Posts Tagged ‘Dave McNeill’

A Magical Summer

Written by Harold McNeill on September 6th, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Fairy in Garden

Personal Photos:  We always knew it would be A Magical Summer since the moment our granddaughter Audrey first planted those Scarlet Runners early this spring.  It became real one morning when I captured this  photo of a fairy standing in the corner of the garden beside an old wicker chair.

Link to Photos for this Post
Part 2: Link to Crackling Fire on Cold Winters Day
Part 3: The Magical Gardens of Adam Szczawinski

Fences and Gardens, Family and Friends

So much was happening this spring and summer it was hard to keep up, but suffice it to say there was a lot of magic. Woven between various trips to destinations inside and outside Canada, as well as visits by family and friends, there was a determination to redo the garden and fences as they were in tough shape after several years of neglect.

Last year Lynn and I worked at cleaning up the decks and redoing the garden furniture, but that only made the crumbling fences and mom cropped 7 front coverovergrown gardens look even more sad and forlorn.  Growing up in a family where my mother had the greenest thumb I know, we could no longer avoid thinking how she would feel if she happened by and saw all those steely, prickly weeds making such fun of the few domestic plants that survived the long summers of neglect.

Back in the late 1990’s mom and I had spent two magical summers planting everything we could get our hands on and it was now time to renew the gardening vows that were etched in my genes.  In our family one daughter, Kari, and one son, Sean, have been gifted with that particular gene, so the linage will not be lost any time soon. The jobs, however, were not a one week fix.

Photo (Personal Files, c1990s).  When mom was here for those two long visits, we spent day son end planting everything we could get our hands on. As neither of us had ever made moss hanging baskets we must have put together fifteen of various shapes and sizes.  Many of the McNeill Life Stories, 1941-1965, a historical stories on the blog, came out of our daily conversations.

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A Bad Fire Year?

Written by Harold McNeill on July 8th, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


sucker river fire- tammy cook-searson- june 7, 2015

Photo (Web Source): A fire burns out of control in Northern Saskatchewan, north of Prince Albert. Across western Canada wild fires have consumed millions of acres of timber and killed an untold number of wildlife caught in the path.  While only one death has been reported, that being a firefighter, Johnny Phare of Roberts Creek, on the Sunshine Coast, thousands of homes are threatened and many have already been destroyed and the danger level is extreme.  Over 7000 people have been evacuated from several native communities in Northern Saskatchewan with an undisclosed number being relocated to my home town in Cold Lake, Alberta.  (More photos in footer)

Introduction

On watching the local and national news tonight I listened as the Premiers of British Columbia and Saskatchewan commented on the challenge being faced by firefighters across their Province.  Resources were being stretched to the limit and in some areas of Saskatchewan the military have been called in to assist.  The Premier of Saskatchewan stated on Global National that he has placed a call to the Prime Minister, but did not elaborate on what he intended to ask the P.M.  My goodness, the Province is burning, the military have been called in, 7000 people evacuated and the P.M. has not yet checked in with the Premier to see what national resources might be needed?

On the local news, a citizen from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island reported that earlier today a fire had started across Sprout Lake across from his home.  11666312_10153348533261041_6025522279400697740_nThe fire was not threatening his property, but the man felt it needed immediate attention or would soon be out of control.

Photo (Nichele Studios, Port Alberni) This photo was taken by Paulette a day after the fire started.  A giant Martian Mars water bomber sits idle under a smoke shrouded noonday sun on Sproat Lake just outside Port Alberni.

All but for the want of contract approval  by the BC Government, that bomber would have been available it to tackle the Dog Mountain  fire minutes from where it was moored shortly after the fire was called in.  A contract was eventually signed and when the smoke cleared for a brief period under light winds, the bomber hit the fire with everything it had. However, by that time the fire had spread and done an incredible amount of damage to the pristine forests of Dog Moutain (more photos in footer).  Update: Five days later that fire is still not fully extinguished.

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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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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 Dad with an opportunity to reconnect to animals and the land after having spent several years mink ranching, logging and doing construction work.

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 Junior school in Edmonton was rapidly coming to an end as we would be heading North as soon as the school year was complete.

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Marie Lake: Crash on Highway 28 – Chapter 7 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 16th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


P1030254

Family Photos via Mom’s Photo Keepsakes (July, 1948).  I always remembered this photo and by good fortune on January 2, 2016, it magically appeared in a photo album my sister Dianne McNeill had preserved.  It now stands as the lead photo in this story of this accident that nearly killed our father, Dave McNeill and injured several others.  The photo was taken in the Cold Lake Hospital just before Dad was transferred to Edmonton for emergency surgery.

Photo (by Mom): Auntie Marcia, Louise and I stand beside geese shot by Mr. Goodrich our trapper neighbour. Dad love eating fresh cooked goose, but would have a tough time savouring these birds.

Link to Next Post: Link to On Thin Ice
Link to Last Post: Link to My Best Friend
Link to Family Stories Index

 

July, 1948

In mid-July, our family made a regular visit to Cold Lake to buy groceries and other supplies. Heading into town was a big event as it meant visiting family and a chance to play with other kids, not something we had a chance to do very often. There would also be a lively party at someone’s home and while the men didn’t drink much while working in the bush, they made up for lost time when they hit town.

Dad with FiddleIt took men many decades for men to learn that when it came to getting home safely after over consuming at a party, horse drawn wagons or sleighs gave a much better bet of arriving in one piece.  Cars, in a hands of a drunk driver, were much more deadly.

Photo (mom’s files): Harold with guitar, u/k male and female, mom with frying pan, Louise in front of mom, not sure if the man is Uncle Emerson (Dewan) but also looks like Uncle Denny (Helen Pylypow’s dad), and dad with the violin.  All standing in from of our home on the West side of Marie Lake.

At 10:30 one evening, after drinking for several hours at the Grand Centre Hotel,  eight men pilled into old Chevy Coupe and headed to Cold Lake to catch the last call. Uncle Warren, man furthest to the left in the lead photo, was a front seat, right side passenger and as the car hurtled down the long hill leading into Cold Lake hollered: “Lee, for Christ sakes slow down, there’s a turn at the bottom of the hill.”  This bit of information came from Uncle Warren some time later as he had not been drinking as much as the others and had been watching the road closely as Lee (Hobbs?) always tended to drive far to fast particularly when drinking. 

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Marie Lake: The Trapline – Chapter 5 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Marie Lake Harold and Louise with Wolf 1

Louise (4) and Harold (7) hold a large Silver Wolf that Mr. Goodrich (photo below) had shot earlier that fall. Wolf packs were very common in the area, but they seldom bothered any of the area residents as wild game was plentiful (Photo by Mom).

May 8, 2014.  This story is brought forward as it is the 7th birthday of our Grandson, Grayson Edward Walker.
Grayson, check out one of the things Grandpa was doing during his 7th year.

Link to Next Post: Link to My Best Friend
Link to Last Post: Link to Explosion
Link to Family Stories Index

Winter of 1948 – 1949

Suddenly Shep stopped dead in his tracks and stood perfectly still. The hair on his neck and back bristled as a soft, low growl emanated from deep within his throat. I scanned the bush – nothing. He continued to growl and slowly sniffed the air off to my right.

Suddenly I caught a wisp of two large silver-grey animals moving furtively through the trees about 100 feet off the trail. Wolves! No doubt the rest of the pack would be nearby.

Marie Lake Goodrich with Geese  by our Home2Everything Mr. Goodrich had told me about encountering a wolf or other predator flooded into my mind.

“Just keep walking and go about your business! Don’t run. Stand tall. Keep chatting – make some noise – fire a shot at a tree if you wish. The wolves have been well feed this winter so they are more afraid of you than you of them. Remember, a healthy, well fed wolf or bear will seldom attack a human.

‘Seldom attack?’ ‘Well fed?’ I certainly hoped so. At under four feet, even ‘standing tall’; I was not going to make much of an impression. As for the part ‘they are more afraid of you than you of them!’ there is no way on God’s green earth, one of those big, silver-grey wolves could possibly be more afraid of me. It probably didn’t help that mom had been reading all those ‘big bad wolf stories’ when I was a little boy.

Photo: (by mom):  I do not have any photos of Mr. Goodrich hunting big animals, but in this photo he stands holding his shotgun in front of our house. Beside him is several geese he had shot early one fall morning in 1948.

As for wolves, just the previous week Mr. Goodrich had killed a large male not many miles from my present location. He  also told us he had observed a kill site further north where the wolves had taken down a deer. Louise and I had held the skin of that large male and had to pull hard just to keep it to off the ground. It must have stretched six or seven feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.

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Marie Lake: The Mink Pen Adventure – Chapter 1 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Line Squal moving in over water

A line squall moves toward our boat as we crossed Marie Lake.  The high winds and waves placed us in mortal danger.

Link to Next Post:  Link to Growing Up in the Wilderness
Link to Last Post: Link to Near Death on the Dock  (End of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index

1947 -1949

Marie Lake was suddenly rough, very rough, as the wind stirred up white frothy waves to a height of three or four feet. The ice had been out for no more than a week and small chunks could still be seen floating nearby. We were being drenched by the freezing spray and at this moment were in imminent danger of being thrown into the freezing cold, dark waters.

Aunt Marcia1 reflected upon that hair raising boat trip:

“That crazy uncle of mine was so smart but he had no sense when it came to being cautious. When we left the dock he could see storm clouds on the horizon and the wind was rising. I was only fifteen but even I knew Marie Lake could quickly become rough enough to swamp our small boat.

Now, here we were, spread-eagled on top of a boat covered with stupid mink pens. Mink pens, can you believe it – stinking, dirty mink pens. I suppose we were lucky Uncle Dave had not kept the mink in them. I asked him to wait, but he laughingly chided me – come along or stay by myself. Stupid me, I went along. Now we were in the middle of the lake and things were going from bad to worse.”

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Birch Lake -The Fire Tower: Chapter 4 of 4

Written by Harold McNeill on April 16th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


The Fire Tower

Photo (Web) Fire towers in the early years were flimsy wooden affairs.  Over the summer of 1944, dad took a job with the Saskatchewan Forest Service as an observer at one of the hundreds of fire towers that had been erected throughout Northern Saskatchewan, this one above is similar to the one dad worked near Meadow Lake.   After that one summer, we often returned to Meadow Lake for the yearly Stampede.

Link to Next Post: Martineau River Logging Camp (Beginning of Part II)
Link to Last Post: A Place in the Sun
Link to Family Stories Index

Spring, 1944

Mom repeatedly called: “Hoo hoo, Harold, where are you?  Hoo hoo, Haarooold.” There was no answer and she was more than worried. At three and a half, I was always running around outside playing, but when mom hadn’t heard me for a while she went out to see what I was doing. She knew that dad was in the bush cutting wood and sometimes he would take me along, but would always tell mom first. She probably thought I was into some kind of mischief that would not be far off the mark for a three-year-old.

Birch Lake Fire TowerMothers! So trusting of their little boys!

Photo: This photocopied from a Cater and District “Least we Forget” series of stories found in my mother’s files.  The tower at Meadow Lake was very similar to the Birch Lake Tower (L). The ladder to the top can just be discerned on the right side. It is hard to believe this structure was capable of holding the small lookout shelter built on the top, to say nothing of when a line squall with gale force winds passed through the area.

In one of our conversations, Mom recalled that summer day in the wilderness north of Meadow Lake:

“Louise was sleeping and when I couldn’t find you after a few minutes, I became worried. I called and called but you didn’t answer. Finally, I could hear this faint little voice: “…..here mom..!” It was so faint I could not figure out where on earth you were. I walked further back along the path that led to the fire tower and continued to call. Your answers came back a little louder, but still distant …. ‘up here mom….’.

When I neared the clearing by the fire tower I looked up and there you were about 50 or 60 feet off the ground on the open ladder. I was petrified.  In the few months, we had been at the Ranger Station, I had never climbed that open ladder to the top. I tried a couple of times with Dave, but only got up about 15 feet before I had to come back down.

Over my objections, your Dad had taken you to the top several times. You would climb the ladder ahead of him and between his arms. I could never watch as I was petrified. I told him to even tell me when he was taking you up otherwise I would be worried sick. Even at the top, there was no railing that would stop a three-year-old from falling over the edge.

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]