"To tell you the truth, I had never had three meals in a day in my life...but basically I feel that it was one of the most wonderful things that ever happened to us."
Before the war, we were on a farm, my dad does farming and that. And things were financially really tough. My dad come to me one day and he says - I had two, three brothers and two sisters -and he said that a couple of us had to leave the farm because there was no money and no … So I, somebody suggested that I join the Air Force. So I went into Regina and then the guy there that, who interviewed me, he suggested I go and take this special course in mechanical engineering.
To tell you the truth, I had never had three meals in a day in my life. People say this wonderful thing, how brave we were, but basically I feel that it was one of the most wonderful things that ever happened to us, the fact that we got a pair of boots to wear, a uniform to wear and three meals a day, and a little bit of money to spend. And that was my thoughts of going to the war.
But unfortunately, by becoming a mechanic, it kind of got you to, you got stayed in one place because they didn’t ship mechanics overseas. There was lots of work here to be done, looking after the training planes and that. The biggest thing that would, there were the engines that would wear out. You’d pull the engine out and replace it with another one, which they had a special place set up to overhaul aircraft engines.
If you worked on a plane and you know, and did any repair work or changed the engines, you were almost required to go up in it. Oh Jesus, I was scared. But I got 25 cents for that. They paid 25 cents every time you went up. Some pilots were a lot better to go up with and otherwise, anybody that had been overseas and came back, they were nuts. You just - they did the stupidest things. But the guys that were on the station there all the time, they could take you up and they’d let you, show you how to fly the plane and take and land it and taking off. So you did, learned a lot of those things.
We had one, the motor cut out on, when we were up there. And that was all a mistake on the part of a mechanic, where he left a hose loose in the oil and we fortunately came back in on one engine. But it scared the hell out of me. And then I got put on rescue and the recovery, as they called it. When a plane crashed, you had to go to the scene of the crash. That was terrible. Can you imagine pulling a guy out of an aircraft and all that came out is one arm? That shook me forever.
I was on about three [recoveries], but it was fairly normal to have a crash, possibly once a week. I applied to go overseas and that day, we had a hailstorm came through Yorkton [Saskatchewan] and smashed up about 40 planes on the runway. And all these were cancelled and all, any appointments were cancelled. And so we had to stay and repair all those planes. So that predicted our day. I got talking to a guy that was working next to me and I said, where have you been working all the time? He says, I don’t work. I said, what do you mean you don’t work? He says, I play hockey. I said, I’m a hockey player. He says, do you want to get on the team? So I got on the hockey team. We’d play exhibition hockey games all over western Canada. It got me doing something different. Of course, I still didn’t, you know, I had, if I wasn’t playing hockey, I had to go back to work.
I was in Regina the day the war [ended], the night the war got … In fact, I got married about a week before. Oh, everybody was hollering on the streets and newsboys were going around hollering the headlines, which they used to do in them days. And I got a job right away, working in a garage. So which, if it hadn’t have been for war, I’d have never had a job, I’d have been stuck on the farm. Which I hated.