Posts Tagged With: Northumberland Straits

Remembering the Journey

The Poppy, Flander’s Fields, Last Post, and CBC live from Ottawa. 

These are the things I remember being a part of November 11 in the Duff home when I was growing up.

It was a given that we would all gather, in later years, in front of the television to be a part of the Remembrance Day service offered to Canadians.  It was understood that this was the day that our Dad would shed a few tears… an occasion that was very sombre and rare.  Dad was always laughing and cracking jokes – but not on this day.  On this day, we would not expect him to be telling jokes.  On this day, we would ask him about his friends.  He would tell us stories about the time he spent patrolling the Northumberland Straits, his time on Koggala Beach, India, Burma, and mostly, about his time in the air in his beloved Catalina. 

Today also became know to my brother and I as the day when Dad not only said good-bye to his friends he had lost during World War II, but also the day he said good-bye to his Paula, our mother.  It was this day  – three years ago – when he said good-bye to Mom.  I can still hear his loving words to her even today.  He sat beside her in his wheel-chair in the dimly lit room.  He held her hand.  He calmed her and reassured her that it was okay for her to go.  He reassured her that she would be okay.  He affirmed his love for her and their wonderful life together.  His voice was calm, comforting, and loving.  I am not really sure she heard him – she was unconscious at that point – but I am confident that she would never have left him if she had not been convinced he would be okay.  And Dad knew that.  He let her go.  He wished her well on her journey and that one day, God willing, they would meet again.  She passed away the next morning — he had said his good-bye. 

Dad was a survivor.  What was it that kept him going?  What keeps anyone going through so much loss?  To this day, I still believe it was Dad’s philosophy that one must count his/her blessings.  Maybe that was a philosophy taught to him through the depression, when his family had nothing but what they produced on their own farm?  Dad always claimed he was well off compared to some others who didn’t have food, let alone clothing.  Maybe it was the time he spent among those who lost so much to war?  Dad claimed he was well off compared to the families who lost their sons and daughters, houses, freedoms to war.  He survived cancer, a stroke, and multiple other health challenges. 

Today, a former student of mine sent me a photo of a Remembrance Day program she had taken a couple of years ago when Mom and Dad were able to attend.  What a wonderful surprise to see them in this photo – it was a new photo to me and so it was almost like we had been together one more time – sharing Remembrances.  My student and her colleagues were standing behind my Mom and Dad who were seated in the front row.  They were all happy – it was exactly where Mom and Dad thrived – among young people who offered them so much appreciation.  I remember this day well.  I am so blessed to have others remember it also. 

Two more students of mine today also remembered my parents to me.  “It was so nice for your Dad to be with us on Remembrance Day, Stacey”. 

Although it was a tough day today – I must remember the lessons Dad taught me – to count my blessings.  I count my country and the peaceful state we exist in as one of my blessings – I count my health, my family, my ability to read among the many other blessings I have.  I also consider myself to be blessed to have had such great role models to allow me to see the world with gratitude. 

Today – I thank the many people who have journeyed with my family and I to the place we are at today.  Thanks to the care-givers who helped Dad until, literally, the day he died.  Thanks to the friends who stuck by Dad even when he was no longer able to speak.  Thanks to family who were by our sides always.  Thanks to a country that remembers the sacrifices Dad and so many others made so that we could live a life few others only dream of. 

TTFN, Dad.  Thinking of you today – and always!

 

Categories: Dad's WWII Diary, Duff History, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Lobster Air

Introduction

When Dad told me this story – just a few months before he passed away – I was shocked.  Of all the stories I had heard growing up, this one had been kept a secret.  Maybe it wasn’t a secret but it had certainly slipped into the back files of his mind.  Dad didn’t really think this was a story at all and “It isn’t really worth repeating.”, he said.   Writing the update to the story, I did some research about the Straits and lobster there – found an article from the Toronto Star which puts another layer to the story about lobsters.  Kind of interesting read for those of you who are lobster fans!  (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1238462–new-brunswick-lobster-fishermen-fight-for-higher-prices)

“Oh, my goodness, Dad.  This is funny!”  I replied.  I must confess that I didn’t understand a few aspects of the story since I didn’t really put the story into the context of World War II and the fact that fishermen didn’t have access to much needed fuel.  After a few questions and a bit of research, however, this is the story that emerged.  Enjoy!

Lobster Air (in Dad’s words)

Yes – lobster can fly – at least they did in Prince Edward Island during World War II!   Truthfully, the crustaceans were assisted with their flight and it wasn’t that the pilots were particularly welcoming of their aerial hitch-hike either.

We, members of the RCAF Squadron, were on patrol in the Northumberland Straits watching for German Submarines.  The Straits are located between Prince Edward Island and the “Mainland” – mainly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Today, the Confederation Bridge New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island makes the trek between the two locations a little easier.  But, during World War II, the only way to “access” the area was by plane and air surveillance.  Although there had never been sightings in the Straits,  Germans had surfaced and were even so bold as to buy fish in Montreal.  I never did confirm that was the truth, but the rumor was pretty exciting.  Our mission was to criss-cross the Straits to watch for “enemy” subs.  (Funny how some of my best friends today are German.  Was sure is a strange thing!)

The Straits were well known for lobster.  Since my favorite meal was lobster I felt I was not only defending my country, but also my palate!  During lobster season, the fishermen were out in full force – not like today – but still there was many of them.  Since fuel was rationed during the war, the fishermen had to use sailboats to fish.

Some of the pilots – to conduct their patrol- would fly close above the water.  This would make a “slip-stream” behind the aircraft.  This slip-stream would unintentionally (or not) cause the  lobster farmers’ sailboats to tip over.

Oh boy, the fishermen became quite upset but it seemed there was little they could do.. until they figured out how they could retaliate.  When the low-flying pilots flew too low, the fishermen threw lobster up at the aircraft.  Some of the lobsters would become lodged in the wings.  This wasn’t really too much of a problem.  The fishermen felt they had had their “say” and the pilots were still able to fly without hazard.

The funny part of the story happened, though, when the pilots arrived back at base when the pilots took their planes to the maintenance crew for inspection.  The crew were quite surprised to find lobster stuck in the aircraft.  I guess for a while they figured the lobster jumped out of the water.  No one could figure out how the lobsters managed to hitch a ride.

Finally, the story emerged.  The low-flying pilots and their craft had unintentionally become, “Lobster Air”.  I guess we may have been the first to ship lobster into PEI!

Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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