered in the era of formal, legally binding apartheid (racial segregation). The rest of the Commonwealth leaders were promptly informed not to interfere in South Africa's domestic affairs. I'm sure it was quite a cultural shock for my mother when she stepped off the Carnarvon Castle at the A-berth in Cape Town that cool African spring day.


After a two day train trip to Johannesburg to seek their fortunes they returned to Cape Town. According to them both they were not impressed with the city and later admitted in hindsight they hadn't given it a fair chance to grow on them. But of course Jo'burg in 1948 was still in chaos, a city trying to cope with a steady stream of Natives arriving from the countryside, a place of cramped shanties and camps and strict pass laws, hardly comparable to the green hop and apple fields and peaceful villages that Mom had grown up to love. Cape Town appealed to them though and, as they had found a place to stay, set about to look for employment there. Dad found a job as a driver-salesman with the local Coca Cola Company, Mom as a shorthand typist. But she soon found out she was pregnant with my sister Lynette, who was born the following year on April 25th. In October 1949, when Lyn was 6 months old, Mom sailed to England on the R.M.M.V. Stirling Castle to visit with her parents and relatives and to show off her new baby girl. She was staying in a small cottage in the countryside near Canterbury and it was there in the summer of 1950 I was born. It was June 25th and my Mom's birthday, an auspicious occasion for sure! Dad, who had stayed behind in South Africa finally quit his job and followed her north to Europe, sailing from Cape Town, via Madeira, to Southampton on the R.M.M.V. Warwick Castle on the 30th June to meet his new son. After he had settled in Canterbury Dad's half-sister Eileen and her newborn baby came to spend a few days with them. While there she accidently rolled onto the child and it suffocated. They never saw her again after this incident but Dad's brother Harry later told them she was married to an Irishman and had a very large brood of children. When I was a few months old Mom and Dad drove down to Southampton to look for his mother, now married to a dentist, Wally Hammond. She had had four more children by then whom they met but never actually kept in touch afterwards. This was the last time Dad ever saw his mother, having only learned about her death in 1984.

Dad, Coca Cola Co., Cape Town , 1948

Mom, Dad and Lyn (above and in carriage), The Gardens, Cape Town, Sept 1949

Dad, 10th from left,  Coca Cola Co, Mowbray, Cape Town (with Table Mountain behind) 1949

postcard Mom sent to her parents of approaching cable car, Table Mountain aerial tramway, Cape Town, 1949

Wally Hammond's brother Peter, Nally and Dad's mother, England, early 50s
In 1950 Dad was working for an English soft drink company, touring the country and opening new accounts. He enjoyed life in their little cottage and was intrigued with the ancient history of Great Britain that he found everywhere in his journeys. But it wasn't to last. As he always had the travel bug he decided in 1951 to book passage to South Africa but at the last minute changed his mind. His brother Harry, now living in Florida, had contacted him, suggesting he move there. He would enjoy the climate that was so much like the country he had left. Why he didn't follow this up is not known but the decision next was made to immigrate to Canada instead. It was still difficult to get passage to any of the Commonwealth countries in 1951 as so many people from Great Britain were anxious to start a new life elsewhere after the war years. Dad left in October on the T.S.S. Canberra , leaving me, my sister and mother at Primrose Villa in Chartham Hatch with her parents. It was not the most pleasant time to traverse the Atlantic Ocean but, as a former mess boy on a much smaller whaling ship, he probably fared better than most of his fellow passengers. He arrived in Canada for the first time a week later, landing in Quebec City with Mike, an Irishman he had befriended on the voyage over. 

awaiting to go to Canada, me, Mom and Lyn, Chartham Hatch, spring 1952

T.S.S. Canberra - Southampton to Quebec, Oct-Non 1951

After disembarking they boarded a train for Toronto to seek their fortune. It was now November, cold and miserable for someone who had grown up in the sunny climes of South Africa and it would be the Canadian winters that would inevitably haunt him for the next twenty years. They found a Polish boarding house in the city and Dad found a part time job in a department store selling of all things - ice hockey skates. He was laid off after the Christmas season and he and Mike started perusing various Canadian newspapers in the local library for possible work. They eventually determined Edmonton could be the place to find a permanent job so set off by bus, arriving in the Alberta capital after four days on the road. Dressed only in a thin English raincoat Dad was shocked to find the temperature a balmy 19 below zero! After a week or so of coming up blank they walked into the warmth of the Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting station they had seen a few times wandering about. They were told if they had an honorable discharge from any other Commonwealth country they would be accepted. For Dad it was a long and happy period of his life he never regretted. He did his training in the communication field in Quebec and on completion was posted to RCAF Station Clinton, a training base for No.1 Radar and Communications school near Goderich, a small town on Lake Huron, in Ontario. It was this time, the spring of 1952, that he sent for the family. We said goodbye again to my Grandfather Arman who was now a widower, his wife having passed away the previous December. On 22nd May 1952, my mother, myself and sister Lynette boarded the R.M.S. Scythia in Southampton and crossed the Atlantic to Quebec City. After steaming 2765 miles we arrived in Canada on the 29th, then travelled by train to Ontario.

St Jean, Quebec, Dad (Mike far right) 1952
Dad, me and Lyn, Goderich, Ontario, August 1952

Dad with Lyn and his first car in Canada, '29 Essex coupé , Goderich, Ontario, Sept 1952

A few months later he was posted to the newly opened  RCAF radar station in Foymount, Ontario. The Station was part of the Pinetree Line of NORAD radar stations, No. 32 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. The Pinetree Line was first conceived during the Cold War when fears of a Soviet air attack against North America were high and 33 of these radar stations would eventually stretch from coast to coast across Canada. RCAF Station Foymount was built in 1950 when I was born and it was here I would have my first memories of military life. At that time there was no base housing so Dad found a log cabin on a lake close by. That winter Mom had to take an axe and break the ice covering the lake for water whenever the outside pump froze. Dad recalls it was quite the experience listening to wolves howling outside at night, but the family warm and safe inside by a huge pot bellied stove. The new PMQ (Permanent Married Quarters) on the station was eventually ready and we moved in, enjoying the luxury of central heating and hot water once more. Just before Dad was posted again my brother Richard was born in August 1954 at the nearest hospital, in the town of Pembroke.

Dad, me and Lyn, Foymount, Ontario 1952
Foymount 1953
our PMQ , Foymount, Ont

Richard and Mom, St Hubert, Quebec, 1955

Late in 1954 Dad was sent to St Hubert in the province of  Quebec where, once he had found accommodations, we joined him. RCAF Station St Hubert had been established in WWII at the Montreal-St Hubert airport first as home to a British Commonwealth Air Training school, then hosting two CF 100 all-weather fighter squadrons. When Dad was there it was part of Air Defence Command where information from all the radar stations across Canada would be sent for analysis and action. The 401 Squadron active there later departed for 1 Wing in Marville, France. Dad's posting in St Hubert was only until 1955 because it seemed he was going to follow the Squadron to Europe for the next three years. We took a train to Halifax, NS and boarded a boat for England, arriving just before Christmas at my Grandfather's home in Chartham Hatch. Naturally after being alone for the past four years he was thrilled to see us again.

Grandpop Bill Arman with Vicky, Chartham Hatch, England

Dad left the family in England early in 1956 and took the ferry over to France to join his new section in Metz, a city in the northeast part of the prefecture of Moselle, as well as to again find accommodations for us all. It was to be his first of two tours in Europe, what he called 'a coveted overseas transfer'. To meet NATO's air defence commitments during the Cold War, No. 1 Air Division RCAF was established in Europe in the early 1950s with four bases - RCAF Station Marville (No.1 Wing) and RCAF Station Grostenquin (No.2 Wing) in France and RCAF Station Zweibrucken (No.3 Wing) and RCAF Station Baden-Soellingen (No.4 Wing) in West Germany. The headquarters for these fighter wings was in Metz, France (which had previously been located in Paris until 1953). Dad's place of work would be in the telecommunications section in the basement of the battle-scarred Chateau de Mercy, about three miles from the city.

Dad (back row) and RCAF Airmen, Air Div HQ' Metz, France, 1956

Metz, a city steeped in history and founded 3000 years ago was once a major center of the Roman Empire and an important trade and financial center throughout the Middle Ages. Much of the old town which we all got to know so well hadn't changed much in hundreds of years. The city was captured by the Germans in the Franco-German War in 1870 and held until 1918 so much of the architecture and military installations date from this era. Metz was returned to France after WWI and it continued as a major military center before and after WWII. When we arrived it had been just ten years since the last war and I can still remember the damage and evidence of the fighting that took place there that had yet to be repaired. Dad had found an apartment in the small village of Sainte-Ruffine on the outskirts of the city. We had to enter through a high-walled courtyard, typical of the old homes there, and go past dozens of chickens and large dogs which terrified me. My earliest memories of this village was catching lizards on the stone walls lining the streets and getting bit by one of these German Shepherds. Our landlords, Monsieur and Madame Perin would become good friends of the family over the years.

church at end of our street, Saint-Ruffine, France 1956

Dad's first car in Europe, a '53 Triumph Mayflower, Nancy, France  1957

Mme Perin, Dee, Lyn, Mom, M. Perin, Rich, Paulo, Lucienne and me, Metz, 1959


With Grandpop Arman, Calais top, Germany, with Dad middle and Luxembourg bottom, 1956 

Richard and Dad, Metz, 1956

We travelled extensively during Dad's tour whenever we could, visiting Italy, Holland, Belgium and,Luxembourg and often going back and forth to England to visit my mother's Father or bringing him back with us to France. In October 1958 my second sister, Diane, was born at the Canadian military hospital in Marville, 50 miles away. The next summer Dad and the family made a trip to Lagaro, a small village between Bologna and Florence in northern Italy to meet up with the family he had billeted with during the war. He often talked about his 'Italian mamma' and her family and how well he was treated as a young soldier. I stayed in England with some distant relatives of my mother so have no memories of that trip.

Gastogne, Dad, Mamma, Bruno, Evalina and Gabriella, Lagaro, Italy 1959

Late in 1959 Dad was posted back to Canada, but before leaving, he and Mom decided finally to take out their Canadian citizenship. Vancouver Island, in beautiful British Columbia was to be our new home for the next three years. It was 8075 kilometers away by plane but unfortunately at that time Dad was not allowed the luxury of flying. So we had a week of seasickness crossing the Atlantic then a two week car ride in the dead of a Canadian winter to look forward to.    gws

See the source image
the main gate, No.1 Air Division Headquarters

Chateau de Mercy, 1956

Longeville-les-Metz, Mom holding new sister Diane, August 1959