By Larry Clark
The year was 1958 and it proved to be quite a year. I had received my wings in Winnipeg, Oct57 and was awaiting assignment to the CF100 OTU (operational training unit) but they were backed up and there was no opening until 11 Jan 58. I was given rather boring duties, which allowed me to go on leave over Christmas/New Years in CP. (Think Ashton, where Beth lived).
The previous Christmas I had given Beth a ring that we decided to consider as an engagement ring. It had been an inexpensive ring centred with an emerald, set between 2 zircons but I had the jeweller replace the zircons with diamonds (raised his eyebrows-perhaps the diamonds were no more expensive than the zircons?). There was no getting down on one knee-that came a year later-in front of the Godfather, aka Eagle beak, aka Mr. Perfect in every way, aka “The Greatest” (we loved him!)-which brings us to 1957/58 and the new Year’s Ball at Uplands Mess. I then drove back to Cold Lake AB in time for my course which I successfully completed on the 22 May 58.
That day, I placed a call to Beth, via the base switchboard, to the long-distance operator, to (I believe a Smiths Falls exchange) to the party line that served the Ormrod’s residence (next door to the Slades). I had never done this before but I felt the circumstances were such that the Ormrod’s wouldn’t mind (Slades had availed themselves of this on occasion). The other option would have been the Ashton General Store but that would have been too complicated involving a call-back. Everything seemed to go like clockwork, although there was the necessary wait for Beth to get the message and come to the phone (giving ample time for other party-liners to gain access.
“Hello Beth”; no reply?, the long distance operator came on the line; “she can hear you and she said Hello back,-can you not hear her”-“no”, I said.
Thus, the conversation proceeded-we decided to continue the call with LD operator relaying the conversation-can’t remember the exact words and could well be that neither of us could hear the other-but this is my recollection.
Operator: “go ahead sir”.
Me: “Beth, we have to get married right away, as soon as we can!”
Operator (making strange noises) relayed the message.
Me: “I have passed the course and am being posted to France at the end of June, so we need to get married before then.”
The conversation continued for some time in a rather light-hearted fashion (which included the operator-having made her day!)
I was given leave, including extra embarkation leave but time was still a critical consideration and we (Remi Saulnier in his MG, my pilot** and I in my Ford) set out almost immediately for Carleton Place. There was a slight delay while Ray picked up his car from the garage where he had had them perform a tune up.
Before we reached Vermillion (100 miles of gravel in those days), it became obvious that Ray’s car was under-performing but he did manage to make it to Lloydminster and a mechanic. He was rather perturbed that the previous mechanic had to the wrong settings and the valves had been burned. Aware of our schedule, he re-set the valves and said that it was only a temporary fix and the valves would need to be re-ground soonest. We made it as far as Regina and stayed overnight in a motel.
Left Regina at 12 noon, stopping only for food and fuel, making it onto the ferry at the Sault, with Ray’s car becoming more and more cantankerous and at that point, refused to start in order to get off. I managed to push it off and we got it going with the intention of finding a garage that could repair the vehicle- 10/11 o’clock on a Sunday night.
We located a suitable garage, parked the MG with a note explaining the situation and that to expect a call on the Monday morning. We both got into my car and continued the journey, arriving in Carleton Place at 6 in the morning; just a little tired after 42 hours without sleep-the last 4 hoursI resorted to smoking in order to keep myself awake-to keep each other awake.
Arriving, found that wedding plans were finalized for the coming Saturday; the garage in the Sault was called and arrangements were made for his car to be repaired; arrange, arrange, arrange, all week- Beth-a hurry-up passport; Beth-innoculations; Beth/Larry packing, etc. My mother, (bless her heart) helped with the packing but I didn’t know the extent until after the honeymoon.
Of course, when we got home from our honeymoon, everyone was excited to hear about the trip (Nova Scotia and Connecticut). After skirting the subject a couple of times, my mother finally asked if we had any problem with our clothing; to which I replied, perplexedly . “no, why do you ask?” She said, “Well, we sewed up all the openings in your pyjamas!”
I’ll leave this story at that-the voyage to Europe may come later.
**There had been a mock “marriage ceremony” in Cold Lake where we had crewed up together and we would continue to fly together for the most part while we were on squadron**
My 1956 Ford with Ormrod’s house in the background!
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