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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Celebrating flight

I was hoping that the 100th anniversary of Canadian aviation, which was yesterday, would be noticed in some special way across the country. There was a commemorative flight of the Silver Dart which took place in Cape Breton. But not much more than that. I remember several years ago, when TCA (Trans-Canada Airlines) celebrated its 50th anniversary with a cross-Canada flight of a rebuilt Lockheed Electra. It was a cool thing. In 1984, Austin Airways of Timmins celebrated its 50th anniversary with a display at the Timmins Airport. That cute kid there in front of the DC-3 is my son Neil Gillis. He was all of four years old back then. Toward the end of the day, Austin had a routine flight to Iroquois Falls and back. Knowing that it would be likely be last time Neil would ever have a chance to fly aboard such a legendary aircraft, we climbed in and took the flight. Neil got a kick out of the fact that passengers got on the plane from a door at the rear and then had to “walk uphill” to get to their seat. It was a good day.
One of my favourite moments in aviation was not in actually flying, but visiting the Canadian Aviation Museum in Ottawa a few years back. Just as you go through the main doors, there is a full-sized Fairey Swordfish biplane. It was just right there, a big jumble of wooden struts, canvas and steel wire. I remember being amazed that this was the airplane that dropped the torpedo that crippled the Bismarck of the German navy in May 1941, which at the time was the largest, fastest, deadliest battleship in the world. I remember standing there being amazed at the guts it took to fly this flimsy piece of flying-machine into the face of no less than 60 anti-aircraft guns to drop a torpedo. Amazing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I need inspiration.

I have been reading today all about the Oscar celebrations and the Academy Awards. For some reason it seems people are more interested in what the stars are wearing as opposed to whether a film has been or good not. I’m sorry; all this Oscar stuff is such crap. I haven’t seen any good movies in awhile. I certainly have seen anything to inspire me. Movies just don’t do that anymore. It’s not enough to be entertained. I think a good movie should leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhilarated. Books do that. The good ones sure do. When I think about all this talk about economic recession and a possible depression, I think about John Steinbeck’s great novel, The Grapes of Wrath. It won Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for literature. If you haven’t read it, put it on your bucket list. I have to read that again this year. The book was written in 1939 and the movie followed in 1940. Both became classics. I think I will read the book and see the movie again. I need inspiration.
The movie, which is about an American farm family struggling in the Great Depression, has a wonderful scene at the end, where Tom Joad’s Ma, played by Jane Darwell, gives her famous speech about the suffering, endurance and survival of ordinary people: “I ain't never gonna be scared no more. I was though. For a while it looked like we was beat. Good and beat. Looked like we didn't have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kinda bad and scared too, like we was lost and nobody cared.... Rich fellas come up -- and they die, and their kids ain't no good -- and they die out, but we keep on coming. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out, they can't lick us. We'll go on forever Pa, ‘cause we're the people…”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another good week zips by...

I haven’t been here for a week, but that only means I have been busier than usual. The weekend was good. I didn’t realize that last Saturday was Valentine’s Day… don’t ever try to go out to dinner on February 14, with someone you’re not romantically involved with… it just sends all the wrong messages. LOL. And you’ll never get a reservation. So we stayed at home and had lasagne, salad and loads fresh garlic bread. Then we went to the Zoo in South End to take in the lip-sync singing contests… which were hilarious. The fireworks show on Sunday was also worth the trip. I also enjoyed a drive across Porcupine Lake, which surprised a couple of snowmobile drivers as I booted past them. The ice was solid and safe at 30 inches of thickness. It was a busy news week, so it zipped by in a blur of stories and photos… but I did enjoy a chat with a fellow named Ray McLean. He is a former pilot with Austin Airways and had loads of great stories from working there for nearly 50 years! I did the story with Ray since Monday is the 100th anniversary of Canadian aviation, and Ray was a true northern bush pilot. It was also a good news week for the Timmins call centre workers. A Charlottetown firm, On Line Support, chose Timmins over 26 other Canadian communities, as the location of their newest call centre. I noticed among friends on facebook there is a trend now to list several things about yourself that others don’t know… it’s quite interesting, I don’t know where to start, but I might mention I was at the controls of an airplane flying through the Eastern Arctic one night with five tons of frozen halibut from Greenland. The real pilot was asleep. Hmmm…. That was an interesting time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And now ... some more signs!

Winter carnival weekend is here... well almost! Here a couple of signs I will likely check out Saturday night! : )

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Just in passing...

I mentioned in the blog last week that I was at an industrial fire. As you can see in pics a bit further below, the fire was not that big when we got there... unfortunately, it was a stubborn fire, and it got out of control later in the evening, as you can see in the nighttime photo above. The building was destroyed.

Nice weekend

It was another beautiful winter weekend in Timmins. We had plenty of snow Saturday when the Ontario Provincial Police commemorative patrol arrived in town. The patrol is to re-create the early days of the OPP which began in Northern Ontario in 1909. They’re traveling 1000 kilometres through the wilderness in three weeks. Of course, they had to stop in at Timmins which was one of the first detachments for the OPP back in the wilder days of the gold rush. It was sure cool to see the sled dogs. I was amazed at how small they are. And despite the temperatures of minus 35, they curl up and sleep in the snow. But when the time comes to hitch up to sled, they sure look happy. The two OPP officers on the patrol are also having an adventure, despite the fact they have to wear the old fashioned wool tunics and itchy-woolly long-johns.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What a day eh...

It was a busy darn day, but overall a good one. I caught a bit of hell from a police officer for driving too quickly while on the way to an explosion and fire at an industrial building in the west end. I was very apologetic, of course. But at the same time, I was a bit pleased that I got there before the cops closed the highway. The other newspaper in town was stuck behind the roadblock while I was at the scene, shooting pictures. By the way, here is a photo of a fire truck arriving at the scene. The good thing today was that I got a chance to drop into a book store where I found a used copy of The Source by James Michener. It was written in 1965. My Dad had a copy and he got me to read it around 1970.
I didn’t absorb it all back then, but it was great reading. I can’t wait to dig into it again. Interestingly, on page 16 on the book I found a bookmark… It was a boarding pass for a Canadian Airlines flight in economy class to Toronto, seat no. 7A, held by a person named L. McKay. It must have been quite a while ago… it was a no-smoking seat.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A good send-off for Mike Campbell

It was a bittersweet thing this weekend when the family got together for Mike’s funeral. It was great to see everyone again, just like on New Year’s Eve. The terrible sadness of course was that Mike’s great smile, laughter and silly jokes were not there. The funeral service was okay, as such things go, and it was good that so very many people showed up. People came from as far away as Manitoba and New Brunswick. There was a nice reception and lunch at the Miron Wilson hall afterwards. Then the family migrated back to Sue’s place where beer and whiskey flowed and then came the stories, tears and laughter as everyone remembered Mike the husband, Mike the brother, Mike the uncle, Mike the dad and granddad and, of course, Mike the crazy character who mooned his guests from the head table at his own wedding reception. Thank goodness for Harley Davidson underwear. It was also a chance to snap a photo of the Maltais brothers and sisters and some of the cousins.