Al Capone, Blue Bombers, Canada, CFB Moose Jaw, hillside beach manitoba, humour, interior design, Manitoba, Moose Jaw, photography, reflections, Roughriders, Saskatchewan, travel, working in Canada in the 70s
Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw.
We had an office in Regina, capital city of Saskatchewan, our neighbouring province to the west. The manager, Roger, notified our area manager that CFB Moose Jaw also wanted to make proposals to upgrade their three messes. As I was now the specialist in these projects I was dispatched right away to Regina. Happily there were regularly scheduled air connections between Winnipeg and Regina, so I was booked on the next day’s afternoon flight.
I very carefully loaded film in the office camera, watching the rewind handle turn as I advanced the film three frames. I had at least learned one lesson!
I also was determined to be very careful in accepting hospitality on the base!
Roger met me at the airport – Regina airport was a small and friendly place in those days, with very limited security and we were soon driving over to the office where Roger would brief me on his conversations with the head’s of the three mess committees.
I had not met Roger before – he was a good ten years older than me and as many inches taller. He was a very engaging chap and soon had me relaxed and laughing. He explained that our first appointment was at the base at 8:30 am with the base commander – for breakfast. Moose Jaw is located on the Trans Canada Highway almost an hour from Regina. Roger suggested we leave my motel about 7:15 am.
Roger was bubbling with excitement. “I have news” he said. I smiled and waited to hear the news. “At lunch today, I proposed to my girlfriend! She said yes, so I’m engaged”. He was obviously over the moon about this. I congratulated him. He then told me he and his fiancé planned to have a celebration dinner that evening and I was invited. I told him, not to be crazy, I would be quite fine eating by myself. I had work to catch up on. He really should enjoy his evening with his new fiancé without some stranger from Winnipeg getting in the way. However, Roger was absolutely resolute – he and his fiancé had discussed it and they thought it would be great to have someone to share their celebration.
The people of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are renowned for their hospitality. You don’t get to say no!
The three of us went out to a ritzy (well Regina Ritzy) restaurant. Roger’s fiancé was charming and made me feel very welcome. Roger ordered Champaign and we went through many toasts to the future – theirs, mine, the company’s, CFB Moose Jaw’s, and the Roughriders’ (Saskatchewan’s football team and Winnipeg Blue Bombers greatest rivals) to name just a few. Roger insisted we had different wine with each course, and it wouldn’t do to leave the bottles less than empty. I believe their may have been brandy after the meal. I kind of lost track.
It was a great evening, but probably not a sensible one to enjoy before an early morning drive to meet with three clients about their renovation projects.
That night I tried John’s foot on the floor recommendation again – it doesn’t work. What’s that song Spinning Wheel…?
The next morning Roger arrived looking less than chipper. He actually looked quite pale, his eyes were bloodshot, and he walked with a bit of a stoop and spoke with a grunt. Aha! The demon alcohol was like the medicine Dr Jekyll took.
We had a quiet and slow ride out to the base. We were loudly and enthusiastically greeted by the base commander and some of his colleagues. I really wanted to say “shhhhh, can you please keep it down, and stop moving around like that”. My head was pounding and my tongue felt like something that I should never have put in my mouth. ” We were taken into breakfast. I wouldn’t have believed Roger could become any whiter. The Beetle’s A Whiter Shade of Pale comes to mind. That was the Beetles wasn’t it? But the smell of the breakfast just about did for Roger.
Roger quietly explained that we had had a rather exuberant celebration the previous evening and were not quite up to top performance, he hoped they wouldn’t hold that against us. When the reason for the celebration was mentioned, there was more slapping of backs, and well done mate, from the group and of course we needed to toast the newly engaged couple.
I didn’t think I could take too many more military campaigns.
As we were passed from mess committee to mess committee the story of our previous night’s celebration grew longer and more elaborate. They loved us! We were real men! (this was the early 70’s).
Surprise surprise, each mess wanted an English Pub theme! I could knock these off in my sleep now.
Of course we won the competition – and again I have a sneaking hunch our prior night’s revelry had earned us extra points in the evaluations.
If you are intrigued by the name Moose Jaw – and who wouldn’t be, here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on Moose Jaw. One of the ‘attractions’ for tourists is the Tunnels Tour. Originally tunnels were built under the city to hide illegal Chinese workers. In the 1920s the tunnels were put to a different use. This was the time of prohibition in the US. Moose Jaw is close to the US border. The tunnels were used to store illegal booze before being shipped to the States on the Soo Line . The infamous Chicago Gangster Al Capone had an interest in Moose Jaw and had visited there before being arrested for tax evasion.
The photographs turned out well on this trip – but I ran into difficulties again a few year’s later when I visited The Pas (pronounced the pah) in Northern Manitoba. See you there.