Shortly after I completing my military service in WWII I returned to my hometown of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada. I’ve included the photo you see as I looked very much the same when I returned minus the soldier’s uniform of course. Over the course of my service in Europe I had grown from a boy of sixteen to a young man of twenty-one. I was discharged two weeks after the end of the war in Europe for long service so I was one of the first men to return to Kirkland Lake after the war. My dear friend Bob Lapointe hired me to work in his beer parlour and we decided to go on an eight day fishing trip through rough wilderness with only our canoe and our wits to guide us back. This is the story of that fateful trip, it is a long and eventful tale filled with adventures so I will be writing it in instalments and posting them here on my blog three times a week so please check back for the next instalment they will be titled Rapid Inn and numbered so today I will start with:
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I had just returned from the Western Front of WWII after five and a half years overseas. I was discharged earlier than other soldiers for having served over five years active duty. For a brief period of time I like many other returnies was treated like a celebrity. I mention this so you can relate my appearance to the photo displayed above.
Andria, the young woman, who helps me edit my novels is forever pushing me to write stories of my youth that I have no intention of including in any of my future novels as to me they are just memories of the past, though I have decided to include them in this blog. I hope you find the following exploits interesting.
My neighbour and friend Bob Lapointe owned the local beer parlour and when I returned from WWII he gave me my first civilian job as a waiter slinging trays of beer at his establishment. Just after the war there was still separate bars for men and women, it was only later that they started permitting people of the opposite sex to drink in the same room.
Bob Lapointe was a qualified pilot, he had acquired a pilot’s license before the war but when he applied for the air force he was rejected because of a liver condition. He used to take me out flying quite often, it is because of him that I got hooked on flying and later also got my pilot’s license. I also paid for the required gas, he sometimes allowed me to take over the flying controls briefly in gratitude.
I was also able to buy an old model A ford cheaply because of the job Bob had given me. We started taking many hunting trips together me with my 410 shotgun and Bob with his 22 repeater rifle, we drove along the old logging roads for partridge and rabbits of which there were both plenty as most of the other hunters were working in the war plants or in the army. The game had plenty of opportunity to thrive and multiply.
This over abundance of game did not last forever. When the rest of the men returned from war you took your life in your hands walking through any forest as you might be mistaken for a deer, so great was the number of hunters roaming the area. A whole new attitude returned from the war with the men and within a year you were hard pressed to find any roadsign that was shot through with buckshot holes.
The difference was staggering, when I first returned we were over run with deer and moose a couple of years later you had to hire a pilot to bring you far away enough to find an unspoiled hunting ground. It was the same with the fishing when the men came back from the war some of them would run nets across rivers and catch all the fish that swan in them until the rivers and ponds were practically empty of fish. That is the reason you now need a licence to fish or hunt and they have only certain seasons to hunt whichever species of game and quotas for how many fish one can catch. Needless to say the story I am about to relay to you took place before the rest of the men returned.
Bob showed me a map that indicated all the places where rivers joined and traced the paths where we would have to portage, which consists of carrying the canoe on your shoulders, including all the packs with our gear and cooking pots ect and walking across land to meet the next river or lake. I was surprised Bob picked me as his companion as I was inexperienced with travelling by putting paddles across our shoulders and balancing the canoe on them though I was always ready for a challenge and a new experience at that age.
My Model A Ford was to carry the canoe and all our gear to Sudbury, one of Bob’s waiters would drive us there and take the car back to Kirkland Lake to await our call and come pick us up at our destination when our 300 mile journey would be at an end.
Our journey commenced, Bob having attended to all the details. I came prepared with a box of 9mm shells and my favourite German luger pistol. I had taken it off a German Sargent Major who was given no alternative than to drop it or I would of dropped him, he didn’t argue and I was a little disappointed he didn’t put up a fight, but I was different person then.
I was pleasantly surprised that my Model A made it all the way to Sudbury without any problems. Bob then took me to a dock where a float plane was tied up a young pilot came up and introduced himself, I was looking around for his mother because he looked so young, but Bob just started telling him to load our stuff up and tie the canoe to the pontoon, I reluctantly got on board and we took off towards our destination.
For a brief moment as we were descending towards the lake Bob and I thought we might not survive. The inexperienced pilot took a sharp turn wing down I swear the edge of the wing scrapped the water, he was almost at stalling speed though he straightened out in time, thank God! He landed down wind which you should never do and we bounced twice hard off the water. I thought Bob was going to wring the pilot’s neck from the look on his face but he just told him off and we didn’t give him the customary tip. We offloaded everything in silence as Bob’s face turned from red back to it’s usual colour. Later apologized as he felt bad for almost killing me hiring that twerp of a pilot.
Stay tuned for the next instalment!