GORD HEATH'S MEMORIES - CONTINUED
Gord Heath recalls many strange events occurring throughout his life. Heath, a computer systems engineer presently living in Vancouver, was born in Fort William in the Spring of 1954, about nine months after the Kinross incident. (Used with permission)
I had found it difficult to keep up with reading in Grade One. I remember that they tried to teach us reading using repetition and memorization. The teacher would read from the infamous “Dick and Jane” readers, and we would repeat. I remember her once asking me to read. It was all about Sally. While I did recognize some words, I couldn’t remember all of them and I felt very embarrassed because I had such great difficulty “reading”.
I started Grade Two in Crescent Valley Elementary School in Hinton, just a day or two after arriving from Fort William in early September, 1961. It was in Grade Two that I was first taught phonics as a way to learn reading skills.
I was soon finding it much easier to figure out what words were by applying phonetic rules of pronunciation. As one example, I remember that we had one exercise where we had to write our names on a big piece of paper.
I had one friend named Ian, who lived near us. One thing I remember about him was his family had a very large greenhouse in the backyard, which I found to be quite unusual. I remember looking at his name and thinking that it didn’t look right. I couldn’t figure out how the “IA” vowel combination should be pronounced but I thought his name should start with an “E”. We had quite a long discussion about this, but he assured me he had been told that this was the correct spelling for his name. What this incident demonstrates to me that I was very motivated to try to read words and names and figure out what they were by using phonetic pronunciation.
It was while we were living in Hinton that I had this incident involving a steel jar that sat on the dresser in my parents’ bedroom. This wasn’t my first encounter with the box. When I was in Fort William, there was a time when my father first showed us these model airplanes that he kept in this jar. I remember that he had three model airplanes that he took from this round silver jar that had an interesting matching top on it. The planes were miniature models of aircraft from the Second World War. My dad had made them by hand while he was in the RCAF. The models were made from a transparent plastic that slowly yellowed with age. The plastic material was from the canopy covers from old aircraft. One thing that seems a little strange to me is that my father did not show the models to my brothers at an earlier age, and waited until all three of us could be shown the models. He did show them to us on other infrequent occasions after this but naturally, did not want us to view them as toys, so he kept them hidden away.
I had retained quite an interest in the airplanes and for some reason, at some point in time I became very curious about them. At this time my father left the jar sitting on a low cherry wood bureau in my parents’ bedroom. The bureau had a rich deep red-brown color and was covered by a sheet of greenish glass. There was a large mirror attached to the bureau. This day I went in there while my parents were away somewhere. I remember opening up the jar to look at the airplanes. When I opened the jar, I found that there were a number of badges in it in addition to the model airplanes. There was also a pink colored piece of paper that had been neatly folded so it would fit into the box. I studied all of the badges in the box. When I looked at the badges I first thought that they must be my dad’s badges from his time in the RCAF. But then I found two badges that had names on them. I looked at the badges and thought that the names looked like peoples names, but I realized that it was not my dad’s last name or first name. I realized that these must be badges from someone else. I tried to read the names on the badges. It took me quite a while to figure out the names. The first one was quite a bit easier, because it was composed of two syllables, each made from a consonant-vowel-consonant sequence. I soon figured out each syllable, “WIL” and “SON”, making “WILSON” which reminded me of the Mr. Wilson who starred in “Dennis the Menace”. When I had figured out the first name, I looked at the second and I found that the name looked very strange. The letter combinations looked very odd and I was particularly mystified about the long sequence of three consonants in the middle of the name. I soon realized that two of the consonants were from one of those special two letter consonant sequences that you sometimes read at the beginning of a word. In this case, it was the “CL” as in clock. The name ended in an “A” which seemed also a little strange to me. But I soon realized that the name was also composed of two, three letter syllables, the first a consonant-vowel-consonant “M-O-N” which I first thought would be pronounced like the “MON” in money. The second syllable was “C-L-A” as in “clock” or “claw”, and I soon was trying to pronounce the name “MON-CLA”. I was soon repeating the name, over and over to myself as I sat looking at the badge in my hands. It was as if there was something that I thought I should remember about the name, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was.
Badges in Jar
The two badges were the name ID badges. Below the “MONCLA” badge is the two silver lieutenant bars that were joined by some grayish felt material (they looked glued to felt). The ribbon is the only one of three or four that I can remember. I am quite sure it was like one which is the Air Force Good Conduct ribbon. The plane is the semi-transparent model of the F-89 made from the plastic from an airplane canopy (like my dad had made in air force). There was some sort of squadron patch for the 433rd FIS. I think it had “433RD FIS, TRUAX FIELD” on the bottom and maybe had “MADISON, WISC.” on the top. The design was simple and was similar to this. Something like a lightning bolt and dark colors. The thin sheet of pink paper with a pre-printed form that had numbers in rows and columns. I am quite sure it was a log sheet of pilot flight hours for Lt. Moncla.
It was about this time, that I heard someone coming down the hallway towards my parents’ bedroom. I rushed to see who it was and saw it was my brother who was walking down the hallway. As he walked towards me, I noticed that he was walking really funny. His legs seemed stiff and wobbly and he seemed to be having trouble keeping balance. When he got closer, I noticed that there was drool coming from the corner of his mouth and there was a strange gaze in his eyes. I thought that he maybe seemed drunk or somehow impaired. I also wondered if it was really him at all because something didn’t seem right about him. I remember talking to him and asking him what was wrong. At first he had trouble speaking, his words seemed slurred. But in a few more sentences, he seemed to be talking more normal and he seemed more in control of his body. I think he asked what I was doing, and I told him that I was looking at dad’s stuff in the jar. I said I had found the badges from two other men in the jar, and I wondered why these other badges would be in a box of stuff that my dad got from the Air Force. My brother told me that the two badges were from friends of my fathers who were in the US Air Force. He told me they had been in a plane crash. I think it was at this point, that he told me that I was one of the pilots. I think I asked how this could be and he said this was before I was born into my current body. We started to look at the airplanes and other badges. I first looked at one plane that looked like a normal propeller powered fighter. It looked much like the spitfire model that my dad gave me recently from the set of three airplanes he made. The second airplane I looked at was smaller, and my brother told me was a jet. I remember looking at the airplane and thinking that it was very beautiful. I looked to see if I could find the jets under the wing but there was nothing there. I noticed that there was some torpedo shapes at the end of the wings. I asked my brother if these were the airplane’s jets. He said that the jets were close to the fuselage. I remember looking at the body and seeing some forms beside the fuselage, under the wings. My brother mentioned something about the function of the forms at the end of the wing. He may have mentioned something about them being fuel tanks. I also seem to remember that he also said something about rockets.
We then looked at some of the other badges. One badge was two small grey or silver bars that were connected by two thin strips of a felt-like material. My brother told me these were my lieutenant bars. I think that one other badge was a curved badge and had “AIR DEFENSE” written on it (I think my brother told me what was written on the badge). I think there was another badge with “433rd FIS” written on it and my brother explained that this was the badge for my squadron. I am not sure of what else was on this squadron patch, but I vaguely recall that it had a simple and rather boring design, perhaps just a slash or lightning bolt from top left to bottom right with dark blue and black or red areas on either side. The last badge was an Air Force ribbon. I remember the predominant color was a sky blue, with narrow red, blue and maybe grey stripes on either side. I seem to remember my brother telling me that I had received this for “good behavior” in the Air Force. Actually, I think there was more than one ribbon, (maybe three or four) but I can only remember talking about the one ribbon.
I am not sure if my brother stayed with me the whole time. I remember that I also unfolded the pink paper. It was a form made from a very thin, almost tissue like paper. I think the form was about 8 inches by 5 or 6 inches. The main part of the form had a lot of numbers typed or printed into spaces in a grid. At the top of the form, I recognized the name “Moncla” and a lot of other strange looking abbreviations that I couldn’t figure out. I think that I was maybe told that this was a flight record for the pilot.
I was unable to figure out how to properly refold the paper, so I tried my best to duplicate the folds. I know that before I refolded the paper, it had very crisp folds, like it had only been folded up once and had not been repeatedly unfolded and refolded.
Later that day, I went to my brother while he was sitting in the living room. I wanted to ask him about what he had told me about myself being a pilot. Strangely, he denied he had ever been in my mother and father’s bedroom with me that day. I thought back to my experience earlier in the day and remembered that although the person looked like my brother and was dressed like him, I had felt that something was wrong and maybe it was someone masquerading as my brother.
A few days later my mother and father got us all together because they wanted to know who it was who had gone into their room and gone into dad’s jar. I had to admit that I had gone in there because I wanted to look at the airplanes. My dad was very, very mad at me and expressed profound displeasure that I was looking at “his things”. I remember him staring at me and angrily saying “those are MY things”.
It was a long, long time before I ever mustered up the courage to go back and look inside the jar. When I finally did look, I did find dad’s airplanes but I couldn’t find the model jet and I couldn’t find any of the badges I had seen that day. Instead, there was just some of those tiny baby’s bracelets they give you in the hospital, that have little blue beads and the baby’s name spelled in tiny black letters on white beads.
…THE BADGES IN THE SHAVING SOAP JAR
When I remembered having seen the badges, I called up my dad to ask if he knew what had happened to them, but he couldn’t remember ever having seen these. Although I remember seeing my dad’s planes many times, I can only remember seeing these badges the one time in Hinton, when I was seven years old.
I think it was on a visit to my parents later that year that my dad gave me his model planes. It was on a still later visit that they “found” the jar, that I guess was somewhere in storage, and this they also ended up giving to me, as I felt such an attachment to this.
Around the time my parents gave me the jar, I asked my mother about its origins. She told me that it was part of a set of mens toiletries she had bought as a gift for her boyfriend “Joe” who she dated before she met my father in Port Radium. She said that she never gave the gift to him as they broke up about that time.
Somehow, I don’t think that this account is quite right. My father does not have any memory of the origins of the jar and doesn’t recall what was in it before it was used for his planes. I will refer to this issue in greater detail in the section dealing with Moncla and Wilson’s time in captivity.