Dick Hunt's Blog

August 28, 2011

Fog, Little or Much. remembering Larry Goodwill

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 8:05 pm

Fog, Little or Much.
by Dick Hunt, August 28th, 2011.
This morning I enjoyed a trip to Abbotsford to Church with a close friend and at around 7:45 we encountered mild fog conditions just east of Maple Ridge. My memory flashed back to December of 1943 when I was on the way from Bella Bella on Denny Island, mid way up the coast of B.C. via Vancouver in the R.C.A.F. to Calgary. I had been on Denny Island for 19 months and was very glad of the change.  I was one of fifteen passengers and Crew on an old Bi Wing Flying Boat called a “Stranraer” (named for a town in Scotland) and we had a Squadron of them at Bella Bella.  The first one I saw was at Jericho Beach in early 1942 and I thought it would be impossible to get it into the air.  The two, 850 H.P. Pegasus  Motors were in the top wing, ten feet above the hull and the two massive wings were separated by vertical struts and heavy cross wires.  But fly it did and I rode in many of them as a Radio Technologist.

When we neared Vancouver, hoping to land at Jericho Beach, it was impossible to catch even a glimpse of the city; it was totally enveloped in fog, “Sea to Sky”.  So the Captain changed course and landed in Pat Bay on the West coast of Vancouver Island, just north of Victoria. I travelled to Vancouver on a night sailing on one of the old Princess Boats.  The fog was still very dense and it took careful manouvering to be able to dock, with much sounding of the Fog Horns as the Helmsman listened to the echo from the buildings on shore and communications on the ship to shore radio.

When I finally got to shore I was met by a close friend who had made the journey, but by old Union Steamship some days before.  His name was Larry Goodwill and his family home was just off south Burrard St.  I had been invited to stay with him and his recently widowed Mother and two sisters for a few days. He called a taxi and we began a very slow trip to his home.
In those days in Vancouver, a great number of homes were heated by Sawdust Burning stoves which produced a massive blanket of smoke and high humidity over the whole area.  During times of great calm, the fog produced total whiteout and such was our problem that morning. All the way to Larry’s home I walked along the curb on the passengers side with my hand on the front of the fender to let the driver know when we reached an intersection or a parked car.  Eventually we made it and were able to enjoy a great, home cooked breakfast with the family.

Larry’s Father had died only a few months before but had bought a beautiful Grand Piano for his only son, who was a very accomplished Concert Pianist in Civilian life.  Larry had been starved of the opportunity to play a good piano for a long time and so after the dishes were done he sat down at the Concert Grand and played for three solid hours until midnight.  It was one of the greatest feasts of classical brilliance I had ever heard and I get a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes (even as I type this) to this day as I recall the evening.

Larry was posted back to Ontario by the R.C. A.F. for the duration of the war and after discharge in 1945 resumed his career as a staff member of the Toronto Conservatory of Music,  until his final retirement many years later.  During our time at Bella Bella, we had a vist from a group called “The Western Air Command Concert Party” to relieve the sameness and boredom of our life there.  Larry was strongly urged to play for our pleasure, but only if he would play “Boogie Woogie”, which was big with many young people in those days.  He told the group he couldn’t play that but would be pleased to play classics, which they finally agreed to.  His billiance so captivated the audience of some 600 men that they were loathe to let him stop and the concert stretched out to midnight.  What lovely memories I cherish from days gone by. And now I share them with you.

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