Monthly Archives: February 2014

1919, year of Strikes and Revolution, when Rufus was a delegate to G.W.V.A. convention in Vancouver

GWVA with Byng 1922

Vancouver GWVA members with Governor General Byng in 1922. By then Rufus was no longer a member but extracts from his 1919 diary tell us:

May 1       “To GWVA meeting at night. Made first speech opposing the formation of a ‘soldiers political party’. My views carried overwhelmingly and I got much applause although I got a bit tangled up in spots. About 500 men there.”

The GWVA –  the Great War Veterans Association, I presume?

That’s right. It was very democratic – open to all ranks.

But why was Rufus opposed to forming a ‘soldiers political party’ – wouldn’t that be a good way for the veterans to get things done ?

Many of them thought so – especially left-wing types, guys who believed in socialism or communism. But any hint of that would have been a poison pill at the ballot box. It would have seemed revolutionary to the Canadian government, as Rufus surely pointed out. This was Canada, not Russia. Canadian troops, men these veterans knew well, and who had been with them in France, were still in Siberia, fighting Bolsheviks!

What did Rufus advise instead?

To come up with a list of reasonable requests and present it, in a reasonable way, to the Borden government. Anyway, a week later his diary tells us – “May 8  – to GWVA meeting in evening. Elected by acclamation as delegate to Dominion Convention.”

It sounds as if his views were popular

It does. Anyway before the GWVA National Convention assembled in Vancouver, we hear more of those Siberian troops. On July 20 Rufus wrote:Down to Monteagle in am. Saw Gen Elmsley, Stayner, Everett and Cartwright on return from Siberia.

SS Monteagle

Is that Monteagle arriving in Vancouver?

Well, it’s Monteagle alright, but somewhere else and with a peacetime paint job. Here she is again in June 1919, leaving Vladivostok for Vancouver, with Canadian soldiers.

Monteagle leaving Vladivostock June 1919

What were Canadians doing in Siberia?

That’s a good question. There was general sympathy with the Bolsheviks among Canadian soldiers, as there was among Canadian workers. Here’s a map showing where a few of them went – up the Trans-Siberian Railway as far as Omsk, where they set up a headquarters. The Borden government hoped to deny Siberia to the Bolshies but when it became obvious that Trotsky had beaten the pants off the Whites, orders came to leave the Russians to it and come home.

Siberia map 1918-19

This is what some of them got up to.

siberiaspot3nd

Did they do any fighting?

Only a little, protecting their trains running to and from Omsk. A few of them died doing it – and there’s a Canadian war memorial in Vladivostok.

So when did the GWVA Convention begin?

According to Rufus’s diary it ran 30 June – 4 July, with a day off for 1 July. His diary for June 30reads:  “Lovely hot day. Street cars again running. Opening of Dominion GWVA convention. Luncheon at Hotel Vancouver. Premier (John Oliver), Bowser (Tory leader), and Major Gale spoke.”

GWVA convention Vancouver 1919 iia

GWVA convention Vancouver 1919 iib

Were these the delegates?

They were – and most of them were pretty grim-looking – they really do look as if they’ve been to hell and back. Rufus isn’t in either part of the picture – at least, I can’t find him. He didn’t ‘do’ conventions very well – just liked to pop in when something interesting was happening. He probably missed the picture. His diary for the rest of the week was not very chatty – “July 2 GWVA convention.  July 3 Convention. Worked until 2.30am and walked home with Fitzmaurice and McKelvie. Stayed at Abbotsford (Hotel). July 4 convention – took pm session.”

What did he mean on 30 June by ‘streetcars again running?’ Had there been a streetcar strike?

There had been more than that. This was the summer of the Winnipeg General Strike. It started on 15 May, then spread right across the country with general strikes in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto – and finally Vancouver on 3 June. Rufus’s diary tells us: “June 3   General Strike commences at 11am – street cars run till midnight.     June 4    Street cars still running – no disorder. “Strike bulletin No 1” issued. Small riots in W’peg    June 5    No street cars running and metal workers all quit work. Censorship in newspaper offices! June 6      Little change in strike situation. Typographical Union made public “explanation of censorship”.

Vancouver general strike - jitneys allowed

Is that Vancouver during the strike?

Yes, that’s Hastings, looking west from Cambie. As Rufus said, the streetcars were running but jitneys were also running – to undercut them! You can see them in the photo.

It strikes me that 1919 was a pretty chaotic year.

It was indeed –  even the Province got caught up in it, as Rufus tells us: June 16    Province printers on strike on refusal to print an editorial. June 17    Did not go to office. Picnic on sands with Paul and Deirdre Phelan – lovely day for all of us. Hitchen drove them down to ferry in his car and here to supper.  June 18    Province issues ‘Bulletin No 2’ in am and regular editions in pm. Sun still out of business.”

I presume the Strike Bulletins were put out by the striking printers. And I suppose on 18 June Walter Nichol had made a deal with the printers’ union – ‘we’ll let you print your strike bulletin, if you’ll print our newspaper.’

It must have been something like that. And Rufus did the right thing by taking his family to the beach instead of getting uptight about it all. It was a difficult year to navigate for people with good jobs. Meanwhile all those different grievances seemed to feed on each other. The general strikes undercut the GWVA. And the Siberian expedition increased the distrust felt by working people for the government and encouraged the strikers.

How were the GWVA grievances resolved in the end?

The main issue was settled early in 1920 – an unmarried private soldier with three years service received a payment of $420, the amount to increase with rank and be reduced for less time served. Rufus was reappointed a delegate to the 1920 convention in Montreal and, in his diary for 25 March that year, he wrote: “Convention passed resolution asking for a minimum cash bonus of $1000 with which I disagree entirely, and which means, in my opinion, that the GWVA forfeits all right to public confidence as a sane and reasonable body of men.”

And I suppose that’s why he wasn’t with the GWVA to meet Lord Byng.

It was. But he’d already seen Byng – the day before he’d written: “Went to smoker in his honour at night at (Denman) Arena – 3000 ex-servicemen there – a remarkable demonstration of affection.”

Rufus as early Radio and Broadcasting enthusiast

Arthur Burrows (Uncle Arthur) of BBC 1922

It looks as if you pirated that picture from the BBC.

I’m afraid you’re right – its pretty hard to find pictures of those old pioneers. This was Arthur Burrows, reading the news for the original British Broadcasting Company, probably in 1922. To BBC listeners he was “Uncle Arthur”.

And how did Rufus get to know him, I wonder?

Well, in 1920 he had persuaded Nichol to send him to the Imperial Press Conference in Ottawa. In his diary he wrote “… the only address of interest was by one Burrows of Marconi wireless Co .” Burrows and he struck up a friendship, one that was still going strong in 1933.

1922, Arthur Burrows of BBC

Here’s Burrows at about that time. He’d been Secretary-General of the International Broadcasting Union, based in Geneva, since the mid-1920s. He and Rufus saw a lot of each other whenever Rufus came to Geneva – in fact their families became friendly, too. In September 1933, Rufus and Uncle Arthur made a half-hour radio broadcast together from Geneva.

When did Rufus and Bee get their own radio?

On 10 August 1925, when Rufus was still in Vancouver, he wrote in his diary: “I went round to Harringtons’ for a while to hear Sir H. Thornton (president of CNR) and radio at CNRV opening.” CNRV started broadcasting the next day. They had their radio stations in CN’s mainline railway stations – and they broadcast on their trains. Look at this:

Listening_Radio_CN

So did Rufus go out and get a radio?

He did – but it was very expensive. Here’s a four-tube 1926 model, similar to the one he bought.

silvertone_1926_early_late_605608

Not until 1 January 1926 did he write in his diary: Radio (4 tube) installed today ($115)”

$115! – that’s four figures today at least. It was like buying a top-of-the-line flat screen TV!

And sometimes they had problems, even so. On June 30 he wrote – “radio man here at night”. And on Sunday 5 September – Radio broke down just as the Bishop began his sermon.”

Did everybody soon have a radio?

Oh no, not at first.  Only the enthusiasts had them and, of course, they used to ask their friends round to listen. On 9 September 1927 Rufus wrote – Lovely day for once – Larsens came for Radio.”

That’s amazing! Imagine ‘listening to radio’ being a social event!

And that wasn’t the only way that radio changed lives – think about that line of Rufus’s about the radio breaking down when he was listening to the Bishop’s sermon. What was he doing? Listening to him at home, of course, instead of going to the cathedral. No wonder the churches soon gave up broadcasting sermons!

Not that Rufus was a church-dodger – quite the opposite, it seems to me. Didn’t he once broadcast from Christ Church cathedral in Vancouver?

Christ Church cathedral interior

He did – on Labour Day Sunday, 1930. He was speaking to 1,000 in the Cathedral while CNRV was broadcasting his address; and down the street at the First United Church, J.S. Woodsworth was speaking.

Did Rufus know any other broadcasting types?

NPG x83746; (William Ewart) Gladstone Murray by Bassano

Oh, for sure. He knew Gladstone Murray, a Canadian who was Director of Public Relations for the BBC. They both realised the importance of Canadian public radio for protecting Canada from being swamped by US broadcasting – and Murray later went to work for the new CBC after 1936. And they both knew Graham Spry – that’s him below – boss of the Canadian Radio League.

Graham Spry, broadcasting pioneer

Rufus sounds as if he might have ended up in broadcasting himself.

We’ll never know – but he certainly had what it takes: a fine speaker with a voice that was easy to listen to. And Gladstone Murray was at his memorial service after he died.

Valentine’s Day was a non-event for Rufus and Bee

In 1929 Rufus and Bee were living in England. His diary for Valentines day reads: “Bee and I to see Lady with a Lamp (Florence Nightingale – Edith Evans) at Garrick (Theatre, London).”

Lady with the Lamp

I would say that sounds ‘sort of’ romantic – but you don’t think so?

Oh yes, I agree it does – although it was a serious play about one woman’s triumph over male prejudice and stupidity! Here’s a picture of Edith Evans in 1922 – in another role.

Edith-Evans-Globe-1922

Well, at least they had a night out on the town. Where did they have dinner? No, don’t tell me – I’ll bet they ate at the Troc, where they always ate. It was the ‘Bread’ of ‘Bread and Circuses’ if ever there was!

Trocadero

Most likely – but he doesn’t actually say. And I have to tell you that that was the ONLY St Valentine’s Day between 1919 and 1933 when they did something for just the two of them.

It’s hard to believe. But what on earth was Rufus doing instead?

I suppose Valentine’s day 1919 was a low point. He was in hospital in Vancouver, and Dr Gillies of VGH chose that day to give him a rectal exam!

I sure hope that was the low point. Weren’t there other times when he and Bee did something together?

There were, but not just the two of them, and none were exactly romantic. The 1924 Valentines was on a Thursday. He and Bee went to North Van for a funeral in the afternoon and then “To Mrs Jack Bell’s for Bridge at night.”

Okay – and I expect they had a pleasant time – was Bridge a new thing for them?

Far from it – they were both fanatics and had started their own Bridge Club. No, Bridge was certainly not special. But Valentines 1926 wasn’t too bad. It was a Sunday and they invited the Millers to tea. It was a nice occasion but two things spoiled it.

Oh dear, what happened?

First, the renters next door had a wild party on Saturday night. It went on into the wee hours – maybe a Valentines party, who knows – those particular renter-guys didn’t need an excuse! They were always noisy. But Rufus went ballistic, and in the morning phoned Major Matthews, the next-door house owner, to demand that he evict them! Matthews probably needed the rent and, when he wouldn’t, Rufus gave him a piece of his mind. Here are their two houses on Maple Street, Matthews’ house in the foreground.

M 13 Major Matthews's 1343 Maple Street left,

They were very close to each other. Not very romantic, I must say, two retired Majors yelling at each other over the telephone. What was the other thing that spoiled the tea party?

Well, tea-parties usually ran from, say, 3:30 until 5:30 at the latest. By 6 o’clock, for sure,  everybody would have gone. But Rufus wrote:”Millers and Betty M here to tea and stayed till 8pm!”

Poor old Rufus – not much of a day, all told. So I suppose he’d had to produce cocktails – he would have needed one himself by that time.

Then, of course, Rufus himself was acting in Vancouver Little Theatre plays  on two of those Valentines days – in 1925, a Saturday, it was the last night of The Devil’s Disciple, in which he played General Johnnie Burgoyne.

VLTA programme - Devil's DiscipleVLTA programme - Devil's Disciple ii

Did Bee at least come to the show?

She did indeed – nobody could keep her away! She and Derek joined the actors for “supper onstage afterwards,” and they all went home in a taxi at 1am – so I’m sure they all had a good time. But Rufus was acting again on Valentines day 1928. If you look at the programme  for Devil’s Disciple, you’ll see he was the VP of Little Theatre. And when an actor got sick at Dress Rehearsal, the VP stepped into the breach.

Just like that?

Just like that! Tuesday 14 Feb 1928 was the first night – he wrote: “Liliom – a great success – home midnight and washing grease paint out of hair until 1:15am.”

My goodness – he was a trouper, wasn’t he?

It was a different story in the years directly after the war, though. For some reason, 16th Battalion – his regiment when he was in the line – used to hold its annual dinner on Valentine’s day – though it was a men-only affair, of course. So in 1920, 1922 and 1923 he spent that evening with the guys.

So, the bottom line is that Valentine’s day was not an item on Rufus’s horizon – nor on Bee’s, it would seem.

You’re right. But in those days, Hallmark cards didn’t have the stranglehold on the popular imagination that it has today. For most people, except perhaps the very young and the seriously romantic, it was just not an item. We shouldn’t judge Rufus by our own standards.

Rufus and Roy laid track for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway on the Skeena River in 1910.

Who was Roy?

Roy 1911

Rufus’s elder brother. He came to Canada in 1909 “to see the world”, but in 1910 both brothers were stony broke in Vancouver. They signed on with Foley, Welch and Stewart, contractors for GTP, hoping to make a quick pile to pay off their debts.

Skeena - crew laying tracks nr Houston

Are they in that picture, then?

They could be – it does show a GTP track-laying gang in 1910.

Why did they think they could make a lot of money by doing that?

Well, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, at the time,  was just as big deal for BC and Canada  as the Embridge Pipeline and the Northern Gateway are today. I guess they were also suckered in by the contractor’s advertising: “Feeding is unstinted and the best available and on a scale undreamed of, unlimited choice of fresh meat, fresh vegetables, groceries, butter, eggs, milk, bread, fruit; after work there are sing-songs, games, sports, fishing and shooting.” All this and up to $3.75 a day.

How would they even get to the Skeena River?

The contractors, Foley, Welch and Stewart, shipped them up the coast to Prince Rupert, along with a number of other workers. That’s when they should have smelt a rat – because most of their companionss were new immigrants from Europe – guys who were easier to fool because they didn’t speak much English.

Were the work camps in Prince Rupert?

Oh no, railway construction had started there  in 1908 – but by 1910 the head of rail was approaching Hazelton. They would have gone up the Skeena on one of the contractors’ custom-built stern-wheelers. Maybe it was the Operator, an odd name for a ship.

Skeena Operator_on_Skeena

They started work as soon as they arrived.

Skeena Tracklay Speed

And where did the live?

There were camps every two miles up the track. By 1910 GTP was trying to cut costs and the conditions in their camps were terrible.

How bad was ‘terrible’?

One newspaper described the bunkhouses as “…so filthy even a self-respecting pig would refuse to die in them.” As for that fresh food that Foley, Welch and Stewart had advertised, one man described it as “unfit for a dog.”  So much so that the Johnston brothers and their fellow workers had a new name for their employers – Fool’em, Work’em and Starve’em!

How long were they up on the Skeena?

No more than a couple of months. There were no doctors, and when typhoid hit the camps Roy came down with it. He  and Rufus – sick with abscesses in his mouth – seem to have been shipped to hospital in Vancouver. They were lucky – other workers who quit had to find their own way south – difficult, because GTP owned the transportation and were not about to help workers who quit.

So why did they bring Rufus and Roy out?

Who knows? Maybe because Rufus was a Province journalist who’d been filing reports from the Skeena  – or perhaps they’d found out Roy was a lawyer!

So Roy recovered alright?

He did, but was at death’s door for weeks. When he finally left hospital, his medical bill was huge. He sold his fruit and strawberry acreage at Harrop in order to pay it – and he had nothing left over.

Apart from that, the story had a happy ending, at least.

It did, and Rufus learned lessons about how the real world works. His boss at the Province, Walter Nichol, would not print his more outrageous  accusations against the GTP.

E 5 Walter Cameron Nichol

The GTP’s owner was Charles Melville Hays and no sensible newspaper wanted to fall foul of such an influential man without a very good reason.

Skeena - Charles_melville_hays

I’m afraid I’ve never heard of him.

There may be a reason for that. Hays was aboard Titanic and went down with the ship. He was only 56 – had he lived, the Grand Trunk might still be with us – as it was, it went bankrupt and became part of Canadian National.

Light in the darkness! Advanced Reading Copies of ‘Rufus’ have been mailed.

Rufus - Advanced Reading Copy

Wonderful! Is that what the regular copies will look like?

No, they’ll look like this.

Rufus - original design for book-cover

I see. So, what exactly is an ‘Advanced Reading Copy’?

It’s not for sale, has no pictures and no index. It’s printed early for reviewers. And if a reviewer writes something nice, no doubt you’ll find that splashed across the back cover when you get your own copy, some time around the first of March.

I understand – but why bother with a different cover?

I wondered about that. I suppose it’s all part of the psych war – convincing potential reviewers to read and review it.  ‘Advanced Reading Copy’ tells them the book’s not already out there, that what they write may end up on the final back cover – helping to sell the book, but also promoting reviewers themselves.

Sounds complicated – but if it gets reviewers writing reviews, I’m all for it.

And the best news of all is that the book will be available for sale in three weeks. You can see that Rufus is pleased

Cartoon of Rufus with pram, 1913

although young Derek is a tad grumpy!

Things are looking up!

Rufus flies with Canadian air ace Freddie McCall, Calgary, May 1928

So who was Freddie McCall?

A World War I pilot who shot down 35 enemy aircraft.

Rufus flies - McCall

Wow! An air ace, in fact, like Billy Bishop.

He was pretty famous, especially in Alberta. He was born in Vernon, BC, but came to Calgary as a boy. Here he is after the war, wearing his medals, including an MC, a DFC – and a  DSO awarded for downing 5 Germans in a single afternoon in June 1918.  He flew an RE8, a lumbering aircraft, not as nimble as its opponents – yet he managed to shoot down 35 of them – and survive. Like Billy Bishop, he was a natural. Here’s an RE8 in a dogfight

Rufus flies - RE8

Not a very beautiful machine – look at all that clobber in front of the pilot. How did Rufus know McCall?

He didn’t know him but he’d heard of him – everybody had in western Canada. In 1919 McCall founded the Calgary Flying Club at Bowness Field. Here he is, promoting the club at the Calgary Exhibition of 1919.

Rufus flies - Fred-McCall-in-1919

The aircraft is his ‘Jenny’, a Curtiss JN4. A year later McCall started his own airline at Bowness, which became Calgary’s first airport. He turned his start-up into Great Western Airways later on.

Rufus flies - frederick_mccall

And in 1928 he had all of Calgary on the edge of their seats when he flew  200 quarts of nitroglycerine from Shelby, Montana, to Calgary.

I guess he reacted to risk like Rufus did – having survived the war, nothing in civvy street would ever again seem particularly frightening.

I’m sure you’re right. And he learned how to make a living out of his fame, too.

Rufus's flight - Fred McCall

In fact, McCall was a celebrity and was cashing in on it

And not only with cigarette sponsorships – also with joyrides out at Bowness. Rufus met him there on his way to his new job in England in May 1928 . He and Charles Hayden, editor of the Calgary Herald, had just lost a golf game and consoled themselves by blowing $5 each on a flip with McCall in his Jenny.

Rufus flight -Flying_jenny_cropped

It looks like a two-seater – so McCall must have taken them up one at a time. That would be the passenger’s seat behind the wing, wouldn’t it?

That’s right – and no doubt he gave them their money’s worth – loops and rolls over the airfield were part of the deal! I expect they had to wear a harness – so they wouldn’t fall out!

Rufus flies - Fredmccall

That must be McCall in later life – its a wonderful face, still full of tricks.

The poor guy died in his bed at 52 – soon after that picture was taken. Here he is, back in uniform in WW2 – as an RCAF Squadron Leader training pilots. And he wasn’t forgotten. Calgary airport, the present one, was McCall Field until 1962, when it was renamed Calgary International Airport – a silly prestige name. Nowadays he’s remembered only by McCall Way, the road to the airport.

More than we can say for poor Rufus. Maybe, if enough people read your book, Rufus will get a road named after him!

Rufus’s first flight, early October 1917, north of Arras, France.

So when did Rufus first go up in an aircraft?

In the fall of 1917.  He was Staff Captain ‘I’ with 9th Brigade, and the brigade was preparing to attack the German positions at Mericourt. Probably he was getting a bird’s eye view of the German trenches and the barbed wire in front. The ‘I’ in  his rank stood for ‘intelligence’ – he had to make sure the GOC, General Hill, had accurate, up-to-date information.

What kind of aircraft was it?

RFC 2 seater - Sopwith Camel

He doesn’t say in his letter to Bee. It was a two-seater, of course – if he was lucky, a Sopwith Camel like this one. They were the Royal Flying Corps’ latest toy, able to take on the German Albatross. More likely, though, it was a BE2 like the one below, an obsolete old crate that they had no shortage of.

RFC 2 seater reconnaissance aircraft BE2c

It does look a little frail – and pretty vulnerable, with the Red Baron and his friends about! What did Rufus tell Bee?

He said “I’m going up in an aeroplane – not for fun, because that would possibly be risking one’s neck unnecessarily – but I’m ordered to go for a certain purpose. I’m rather excited as I’ve never been ‘up’ before.”

Of course he was excited – 1917 was only 8 years after Bleriot was the first to fly the English Channel – about 30 k wide at Dover! Here’s a couple of pictures of that.

RFC, Louis_Blériot_1909RFC bleriot-1913

Well, you’d never know he was excited from his letter – he just wrote “I’m back, and quite enjoyed the experience – it was almost like being in a motor car.” That’s not as silly as it sounds – all cars were open at the time, just like aircraft. And you had to wear goggles and leather helmets for both. The BE2’s max speed was 116k but it probably flew much slower for reconnaissance flights – maybe about 80k.

Say what you like, Rufus was a cool customer. Most people, I’m sure, would have been petrified of flying in those days. But he treats it like it’s all in the day’s work.

It was, of course. Don’t forget – a ‘days work’ meant being shelled and shot at – flying might have seemed safer! But he was always one for new ideas and gadgets. The week before he’d had a chance to chat to the tankers who were to co-operate with 9th Brigade at Mericourt. He’d been to Wailly with them and had seen them training – here’s a picture taken at the time – this tank was called Flirt II!

RFC tank at Wailly Oct 1917

And when he got back to Vancouver, he was one of the first to buy a new-fangled typewriter. Imagine him sitting up in bed in VGH, bashing out articles – THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, “DAMN!” – on his Remington portable

rem1ad

If he was alive today, he’d  be tweeting with the best of them! But he’d also be 127!

A Rufus’s eye view of the Curtiss HS-2L flying-boat, in which he flew to Victoria and back in April 1926

N 14  Aviators Rufus, T.V. Scudamore at Jericho 1926

Hey, we’ve seen this picture before – it’s Rufus and a pal, about to fly to Victoria in that strange-looking contraption behind them.

You’re absolutely right – the pal was Major Scudamore. But I thought it might be fun to have another look at the ‘contraption’, as you call it – better known as a Curtiss HS-2L flying boat.

Curtiss HS-2L flying-boat, Jericho 1920

Here’s a picture from Saturday’s Vancouver Sun. It shows one of them on the slipway at Jericho Air Station in 1920. If you look closely, the aircraft’s on a dolly with wheels and the guys are putting it into the water. Here’s a picture of three passengers about to take off in one. If you click on it twice – to maximum size – you’ll see three heads sticking out, all wearing leather helmets like Rufus’s.

Curtiss flying boat 1926, Mayor L.D.Taylor et al about to fly to Victoria

Oh yes, I see them – do we know who they were?

Just the guy with the eye-glasses, nearest the camera – he’s Vancouver mayor L.D. Taylor. He was going to Victoria too, and the picture was taken the same year as the one of Rufus and Scudamore.

Who’s the big guy standing on the fuselage? And what on earth is he doing? – looks like he’s lecturing the passengers at the back!

What! Oh no, that’s the pilot – look at his goggles. He’s up there  to start the engine with the starting crank – the thing with two right-angle bends. Once he gets it locked in, he’ll crank the engine until it fires, just like starting  a lawn-mower or a chainsaw! Electric starters were for sissies! You can see the starting crank better in this next picture.

Curtiss HS-2L flying-boat ii

The starting handle looks like it’s a fixture – but maybe that’s because this aircraft’s in an museum or something. Where does the pilot sit? And what’s ‘Laurentide’ all about?

The pilot sits in the hole beside the Mayor, not right in the bow. He’ll probably have his leather coat stashed there, to put over his overalls – at 125kph it was too chilly for just overalls!  The colour picture shows the fuselage holes with covers on them, but it gives you a better idea of what it felt like to be a passenger.

And Laurentide, is that the name of the aircraft?

No, it was the name of the air service – Laurentide Air  Service. It was started in Quebec after the war, with 2 Curtiss HS-2L aircraft. At first they just flew surveyors and the like up to the Quebec gold claims – then they expanded and started bush flying in Ontario. The Curtiss was built by the American navy for reconnaissance, but it was also a great bush plane and they flew them until the late thirties. In BC they were great for opening up the back country – you could land them anywhere.

Curtiss flying boat 1926, landing at Jericho, Vancouver.

And here’s a Curtiss landing at Jericho, Vancouver – with Stanley Park behind.

Look at that bow wave – they really were boats that flew, weren’t they? But why didn’t people, pilots, object to having to fly in the open? – I mean, it’s barbaric!

The pilots weren’t complaining. They’d all learned to fly in the airforce, and after the war there were many more pilots than there were jobs – so the lucky ones just kept their heads down. And the passengers? Well, most had been in the war too – and they’d survived it. That’s why they didn’t worry about crashing. And they’d become pretty good at putting up with things, too.