Veteran Stories:
Jack Mussellam

Navy

  • Jack Mussellam as photographed by a German photographer in Oldenburg, Germany on Saturday, September 15, 1945.

    Jack Mussellam
  • Jack Mussellam's last Guilder.

    Jack Mussellam
  • HMCS Quesnel, taken off the west coast of Canada.

    Jack Mussellam
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"I spent the next two years traveling with the Royal Canadian Navy show as an entertainer."

Transcript

I used to sing around Winnipeg, mainly at churches, smaller productions. I found out that the Royal Canadian Navy was making preparations to have a show on the road, like The Army Show was at that time with [Canadian comedians Johnny] Wayne and [Frank] Shuster. I went down to the show just to see who the sailors were. We were told that most of them were regular people, show business people, but some were regular navy as well. So I went down to Victoria Theatre [in Toronto] where they were rehearsing, just to look around. And while I was there, I was approached by a man by the name of Bill Oliver from Winnipeg; and he was what they’d call an RPO [Regulating Petty Officer], regular petty officer anyway. And he was like a policeman for the navy show outfit.

He approached me and he asked me what my name was, and so on. I was sitting in a rotunda or whatever you call it, seats, with my friend. I gave him my name; and he said, well, we’ve been looking for you. He said, you have been drafted into the Royal Canadian Navy show, Meet the Navy, as an entertainer. I spent the next two years traveling with the Royal Canadian Navy show as an entertainer.

I couldn’t have asked to be drafted out of the navy show and put back on active duty, but Joseph Patrick Connolly, the lawyer, Captain Joseph Patrick Connolly, he put the kibosh on people trying to get out, like leave the navy show and go, and fight the real war. Well, he wasn’t happy about that. He’d got all his troubles created ??? and he didn’t want us broken up because we had received some great honours from members of the entertainment world; and we fell in with people like, well, you don’t know him, Jack Benny [American comedian] and you’ll know Marlene Dietrich [German actress], you’ll know Larry Adler [American musician] and a whole host of people that we had met during our travels in Europe in particular.

We didn’t do shows with those people, but they came to our parties and they entertained us, and we entertained them. It was very exciting for us, 18 year old, 19 year old boy, to get involved in this. For example, we did a war bond drive at Maple Leaf Gardens and our chorus, what we would call the Sea Shanties. We sang songs for the audience. And the headliner that particular show was Bob Hope [American comedian] and Skinnay Ennis [American bandleader]. That’s a long time. It was before your time, but it was quite a thrilling experience for those of us that were very young.

Playing for the king and queen at the Hippodrome Theatre in London, England, was quite a thrill for all of us, if you can well imagine. We took the show and went on into Europe, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany. And we played for the troops there. And we did have some public shows as well. It’s a long thrilling episode in my life, it was. Still is.

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