Life Aboard the River Beatrice 2/7

Written by Harold McNeill on April 13th, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

River Beatrice Photo

Photo: Garth, Esther, Lynn and Harold relax in the dining room of the River Beatrice. While the surroundings were elegant and the service exquisite, it was not many meals into the cruise before everyone had the feeling of being among family and friends. With complimentary local wines and beer served at both lunch and dinner the atmosphere was certainly lively.

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It would be difficult to grow up with the affluence that permeates life in North America, particularly as presented on TV and in the movies, without at least once wondering what it might be like to live aboard one of the many super yachts sprinkled throughout the harbours of our nation, a yacht upon which you could invite family and friends and where you would most certainly meet others from the four corners of the earth? (24484)

Budapest, an Historical City in Modern Times 1/7

Written by Harold McNeill on April 11th, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

Photo (hdm):  Taken from a walkway just below the Buda Castle and overlooking the Danube toward the Parliament Buildings.


Those new to reading posts on this blog will note many stories contain substantial social comment. This is no less true in the Travelogue Section. While the sights and sounds of a new town, city or country are extremely interesting, what really piques my interest is the fabric of the society and the history of the people.  Meeting young people is also important, as it is young people who will largely define how well a country will meet the challenges of the future.

The experience of sailing up the Danube on the River Beatrice from Budapest, Hungary to Passau, Germany with stops in Slovakia and Austria, then overland to Prague in the Czech Republic, provided plenty of material upon which to comment. My impressions of how the people have overcome the challenges experienced over the most recent century, was overwhelmingly positive. It has never ceased to amaze me how the people of Europe, as mortal enemies in one decade or series of decades, have overcome their differences and become open, friendly trading partners in the next.

While part of the story of our travels will be presented in narrative form, photographs taken by Esther Dunn and myself (using identical Panasonic camera’s that we managed to mix up more than once) will be used to tell ‘the rest of the story.’ In a few instances, photos have been plucked from the Web in order to flesh out a story line for those areas in which signs indicated “photography not allowed”. While I can normally overcome such instructions (these signs are usually posted for commercial reasons) I did manage to occassionaly restrain myself. Each of the photos will be identified by source.

Now to the stories of our travels along the Danube. (207)

Prague: At War and at Peace

Written by Harold McNeill on May 26th, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

Photo from Painting
View of the Charles Bridge looking toward the main city centre. Paintings, sketches and drawings, such as the one above, depict various scenes around the city. Many are the work of talented young people trying to make their way in life. For a small donation, the artist allows pictures to be taken.

What ever direction you might travel in Eastern Europe, a few days in Prague is a must.  For Esther, Garth, Lynn and I, a four day extension of our Danube trip was barely enough, however we did manage to savour every last second. We would have gladly stayed for another week just to touch upon the many things that still awaited our eager senses but, alas, time (and booked flights) conspired against our wishes. For other travelers we highly recommend a minimum of one week, perhaps ten days if you can squeeze out the time. A three month stay in Prague and the surrounding country would be heaven.

As with many cities and countries in Eastern Europe emerging from thirty five years of war (World War I and II), then forty-one years of communism, peace comes with a cost, but that cost seems worth every penny in hard cash, blood, sweat and tears. Around the world we see these costs being paid everyday for a small taste of that elusive dream we call freedom. (Reference Footnote on Quebec Student Protests).

Photo (Web): This is typical of the foothill farm country through which we passed. Many of the farms along the highway had seen better times.

Our four hour bus trip from Passau, Germany then across the southern Republic, left no doubt this was a country once held by iron fists, first those of the Nazi’s during two World Wars, then during the decades of an equally brutal Soviet communist dictatorship. As we crossed the now open border from Germany, warnings were still in place advising tourists of the danger of land mines in a strip of ‘no man’s land’ between the two countries and at our one stop for refreshments at a small, remote service station, the feeling of being in another time and another place was clearly evident.

While the countryside was beautiful, much as it is in the foothills of Alberta, the mix of worn down buildings, old railway stations and broken shelters, serve as a reminder of those decades of death and brutal repression. A few stark examples of how ordinary people suffered; following the Nazi occupation, it is estimated over 155,000 persons of Jewish descent (86% of the population) died in the streets, at concentration camps or during ‘death marches’ that took place near the end of the war. (222)

Making friends along the Danube 3/7

Written by Harold McNeill on April 13th, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

Photo: This crew of women opened the dance floor each evening, then closed it at some point after midnight. It was a great cruise for the men, for, as the old fifties song goes, “Two Girls for Every Guy”‘

Brazil, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland as well as a sizable number of people from the United States and Canada, were just a few of the fifteen countries represented by guests on the River Beatrice.  Everyone we met, and we met many of the 133 guests, brought special stories of their lives which they freely shared over meals, while touring and, later, over drinks in the lounge. It was a family atmosphere, filled with good cheer and conversation, as we might expect back home during a holiday celebration with guests enjoying the freedom of sharing with family members around the dinner table. (140)

Cathedrals, Abby’s and Castles 4/7

Written by Harold McNeill on April 13th, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

Entrance to the Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria (hdm).

When preparing stories for the Travelogue Section, a question often arises in discussion between Lynn and me as to how much “social comment” or “opinion”, would be appropriate within the context of the story.

For example, when travelling through Steyr or Linz, Austria, our travel guide told a story about a 15,000 seat church built in a nearby city back in the 16th or 17th Century. It took 70 years of sacrifice by the 20,000 residents of the city to pay for the structure as no fund assistance was forthcoming from the Monarchy (the Hapsburgs). It seemed to me that many of the poor would have dedicated their entire life toward the building of that single structure, a structure that would sit largely empty over the centuries.  (979)

Southeast Asia: A Magical Journey

Written by Harold McNeill on February 28th, 2012. Posted in Travelogue

Halong Bay legend

Photo (Web Stock): Ha Long Bay is 120 km long, 1553 Km2 and
contains 1969 Islands formed from limestone karsts,
many of which are filled with expansive caves. 


Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Sidney, British Columbia, invites you to join an exclusive Escorted Cruise to Vietnam, Cambodia and the riches of the Mekong River.

Note: Photos in this blog post taken from the Web.

From September 18 – October 3, 2012, you will be hosted, first on a seven day land tour beginning in Hanoi and then on a seven day river cruise, beginning in Siem Reap, then meanders along the Mekong River to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). On both arms of the tour you will be hosted on several side tours during which you will be exposed to the best the two countries have to offer. A three day pre-tour extension of Hong Kong is also available from September 15-18. (Tour details provided at the end of this article.)  (223)

Thinkin’ Man’s Country Song

Written by Harold McNeill on January 23rd, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Lego For the Oil Patch

Following a series of exchanges with a Facebook friend concerning gender equality, I happened upon this little song written by Thomas Wharton.  Born in Grand Prairie, the young man studied both at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary where he achieved his Phd. He is currently an Associate Professor of writing and English at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

An author with several books to this credit, he wrote the following lyrics about the changing attitudes of oil patch man and published in the most recent edition of Albertaviews (page 27). I can’t find a link to magazine article so I typed it below.  I think the song speaks well to the changing’ attitude towards woman in that province, a province which is becoming more Liberal with each passing day. (45)

Cold Lake High: Cars, Girls, Rock and Roll

Written by Harold McNeill on September 27th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965

CL Cover for IIIPhoto Collage: There was never enough time to do it all. Cars, girls, rock and roll were all part of the freedoms that came in the 1950′s.  If was a unique time in the Canada and we made the best of it. The majority even managed to graduate with distinction. I was one of the non-distincts, however my sister, Louise McNeill, graduated with a distinct distinction, that being the 1961 Honour Role. This post makes it clear why I failed to do so.

(Photo selection: Jimmy Martineau, Gordie Wusyk, Billy Martineau and drummer in the background, Gary McGlaughlinplaying at the Tropicana Night Club. Below, the Pinsky Cadillac. Harold McNeill and Aaron Pinsky in a “cool” shot at the Roundel Hotel.  Sitting across from us is Dorothy Hartman, an awesome dance partner. We worked out the fine points of the back over flip as shown in the photo top right  (Dance photos from the web).

Chapter 3: The High School Years

Link Here for Chapter 1 of the High School Years
Link Here for Chapter 2 of the High School Years
Link to Family Stories Index

1. Introduction

Perhaps the best way to pick my way through the final two segments of the Cold Lake High School Years is by selecting random memories. Not to worry, I will be discrete, well as discrete as I can and still keep the history and stories interesting. This is not meant as a titillating account of a small town as in Peyton Place, but seeks instead to give one side of the story about High School kids in a small town at the edge of the wilderness on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. Besides, we generally agreed peytonbwonrockthat most of what happened in Cold Lake would stay in Cold Lake, so I will just pick at the edges.

Peyton Place:  The sizzling movie version of the best selling book was released in 1957, just in time for our coming of age. While the movie was toned down, it still raised eyebrows and was soundly condemned in many quarters.  By todays standards it would be fairly tame.

Another thing that will become evident, this story was written from the male perspective. To make any statements about what girls focussed on in the day will be up to them.  Any girls who wish to add to my descriptions, please write a few chapters of your own, they will be added to the post so we can compare and contrast our views of life in the 50′s.

Two things defined High School boys back then as today – cars and girls. In my day the two consumed an enormous portion of our limited and highly specialized brain space – girls occupied the left hemisphere, cars the right. As we boys couldn’t use both halves at the same time, the balance wavered from day to day. For that matter, our brains stopped working altogether when other parts of our anatomy kicked in. (1086)

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  • Harold McNeill

    January 23, 2015 |

    I am so glad that you read the story and that it connected. I feel very strongly about these matters as our society (in general) has, for far to long in this day and age of riches, left street people out in the cold thinking they are not worthwhile. I met many of them in my time and their story was often very different from the general picture that is painted about why they are where they are. I cannot even begin to imagine how Ivan and Debbie must have felt. Love Cuz

  • Bety

    January 23, 2015 |

    In reading your stories Cuz you came awfully close to home. In the Picton story the girl, second from the lefton the bottem row, Angela Jardine was from Sparwood and we knew her folks very well. What a sad state of affairs that was and how that SOB got away with that stuff for so long. Ivan and Debbie, Angela’s parents were nearly destroyed by that. Angela was a nice girl with some mental disturbances and was sorely taken advantage of. I am so glad that one of ours Callie Cochrane, Holly (Dewan) daughter one of Alma Morrison’s daughter is a lawyer now and I believe to fight for the right of native women and girls like Angela. I do not know for sure if they ever got DNA for Angela and if not how can there be total closure.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 19, 2015 |

    I agree, but when rats became to plentiful in the wild, they can do a great deal of damage. Around our farm they had to be controlled or they would have simply taken over. I didn’t like doing them in, but it was either do that or shut down the farm and move away. Obviously humans have taken over a lot of the environment that was once occupied by animal species and when in the wild, natural selection took place. Not so in areas habited by humans.

  • Carew

    January 18, 2015 |

    While i agree that our choice of who lives and who dies is kind of arbitrary, i disagree about rats not being cute or cuddly at all as I had 6 pet rats over the course of years and if you go into any pet shop you will see that rats are actually pretty popular pets. Of course the black plague is what ruined the rat’s PR but you’d think that after half a millennium we would have gotten over that by now.

  • McNeill Life Stories Santa and Rudolph: New Plans and Directions - McNeill Life Stories

    December 18, 2014 |

    [...] their annual photo taken. The original small group of Runners (about 10) first appeared in 2011.  Link Here Christmas 2011 (and scroll down through photos to #9 and #10 for a few comments on two different groups that [...]

  • Harold McNeill

    December 11, 2014 |

    Hi Rick. Thanks for the comment. Always nice to hear from someone in the past who shared similar experiences. I have never been able to track down any of the Murfitts so if something comes your way let me know. Given the number of hits on this story, I am assuming the Hutterite Colony has linked the story to their various Web Sites. Cheers, Harold (email:

  • Rick Taylor

    December 10, 2014 |

    Your stories were great to read. I was raised a mile south of town and went to school there from about 1958 to 1964. My aunt worked in that old store you mentioned. The old town has changed since then, for sure. Great memories.

  • Karen

    September 28, 2014 |

    Hi Harold!
    Great Post! LOVE the pictures and story! Would love to know if you have any photos of my Mom or other stories about her. I never knew she lived at Peggy’s or worked at A&W. :)

  • Harold McNeill

    September 28, 2014 |

    Thanks Sis will add his name. The opening comment was also updated. It was the 1961 Honour Roll was it not. Tell Frank that if I missed anything, let me know and I will add it. I’ve gone this far, no use holding back now.

  • Louise

    September 27, 2014 |

    The drummer is Gary McLaughlan