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 while keeping the history and stories interesting as possible. The post is not meant as a titillating account of a small town as in Peyton Place, but seeks instead to provide an account of how I950’s High School kids in a small town at the edge of the wilderness on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border lived and loved.  peytonbwonrockFor the most part, private matters between consenting students during our time in Cold Lake High would stay in Cold Lake High. That does not mean I won’t pick around 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 today’s standards, it would be relatively 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.

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Cold Lake High School Years: The Journey Begins

Written by Harold McNeill on April 29th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


 

Cold Lake Air Force Base

Early in the 1950’s the largest RCAF Station ever constructed in Canada was taking shape in Alberta. The small, remote, communities of Cold Lake and Grande Centre, that grew ever so slowly over the first fifty years of the century, would be shaken to their foundations as they struggled to come to terms with a massive influx of workers and their families. Our family was one of the many seeking to find their way.

Chapter 1:  The Journey Begins 1953
(Link to Chapter 2, Cold Lake High 1955 -1960)
Link Here for other Family Stories in this Series

Dear Reader,

For the several months I struggled with how to write this post about our return to Cold Lake. To this point it was easy to tell the stories as they were all generally positive. Even though our family was constantly on the move over the twelve years until this story, everything was relatively stable on the home front. All that changed in 1953 after arriving in Cold Lake and it continued in one form or another until our Dad passed away suddenly in 1965. While I will not dwell on the ugly parts, and there were many, I felt compelled to

Harold Louise Dianneexpress the feelings that enveloped me during those tumultuous years as a means to better understand myself and, perhaps, as a message to others.

I rather expect at least a few of my school friends shared similar experiences and might even take solace in knowing they were not alone.  The background to this story is alcohol abuse, but it could easily have been any of a dozen other things that cause family units to fracture – drugs, infidelity, mental illness, etc.  Children and teenagers, in particular, are vulnerable when this happens and need to know they are never alone, that even when things get really bad, the future can still hold a great deal of promise.

Indeed, this will become evident in parts of this post and in subsequent posts through the High School years and beyond. A great many positive things can happen even if life on the home front has spiralled into periods of darkness.

Photo: If taken between October and December 1958, I was seventeen, Louise fourteen, and Dianne four.  Louise remembered our ages as she recognized the skirt as one she sewed in her Grade 9 Home Ec class. Look at Louise for a moment. For those who know her daughter Karena, can you see Karina’s sassy smile and eyes? Looking at clothes, I also remember the day those grey ‘flecked’ dress pants arrived by mail order from Sears.  They became my favourite dress up in High School.  And, as for that sweet, innocent little girl on the right, my heart aches for having completely missed knowing her when she was young. 

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LacLaBiche, Alberta: Moving to the Edge of the Wilderness

Written by Harold McNeill on February 23rd, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


P1040675

July, 2011.  The Aurora Theatre, in downtown LacLaBiche looks exactly as it did when Louise and I attended the Saturday matinee’s in 1952-53. The Gypsy Family McNeill, after 11 moves in 11 years, had landed LacLaBiche.  (The Aurora story appears in Chapter 4, below).  Sadly, the theatre closed in 2014.

Link to Next Post: The Journey Begins (First of Part VI)
Link to Last Post: Pibroch
Link to Family Stories Index
F
eb 4, 2017 (2900)

Chapter 3: Gypsy Years, LacLaBiche 

Introduction

With moving to different homes once or twice a year in each year of our short lives, Louise and I were becoming old hands at the practice.  While each move provided for new adventures, there was still plenty of uncertainty.  What would the school be like? Would the kids be friendly? How about the teachers?

While it was always a comfort to be with Mom and Dad, this year would see more change and another separation was on the horizon.  Even Louise and I would be going different in directions.  For me, it would create a crisis of immense proportion (at least as viewed from my perspective).

Dad would continue his practice of finding new things to challenge me when he decided to ship me into the wilderness for a little more “life experience”.  And, while talking about life experience, as Kenneth (my Grade 5 friend) and I grew into our teens, we suddenly discovered ‘girls’. Such an awesome discovery.

Join Louise and me as we tackle life in LacLaBiche in the early 1950s.  Photos for this post may be linked at:  McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page  Additional photos will be added as they become available.

1. Off to LacLaBiche, Alberta 

With the sale of the Murfitt farm in Pibroch (link to Pibroch) on the horizon, Dad began his search for a new job and home for the family.  For one year we enjoyed the total engagement that comes with living on a successful farm filled with all things beautiful – fresh air, land, animals, family, friends, hard work, a sense of purpose and a peace of mind that often eludes those harnessed to the hustle and bustle of the city. As Dad and Mom were defined by a wilderness style of living that required a high degree of self-sufficiency, the thought of moving back to Edmonton to find work would be a bitter pill to swallow.

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Farming in Pibroch, Alberta

Written by Harold McNeill on January 28th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


2003

Photo (From Web)  Pibroch, AB, main street as it looked in 1951 when we arrived. During a trip to that area in 2010, the main street had not changed all that much.

Link to Next Post: LacLaBiche
Link to Last Post: Edmonton
Link to Family Stories Index

Chapter 2  The Gypsy Years in Pibroch

January 9, 2015:  This post is brought forward for the accountant we met in San Francisco who looked after the accounts of several Hutterite Colonies in Alberta. He is retired but at one time worked with the Colony in Pibroch that is featured in this post.  If that accountant happens to pick up on this post please leave a message.  Regards,  Harold

1. Introduction:

After bidding a final farewell his youth, the years used up toiling away on a rock farm near Birch Lake, Saskatchewan, Dad was being drawn back to farming. In the spring he had taken over as foreman on the Murfitt spread in Pibroch, Alberta, a mixed farm with 200 head of cattle and about half the 640 acres under cultivation. It provided an opportunity to reconnect to animals and the land.

While horses had given way to tractors during the intervening years, Dad still had plenty of farming skills that made his services eagerly sought after and, as well, Mom would again be working in unison Dad. Taking over the farm kitchen she would work her magic as she cooked for a half dozen full-time farmhands in the off-season and twice that many during the harvest.

For Louise and me, it would be a new school and new friends, something we were becoming accustomed to as we shifted from pillar to post over the past two years. The great news about this move – Louise and I would be reunited with Mom and Dad in a country setting that was reminiscent of our early years. Our time at HA Gray and the big city was rapidly coming to an end as we would be heading North as soon as the school year was complete.

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Cold Lake High School Years 1955-1960

Written by Harold McNeill on January 24th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Introduction Collage

Collage: The above photos provide a small representation of the five years a group of young people spent completing Junior and Senior High in Cold Lake, Alberta. The following story places a context around their world, a world that was becoming vastly different from the one in which their parents and grandparents had spent their teen years.

Chapter 2: The Silent Generation

Link Here to Chapter 2: The Journey Begins
Link Here to Chapter 3: Cars, Girls, Rock and Roll
Link to Family Stories Index

September 1, 2014: Sorry for the delay. Chapter 18 along with about 300 photographs of our High School Years through to graduation, will be posted within the next two weeks.

The Silent Generation, a name coined to define those born between 1925 – 1945.  While it was applied to those of us who filed into Grade 8 at Cold Lake Junior (photos in footer) in September, 1954, we were so close to the cusp it seems to have missed the mark. Our small group preceded the Baby Boomers by a few years and in the months following graduation, we helped to add a tidy number of Little Boomers to Canada’s rapidly growing population.

The Silent Generation! Really? It seems the Time Magazine reporters who defined our group obviously never traveled to Cold Lake High in the late 50’s, nor did they do any first hand research at those week-end ‘retreats’ at French Bay, English Bay or Marie Lake. For that matter, all they had to do was drop by one of the week-end parties at the Ruggles, Hill’s, Sanregret’s, Poirier’s or any of a dozen other homes when the parents were away. People called us many things, but ‘silent’ ‘grave’ and ‘fatalistic’ were not the adjectives that flowed past their lips.

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A Moment in Time: December 1963

Written by Harold McNeill on January 6th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Harold-and-Father-Hill2

December 2010:  (Dallas Road, Victoria, at the Breakwater): The path to peace of mind and happiness can be elusive. When these two men were young, how did their lives intersect? It was just a Moment in Time.
January 2017 Update (1171)

Finding a path through life.

Just over a half century ago, at the tender age of twenty-two, I left Cold Lake, Alberta, to embark upon a new life in British Columbia. Only one time prior had I been more than three hundred miles from my home in Cold Lake, that being while attending the Fire Department, Crash Rescue Training at Camp Borden, Ontario (Firewalkers).

I had never been to the Rocky Mountains, never smelled the pungent odour of ocean air and never walked along a fog shrouded, craggy coastline. From my apartment on Michigan Street in the James Bay of Victoria, I can still remember the mournful sound of the foghorn at Trial Island. For a born and bred prairie boy, it was the stuff of dreams and I was living the dream – almost!

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The McNeill Family: Edmonton

Written by Harold McNeill on October 6th, 2013. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Edmonton Street LocationsLaura McNeill and Mr. Goodrich42

The McNeill Family: Edmonton/h1>

H.A. Gray School

Photo (From Web): The stately H.A. Gray Elementary School in Edmonton where Mom registered Louise and I in late August, 1949. It was a far cry from our one room school in Harlan, SK (see Chapter 2). Also, reference footer photo for comparison to a similar building in Victoria.

Link to Next Post: Pibroch
Link to Last Post: Dad is Missing (Last of Part IV)
Link to Family Stories Index
Link to the Old School House (First in the Harlan Series)

Chapter 1: The Gypsy Years

When Dad and Mom (Dave and Laura McNeill) took Louise and me 1 to live with Aunt Liz and Uncle Warren, in Harlan, Saskatchewan early in the spring of 1949, it was the first time we were separated from our parents. While we had made many moves in our short lives, this was just the beginning of being away from them for various periods of time ranging from a few months, to nearly a year. Our lives became a whirlwind of short-term home stays, new schools and new friends, many of whom remained steadfast for the rest of our lives.

Even our old pal Shep, the amazing Collie Cross, was left far behind in the care of our good friend Mr. Goodrich, our trapper neighbour at Marie Lake (A Final Farewell). Although the loneliness of being separated from Mom, Dad, Shep and our wilderness way of life, left a gapping hole in our lives, we had every reason to believe the hole would be filled once we settled in Edmonton.

Well, things did not turn out as planned and, in fact, Edmonton would bring the near death of our Mom and her younger sister, Aunt Marcia and the death of our one our best friends.

1Aunt Liz’s first husband Tart, a rodeo bronco rider, had passed away a few years earlier and Aunt Liz, Dad’s sister, had married Dad’s friend Warren Harwood around the time we were all living north of Cold Lake. (Smith Place)

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Introduction to Family Stories 1940 – 1965

Written by Harold McNeill on September 26th, 2010. Posted in Index to Posts, Family 1940 1965


Grandma's Family Group

Photo (July 2008)
This series of stories is dedicated to the memory of my Father and Mother
David Benjamin McNeill (1908 – 1965)
Laura Isabel Skarsen (McNeill)(Wheeler) (1918 – 2008)

PhotoMom, in July, 2008, with her three children, thirteen grandchildren, fourteen great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren (one present, but yet to make a personal appearance). Mom was one of ten children, dad, one of eleven and mom’s second husband, Wilfred, one of eight. With over 50 Uncles, Aunts, Step Uncles, Step Aunts, the number of Nieces, Nephews of those First Cousins beyond count and there is ample background for countless stories to be written. Following a medical anomaly in early December, 20008, Mom passed away on December 28.

Back Row (L to R): Jin An (partially hidden) and Lorin Yochim, Sean McNeill, Mark Yochim, Greg and Merle Yochim, Frank Yochim (standing behind Merle), Stephen Yochim and Pam Dong Yochim, Charlene Yochim, Krista Miron-Rabideaux (McNeill) and friend, Candice Yochim.

Second Row (L to R): Ed Walker (holding Grayson) and Kari Walker (McNeill), Jesse Rabidoux (partially hidden behind Grayson), Christine McNeill, Jay McNeill, Louise Yochim (McNeill), Skyler Yochim, Dianne McNeill, Shawna Buenaventura (Yochim), Lynn McNeill (Davis) and Harold McNeill, Karena Yochim, Stephanie Yochim, Jamie Yochim, Laura Skarsen (McNeill) (Wheeler), Ashley Price and Luna, Kelsey Yochim and Landon, Cassandra Rabidoux, Brooke Buenaventura.

Front Row (L to R): Amy Rabidoux, Sydney Buenaventura, Carmen Yochim, Connor Schumacker, Francis Buenaventura and Brody.

Not Present: Michel Payeur (work commitments) and Kaiya McNeill-Payeur (traveling Europe).

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  • McNeill Life Stories Illegal Aliens intercepted in Sarnia - McNeill Life Stories

    August 23, 2016 |

    […] Maxime Bernier, a leading contender in the Conservative race is calling for a “wall to be built along the border and claims that if he becomes the next Prime Minister he will force the Americans to pay for the building of that wall. (Border Security Gone Crazy) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories Keep the peace and be of Good Behaviour - McNeill Life Stories

    August 21, 2016 |

    […] If you happen to support Bill C-51, a bill that is related solely to ‘terrorism’ and, perhaps, support an even more invasive laws being included, what would you think about the entire Bill (present and proposed) being folded back into the Criminal Code and made applicable to every Canadian?  Would that give our police to much power to simply bypass checks and balances developed over the past 150 years. (Oversight) […]

  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.

  • McNeill Life Stories Wedding Bells: Gordon McLean and Megan Corns

    June 28, 2016 |

    […] More amazing still is that many of those I met are now living and working in communities in or near cities and towns where I spent much of my early life (e.g. Vermillion, Turtleford, Westlock, Edmonton, etc.) For that matter one family from Edmonton lives no more than a stones throw from the home in which my family lived in 1949 at 12237, 95th Street, a time when Edmonton boasted a population of 137,000 and our home was on the very west edge of the city. Today the next block contains the Yellow Head Highway. Link: http://www.mcneillifestories.com/mcneill-family-edmonton/ […]

  • Valerie Heuman (Roddick)

    June 19, 2016 |

    Having just returned to the Okanagan Valley from a weekend in Pibroch, I am delighted to have stumbled on your blog to see the picture of the main street. My aunt and uncle Peggy & Gordon McGillvery owned and lived in the old Post Office on the North east corner of the main intersection and my brother Adrian currently lives south a bit backing on the School yard. We are Sheila’s cousins and still have a close connection to the town.

  • Sheila(Roddick) Allison

    May 19, 2016 |

    Hi. So fun to find your blog. I remember going to school with you and Louise. I loved my childhood in Pibroch which incidentally was named by my grandfather Aaron Roddick. I will never forget the night the garage burned down. Nice to see the landmark photo before the big fire!

  • George Dahl

    April 12, 2016 |

    What a great site. I’m trying to locate a woman named Sally Jennifer who was from the Cold Lake area back in the early sixties. I met her when I was stationed at Namao air base in Edmonton. I was serving with the USAF 3955 air refueling squadron from rhe fall 1963 till the spring of 64. Sally was 22 at the time I was 21. Sally was my first love. I had orders to ship out to South East Asia and we lost contact after that.
    If any of you know the where abouts of Sally I would like to get reacquainted with her. She is First Nation, Blackfoot I believe. She is Catholic and may have attended a Catholic school in Cold Lake.
    Thank You in advance, George Dahl

  • dave armit

    March 23, 2016 |

    good old fashioned police work done by good old fashioned policemen……….in regards to mr cain..i learned a few years ago that he was born on the same day in the same hospital that i was..my father was a close friend of the cain family…!!! interesting..d a

  • Joyce McMenamon

    March 1, 2016 |

    Haha, love it! We should probably eat rats and rabbits rather than beef. Also I’ve noticed that there are a lot less pests where dogs are not kept on leashes.

  • Kari

    February 27, 2016 |

    Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane Dad!!! That was an amazing trip and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to share that experience together!
    ❤️