Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Jack

Smiley MacCallum was a pleasant appearing fellow.We were both serving in HMCS St. Laurent before WWII started. St.Laurent was a River class destroyer stationed on Canada's West Coast. Our ship abruptly left Vancouver and headed south so we could get through the Panama Canal before Canada declared war on Gemany, which it did five minutes after we left the canal's Gatun Locks; then the ship rushed up to Halifax. Six days after war was declared the first convoy left Bedford Basin escorted by HMCS St. Laurent and HMCS Saguenay. I tried to describe the misery of the following winters at sea on Convoy duty in my book ,"A Sailor's Stories." Despite the bad food and the terrible cold and wet in the unheated ship, Smiley always seemed cheerful and smiling. He was never without a thermos bottle that he was in the habit of sipping out of every now and then. When we weren't closed up at "A" gun for action stations, we both stood watches as lookouts on the bridge. I was always in the starboard wing and Smiley was in the port wing. One particularly cold and miserable day when we were frequently soaked by waves coming over the bow, every time the wind abated I could hear smiley humming to himself. Just as I saw him sipping from his thermos, a rogue wave came in from the port for'ad quarter that lifted the bow of the ship over on the starboard side. Smiley's one handed support grip let go and he came barreling over to me. He grabbed me with one arm around my neck, his face close to mine and he exhaled with breath that left no doubt he wasn't sipping coffee. Rum was trhe secret of his smile!

Monday, April 6, 2009

One more yarn

Whe I was serving as the Electrical Officer in the destroyer H.M.C.S. Cayuga we sailed from Esquimalt, BC, south to the Panama Canal, through the canal and then visited some of the islands. We went alongside a jetty in Kingston, Jamaica and the next day we had a cocktail party onboard and a number of the locals were invited. As one of the hosts I spoke with a Jamaican reporter and he asked me to meet him at the Press Club in Kingston the next day for a drink or two. While we were consuming refreshments a man came and spoke to my host for some time and I was unable to understand a word that he said. After the man left , I asked the reporter what language he spoke. The reporter replied, "English".I was quite embarassed that I had'nt realized he spoke pidgin English.

Friday, March 27, 2009