School CrestLooking for the MCHS ’60s Reunion & Celebration of the ’60s? The event turned out beautifully. The Oct. 17, 2015 reunion was attended by over 60 people. For the backstory, Click Here!

In the years since the 2015 reunion, some MCHS grads now continue to meet regularly for lunch in Toronto and elsewhere. MCHS grads and former students (from all graduation years) and family and friends are welcome to join us. Contact me for details.

Over the years, some posts at this website have been read by particularly large numbers of site visitors. I’ve learned many things just by knowing what site visitors are especially interested in.

Click here to access a list of some popular posts – past & present >

My name is Jaan Pill; I’m a documentary maker, writer, and beginner practitioner of mindfulness. I have an interest in verbatim theatre. I began interviewing people a half-century ago.  I helped organize a reunion in Toronto in 2015 for a high school I attended in Montreal. A retired elementary teacher, I most recently taught at Munden Park Public School in Mississauga. Years ago, I went by the name John Jaan Pill until a colleague suggested I go with my Estonian name.

Many people have reconnected through this website, sometimes after a half-century or more.

PLEASE NOTE: At times, messages sent to me through this website have ended up in the spam folder in my email system, which gets automatically emptied out after 30 days. These days (unlike in days past) I check my spam folder carefully but some previous messages may now be lost. If you have not heard back from me, please contact me again via this website or send a message to my email address:

In 1990 I made presentations in Estonia leading to the founding of the Estonian Stuttering Association (1993); I made another presentation in Estonia in 2018. I am also founder of the Stuttering Association of Toronto (1988) and co-founder of the Canadian Stuttering Association (1991) and International Stuttering Association (1995). When active in such work, I had no idea what I was getting into and no idea how much work would be involved. That was a good way to get involved. The key to all of this was just thinking things through, planning ahead (sometimes five years ahead), and putting in the hours. It was also an opportune time: the time was right for the setting up of each of these valuable nonprofit organizations.

My approach has always been very simple. As a volunteer, I’ve made it a point to find out what people want to do. Then I work with people to get it done. For organizational structures, the key is to spend the time to work together to build a strong foundation and a culture that foregrounds input from the grassroots and a focus on leadership succession.

In my experience, a strong culture of leadership succession increases the likelihood of long-term success for non-profit organizations. The best way to establish it is to include leadership succession in the organization’s constitution and bylaws. I’m also keen about the concept that non-profit organizations can serve a public good by providing an impartial forum for the sharing of information – so long as the information is evidence-based and not presented in service of scams and scamming.

I came across the importance of leadership succession during a two-month period of research leading up to launch of the Stuttering Association of Toronto in 1988. Over three decades later, I still think about how important a brief conversation can be when planning the launch of any organization, event, or project. Planning matters hugely.

During the research in 1988, one of the people I spoke with, Tony Higgs of Toronto, said that local self-help groups come and go all the time. That’s because the founder moves on to other things and the momentum is lost. After that comment, it occurred to me that any group I’m involved in founding has to have leadership succession built right into its structure. With every group I’ve been in involved in starting up, I’ve kept the concept of leadership succession very closely in mind.

I’ve been writing reports and articles for varied purposes and publications since the 1960s. In recent years, I’ve become involved with local history with a particular interest in fact-checking related to this form of history. At times, local historians just repeat what somebody else has said, without seeking verification and corroboration. For example, Colonel Smith’s log cabin (built in 1797) in Long Branch, South Etobicoke, got torn down in 1955. If you think it happened in 1952, you’ve been misled.

In July 2018 we sold our house in Long Branch; in October 2018 we moved to Stratford. As I’ve come to learn, the launch of the Stratford Festival was a historic achievement.

In Tyrone Guthrie’s recollection, the most influential factor ensuring the launch of the Stratford Festival on July 13, 1953 was its timeliness.

Other key factors, noted by Guthrie among others, were the organizing committee; quality of the plays; construction of a thrust stage (as opposed to a standard proscenium stage); publicity by Mary Jolliffe; crucial financial resources that came through at just the right moments; and the vision and perseverance of Tom Patterson.

Guthrie viewed theatre as ritual, a characterization that the thrust stage enables. In such a ritual, audience members (seeing each other across the open stage, as they are seated on three sides of it) are at all times aware of each other’s presence. That stands in contrast to theatre as illusion, a characterization that the proscenium stage (with audience members all looking in the same direction) enables.

In Blessings in Disguise (1985), Alex Guinness describes, succinctly and with good humour, the launch of the Stratford Festival. He takes a more nuanced view, perhaps, regarding the features of the thrust stage, in comparison to Guthrie. The actor’s views and practical experience matter hugely, Guinness adds, when design decisions related to dimensions of a theatrical stage, and the like, are made.

Erving Goffman

I have an interest in how we view things – a topic that the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman has explored. Blogs about Goffman’s work – based upon a dramaturgical perspective on social interaction – have been among the most widely read posts at this website. That fact originally came as a surprise for me as I had assumed not many would be interested.

Previous posts about scams and scamming have also been widely read. I began writing about the topic after a war veteran contacted me.

I’ve organized many Jane’s Walks in collaboration with Mike James of Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

My Vimeo videos can be viewed online. I also have some videos on YouTube, on topics such as teasing and bullying of children who stutter.

The banner at top of the page shows Aquaview Condos at Forty Second St. and Lake Shore Blvd. West in Long Branch (across from Long Branch GO station) during construction. My documentation of the construction – which began with daily walks around the site perimeter with our family dog – played a key role in subsequent efforts to keep Parkview School in public hands.

Some of the most important networking, as soon as we heard that Parkview School was going to be sold, took place when people in the neighbourhood stopped to talk while dog walking. Dogs were key players in saving of the school.

Oct. 17, 2015 Malcolm Campbell High School Sixties Reunion was an outstanding success

Based on comments from attendees, the Oct. 17, 2015 MCHS ’60s Reunion was an outstanding success. A newsletter by Howard Hight of Boston and Diana Redden of Vancouver to our reunion database did a great job (we owe them many thanks) in keeping people informed and excited during the planning.

As an organizer, I want to express a huge thanks to all of the grads – as well as to MCHS Phys Ed teacher Soryl (Shulman) Rosenberg – who shared great stories, and provided great entertainment – including displays of prowess on the dance floor, and the playing of ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes. The latter tune, piped by Scott Munro, was in memory of MCHS students and teachers who have passed away.

On Nov. 17, 2015 in Toronto, Soryl Rosenberg read out a message from Graeme Decarie, an early-1960s MCHS History teacher, who was unable to attend but remains in touch with us. Soryl also presented an entertaining Show and Tell from her early-1960s career as a teacher at MCHS.

I meet regularly (with a long break during the pandemic) with MCHS alumni at luncheons in Toronto, Kitchener, and elsewhere. As the years pass, there is tremendous value in our meetings at a restaurant or picnic, in whichever city we may find ourselves in. Please contact me at if you are interested in being on the mailing list for regular small-scale MCHS luncheons in these two cities. Doesn’t matter what year you graduated. Friends and relatives of MCHS grads are also welcome to attend our luncheons.

This website was designed by Walden Small Business Marketing. I got help from Maestra Web Design with launching of the site in 2010. My headshot is by Walter Psotka. I learned about Walden, Walter Psotka, and Planet Dentistry from Executive Coach Barbara Lawson, to whom I owe many thanks.

I’ve kept in place a lot of pages, that we set up for the MCHS 2015 Reunion.

We celebrate our reconnections

A good number of people have renewed contact with each other, sometimes after fifty or sixty years, as a result of information that’s been shared at this website. At other times, people have received help from other site visitors thereby enabling them to track down vital information from the past. I’m really pleased the site serves such a useful purpose.

PLEASE NOTE: At times, messages sent to me through this website have ended up in the spam folder in my email system, which gets automatically emptied out after 30 days. These days (unlike in days past) I check my spam folder carefully but some previous messages may now be lost. If you have not heard back from me, please contact me again via this website or send a message to my email address:

 Visit Jaan on LinkedInVisit Jaan's Vimeo profileVisit Jaan's Google+ profile

42 replies
  1. Jaan Pill in response to a comment from Bob Whyte
    Jaan Pill in response to a comment from Bob Whyte says:

    Hi Bob & Eleanor Whyte – Great to have your address. I have mailed the MCHS 1961-62 to 1973-74 MCHS yearbooks DVD to you. Very much looking forward to posting your overview, Bob, which I know will be of interest to many people, of your memories of Malcolm Campbell High School dating back to the early 1960s.



    • Diana Rowland
      Diana Rowland says:

      Through a huge coincidence I just spent an hour on the phone with a stranger who, it turns out, also went to Malcolm Campbell and lived a five minute walk away from my house …. this has led me to look into what I could find re alumni and, hence, to this website and to you, who has a file with all the yearbooks that would be of interest to me – I graduated in 1964 and my siblings a few years later … I’d love to have those yearbooks if you get this message and let me know how to order …. WOW!!
      – Diana Rowland, class of ’64

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I’m pleased to say that I’ve received a message at the Preserved Stories website from Anne Tait of Toronto, author of Li Jun and the Iron Road (2015), in response to my re-tweet of the following message from @dundurnpress:

    “Congrats @annetaitauthor on your nomination for CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens spring 2016 award! @kidsbookcentre #LiJunandtheIronRoad”

    Anne Tait writes:

    As you can judge, Jaan, I’m new to the Twitter world so I don’t know how to reply there to your re-tweet about my CCBC nomination for my FIRST novel, based on the movie I produced about the Chinese building our railroad.

    We have a lot in common: film, writing, mindfulness and more. Thanks for your interest in my novel, which has had wonderful reviews. The trailer for the book is on vimeo & youtube – take a look.

    Anne Tait, Toronto

    Jaan Pill replied: I look forward to reading your novel, Anne!

    Additional comment from Jaan: CCBC is the Canada China Business Council, a bilateral non-profit organization.

    Anne Tait adds the following:

    The book launch was wonderful and covered by a TV interview with me at

    and there’s a great video trailer at

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    “Imaginative geographies” is a concept that is related to the “geographical imagination.”

    A useful related resource is the The Poetics of Space (1994). The latter book, by Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), was originally published some decades prior to 1994.

    A blurb at the Toronto Public Library (TPL) website reads:

    Thirty years since its first publication in English, French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space one of the most appealing and lyrical explorations of home. Bachelard takes us on a journey, from cellar to attic, to show how our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories, and dreams.

    [End of text]

    Author note: Gaston Bachelard

    An author note at the TPL website reads:

    Born in Bar-sur-Aube, France, in 1884, Gaston Bachelard received his doctorate in 1927. He became professor of philosophy at the University of Dijon in 1930, and held the chair in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris from 1940 to 1954.

    In epistemology and the philosophy of science, Bachelard espoused a dialectical rationalism, or dialogue between reason and experience. He rejected the Cartesian conception of scientific truths as immutable; he insisted on experiment as well as mathematics in the development of science. Bachelard described the cooperation between the two as a philosophy of saying no, of being ever ready to revise or abandon the established framework of scientific theory to express the new discoveries.

    In addition to his contributions to the epistemological foundations of science, Bachelard explored the role of reverie and emotion in the expressions of both science and more imaginative thinking. His psychological explanations of the four elements-earth, air, fire, water-illustrate this almost poetic aspect of his philosophy.


    The book is listed at the Toronto Public Library website under the categories (for which I have provided live links) of:



    Space and time

  4. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Airplane Counting

    When I woke up the other morning I could see the jets heading for Pearson International Airport in Toronto. As I lay there summoning up the energy to get out of bed and start my day, I counted the seconds between airplanes coming in to land at Pearson. The timing amounted to 60 seconds between one large commercial jet and the next.

    What surprised me the most is that there was a never-ending line of incoming jets, each looking forward to the final landing after probably circling for some time waiting their turn to finally touch down with their precious cargo.

    It prompted me to think of my youth and a particular bicycle trip I made with my brother on a couple of old bicycles we owned which were probably built in the 30s or 40s. Leaving the village of Saraguay, our goal that day was Montreal’s Dorval airport to watch the airplanes land.

    I must have been about 8 or 9 years old at the time so we have to be talking 1952 or 53. Of course, kids have no concept of time and when it started to turn cold and get dark we realized we should have ended this amazing day a long time before we did.

    What you need to put in your mind is that the route we took, along what became De Sources Road in Dollard des Ormeaux was nothing more than a connection road for the various farms along both sides of it. Their was no suburbia out there at that point.

    Well, we had a great day of it but soon forgot how cold the nights got in in Montreal. It was bitterly cold that night and we got to the point of wondering if we would survive it as we rode home. Finally our only solution was to knock on a farmer’s door and hope they understood our plight.

    The old farmer’s wife had probably lived there for all of her life and although she did not speak English she quickly understood our situation and invited us in to warm up. Seeing how cold we were I remember the bowl of lukewarm water she gave us to put our almost frozen hands in to slowly warm them up.

    I will never forget that kind old lady who by now would probably be 150 years old if she was still alive. She understood that we were young and needed help. Our physical state, transposed her into our angel that evening and I am sure who we were, what we believed, what language we spoke or understood did not matter. Her natural maternal instincts kicked in and she was going to see we got the best she could offer.

    I do not remember how we got home from there as my parents did not own a car at that point having just had a new house built. I think we just peddled as fast as we could and probably did the last five miles in record time.

    Plane-spotting has been a hobby of many since the early days of flight. During the wars of the 20th century it became an art for both sides of the battle. Today we look back at the many thousands of young men who died in those wars having chosen to be flyers rather than soldiers.

    As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we have to think back to our own youth and wonder, why is it we survived and so many others gave their lives so our way of life could go on? I do not expect to be here when we celebrate the end of WWII as I would have to be 101 years old and it is not in my genetic makeup. Nevertheless, one can only look back into one’s own memories of the past and try to connect to those that counted. This is one of those memories.

  5. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Wonderful to read your overview, Bob. One of the interesting things about Pearson Airport is that part of it’s in Toronto yet the larger portion of it is in Mississauga. It’s one of the little details of life that I’ve picked up while recently following the Air Traffic Noise story occasioned by the work in the Spring of 2017 on Runway 05-23.

    When I was a child growing up in Cartierville in Montreal, a friend and I would sometimes ride our bikes to Canadair and watch small fighter jets taking off. They made a huge roar as I recall. Looking forward to our next lunchtime get together, along with a few other of our fellow students from Malcolm Campbell High School in the 1960s. The time has gone quickly – the years have come and gone. It’s great to stay in touch with friends from way back then.

    • Bob Carswell
      Bob Carswell says:

      I just read your comment about the noise of the jet engines and thought I would add a personal observation. The runway going slightly NW of Canadair as it was then known was extended at one point across Bois Franc Road to accommodate these new CF-104s as they were known back then. Unfortunately that put them directly in line with our house in Saraguay and at any point I could go outside, look up and see the underbelly of one skimming our rooftop, almost as if I could reach up and touch it. The noise was deafening and I often wondered how my mother was able to stand the noise day in and day out as a stay-at-home wife and mother of four. I suppose it just became part of the noises of the day….but I would love to know how many test flights actually were conducted for each plane leaving the airport. It’s first flight was on May 26, 1961. Canadair was the home for Lockheed’s Canadian production in those days and 200 were manufactured there for the RCAF. Then an additional 140 F-104Gs were produced for Lockheed’s U.S. firm so a total of 340 aircraft constantly being tested and retested probably still rings in my mother’s ears even now 12 years after she died of old age and was cremated. I know the sound so well, I could identify one flying overhead if it ever came to the CNE airshow here in Toronto.

  6. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Jaan, I will forward the photos by email for you to include with the captions.

    SEVENTY YEARS AGO…..I remember it well.
    This is the story of a child who learned at a very young age that what he saw would stick with him throughout his life. It is the story of his firs t baseball game as a fan, his first hotdog and a memory that would last forever. This is Delorimier Stadium, circa 1933.

    It was the summer of 1946 and my first trip to Delorimier Stadium with my brother and parents to see the Montreal Royals play baseball. I remember the high glass windows at the entrance and the taste of my first hot dog. I also remember the slats of wood for seats set in cement.

    I also remember the one unusual thing I saw that day and never forgot. It was the first black baseball player I had ever seen. It was actually Jackie Robinson, destined for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1947 season, the first black player to crack the all-white barrier. This memory sticks with me to this day. I was 1-1/2 years old.

    The following photograph of Jackie Robinson was taken on his first day as a Montreal Royal player. Unfortunately, he only lived to be 52 dying from a heart attack but his legacy will stand forever. A college graduate who excelled in baseball, football, basketball and track, he was an officer in the army during WWII but was given and honorable discharge when he chose to sit in the front of a bus.

    In 1962 he was installed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers he was named Rookie of the Year. In 1955 he also played on the team that won the World Series. In the first 5 years of his career, another 150 black players were signed to minor and major leagues.

    Jackie Robinson led the movement that change the whole face of baseball and had a lot to do with the integration of blacks into the U.S. society. For more than 70 years I have had this image of a black baseball player in my mind always reminding me of my first day watching baseball. It was also his first day with the Montreal Royals.

    Jackie Robinson on his first day

    [I’ll post your photo soon Bob!]

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      Over the past week I’ve been reading Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat (2017).

      I’ve also been reading A Most Ungentlemanly Way of War: The SOE and the Canadian Connection (2015).

      I’m getting acquainted with several books that deal with this and related subjects.

      I became interested in these topics first of all because years ago I met Dorothy Maclean on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, and she once mentioned that she had worked with Sir William Stephenson during the Second World War. I wanted to learn everything I could about Stephenson’s role in running Britain’s security apparatus in the Americas during the Second World War. A discussion on pp. 42-52 of A Most Ungentlemanly Way of War (2015) provides a good overview of his career.

      My second interest concerns the role that women played on behalf of the Allied side during the Second World War. My interest in that topic stems from my interest in the story of the Small Arms Building in Mississauga, concerning which I have spent recent years visiting, and writing posts about. There is so much to learn!

      Good to read several sources about the same topic – in this case, “irregular warfare” in the Second World War

      When I read about a subject, I like to read as many accounts as I can, about the topic at hand. I want to know what the primary sources are, what the secondary sources are, and what frameworks and narrative structures are brought into play in presentation of the accounts.

      Just by way of example, Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2017) is written by a journalist who has written a number of books of a similar nature related to military history.

      So, that is one way to produce an account of selected events from World War Two. On the other hand, A Most Ungentlemanly Way of War (2015) is written by a Canadian military person. The are inevitably differences in the frameworks and narrative structures that the reader will encounter, in each of these books. I mention these books as solely two examples.

      Here are some quick notes about the above-noted account written by a journalist. That is, I refer to Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2017). I would say, just off the top of my head, that the book provides an entertaining film noir version of irregular warfare in the Second World War.

      The strengths of such an approach include the entertainment value. The drawback is that, of necessity, such an approach must leave out quite a bit of material, in order to get the story on the road. Overall, the book is a valuable part of my own study of the events and personalities under discussion.

      So, let’s say the same thing in another way. The book under review is an effective form of PR writing. I am reminded of Time, Newsweek, and the old Life Magazine. The facts are presented, and the presentation of the facts is managed by a team of editors to create a particular view of reality.

      When you work with PR (as I have done for many years as a volunteer, in particular in my days as a co-founder of varied national and international non-profit organizations), the story is of necessity managed to suit the PR requirements. This particular book manages the PR really well. The story moves along briskly and (unlike life), every part of the story fits in perfectly. This is a great book. I recommend it highly!

  7. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    The First Hot Water Boiler in Ontario

    When John Kerr McKinley’s father died at age 36 in 1854, his mother married his best friend until he also died ten years later. At this point his mother was getting on in age and it was decided a move from Montreal to Ottawa to be near her younger brother would solve their financial situation.

    John Kerr McKinley joined Mr. and Mrs. Eddy as general manager of their new Canadian match company. He once told stories of sitting at the table with Mrs. Eddy while she individually made each match. There was a very close relationship between him and the family as he became the son they never had. When Mr. Eddy died, his wife decided to move back to the USA and her family there.

    John McKinley went on to work for his mother’s younger brother in the firm of Blyth & Kerr, plumbers and steamfitters. On the death of the two partners John McKinley and William Northwood the firm’s accountant formed the firm of McKinley & Northwood, plumbers, gas fitters and hardware manufacturers.

    At some point in their career William McKinley was credited with installing the first hot water boiler in Ontario, in some respects a tradition in the Carswell family whose great great great grandfather installed the first indoor plumbing in the structures he built in Glasgow from 1790 to 1840.

    John Kerr McKinley became a highly respected Ottawa businessman and took on large projects all over the province including the Sudbury General Hospital plumbing and steamfitting. In 1938 an artist’s rendition of his likeness appeared in the Ottawa Citizen under the heading “BELIEVERS IN CANADA” along with his story. He would live anther 5 years dying at age 87, within a year of both of his sons.

  8. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    A Boy Named Sue

    In 1969 Johnny Cash release his song “A Boy Named Sue” on his AT SAN QUENTIN album. On September 16th it reached No. 1 on the country charts. Not ever planned to be released, his wife June Carter suggested that his audience at San Quentin might be a good place to release it as it deals with the boy trying to kill his father, something not too far from home for some of them.

    That night, it was completely unrehearsed. The song was written by Shel Silverstein, a noted poet, cartoonist and humorist after a conversation with his friend Jean Shepherd who relayed his childhood dismay at what other kids perceived to be a girl’s name.

    Sometimes a song hits closer to home than some people realize. My Irish great uncle used to call me “Smilerbun” because I always had a smile on my face. When I was born on November 18th, 1944 in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, my mother was alone raising my older brother.

    Everything was planned. Her girlfriend from the WAAF was going to be there to see her through it and I was going to be born in a local private hospital under the care of a doctor. I arrived at noon Double Summer time and still have yet to figure that out in western time.

    The night before, my mother’s girlfriend asked what names she had settled on. My mother, expecting to have a daughter this time around had picked “Lesley Susan.” My father had returned to Canada on special leave at that point to visit a dying mother who had lost one kidney and was slowly wilting away as the other failed. Dialysis wasn’t an option in those days. I inherited her problem and lost my first kidney at age 15.

    My father expecting to go back after the war to his family in England was grounded and since they were sending few pilots overseas at that point, was given a variety of jobs to do in Canada. On an administration course at RCAF Trenton in October 1944, he was assigned as station adjutant of No. 10 Early Flying Training School at Pendleton, Ontario, a village outside of Ottawa. He would eventually assume command of the base and keep it operational with a staff of a thousand while not doing any training, just in case it was needed again before the war ended.

    “So what are you going to name your son, if you have one?” came the question from the girlfriend. “Oh, I never thought of that,” came my mother’s reply. So it was that I became Robert Anthony Carswell the next day. The “Lesley Susan?” Well, my sister got the Lesley in 1947 but the Susan was replaced by Edna in remembrance of our grandmother who had died in January 1946.

    But the story did not end there. In the year 2000, my idea for a school reunion became a reality. It was set up such that we met in a restaurant on Mountain Street just below St. Catherine Street in Montreal to register and pick up our reunion details. After that, it was a walk up the street a few doors to a disco place for some music and dancing.

    I remember being there with my sister and saying to her, “imagine if someone came into this building and realized that it was the funeral home their grandmother had been processed through when she died?”

    It was fate. When I returned home and happened to look at my grandmother’s death record and pre-cremation details from Wray’s funeral home on Mountain Street, I learned I was that individual. Her ashes were transported back to her childhood home and they were buried in the McKinley family plot in Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa.

  9. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    He spent the latter part of his life with a painful limp, a result of his war injuries having crashed his Spitfire just over the enemy lines. He was my mother’s second cousin and this is his own story.


    By Dennis Degerlund

    I had joined 72 (Basutoland) squadron. It was equipped with Spitfire Mk IX’s, south of Naples in May 1944 and had served with them up the west coast of Italy and into Corsica from where we covered the South of France invasion.
    After two months in France, ending up at Lyons, we were pulled out and returned to Florence and subsequently to the Adriatic coast on forward airfields in that part of northern Italy that was still in German hands.

    On the 3rd of March 1945, when I was still only 21 years of age, I led a flight of 4 Spitfire fighter-bombers on my 78th operational sortie. Briefing was quite short – we were given an aerial photograph and a map reference for a strike on the railway line between Legnano and Longare to the north-west of Milan. We took off at 15.55 from Ravenna fully armed and with a 5001b bomb slung under the belly of each aircraft. We quickly went into battle formation, set course for the target and climbed rapidly to 20,000 feet.

    The exhilaration of flying a thoroughbred aircraft in the clear blue Italian sky was something I never tired of. From time to time we encountered moderate 88mm flak, some of which was too close for comfort, but slight changes of height and direction saw us past that hazard without incident. At 16.20 we approached the target area where I led the flight in a shallow dive down to 8,000 feet in order to start the bombing run.

    The target was positively identified from the photograph and dropping my port wing I peeled off into a near vertical dive with the others following closely. At 2,000 feet, with an airspeed of around 450 mph, I eased back on the control column and pressed the bomb release button then broke away in a steep climbing turn to watch the bomb drop towards its target followed by those from the other aircraft. Then we re-formed and set course for base.

    At that stage of the Italian campaign we were always searching for signs that would betray the presence of the enemy on the ground. Apart from the occasional intense flak the first twenty minutes of the return journey were relatively uneventful; then I detected movement on the road which proved to be enemy vehicles. I called over the R/T for the flight to attack then went in for the kill.

    The vehicles were partly hidden by roadside trees and I adjusted my direction of approach to get the best possible view. I set the gun button to ‘fire’ and centred the vehicles in my gunsight. By now I was at virtually zero feet and flying at about 400 mph. The two cannons and the two machine guns were set at 250 yards `spot harmonisation’ – A strike at that distance was well known to be quite devastating.

    I gave a burst starting at about 400 yards but almost immediately the guns ceased firing due to some malfunction. I was about to abort my attack when something thudded into my aircraft and there was an ominous clanging. I could only guess that I had been hit by heavy gunfire from the convoy. There was an immediate flood of oil on my windscreen and cockpit hood and the roar of the engine ceased.

    I was now flying blind at a height of about 10 feet and knew that I was heading towards trees. At that speed split seconds counted, I instinctively threw the Spit into a right hand climbing turn to which it immediately responded like the quality aeroplane she was.

    At the same time I flung back the cockpit hood to gain some vision, there was a startling rush of air and my face stung with the sudden spray of hot oil. Fortunately I had my goggles down so my eyes were protected, and although my vision was still impaired, I was aware of an electricity pylon to my right, but before I could take avoiding action I flew straight into the transmission cables.

    But the gods were smiling on me because not only were the cables not live but also the plane seemed to have suffered no damage at all. I continued to gain as much height as I could with a dead engine and was now faced with the choice of either baling out over enemy territory or trying to put the aircraft down closer to home to give myself a sporting chance of getting back.

    I opted for the latter, which, with the benefit of hindsight, was the wrong choice. I switched to channel D for a ‘Mayday’ call. Control responded immediately with a course to set for base – although without power I was never going to get that far: still the nearer the better. I still remember clearly and with surprise, how calm I felt then. Others in similar situations seem to have had the same experience.

    Although my height was now less than 800 feet, everything seemed to be under control apart from vision problems, but as I continued to lose height I became acutely aware of smoke and fumes coming back from the engine compartment and the sickening fear of fire put an abrupt end to my calmness.

    I called over the R/T “Hello Red 2 I’ll have to get out –I think I’m going to burn”, but all the time I knew that it was a futile statement since I was too low to bail out. I should have taken the opportunity to jump during that brief time when I had just enough height to get away with it. Fortunately, in the event, fire did not develop and though badly shaken, some semblance of calm returned.

    Obviously it was now going to be a ‘wheels up’ landing; the terrain was not friendly enough to do otherwise, moreover there was not a lot of choice as to where it would be. I selected a small field behind some farm buildings directly ahead. The main difficulty was vision, hot oil was still coming back at me so I couldn’t remove my goggles.

    I made my approach so as to fly between two of the buildings and at the last moment realised that there was less room between them than I had supposed. Nevertheless I managed to squeeze through with little to spare and then I sensed rather than saw, an obstacle dead ahead – a tree or a high hedge. Instinctively I pulled the nose up, cleared the obstacle and then…..oblivion. I have no recall of the landing itself.

    For that I have to rely on the squadron operational report compiled from the evidence given by my colleagues who circled overhead and witnessed the incident. The report stated that I had made a successful crash landing and had been pulled from the aircraft by a group of Italian civilians who took me to one of the nearby farm buildings.

    I had landed about one mile away from a German front line hospital and one of the doctors there who had seen me come down, was soon on the scene. Whilst being tended I recovered consciousness for a few seconds and recall lying on a table, surrounded by Italians and with the German doctor bandaging my head.

    It was not known at that time that I had sustained a fractured skull, two fractured vertebrae in my spine, a fractured knee cap and facial injuries, otherwise, in all fairness to my captors, I’m sure that they would have acted more considerately in what followed next. In brief flashes of awareness between periods of blissful oblivion I remember the agonising pain in my back as two German soldiers actually ‘walked’ me to a waiting car with my arms across their shoulders.

    It was an open touring car in which I struggled and lay with my legs on the floor and my body draped along the back seat. Then I blacked out once more and remembered nothing until I woke to find myself in a German military hospital in a state of paraplegia. I was encased in a single plaster cast, which stretched from my neck to my right ankle, with only my left leg free – and that had minimal movement because of paralysis resulting from the spinal injury.

    I began to take stock of the situation and asked an Italian nurse how long I was likely to be incapacitated. Because of my poor Italian she assumed I was asking how long I had been there and replied “Ten days”.

    Oh, the optimism of youth! I thought, “That’s not too bad” and having no appreciation of my serious medical condition, I started to plan my escape.

    As I lay on my back under a ground floor window from which I could see and hear flights of Spitfires overhead, I made a mental note of the activities of the ward to assess the best time to slip out unobserved.

    The main problem appeared to be that the Warrant Officer in charge actually slept in the ward. Having little else to think about and finding difficulty in communicating or having anything sensible to occupy my mind, I became obsessed with this absurd drive to escape. So much so that on the fourth or fifth night my dreams were so vivid that I decided the time had come to make the attempt.

    I struggled to the edge of the bed then fell on the floor with a great clatter. It was three o’clock in the morning. Luckily the plaster cast withstood the impact but it was then that I really accepted the futility of thinking that I was going anywhere under my own steam for a long time to come.

    So ends the story of Dennis Degerlund’s last flight. He would spend another year in hospital in England after the war learning how to walk again and for the rest of his life, he would experience constant pain. A very proud man, he would never let on, but his daughter always noted that when he walked his movement had a certain way to it, almost as if he was trying to tread softly so not to invoke more pain than necessary. He was 21 and it was so very long ago as it was for his brother Ron… when they were young.

  10. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    My British grandfather had a junior partner named Leslie Friend who joined the British navy in early WWII. Posted as a lieutenant to the HMS Hood, he would die in the worst loss of life experienced during the war, the sinking of the HMS Hood by the Bismarck in 1941. Only three members of the crew survived the sinking.

    The Hood was the last battle cruiser built for the British navy during WWI. It was the only ship of her class to be built. Her prestige was so great that she was nicknamed ‘The Mighty Hood’. In May of 1941 she and the battleship Prince of Wales were ordered to intercept the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

    They were en route to the Atlantic where they were to attack convoys. Early in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, the Hood was hit by several German shells. It exploded and sank with the loss of 1,418 men onboard. The connection is not clear but from what I can see, He was the son of another partner in the firm somehow related to James Leonard’s grandmother Eliza Friend.

    Modern thinking is that a shell from the Bismarck penetrated the rear powder magazine which caused the explosion. This was confirmed when the wreck of the HMS Hood was discovered. In 2002 the site was officially declared a War Grave by the British government and there is protected by the ‘Protection of Military Remains Act’ of 1986.

    The fate of the Bismarck was similar. After the British Navy chased her with 4 ships, the Bismarck was finally sunk. Out of a crew of over 2,200 men only 114 survived. When the wreck of the ship was found in 1989, it was confirmed that the torpedoes fired on the ship did the final job. They found numerous holes in her sides but actually the direct cause of her sinking was the scuttling of the ship.

    The crew of the engine room sabotaged the valves of the engine as claimed by German survivors. There was one other survivor of the Bismarck, a black and white patched cat that was owned by an unknown crew member. He was later found floating on a piece of wood and was rescued. Unaware of what they called him on the Bismarck, the crew of the HMS Cossack named their new mascot “Oscar”.

    Oscar’s final home was the shore establishment in Gibraltar. The HMS Cossack was damaged by a torpedo fired by the German submarine U-563. The crew was transferred to the destroyer HMS Legion and a tow of the Cossack was organized. She sank to the west of Gibraltar. 159 crew had been killed in the process but Oscar had survived again. Nicknamed “Unsinkable Sam” by the crew of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal which had initially been involved in the sinking of the Bismarck, this ship was also torpedoed by a German sub the U-81.

    It sank slowing and an angry “Unsinkable Sam” was found once again floating on a piece of wood. Transferred to the HMS Lightning and eventually the HMS Legion which had rescued the Cossack, both ships would be sunk in the next two years. The loss of the Ark Royal proved the end of Sam’s shipborne career and he was transferred first to the offices of the Governor in Gibraltar and then sent back to the United Kingdom.

    He lived out the remainder of the war living in a seaman’s home in Belfast called the “Home for Sailors”. Sam died of old age in 1955. Some think that this story about the cat was a sailor’s yarn but I would like to think it actually happened.

  11. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    When I was about 20, I met a fellow with learning disabilities who said to me, “I have had 38 jobs in my life and I really do not know what I should be doing.” I did not understand then what he dealt with. I have always thought that my father’s older brother had learning disabilities since of all the sons, he did not reach his family potential.

    When I was 50, I read an article written by a woman who spent her life teaching children with learning disabilities. She also suffered from them herself. As I read this article in Reader’s Digest, I reacted as she described each child. My reactions to the stores of each child were the same…that’s me, that’s me, that’s me.

    It was then that I went and had myself tested which confirmed that I too suffered from learning disabilities. From a very early age, I could not follow verbal instructions. My learning was totally visual so I later learned. Every note I kept was a signal which opened a memory in my head. I have a lifetime of notes. Learning disabilities have nothing to do with intelligence.

    My intelligence is in the top 5% of the population. I often wonder how the other 95% get along. Y dad’s cousin often referred to two groups, MENSA for the top 3% and her group for the bottom 97% which she called DENSA. My only plus is that I am extremely creative and it has held me in good stead for my entire life.

    At the same time, writing my first book on a Selectric typewriter took a great deal of white-out. The jobs I have done in my life follow a similar pattern, creativity. I have always been able to use that ability in everything I do and my intelligence has allowed me to generate ideas quickly.

    At the same time, my bosses along the way have always said that I continue to fight for control in every situation. That is true. I know what works for me and if I cannot control the situation, I cannot work within it. That is the one thing about learning disabilities.

    An individual with them has to be in control of their situation if things are going to work for him or her. I met a young lady at university one day who had such severe learning disabilities that she could not write her own name without difficulty and a large piece of paper. Every note she took was taken by a support worker who should have also been given the same degree after taking notes for her for four years.

    I often wonder if she got married, had kids and how she coped with life. Those kids might have also ended up with her disabilities. Life goes on and we have no control over a lot of it. Children of people with the Cystic Fibrosis gene who get the disease, have their own problems to deal with.

    Children of people who suffer from dwarfism also have their own problems. Life is never fair but it is there and we have to contend with it as it is presented to us. In my family, my mother’s side gave us diabetes. Father’s side gave us much more, the McKinley build which drives everything to building large bones, learning disabilities, lower organ malformations, kidney failure. I inherited them all. As I always said of myself, I am just an accident, looking for a place to happen.

    Today, I am a successful artist, a highly published writer, an author of many books and a university graduate with four degrees. Throughout my life I have had many operations to keep me going and life has not always been fair. Nevertheless, I have survived into my 70s and I am still going strong. How much longer I will last is an unknown factor. Some of my ancestors lived into their nineties but I do not expect to get there without a great deal of luck. Life’s little journey is different for everyone and it often says a lot about who we turn out to be.

  12. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    A publication from Ayrshire gives credit to the Carswell brothers of Symington for introducing metal girders into their buildings. If the truth be known, the family originated in the Parish of Mearns where the family farmed for some 350 years.

    It just happened that when their father looked for a farm, he only found one in Ayrshire, the next shire over from his family’s traditional home. When their father died the boys needed a qualification outside of farming if they were to get ahead.

    That came about because their elder sister had married a fellow named Alexander Guilliland, a qualified wright. As teenagers the boys were apprenticed to him for something like 7 years. That was the time when my ancestral line officially left the farm.

    The boys arrived in Glasgow, probably with their inheritance from selling the family farm after their father died and purchased cornfields where they began to build. Working initially as joiners people who construct the wooden components of a building, such as stairs, doors, and door and window frames.

    In time they began to build for themselves and In conjunction with city water works began to include indoor plumbing in their factories, warehouses and homes. As time went on, they continued to grow and at one point employed 75 workers in their firm. When they finally ended their building, the two brothers retired to live out their lives.

    As a thank you to the brothers, the water works refused to accept payment for any water supplied to properties owned by the brothers for their entire lifetime. For many years I could not understand my family’s ancestral connection to Rothesay, Scotland until I learned that it was a stone’s throw from Glasgow by ferry and was a popular getaway for the people of that city, often sending families there for the summer.

    My grandfather was a student at Rothesay Academy for 9 years of his life as was his sister while their father, Reverend James Carswell worked for the church filling in as needed when a minister went on vacation or there was a vacancy in a church. James Carswell the Builder as I refer to him, was a great lover of the hotels of Rothesay and often took his grandson there for the summer.

    When his brother born in 1764 died in 1852 at age 88 there was a promise that an extensive obituary would follow. That never happened. When James the Builder born in 1771 died in 1856 at the age of 85, there was an extensive obituary in the Glasgow Herald. To this day several of the original structures still stand.

  13. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    The Glen Line was a UK shipping line that was founded in Glasgow the same year Canada became a reality, 1867. Its head office was later moved to London and subsequently to Liverpool. Leonard Gow who died in 1827 married Mary the eldest Carswell daughter of James the Builder.

    With the help of the McGregor family of Glasgow the Gow family got the shipping line off the ground. Alan C. Gow was a voyage broker while his partner James MCGregor organised the freight to fill the ships. By 1860 they were in a partnership. Shipping was always hazardous and in 1867 their sailing ship Estrella de Chile was built to ply the route between Glasgow, Liverpool and Chile via Cap Horn.

    In 1888 she was wrecked. One of the worst accidents was the wreck of the Glenavon off the coast of China in which 53 people were killed in 1898. While shipping lines were constantly changing hands, the line continued. During WWI the Glen Line lost five ships to U-boat attacks and a further three ships in WWII to U-boats.

    Shipping all over the world, the Glen Line also visited Canada on many occasions. One of their biggest operations was importing tea from China. The Glen line continued until its final demise in 1978.

  14. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    The title of a famous old song says it all for most of us. More specifically, I relate to it because I grew up with learning disabilities. For those who do not understand what I am talking about, I can only say, that it is not a blessing but a lifelong fight to deal with words on a daily basis. Well, that is my case, anyway. For others it might be dealing with numbers. I am dyslexic which means words and I do not get along well.

    When I read, I often dropped words and I do not fully understand something I have read. Imagine living with that for ten minutes, an hour or a day. It would drive you nuts. Well, now imagine living with that for 72 years and being a magazine editor and a book author many times over.

    My first lesson was how to recognize the difference between b, d, p, and q…the solution was to remember them as the four corner posts of a bed, the b and d at the top with posts pointing to the ceiling and the p and q doing the opposite pointing to the floor.

    White out was my favourite tool in the days of the typewriter and with the invention of the modern computer, many of my mistakes correct themselves. Perhaps my greatest was being put in a class with all the dummies at school. That way I took typing classes and learn how to use all my fingers on the keyboard.

    I went from 60% to 82% in two years of classes both in grade 8. I liked grade 9 even better because I spent three years there, one with a broken neck so could not do anything but concentrate on the books. It also gave me an opportunity to learn other skills like running the school dishwasher at lunchtime, not to mention getting me out of class ten minutes early each day.

    I was almost nineteen when I finally left school on the promise to my father that I would go to night school and eventually finish my high school. Over the next two winters and summers I took 13 courses at night up to 10 hours per week in addition to working a fulltime job and studying.

    On the night we wrote our final exam, I and two friends went out to a local bar to hear Tom Conners sing. I remember it like I was yesterday. Since my father’s company was very involved with the evening night school at the YMCA in downtown Montreal, he presented me with my graduation certificate upon graduation. I think he was more proud than I was.

    Entry into university required a 70% average. I achieved a 70.5% average. In the winter of 1965 I bean evening classes, got a D in one class and an S in another meaning I could write a supplemental exam to pass the course. I did that at the Banff School of Fine Arts because I had been transferred to Calgary that summer. I passed, began watching Sunday night sessions of Laugh In and forgot all about school for a few years.

    Then another promotion to Saskatoon took me to Saskatchewan. Bored with my job there I tried to get into university only to learn I needed grade 13. I had grade 11 and two university credits. After a year, I decided to return to Montreal and full time school. That was another long-time story. I finally finished my education in 1996 with 4 bachelor degrees and fellowship designation in the Canadian Bankers (FICB), I was 52 years old and I had attended 3 universities.

    Learning disabilities do not go away, you just learn how to deal with them. I am still learning.

  15. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    Walter McDevitt grew up in a family as an only child whose religious beliefs were Pentecostal. I grew up in a family of Anglicans whose beliefs eventually became a bit shaky. Nevertheless, young boys did not concentrate on such things when there was so much out there in the world to explore. I was reminded of the story of Tolhurst Farm the other day when I read about this donkey who had fallen down a well.

    The owner of the old donkey and the well decided that both had come to the end of their usefulness so it was time to fill in the well and bury the donkey. Gathering a bunch of friends, they began to shovel sand into the well. With each shovelful, landing on the donkey’s back, he shook it off and stepped on it. In doing so, he eventually reached the top as they filled the well and simply jumped out.

    I experienced a similar situation when I was about 4 years old. We lived on the sole 4-lane cement highway leading to the Laurentian Mountains in the Village of Cartierville. Our confines were as far as we could go in a single day. Tolhurst Farm was our goal that day. When we reach he bar, no one was around so we climbed the ladder and got to the upper beams. The barn was full of fresh hay. Alter was in the lead.

    My brother Jim followed him and I came last as usual. Now, if you know anything about barn beams, you know that they are bolted together one beside the other. Walter ad Jim made the first step to the beam on the left but no one told me what was going on. I walked right off the end of the beam into a hole In the hay and disappeared. I landed right at the bottom of the barn on the floor, no worst for wear.

    However, I was much like that donkey in the well. It was up to me to get out of there so I began to pull hay from the sides of this well and step on it. Eventually I reached the top just as the farmer and the florists next door arrived to see if they could help. Taking my brother’s advice, I simply stretched out and rolled down the side of the hay as they had done.

    Once again the mighty force had been reckoned with and I was still alive. I have to admit though, like the donkey, I felt like a bit of an ass, if that is possible for a 4-year old.

  16. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    Every summer my next door neighbour’s family disappeared. Mr. Jarry was a Beer truck driver but in the summer they headed for Cap. St. Jacques, probably Montreal Islands most favourite beach located on the west end of the island west of St. Genevive. During the summer they worked the food stand at the beach and I can still remember the smell of French Fries like it was yesterday. The staff of Birks jewellers through their recreation club made an annual trek to Cap St. Jacques and it was a day of races and prizes, lots of swimming and great treats from the food stand.

    Cap St. Jacques used to sit on the Lake of Two Mountains, the natural route for log booms heading down island to distant saw mills. I once stayed at a Pentecostal camp with my friend Walter McDevitt one summer that was located on the west side of the lake. I also remember getting kicked in the head by a horse at the same place. Today, like many of the properties around the island, Cap St. Jacques is a Nature Park. There are many things I remember of my youth but Cap St. Jacques was among the favourites.

  17. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    In the trenches of WWI it was difficult to send one of the boys out to pick up a box of donuts so the soldiers in the trenches created the next best thing. They fried up a piece of bread in bacon fat and smeared it with tinned strawberry jam. Truly a soldier’s donut. A total of 3,240,948 tons of food was sent from the UK to soldiers fighting in France and Belgium. At the beginning of the war the soldiers received 10 ounces of meat, mainly bully beef and 8 ounces of vegetables. By 1916 this ration had been cut to 6 ounces of meat per day and the main food was now a pas-soup with a few lumps of horsemeat. Local vegetables and weeds such as nettles turned up in soups more often.

    Eventually with food in short supply it was taking up to 8 days for bread to reach the front lines, by then stale. So were the biscuits so to counteract this problem the soldiers would break them up, add potatoes, onions, sultanas or whatever was available and boil the mixture up in a sandbag. Tea often tasted like vegetables because the cooks only had two large vats in which to prepare everything. Invariably, the food was cold by the time it reached the front lines. Those who could buy a small primas stove among the group and get gas for it were able to make their own tea and heat up the food when it arrived. For most it was cold food.

    The soldier’s donut which was around from the beginning of the war could be fried up in the trenches. It evolved into a variation invented by Ensign Helen Purviance of the Salvation Army who was sent to France in 1917 to work with the American First Division. She and Fellow officer, Ensign Margaret Sheldon patted the first dough by hand and used a knife to cut it into strips which were then twisted into crullers. Eventually baking powder was added, creating larger donuts that could be fill with jam. To this day, plum filled donuts are a staple of Polish life as are American donuts of many descriptions.

    As General John Monash said of the operation of feeding 20,000 men at the front, “It takes a couple of thousand men and horses with hundreds of wagons, and 118 huge moor lorries to supply the daily wants of my soldiers at the front.“ When the military tried to hide the truth, they received 200,000 letters of complaints from the soldiers in the front lines. The average soldier complained that while the officers were regularly fed hot meals, the boys in the trenches did not do so well. While each soldier carried emergency rations, they could not use them without the permission of an officer.

    A Major Graham wrote a letter to his family about the food supply on the Western Front and here is was he said: “I am sorry your get the wrong impression about the food; we always had more than enough, both to eat and drink. I give you a day’s menu at random: Breakfast – bacon and tomatoes, bread, jam and cocoa. Lunch – shepherd’s pie, potted meant, potatoes, bread and jam. Tea: bread and jam. Supper – ox-tail soup, roast beef, whisky and soda, leeks, rice pudding, coffee. We have provided stores of groceries and Harrods have been ordered to send us out a weekly parcel. However, if you like to send us an occasional luxury it would be very welcome.

    I often wondered what kind of life I would have had, had I been alive during WWI. Perhaps the fact that I had a kidney removed at age 15 would have made me ineligible for war service. Even so, I did get an opportunity to experience 4 years of being an Air Cadet, marching in two Memorial Day Parades in New York City and getting a taste for the military I could never join. For my volunteer service I also received the RCAF Air Cadet medal which I will pass on with my parents’ WWII war medals to my grandchildren.

    Like my father who wore WWI army clothing as a member of the NPAM or Non-Permanent Active Militia (which the soldiers like to call the Not Particularly Anxious Men), I wore WWII blues as the standard RCAF Air Cadet uniform, the same ones returned by ex-military at the end of WWII on demobilization. I was the third generation of military in the family and my older brother graduated from Royal Roads ad then RMC in Kingston becoming a captain in the Canadian Signal Corps where his father had served before him.

    Today I ate the first fried bacon and eggs on fried toast for breakfast in year. I followed it up with the soldier’s donut. You know, I think I will have to do it again sometime soon.

  18. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    I have already written about my great uncle’s claim to fame as the Goalie of the Ottawa Cliffsides, the winners of the first 1909 Allen Cup. Everyone has a claim to fame. Mine comes in the form of hockey.

    While I was never material for the NHL, I was the whiz kid on the Riviere des Prairies rink plowed out by Leonard Leblanc, the village snow removal guy who owned an old WWII 4-wheel jeep truck he used as a plow. My claim to fame came in a number of different ways, first by learning about hockey when I was still on double skate in the old Cartierville stone quarry on Laurentian Blvd where both the Rocket Maurice Richard and his teenaged brother, the Pocket Rocket Henri Richard came down to teach the kids how to play hockey.

    My second encounter meeting old NHL players was Elmer Lach, who lived to be 97 years old. I caddied for him at Cartierville’s Marlborough Golf and Country Club and believe me, I will never forget the scarred face of a 40’s era hockey star.

    Then there was Jean Beliveau who I met on three different occasions in my life, one in Montreal when he was present at the opening of the BP station in Saraguay, secondly when I bumped into him on my way to the new subway in Ahuntsic and thirdly when our photo was taken together at the Bank of Nova Scotia Marketing Department in downtown Toronto.

    I also met Gordie Howe in the same place as I was going out for lunch.

    A very good friend and drinking buddy for a period was Brian McFarlane who created the Peter Puck character for television and wrote the Peter Puck book for kids. His father Leslie MacFarlane had written the series of Hardy Boy books under another name accepting $100 for each of the 21 books rather than a commission on sales which would have made him a millionaire.

    Brian never achieved that level of writing success. He was a very successful hockey player in college and still holds certain scoring records to this day. Moving into broadcasting in the USA after college he eventually came to Toronto, on to Montreal and back to Toronto.

    His time in hockey broadcasting covers more than 50 years. Banned from Maple Leaf Gardens after a remark about owner Harold Ballard, he went on to create Scotiabank Hockey College which ran for the next 17 years.

    A songwriter with “Clear the track, here comes Shack.”, he is well known in many circles and in all sorts of Halls of Fame. Brian and his wife winter in Naples, Florida but he still lives in and around Toronto the rest of the year.

    Naturally, each one of his six grandchildren grew up playing hockey. I could go on and on about who I know in hockey but I would be lying. This ain’t bad for a kid who played on the Riviere des Prairie.

  19. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    [Note from Jaan: I have done some copy editing.]

    IT IS JUST BUNCH OF [Horse Manure]!

    To say that we are better off today with air pollution than we were in the days of horse manure is definitely a bunch of horse[manure]! Either way our world’s future is at risk. The effects of the manure haunted the world and fresh air was not something we could easily find. Bu there were also some things that those days left behind that we cherish to this day.

    For example, Sable Island’s unique pony survives only because the horse were left behind to evolve over a century after the need for the animal diminished as a result of the motorization.

    What did the world lose? Manure which fueled the fertilization business for decades. Imagine 150,000 horses in New York City leaving behind 40,000 gallons of horse urine and 3 million pounds of horse manure per day. The stench just would not go away. While we see the pristine gowns of partygoers in high society, we forget that it came at a cost. Manure was a breeding ground for flies which spread disease.

    Deadly outbreaks of Typhoid and Infant Diarrheal diseases can be traced to the spikes in the fly population. Back in the good old days death attributed to horse accidents were seven times those of car accidents today. By the 1880s more than 3 dozen dead horses were cleared from the streets of Chicago on a daily basis.

    In the streets of London in the UK there were over 11,000 hansom cabs on the streets and several thousand horse-drawn buses, each needing 12 horses per day, never mind the teams of horses pulling freight around the city. With 50,000 horses producing up to 1,500,000 pounds of manure, it was a real problem for the city.

    And London was no different from most European cities. Known as the “Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894”, it was estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under 9 feet of manure. Unfortunately, the problem remains with us when it comes to the methane gas produced by these animals.

    Today that is largely attributed to cows that feed us on a daily basis. Canada alone produces half a million tons of manure per day and if you have ever been on a farm you certainly have smelled the manure pile. That is over 180 million tonnes over a period of a year from all farmyard animals.

    The term “horse [manure]” was not really coined until 1923. A favourite term before that was “road apples.”

    Any way you look at it, the problem has been with us since time began. Imagine the effects of plant-eating dinosaurs. I am not surprised they went extinct, more likely killed by their own gas rather than from an asteroid as is suggested.

    Remember the image of the Buffalo roaming the planet or herds of Cariboo that crossed the wilderness, this problem is nothing new but at least the cities no long smell like the back end of a horse. That is a relief.

    On June 4th, 1896, Henry Ford unveiled his first horseless carriage and by January 1st, 1900 4,192 automobiles had been sold. That number jumped to more than 365,000 in 1912. The first steam car had been produced in 1796 and ran for 15 minutes when demonstrated for government officials in Paris. However it only achieved a speed of 2 MPH.

    The first automobile was produced by Karl and Bertha Benz in Europe on January 29th, 1855. Using an internal combustion system it could reach speeds of up to 10 MPH. Henry Ford’s Model T reached a global market by October 1st, 1908 and 5 million automobiles were assembled at affordable prices and sold over 20 years. Its 20 horse power motor could reach speeds up to 40 – 45 MPH.

    In 2014, the driverless ca was invented by Google. It will be available to the general public 2020 and is legal in 4 states already, California, Michigan, Nevada and Florida. It comes in three models, the Toyota Prius, the Audi TT and the Lexus RX450h. Which makes you want to ask, “Is that not just another bunch of manure?”

  20. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    By the year 2088 it may be too hot to hold an Olympics Games outdoors. My granddaughter will be 75 years old and likely living air conditioning year around, fueled by heat from the sun most likely. Olympic events would not be possible, other than in a few cities, most notably in the UK where an outdoor event would be possible. Each generation has a whole new series of events to deal with unlike those of their parents. I remember the beautiful sky on a sunny morning when I was growing up in Montreal. Then there was the fight against city pollution in Toronto as the clouds of deathly fumes made life miserable for everyone. Now the worry is rising waters and the cities and islands that will disappear like that of the fabled Atlantis. Every insect appears to be going extinct and soon there will not be enough to cross-pollinate the fruits and vegetables we depend on for food. As always the only thing that does not stop is reproduction, gobbling up more and more of the world resources as life goes on. Will we ever find that new world for our descendants to move to as the Earth dies? I often wonder. In millions of years from now, inter-Steller explorers may return to Earth and uncover the many mysteries of our world. No doubt they will confused by the different periods of life that lived here and wonder if they coincided or not. They might even find an old computer and get it running to read one of the Preserved Stories. Who knows? There are no promises in life. We are the result of the reproduction system of our lives and the old photos of generations ago prove that they too lived in the period of life they arrived in thinking that the future lay with their children and grandchildren. My family has at times been extremely wealthy, lived in castles and is rumoured to have been connected to the early Scottish Royalty. My farmer past indicated that we owned more than a thousand acres at Hadrian’s Wall and we are part of the KERR heritage of the Borders. In fact, eight of our family names were linked to the 77 Border Reiver families who fought the British and lived on what they could steal for some 450 years. Many of these stories will disappear over time and family connections will be forgotten as new generations are added to our world and the past becomes the past. Then someday far off in the future this short piece of writing may be found in the basement of an old house and be deciphered. By then, 2088 and the last of the outdoor Olympics will be history and a whole new world will be in place.

  21. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    When my brother and I were younger than seven we went for a walk to visit my Uncle Donald and Auntie Bernice who lived over in Durvernay somewhere around what is now the AutoRoute. One thing that you do not comprehend as a youngster is distance and time. Our trip began at home in Cartierville, took us across the Cartierville Bridge and on to that East-West road that would take us to Durvernay. I suspect we remembered the route by the fact that we had gone there by car at one point. I would say we had walked about 5 or 6 miles by the time it was starting to get dark and we were trying to decide what to do when low and behold a neighbour, an old bachelor who live next to my great uncle appeared on one of his long walks. Recognizing us, he got a taxi and took us back to his place in Cartierville tracing my parents through my great uncle. The whole trip had worn us out and we were ready for bed when we got home.
    It was a good thing that this fellow had found us because as we later learned, Uncle Donald, his wife and two daughters had moved to Bermuda the year before and we would not have found them. Donald, an accountant by trade had been a lieutenant of a tank in WWII, survived the war and in Bermuda found himself alone as his wife decided to move back to her home in Toronto with the kids. He found a second love. His second partner would give him two sons and then died at the Christmas dinner sitting at the dining room table. His two sons, under 4 at the time, would die at 52 and 61. Donald also owed a house in Florida and spent some of the colder months there. Today his granddaughters live in Canada, Bermuda, Vermont and England. One has spent her life working for a cruise line and will be getting married to a Brazilian she met onboard her ship where he was in charge of entertainment while she generated more cruise business. Donald married a third time in 1964 and his new wife, already a mother of two raised his two sons only to outlive them which is sad. He lived to be 88 and she is still going strong filling her time by visiting her granddaughters in Canada on a regular basis.
    Back then my mother took the attitude that her boys would eventually come home with wonderful stories of their day outings. Raising two more at home under the age of 3 meant she had her hands full. And then there was Harry the Iceman who my father accused her of seeing and every year for decades there was always a Christmas gift to my mother with a card signed by Harry the Iceman. To this day the story of Harry the Iceman lives on in the family like the one about the old lady sick in Prescott…another story invented by my great grandfather to keep the youngster quiet while they travelled out to the family’s summer home at Kirk’s Ferry, now under water as part of the expansion of the seaway hydro project. As a youngster I remember old men cutting ice blocks out of the river and often wondered if that was where Harry the Icemen got his ice. I also used to wonder if that was how little people made ice cubes…. I had a very creative thought process.
    Looking it up on the Internet there really was a fellow in Florida known as Harry the Iceman. Harry Albert Kisch who died at age 70 in 2013 at one point delivered Ice and earned this name. Way to go, Harry. RIP

  22. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    In my study of twins who fought, survived or died in WII one of the most unusual had to be that of the Wile Twins of Nova Scotia. The twins fought in WII as air gunners on bomber and both survived the war intact. After three years In the worst situations at times, the twins were commissioned and each rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. To onlookers it meant these boys had been through the worst of it and survived. Being part of the volunteer core, their job was over when the war was ended. They returned home to Nova Scotia, started their own business and were totally unhappy. The military was rapidly downsized, the baby boom began and life went back to normal for most people. Most, except for the Wile twins. They were happiest in the military so chose to re-enlist. These two war time officers had to start at the bottom as Aircraftsmen 2nd class and begin all over again although I suspect they really began as Leading Aircraftsmen due to their war experience. In any case both found areas of interest, one in administration, the other in engine mechanics. Their new life led them to homes all over the globe dealing with Canadian aircraft. While they did not spend a lot of time together they had one unique insignia that went with both of them to the end of their career, that of a badge over the left breast, a single wing with the letters AG in the center, a fitting reminder of their years in combat. Until the gunships of the Vietnam conflict, Air Gunners were not a common sight, especially in the RCAF. Over the years, their ranks climbed to that of Warrant Officer 2nd Class and Flight Sergeant. Both married and began their own families. As Identical twins they often fooled others and played the usual identical twins games with others but under it all, they had a lifetime of what they loved to do more than anything else, be part of Canada’s military.

  23. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    The Group of Seven were noted artists consisting of Fred Varley, A.Y. Jackson (1882-1974), Lawren Harris (1885-1970), Barker Fairley (1881-1969), Frank Johnston (1888-1949), Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) and J.E.H. MacDonald (1873-1932). Also known at the Algonquin School the original group of Canadian landscape painters from 1920 and 1933 also included Franklin Carmichael (1890-1945). A.J. Casson (1898-1992) was invited to join in 1926. Edwin Holgate (1892-1977) became a member in 1930 and LeMoine FitzGerald (1890-1956) joined in 1932. Tom Thomson, who was found dead in hi8 canoe in Algonquin Park with an apparent blow to his head in 1917 had a great influence on the group before it was formed. He would have been an original member. Also Emily Carr was closely associated with the group although never an official member. Both Jackson and Varley became war artists during WWI. Frank Johnston left the group in 1920 and moved to Winnipeg. Mention is also given to Captain Samuel Gurney Cresswell (1827-1867) who was technically the first naval officer to cross the entire Northwest Passage. His numerous water-colour paintings depicted life in the north and several sketches were given to Queen Victoria. Never married, I often wonder if that is the connection a good friend’s family in Montreal who had a great many A.Y.Jackson paintings in the grandmother’s family. From stories the late Chuck Cresswell told me at university, Jackson use to paint at their cottage and often left painting behind. Could this have been the family connection? I studied the work of J.E.H. MacDonald who lived in Thornhill and at one point made a film about it for a university film class. Having visited his home in Thornhill, now a historical site, I also recorded his work at a Toronto Church on Gladstone Avenue which was redone as it was aging and upon his death was finished by his son, Thoreau MacDonald, being a noted artist in his own right. Thoreau died in his father’s house in 1989. In due course, Arthur Lismer needed an income and the opportunity to run a school for kids at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was presented to him. It allowed him to paint all week and teach kids on Saturday mornings in the building behind and connected to the museum. My father would drive me down to the museum, go on to the office for the morning and pick me up for the trip home. It was not until later years that I understood that the little old man teaching us how to paint was the famous Group of Seven artist, Arthur Lismer. All I could remember about the Museum were the two shrunken heads behind glass in the museum. Now to a 12-year-old that was art!

  24. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    It was 60 years ago this month and I was part of it. The building is still there, the students are gone, the church hall across the street (Grade 4 for me) was finally torn down and the Anglican Church I was married in is now a totally French speaking 7th Day Adventist church. I only once beat Richard Woods in a race down Somerset Road and I lost track of the twins Robby and Wallace and many other childhood friends who graduated from that school with me but it took a reminder from someone I just found who lived only a few miles away from me north of Toronto for years, to tell me that in a few short days, the graduation of the class of 1957 will celebrate its 60th Anniversary, even if there is no party. Barbara McGregor turned up on Facebook and commented on my entry. Years ago I found Kathy Louthood and we exchanged emails. I can probably still find her and also reach Carol Duggan who lives in PEI these days. It is hard to believe that milestone is happening. Seems like yesterday I was delivering the morning Gazette to the McGregor house in Saraguay and trying to figure out who the men of those families had fought where in WWII? The girls in the class like Barbara McGregor who now lives in Stouffville, Ontario were not interested in the boys in their class…they were looking for older guys as we were still too young for them at age 12 and they had become young women by then. I often wondered where Virginia Maybe got to and how many of my Gazette customers had gone to war. Unlike many Canadians, I was born in England during it and both my parents were air force officers. Few adults would talk about their war experiences back then after it was over but they still had their parties of old buddies, even after having all their kids. Do I miss my youth? Only the memories of it. Life was hard for me but I finally found my great love in writing, becoming an author and being the artist I should have always been. Trouble is, I also became a packrat because every note, every piece of paper opened a memory for me and I was afraid to lose those memories. I have a whole storage room full of stuff I now need to clear away before I go myself. But there are no promises anymore….just the hope I will live to see my grandchildren reach adulthood. At age 5 and 2-1/2 they have a few years to go until they too graduate from Grade 7 and unfortunately, I may not be around to be there for them. Such is life but it goes on whether or not we are there to remember it or not. Funny, I can visually remember most things but not a graduation party at the school. Maybe if I think on it for a while, I might jog a memory loose and get a picture. However, like the old Analog televisions, that area is a bit fuzzy these days. Let’s see….hmmm….class of ’57…..graduation party…..hmmmm…. Nope, nothing comes to mind.

    • Christina Ashby Myers
      Christina Ashby Myers says:

      I am 87 years old but still have memories of going to Cartierville School, 5th grade, I remember my teacher was Mrs. Watson, that had to be around 1943, such a long time ago.

      • Jaan Pill
        Jaan Pill says:

        That is most interesting Christina! I know from my reading that Cartierville School goes back a long way. Your note adds a personal dimension!

        In 1943, I was not yet born. My parents and several other members of the extended family escaped Estonia as refugees in the next year, 1944, travelling across the Baltic Sea on boats under perilous wartime conditions.

        I like the idea of thinking that, in 1943 or thereabouts, Cartierville School – which I attended for Grade 4 in the 1950s – was already going strong. The school is in such a beautiful setting – with the trees, the proximity to the Back River – and the experience of being a student there has been a memorable event, that many of us look back on with fondness.

  25. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:


    Some people say I look a bit like “Obi-Wan Kenobi” who first appeared in the film Star Wars that came out in 1977. Give me the same clothes he wore and I might be able to pass as his clone…..heck, who would not want to look like Alec Guinness (1914-2000) with the beard…actually, he really looks more like me than I do like him. Only different is that he was worth $100 million when he died and I am still alive. How much does a person really need? Then there is “Chewbacca,” the male Wookiee warrior, smuggler and resistance fighter. Kind of looks like Tara, my gigantic family’s Irish setter when I was a teen. And that is not all I get while watching old movies and TV shows, here is another example. I have five things in common with Ant of the comedian team of Ant & Dec who together work offstage at “Britain’s Got Talent” to bring out the acts when they are ready. First, we were both born in England. Second, he was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where my great grandfather met and married his wife and was the first minister in a new church there for 12 years. That is, until his health forced him to find a new home on the Isle of Alderney for 2 years to take in the salt sea air. Third, Anthony is Ant of the comedian group Ant & Dec. His first name of Anthony is my second name. Fourth, we are both 5’10” tall, or at least I used to be. Fifth, he was born on November 18th, 1975 and I was born on November 18th, 1944, only 31 years earlier. Ant received an OBE from the queen while Alec Guinness received a CBE before his death….Do you think they gave him the CBE only because he had already been an OBIE? …or was that an OBE they gave him first years ago. To me CBE means “Call Bob early!” Last but not least I have to ask you, “Do you think they called the Wookiee Warrior “Chewbacca” simply because he could not smoke? After being up all night wondering….one has to think about these things, you know.. Have a great day. I am going back to bed.

  26. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    As things worked out I was in Toronto on Bob’s birthday, today, and had time for coffee with him on this special occasion. He said something along the lines of ‘Just another number.’

    The first photo commemorates the occasion.

    The second photo is from 1974 on the occasion of Bob Carswell’s graduation from Sir George Williams with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.

  27. Nardina Grande
    Nardina Grande says:

    Hi Jaan,

    Happy 2020! Keep up your great community work and commentaries. We have to continue supporting our local communities, being vigilant on a provincial, national and international level vis-a-vis sustainability, taking care of people, animals and nature surrounding us and which connect us all, without whom/which we not only can’t survive, we can’t thrive and be creative souls.

    Best Wishes for a creative and spiritual year!


  28. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Hi Jaan,

    I was reading the above comment about Graeme Decarie and wanted to tell you about my connection with him throughout my life. I do not think I have written about this before. I was about six years old when we first met at the Northmount YMCA summer camp. The YMCA building has gone now but was previously located behind Canada’s very first shopping centre in St. Laurent. First opened in 1949. It is still there 75 years later.

    Graeme Decarie was a 17-year-old YMCA counsellor looking after the day trips we enjoyed throughout the summer program. I got to know him well back then. He later turned up at Cartierville School looking for program ideas and I was part of the student team giving him ideas.

    Failing four times in High School, I was not aware of my learning disabilities. In my last year of 6 years in day school, I returned on December 5th after having a kidney removed in August with subsequent complications. I am now getting ready for dialysis as my remaining kidney is down to 17%.

    Turns out, Graeme Decarie was my Grade Ten history teacher. I scored 75% in History that year of which I was quite proud but once again failed the year. I did not see him again for many years but as a graduate of SGWU [Sir George Williams University] received the magazine they produced in which Graeme regularly wrote.

    I would run into Graeme again at the signing up for the Year 2000 40th anniversary of Malcolm Campbell High School, an idea I came up with years earlier for the school that was operated for 27 years. Jaan would organize a sixties reunion in Toronto for those who had not attended the earlier reunion.

    Graeme was married twice and had 3 children with his second wife and his second divorce. His two older daughters from his first marriage lived in Montreal as far as I knew. From what I understand, Graeme ended up working at Dorval Airport at the end of WWII but never got to go overseas to fight in the war.

    My honour was him once saying that I was a good writer. After writing 16 books I guess I learned how to do that. The first, TWINS OF WAR, a nonfictional history of WWII, is being published shortly as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    The second, being produced as an actual book, VISIONQUEST will be published in early August. It is a Sci-Fi Fantasy. Hopefully, the others will begin to turn up by the end of the year on Draft2digital.

    I was sorry to hear that Graeme had died, he had ended up with his second wife and family in New Brunswick but when that ended he settled in Moncton then moved to Ottawa and finally, Kingston, Ontario where his life came to a final conclusion. R.I.P.

  29. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Good to read your comment, Bob. I have fond memories of the shopping centre and the nearby YMCA. Graeme Decarie had a huge and positive impact on the lives of many people – on the lives of many of us. Gone but not forgotten.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to Bob Carswell Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *