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.

Because we expended so much energy on these things, Sunday was reserved as a day of rest. However, that Sunday R&R only extended to about half my friends as the other half had to get up and attend Mass. It was not so much attending Mass in that beautiful church sitting high on a hill overlooking the lake, as it was deciding exactly how much should be disclosed in the Confessional. No matter that everything was bound to secrecy, there was no way in hell someone was going to confess a very personal transgression(s) to a man they knew well and who certainly knew their voices, Father Emile Champagne.

While Father Champagne was a mover and shaker in our community, a man who was loved by many, there was still the fear of telling him one’s deepest secrets. Although he certainly helped where he could, there was no question he maintained strict moral code in which there were no gray lines between right and wrong. If any doubt remained after chatting with Fatherconfessionline Champagne on religious matters, catechism took care of the rest. That little book “My Catholic Faith” only came in black and white and what the printed page did not explain, the pencil sketches left no doubt.

I certainly experienced that when I converted to the church in my early twenties and as told in another post, A Moment in Time.  One of my dreads, just as with my friends in Cold Lake back in the day, was attending confession where I knew the Priest on a personal basis. As all Priests were men, it must have been doubly hard for the girls.

Of course, I did what many did back then – drove to a neighboring parish in order to confess to a stranger.  For my Catholic friends, the greater the transgression the longer the drive!  For some in Cold Lake that meant travelling all the way to Diocese H.Q. in St. Paul. During summer holidays, that time of greatest danger, the Diocese had to open two or three extra confessionals, as the line-up of kids from outlying parishes would stretch into the church parking lot (photo right).

Many from Cold Lake would car pool to save on gas and to get their stories straight. At one time in the late fifties St. Paul became known as “Confession Central” and the city fathers started promoting this in order to draw more business to the area.  In this new age, it seems it won’t be long before some enterprising Diocese will open a confidential “Confessions Page” (monitored by a Priest) on which parishioners in remote area’s of the Diocese can get the more difficult transgressions off their chest without travelling a great distance.

Of course not everyone in our school had a problem with walking into that confessional. The reason? It was almost certain they would have to dig pretty deep just to find something worthwhile confessing. I’m sure many walked away with a single Our Father as penance.  For me, it might take a few days’ to recite the number of Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers I was assigned.

There seems little doubt the secrets divulged in the confessional at Cold Lake led Father Champagne to build St. Dominic’s Parish School in I957/58. Champagne’s Campaign to build the school was likely his way of trying to get a handle on all those extracurricular activities he was hearing about each Sunday. Perhaps it was also a means of helping to reduce the number of marriages he had to perform during the summer after graduation ceremonies were complete. Well, confession or no, it never seemed to interfere with our daily lives.

2. Cars and Girls

While back in the late fifties many of us had access to a car, not all of could lay claim to having that special girl to call our own. Some of my close friend’s did, some didn’t. I was in the ‘didn’t’ column, a tough place to be for a young man with a fragile ego. For those of us without that special girl, we had to make do with the sense of power and freedom that came with having four Cold Lake Drive inwheels and a big V8, although when the V8 fell short, I considered wearing a small button stating: Be Gentle, Fragile Ego.

When we did manage to wrangle a date, the Cold Lake Drive-in was a popular destination.  More out of town confessional time had its origin at the Drive in than any other single location in and around Cold Lake and Grand Centre.

Photo (circa 1959): Frank Yochim is just rolling up in his 1957 Plymouth (lower right). I don’t recognize the ’59 Caddy in front of him. The low lying concession was a busy place and when we were short of money, would sneak in the back way and meet up with friends in a car. That left us with a little loose change for a popcorn and pop.

Don’t get me wrong we didn’t spent all of our time in the back seat as there was another activity that fueled our interests — Rock and Roll.

It was that undulating blues beat with snare drum in the background that captured the imagination of our generation in a way that helped us to strike back at the traditions that bound society through all those wars and hard times of the first fifty years of the 20th century. Much of the music from the war years was pretty depressing, particularly Country and Western, so when Rock and Roll hit the band stands in the 1950s, it was our way of delineating our generation from that of our parents.

Many of our Friday and Saturday nights began and ended at the extremely popular Tropicana Dine and Dance built on theP1180238 outskirts of Grand Centre along Highway 28. Today, the building stands as just a shell of its former self. A few decades later on driving to Cold Lake to visit my sister and her family, I stopped to have a look at that lonely, forsaken building and imagined I could see teardrops falling from dust-covered windows.

Photo:  The only one I could find of our group dancing was my kid sister, Louise McNeill (Yochim), dancing at some beach party. She was an awesome rock and roller and even took time to dance with her big brother if he didn’t have a date.

For our generation, that the Axani Brothers decided to build in our district rather than some larger city, was our good fortune. It was a first class establishment that attracted bands from as far away as Edmonton and Calgary and while the outside bands were exceptional, our very own Gordie Wusyk, Jimmy Martineau, Billy Martineau and Gary McGlaughlin always drew a capacity crowds as they pounded out our favourites of the fifties.

By this point a few of you may be wondering how we managed to get in any schoolwork! Well, not to worry, we squeezed it between the small fissure between the left and right hemispheres and while it was not ideal learning space, we found that if we applied ourselves it was adequate to get through most exams. Anyway, enough talk about schoolwork, back to cars and girls.

3. The Rat Pack and the power of Detroit

As we worked our way through High School, many of us had a fairly powerful cars and our driving skills were good, but no matter how hard we tried, we could never match the power and skill of a group of guys three or four years older who had long since entered the work force. Having a seemingly unlimited stream of cash, these guys owned the best Detroit had to offer so peters58bel1they owned the road.

The ‘rat pack’ of Kenny Tattinger, Ronny May and their group leader and my future brother-in-law, Frank Yochim, left us in the dust. Frank, Kenny and Ronny would settle for nothing less than the best and the best was the all-new Plymouth that had vaulted the Chrysler Corporation into a commanding lead over General Motors and Ford. The latter two companies were left so far behind that year they fired their entire design teams. (Photo: Frank’s fully loaded ’57 Plymouth)

The new order of the day was a swept back design with completely new suspension, powerful V8’s, TorqueFlight push button transmissions, power steering and brakes and tons of other features upon which legends were built. Literature of the day described the new Plymouth:

The 1957 Plymouth clearly took its cues from space ships. From the eye-browed headlights to the unobstructed greenhouse view, to the smooth, clean, sculptured sides, the idea of an earthbound space vehicle was everywhere.

And this described the power plant:

“Pumping out 215hp in standard form, an additional $36.20 could add a Fury 301 Quad package consisting of a four-barrel carburetor, special distributor, and dual exhausts, raising horsepower to 235 at 4400 rpm. Adding some confusion to this engine was the use of the term “Fury.” The Fury 301 V-8 could be had in all car lines except the Fury itself, which came with the 318 as its only power plant. (link)

Several years later years, the Fury gained iconic status when featured in Stephen Kings thriller, Christine, the story of a car that came back to revenge its owner. The lead character, Arnie Cunningham, was a High School outcast who was Christine by Plymouthmercilessly bulled by other kids after he had completely restored a classic 1958 Fury.  No matter how hard the bullies tried to destroy that car, it always came back and each time one or more of them would pay a heavy price. In the 1983 movie by Columbia Pictures, 150 Fury’s, worth $10,000 each, were demolished as the plot unfolded. (Trailer to Movie)

Of course Frank, Kenny and Ronnie were never bullied and they choose the Fury as it was the best and when it came to laying a jaw-dropping stretch of rubber, Frank Yochim was the best. When that ear popping, deep throated, four barrel, 318 kicked in, Frank stood alone. It was only years later he confided a little known trade secret to his favourite brother-in-law.

To get maximum power to the rear wheels in order to lay that seemingly endless stretch of rubber, Frank would slacken the rear brakes and tighten the front.  Gunning the engine and gently touching the brakes held the front wheels back, while the rear rotated freely. By carefully controlling the resulting fish tail, it was possible to cut two strips of gravel all the way from Penner’s Garage at the base of the Highway 28 hill leading out of town, until he was out of sight over the crest. Left behind was a massive cloud of dust that extended for several blocks as it drifted across town like a sandstorm in the Sahara.  The phantom was gone, but the legend grew.

While it is certain the town cop, Dick Skinty, knew who laid those strips, he never got close enough to catch even a glimpse Frank, Kenny or Ronny. As the men worked out of time much of the time, Constable Skinty must have truly believed these guys were phantoms.

When he did get the occasional chance to pull Frank over, he would invariably check for liquor or other contraband, but Frank was always clean as a whistle and yet, although Frank never drank, he always had a ready supply for friends.

That Frank could transport liquor (highly illegal in Alberta at the time) and never get caught added to the legend. The mystery of course was simple and only revealed to his closest friends. That Fury held a secret that our Town Cop and the Yellow Legs in Bonnyville never figured out. The answer was so simple.  Frank had installed a bladder inside the windshield washer tank deep inside the Fury engine compartment.

To set it up he cut the main washer line and connected another line that lead to the glove compartment. The new bladder was filled with the ‘drink of the day’ (often beer, but sometimes mixed hard liquor), so opening the bar was as simple as opening Frank with his first born, Greg.the glove compartment, pulling out the line, grabbing cup and pressing the washer button. Seconds later drinks were served. It was that kind of stuff which helped to cement the legend.

That my kid sister managed to corral the man less than a year after she graduated from High School, transferred a good part of the legend to her.  While corralling him was one thing, that she was able to tame him and turn him into a loving husband and caring father for their seven children, added to her mystique.  Today, 53 years later, Frank and Louise continue to live in the same house Frank built back in 1961, then renovated several times to accommodate their burgeoning brood.

Photo (from Greg Yochim): Frank, holding his first born (Greg), looks absolutely domesticated in this photo. Whether he still held the keys to his Fury or had traded it in on a six cylinder 140 hp station wagon, I can’t recall. It didn’t matter really, the legend remained.

4. Classic Wheels

While several of us owned a car, many just borrowed the family wheels. Of course there were limitations – the borrower was always under a caution flag, but, on the other hand, it was certainly much cheaper as the car came fully licenced, road ready, equipped with a repair package and gas was often included (at least until the tank ran empty).  Some parents even resorted to never adding more than a quarter tank unless they intended to travel some distance to burn it off.  Today, kids finding the family car without gas might even have a 1-800 number they could call to report parental neglect.

In the “borrow” parents car department, my High School buddy, Aaron Pinsky had access to a classic of the day – a brand Cold Lake High Carsnew 1956 Cadillac Coupe Deville. Aaron even managed to snag the car before he had his driver’s licence. Well, no he did not drive without a licence even though he was perfectly capable; he (and we) had another ace in the whole. That ‘Ace’ came in the form of a gangly, slightly older friend by the name of Guy Venne. Guy not only had his licence, but also a commercial endorsement as he regularly drove school bus. How safe and reliable could you get for a High School driver?

Photo Collage: Franks 57 Plymouth, Pinsky Family 55 Caddy, Moe Hill’s 54 Ford Convertible and unknown owner

As Guy was rock solid, Aaron’s dad, Charlie Pinsky, had no qualms about letting Guy drive the car to dances and other special events and Guy never missed on his promise to take good care of the car and its passengers. Besides, for Guy, the chance to drive a brand new Coupe de Ville on a regular basis, was not something he was going to screw up.  Oh, the stories Guy could string to the girls in smaller towns about that car, his work and his daring do.  The challenge for the rest of us was biting our lips as Guy strung them along. As a bullshiter, he was among the best I ever knew.

Now don’t get me wrong, Guy was not the only one who jumped at the chance to feed a fragile ego.  Having a chance to pick up a new date in that classic car was the stuff of dreams. Even our hero Elvis Presley could do no better. While candy and flowers were nice touch, they paled beside a chance to use the Caddy.  More caddy stories will follow.

5. High School: Our first big chance to do really stupid things

By the time we all had licences and access to a car, it did not take long before we started doing those really stupid things; one was playing cops and robbers. As real cops were few and far between, we pretty much held free rein on the roads.   When things got boring, like most of the time when we weren’t using the left side of our brain, we started playing tag our cars.

In the game, usually run after dark, we would take turns being the lead car while two or three others would take up the chase. It was our version of Thunder Road,(right) a movie starring Robert Mitchum that had one of the Top 10 car chases of all time.

Using a combination of high speed, tight turns and driving without lights provided an amazing shot of adrenalin.  Stupid? “Of course!” Dangerous? “Duh!” Fun? “Hell yes!”

In the game we soon realized that as the designated robber, having a working set of brake lights was a distinct disadvantage so a few modifications were made. We could have covered the taillights, but that was time to consuming when changing sides. Instead, we cut the wires to the brakes, placed a switch in the line and voila, the break lights could be easily turned off and on at a moments notice.

Peggy RugglesThe thing that caught my buddy Aaron was forgetting to switch the brake lights back on after returning the Caddy home late one night.  It seems his dad got pulled over a few days later and Constable Skinty told him the brake lights not working. Of course, it was news to Charlie.

He dropped the Caddy at Penner’s Garage and it did not take long for the mechanic to find the cut line and the little switch in the back of the glove compartment. As I recall Aaron was without his wheels for a couple of weeks and Patsy Wusyk had to borrow her dad’s car to get to those special events if the rest of us were fully booked.

Photo (left):  Peggy RugglesIt seemed her parents spent a fair amount of time out of town and as they lived around the bay from Kinosoo Park, it was an awesome place for a party.  Thanks Peggy for hosting all the party people.

That same Caddy even turned around to bite me late one night while out partying at the Ruggles home. It seems that a couple of years of hard driving lead the Caddy to exhibit a few glitches including an ignition switch that regularly shorted out.  Aaron and his dad always had to wiggle the key around to get things going, and sometimes when driving the engine would suddenly quit.  After jiggling the key to get it restarted it would then backfire.

That night I was without wheels for some reason and as the Ruggles lived some distance out of town, I asked Aaron if I could June McGlaughlinborrow the Caddy to drive in to pick up a date. I was going with June McLaughlin, a close friend of Aaron’s girlfriend Patsy, who had been living at Patsy’s and was working late shift at the A&W. June was not related to the drummer in the band mentioned in the cover photo.

I was just heading down the hill towards Kinosoo Beach when the ignition shorted out and after jiggling the key several times the engine came back to life with a huge backfire. Soon smoke began to billow from under the hood and as I came to a screeching halt, gravel flew in all directions.

Jumping out it was evident the fire would soon consume the car if I could not put it out, so as smoke continued to billow, I managed to pop the hood just as the paint was beginning to peel.  With no fire extinguisher, all I could do was begin hauling handfuls of mud from the nearby ditch. After several minutes of piling it on the fire finely died, but by that time, the engine, hood and front fenders were a sorry mess, to say nothing of my party clothes.

Somehow I got hold of Aaron and we went to tell his dad what happened. As there was no way I could pay to fix the Caddy (there was no insurance in those days) I was real scared.  Well, surprise, surprise, all Charlie did was shrug and say that he was thinking of getting the ignition fixed anyway and now was probably was a good time. He never said another word about the incident and I used to see him almost every day as Aaron and I both worked in his fish plant filleting fish after school.

It seems that while Charlie sometimes seemed pretty intimidating, he was also very good in with dealing with his kids and some of the problems encountered along the way.  Knowing Charlie, he probably ran into the same kinds of problems when he was younger.

Another amusing thing happened with the Caddy a year later when Roger Duckett and I were buying fish for Charlie at Muriel Lake just south of Bonnyville.  It was early fall and although the weather had been beautiful, an overnight storm moved in and it began to snow heavily, so much so that in the wee hours of the morning our tent collapsed. With our sleeping bags soaked, we spent the rest of the night in the back of Roger’s beater I940 Ford Van.

When Charlie arrived early in the next morning to bring us cash, he had fresh thermos of coffee and a couple of treats from one of the restaurants in Bonnyville, as he must have known we were likely half frozen.  As he drove up we could see a length of fish cord strung through each of the small window vents and tied to the windshield wipers.  In the passengers seat sat Chummy Martineau holding the other ends of the cord.  As the snow built up on the windshield, Chummy would pull one cord, then the other to move the wipers and clear the snow.  Charlie’s only comment:  “I was thinking about getting those wipers fixed, but never seem to get around to it.” The Caddy had clearly experienced better days.

6. More Kids and Cars 

One weekend, Roger Rhyerson, our next-door neighbor, borrowed his parent’s car, a nearly new 1955 Chevrolet. We were playing the usual cops and robbers, but this time on the back roads between North Bay, English Bay and the Indian Reserve. Roger, who would never give up even though his driving skills needed a lot of work, kept ending up in the trees or scrub brush.  He was always assigned as a chase car as there was no chance he could elude the rest of us for more than two minutes before he ended up in the ditch.

Arriving home late that night he parked the car in the driveway and went straight to bed.  At 5:00 am, when Roger’s dad as getting ready to leave for work, he hauled Roger out of bed and dragged him to the driveway to have a look at the car.  It was filled with deep scratches from the front bumper to the back. I have no idea how Roger wiggled his way out, but he was a resourceful guy, so…  As with Aaron and Patsy, I suppose his girlfriend Linda Briton probably had to supply the wheels for a couple of weeks.

On another occasion our group had a remarkable escape when playing tag around town. We knew Constable Skinty was away as we always kept tabs on his comings and goings. At one point during a chase when I was the robber, I circled back through a little known side road (little more than a trail) that lead towards the Indian Reserve from what is now 7th Street and 14th Ave. (near Watts Farm and Rose and Amil and Rose Sanregret’s new home).

We had used the trail on a few occasions, but several months had gone by since the last chase in that area and it seemed like a good way to shake the others. Unknown to any of us, someone on the Reserve built a small house right in the middle of the trail. Travelling at breakneck speed on a moonlit night with lights out, the house suddenly appeared right in my path. With no time to break I went hurtling through with inches to spare between the house and the trees.  The three or four cars on my tail then passed in quick succession. If there was someone home they must have wondered ‘what in hell’ was happening.  After that narrow escape we quickly parked our cars and laid low for a few days.

Neither was my car immune to the damage incurred during those driver-training sessions, as one night when I straddled a rather large rock on some trail, there was a loud bang. I thought the rock might have hit the frame or some other under body part, but the car was still running and I never noticed anything until a couple of days later. I was out the highway and warping up to cruise speed when the car began to violently shake from end to end. It only took a few tests to discern the shaking only occurred when passing through 50, then 75 mph.

After jacking up the car, the only thing I could discover was a small dent in the driveshaft.  It was an expensive fix, so from that point until I sold the car, I always had pass through those speeds as quickly as possible, so I could settle back for a leisurely drive.

7. The Peril of the ‘Yellow Legs’ 

Speed kills and during those years more than a few friends and acquaintances met an untimely end, usually on one of the main highways after losing control or, worse, in a head-on collision. That’s tragic, but when one is young, dying or fear of dying is not something that even crossed our minds and although we knew that could happen, a far greater concern was getting caught, perhaps RCMP from Bonnyvillelosing our licence.

One day the RCMP (from Bonnyville) paid a surprise visit to Cold Lake High to speak at an assembly. In those days the RCMP were God’s who could strike fear into heart of even the most reckless young man.  A few days early a story had been circulating through the school about several car owners having set speed records on Highway 28 between Cold Lake and Grand Centre. Gossip had it that a few had topped 100 miles per hour on the hill heading down from Grand Centre toward the Drive in to LaPlont’s corner.

Photo: Can you imagine what it would be like to have these two dudes on you rear bumper.  Back in the day they were pretty intimidating and we never messed with them.  Of course, for Constable Skinty it was open season.

I don’t think Frank was one of the recent culprits as he was away much of the time working in Edmonton or other some other point.  As his speedometer topped out at 150 mph, 100 would be High School kids play.

Before returning to the Mounties, and as further testament to Frank’s driving and survival skills, late one Friday when alone and returning from work in Edmonton, he fell asleep at the wheel on Highway 28, somewhere near Vilna. Suddenly jarred awake as he entered the wide, slopping ditch filled with hay bales, Frank’s driving skills kicked. As he maneuvered to avoid colliding bales of hay or rolling the car, he was just starting to slow when one of those long, shallow edged driveways, appeared in the headlights.  With no time to turn or stop, he flew up the near side at just shy of 75 mph.

The famous torsion-bar suspension nicely absorbed the initial impact and when the car reached the top it leap from the ground as the torsion bars rebounded. Crossing the driveway the car gained altitude and had just reached apogee when a power pole entered its flight path. With no lateral control the Fury sheared the pole cleanly off a good 25 feet above the ground. Such was the speed and strength of the Fury that damage was limited.

Somehow Frank managed to maintain a level attitude as he came in for a rather hard landing some sixty feet beyond the driveway. When he climbed from the car, he could see the top half of the power pole swinging softly in wind from the power lines.  The only damage to the Fury appeared to be the front bumper and radiator.

Frank kicked himself for not having spent the extra $200 bucks to buy the Fury self-regeneration package that was so well demonstrated in Christine.  Seeing a light in a nearby house, he managed to get nearby farmer to tow the car Vilna and by noon the next day, after a quick repair job, he was on his way home. The power company was left to ponder what had caused their pole to split so cleanly. The legend continued to grow.

As for the Mounties at our school assembly, they let it be known they were aware of what was going on and left us with no doubt as to what would happen if they managed to identify the culprits. Although the record setters were not in our group and as far as we know, never caught, all of us decided to lay low for a few days. After a week passed, it was back to business as usual.

8. A Running Battle with the Air Force

As mentioned in previous stories, the guys at Cold Lake High had a running battle with the Air Force guys who seemed to be taking the inside track with a few of ‘our’ girls.  While some of air force sorts were OK and a few even became friends, the rest, RoYmrKCKbi.jpgparticularly the younger airmen and smartly dressed officers, were considered ‘assholes’ of the first order.  Anything we could do to make their lives miserable was on the approved list.

Photo: F-86 Sabre.  It was difficult to compete with guy’s who were given machines like this and they even received free maintenance and gas. As least they could have made them pay for the gas to even things up.  More will be said in Part IV about the influence these aircraft had on several members of our High School group.

One trick we used was baiting them into a drag race between Grande Centre and Cold Lake when we knew Constable Skinty was running his make shift speed trap at the entrance to town.  Constable Skinty would set the trap by placing two pressurized hoses across the highway, like the type once used at service stations to sound a bell when a car arrived. With two cords being placed a known distance apart, speed could be easily determined by calculating the time between the ‘dings’. Being the cool guy he was, he usually set up on the slight curve near the top of the hill (by the School Bus Shop) just before entering town where he could trap unwary drivers in the reduced speed zone.

With nothing else to do we would saunter down to the outskirts of Grande Centre, wait for some young Air Force knob heading to Cold Lake and slide in behind. We would egg the guy into a little drag race and let it ebb and flow as we rounded Laplont’s Corner. Then when heading up to the hill towards town, we would pick up speed, but just before rounding the curve would let them gain the upper hand and break quickly.  As they flew away, they might even be giving us the finger as they burnt through Constable Skinty’s speed trap. As we slowly drove slowly, we would just smile and wave.  No, we never gave them the middle finger – we were far more mature than that.

With this story another section of the High School years is complete. I will take a pause, post a several photos plucked from Guy Venne’s collection and leave you to ponder what might happen in Part IV as we strive head towards graduation.



Class Photos 1956-1957

Link Here to the Full Photo Post on Facebook

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

The photos were obtained from photo albums preserved by a classmate, Guy Venne.  The photos have been inserted in 60 collages similar to the ones below and covering the years 1956 – 1960.  The first set of 25 albums will be uploaded to the McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page later today (September 27). Names will be added below these photos later.

Cold Lake High 56-57

Cold Lake High 1956 -1957

Cold Lake High 1956 -1957

Cold Lake High 1956 1957

Cold Lake High 56-57






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Comments (1)

  • September 28, 2014 at 6:41 pm |

    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. 🙂

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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.