Aboard ship, Fontaine is writing home. Arrow points to Fontaine's bunk.Leslie Frederick Fontaine
Fontaine and crewmates on VE DayLeslie Frederick Fontaine
Photograph of HMS Mahone.Ken Macpherson and John Burgess. The Ships of Canada's Naval Forces 1910-1981: A complete pictoral history of Canadian warships. 1982. page 114
Photograph of Wireless Graduation, Quebec.Leslie Frederick Fontaine
Mr. Fontaine's photo album from his leave in Bermuda, 1944.Leslie Fontaine
"we were being inspected, that’s what it was. And who comes on the ship but these two guys. And we thought, we stood right next to one another and he said, oh, we’re in trouble now."
My name is Leslie Fontaine, Leslie Frederick Fontaine. We didn’t have cars in those days. It wasn’t until after the war that cars started really becoming plentiful. The street I lived on probably had 100 families and I doubt if there was more than three cars in the whole street at that time.
In Bermuda, it was a British naval base. And it was like, it was an amazing place. It was just beautiful. I used to say that all the grass was standing at attention and all the flowers were pointing the same way, it was just a remarkable place.
We were strolling down an avenue; l walking down this pathway, the pathway had to be as wide as this room, 20 feet or 30 feet. And both Chick and myself were dressed like a pair of bums. And we didn’t know, we got off our ship, they didn’t tell us any, how we had to be dressed at this place, so we felt embarrassed. But we were just kids, you know, 18 years old really.
And I recall talking to him and a couple officers walked, rode by on bicycles, going the other way. And after we passed them, they stopped us and brought us back, you stand here and we were starting to be frightened now. And they said, you didn’t salute. Well, we never saluted on the ship; they never told us we had to. But anyway, these two guys happened to be the first and second-in-command of the Bermuda base, Malabar was the name of the place.
So they called us down about that and what was our ship’s name and what was our captain’s name and all kinds of stuff. And we went back to the ship terrified that we were going to cause trouble. But it was very funny to see that happen. And as I say, just a pair of kids, 18 years old, you know, you’re not too worldly.
So anyway, about two days later, we had to have a, what they called a church parade – or, we were being inspected, that’s what it was. And who comes on the ship but these two guys. And we thought, we stood right next to one another and he said, oh, we’re in trouble now. And we told our, the guy that was in charge man, he was called a leading telegraphist and he said, don’t worry about it right now, we’ll hear about it when he comes on. Never heard a word of it. They never said one word to the captain or anything.
But that was a good time. You never saw any trucks or cars or … We were there for our honeymoon when we got married and they had mopeds at the time and that was about all you’d see. But when we were there, the only thing you would see was the odd American transport truck. There were no cars, they didn’t allow cars. They didn’t have them; they didn’t need them because they used horse and buggy all the time there. It was very, as I say, it was charming. Can’t believe how fun.
You’d get an ice cream cone and it was goat’s milk ice cream. It was good. Tasty, yeah. You wouldn’t, you know, if you didn’t know it was goat’s milk ice cream, you wouldn’t worry.
I had to go to the dentist one time and he used the old fashioned pedal-type of drill where he’s pushing a foot down, get the wheel to spin around and then he’s drilling you. It was very agonizing and no anesthetic or anything like that, no needles or freezing, they didn’t have freezing in those days. So you had to put up with it. I can recall that was a real painful trip.
After we finished our basic training, which was about six weeks I think, we had to do some just, fill in the time before we were shipped out to Halifax. And the job that I had at this, in the morning, for breakfast time, was serving cereal to people. And used to be one fellow came and he’d always say, I want some more sugar. And he would be taking rolled oats and you could, you could always put sugar on it, it would just disappear almost right away. So he used to say, I want some more sugar, there’s not enough sugar in there. So after a while somebody suggested, we’ll fix that guy. So they took a bowl and half filled it with sugar, put the puffed wheat or whatever it was on top of it and then when he asked for more sugar, well, that will give him one. But he was only allowed to get one more spoonful.
So the fellow that did this dirty trick says ah, we’ll give you another one this morning. So he went away and everybody in the cafeteria was watching because they knew what we were doing. He was always about the last man to come to get his breakfast. And all the eyes were on him and he never blinked an eyelash. He ate the whole bowl of sugar and all. But he never had dry cereal after that. That was the funniest thing that I think I ever happened.