Saturday, December 2 was the annual Hespeler Santa Claus Parade and as usual, they had a great turnout and a fantastic parade. Here are just a few of the 240 pictures that I took.
Like many other families in Hespeler, the Hillis and McLaughlin family had son’s, uncles and Brothers fighting overseas in WW2, some made it home and others did not. My family lost 1 while 3 made it home and I am sure forever changed by their experiences. My Mom’s brothers Ken, Alex and Bruce McLaughlin and my father James Hillis Sr. went to war and while Ken McLaughlin and my father made it home safely, Alex returned injured and Bruce never returned at all.
Bruce McLaughlin my maternal uncle died on August 14th 1944. The Following is the actual Globe and mail report about the day that Bruce and 15 others of the 12th Regiment of RCA died.
Globe and Mail by Ralph Allen, War correspondent. 43rd D. RHQ – – excerpts:
Could See it Coming
Before we reached our destination it had already become apparent that something had suddenly gone wrong with the bombing program. British heavies had changed their course slightly and when we heard the next gargantuan blast of heavy bombs and saw the next pillar of smoke belch toward the sky, the area had somehow shifted to our own lines. Bombs appeared to fall on Cauvicourt, a mile northeast of the quarry.
Brigade headquarters was already reporting it to division when we arrived at the operations room, a dugout that had served as a German divisional headquarters only a few days before.
From the top of the quarry, H.D. Zeiman, correspondent of the Daily Telegraph; Collin Rayment, Montreal, our conducting officer, and I watched the first squadron of Lancasters come in two hours after the Canuck infantry had launched an attack across the Liaison River toward Falaise and drop their bombs with perfect accuracy in the area of Quesney Wood, 2 1/2 miles from our observation post.
Hundreds More Planes Coming
But the next wave of bombers hit due north of us and it occurred to us that perhaps it was time to take note of the fact that bombs had now been dropped on three sides of us and that there were hundreds more planes still in the air coming straight towards us. The planes were flying low. We waited another minute, looking through our binoculars to see if the bomb doors on the leading planes were open. Then the major called out : ” Everybody in trenches or dugouts “.
Pte. Jerome Latour, Toronto driver of our press jeep, jumped in and drove the jeep along the quarry shelf to the front of the dugout, where there was protection for it to one side. Rayment, Zeiman, the major and I jogged along on foot glancing uneasily over our shoulders, but we made just as the first bomb hit the quarry with the deafening, teeth-shattering impact of a rabbit punch from a giant. We spilled inside the dugout, past a narrow runway, down two steps and around a corner into a square room in which eight or 10 privates were already sitting around a kerosene lamp.
Scene in the Dugout
There wasn’t much to the room but a big operations map and a double tier of wooden bunks. The soldiers moved back on the bunks to make room. One of them sat on a box, his head bent over a set of signaller’s earphones. ” Hello, Sarah Two, Hello Sarah Two, we are being bombed. Over, ” he was saying. His voice was firm, clear and decidedly matter of fact.
The rabbit punches were raining down by now, and through the smoke-filled corridor of the dugout every now and then the hot, liquid fingers of blast reached and tugged as though to drag us out of our trembling haven by sheer force.
We had now become the preferred target. The bombs came at us in catching sticks and each time a stick started we held our breaths an covered our heads with our arms….
One hour and ten minutes of death and destruction _ and from our own support. It was almost unbelievable and the time seemed interminable. Many prayers were offered that day – not for life itself but that the end might come quickly. The agony of suspense was terrifying and escape impossible. The air after each stick was dropped, would be filled with flying debris and between waves the ammunition from dumps and blazing vehicles was exploding in every direction. The whole area of the quarry was raging inferno and yet strange to relate the dividing line of the bombing between the 11th, 16th and 43rd Batteries was as clean as the cut of a knife. Not that the 43rd felt safe but they were able to watch Lancasters come in an literally blow their brother Batteries to bits _ at least it seemed so at the time. They were only four hundred yards from the target and yet could only watch: any action was impossible.
An Auster air OP eventually put in an appearance and did its best to divert the bombers from us but it was only the last wave that was actually led from our area.
There was so much smoke and dust after the first few waves had passed that even decisive features on the ground had ceased to exist for orientation and from what we could gather the bombers were bent only on dropping their bombs in the same area as their predecessors.
Our toll, when it was over, was thirteen dead and fifty-three wounded to say nothing of the vehicles and guns. The gun position and Wagon Lines of the 16th and the Wagon Lines of the 11th Batteries were hit the hardest while the 43rd escaped untouched. The 16th lost practically all of their vehicles and trailers and most of their guns were damaged. The 11th suffered thirty-three vehicle casualties and it was a miracle that no more lives had been lost. Now we knew how the Germans stood it and the answer was going to ground. Unless a bomb scored a direct hit on a slit trench you were comparatively safe. It was a dreadful experience and the morale of the Regiment was at a low ebb following the raid. The Medical Officer performed miracles in his RAP in one of the tunnels and many casualties from the other Units passed through his hands.
No time was lost once the raid was over in checking vehicle and personnel casualties and the Regiment, less the 16th Battery, prepared immediately to move forward to support our Infantry in spite of our losses. The 16th had no guns or vehicles so they remained behind to refit and reorganize.
The following is the contents of a letter that my Mother received from her brother on August 20th 1944 and had been mailed on August 9th 1944.
Hya squirt,how are yuh? I don’t know why i’m writing, i can’t think of anything to write about but mush. Say hello anyhoo, so here i am sitting nice and comfortable like, in my slit trench, swatting mosquito’s killin ants and things and writing all at the same time, cripes a guy needs about four hands for this job. It’s not a bad sort of a day though-at least it ain’t raining. An enormous big bee just flew in, stopped in mid air like a helicopter somewhere in the vicinity of my schnozzle and stared at me in the face like as if he was trying to make up his mind. However, he apparently didn’t like the looks of my ugly pan so he spread out his four or five inches of wings and flew away. I am still cross eyed from looking down my nose at the brute.
How are all the boy friends, or have you found one steady one? Cripes i haven’t even been out with a gal since about March, Gee soon i’ll be losing my Hespeler technique, what little there is left. Are you still at the same job and still doing the same thing sitting at a desk, writing letters to your boy friends? That must be a pretty fair job. You even use the company paper i notice, you crook. Well yesterday i received letters from Grace,Mother, Alec,George Oliver and a girl and her Mother and Sister in England, and a parcel from Grace as well. So i did okay for one day, didn’t i?All i gotta do now is answer them and boy, thats a job. Well Mim ole dear, must scram for now, so bye for this time, hope to see you soon, but hear from you sooner.
Your Big Brudder Brucie.
B85416 Gnr Bruce McLaughlin
12th Cdn fld regiment
Canuck Army Overseas
The following pictures are of my family members at war.
Growing up in Hespeler in the 1960’s was a sweet time and also I might add a slower time, at least in my mind. Sundays were always special and I have written about them before so excuse me if I repeat myself a little in this one. You see Sundays were of course for Church but more importantly, they were also a time when my father was able to bond with his two younger kids, myself and my younger sister Marylou. While the two older siblings John and Theresa had plans for a Sunday Marylou and I being roughly 10 and 8 were at the mercy of what our parents had planned and that is where our Dad and the Pontiac Strato Chief came into the equation. My Dad had this thing about taking the big V8 out into the country and blowing out the engine by going on a long pleasure cruise through the countryside and looking at the farms and whatever was out there on any particular Sunday, and my sister and I usually went along for the ride, after all it sure beat doing chores around the house and we actually liked it. As I got older I sort of fell away from doing that on a regular basis with my dad and the slow enjoyable rides through the country took on different looks over the years, from some friends and Myself cruising the backroads to letting my troubles drift away between Hespeler and Hamilton But the one thing they all had in common was the slow pace that being out in the farmlands of Ontario provided and the comfort of viewing a little different style of freedom.
Recently I have started driving those roads again, this time with my trusted Dog Cooper and my Camera’s but I have noticed a big difference. The traffic was a lot heavier than I remembered and the cars trying to fly past us on the side roads was disturbing, to say the least, after all, I remember how we would be able to slow down and look at something at the side of the road, perhaps even stop and admire an old barn or watch a farmer plough his field, but not now. Trying to enjoy the view outside of this city has become almost impossible and since Coop is an Australian Cattle Dog/Border Collie he has a fixation on cows and trying to slow down so he can look at them? Impossible, because as soon as you do someone comes flying up behind us at about 90 miles an hour and you have to speed up and try to get out of his way. Let’s just say it is not as fun as it used to be, it has become alarmingly dangerous to enjoy yourself on a country road. So if you are out in the country slow down and enjoy the view. And I haven’t even mentioned the roundabouts in the country. Sheesh.
The 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of fame nominees have been announced and as usual, they are an eclectic group and all well deserved in their own right. The Acts that are nominated include Bon Jovi, The Eurythmics, Rage Against the Machine, Link Wray, Judas Priest, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Nina Simone, Kate Bush, The Cars, LL Cool J, The Zombies, The Meters And Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. Then there are my personal favorites among the nominees, J.Geils band, The Moody Blues, Sister Rosetta Thorpe and The MC5, but missing is one band that ticks me off to no end, and they are Canadian. The Guess Who is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and again this year are not even nominated, all the above acts are good some even great but the Guess Who is as good as any of the above.
The Guess Who blazed the way for Canuck music and they made a big dent in the United States as they racked up a number of hits there including 3 top 10 singles, These Eyes and No Time cracked the top ten while American Woman became just the second single by a Canuck Group to hit Number 1 there. Laughing, No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, Bus Rider, Running back to Saskatoon, Undun, Hand Me Down World, Rain Dance and Share The Land are just a small sample of the library that The Guess Who has left us.
But yet no nomination to the Hall of Fame. So what gives? It is not like the Hall of Fame ignores Canada, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Rush and the band are all in the Hall so the Guess Who’s exclusion does not make sense to me but I think it is high time we Canucks start making the Hall of Fame take notice and start letting them know that we want them in the hall, Then next year we begin the push for them plus Bachman Turner Overdrive!
I don’t know if it is my age or if it is just that I have become too comfortable with my surroundings but lately, I tend to find myself getting lost or at the least upset with the change in things that have been part of my lifestyle. Take for example the local Zehrs in Hespeler, it took me a few try’s to get used to the new store when they moved location but I was able to do it eventually, but last week I had occasion to be in the East Galt area, and yes my passport was sufficient to allow me to cross the 401, and I needed to pick up a few things so being near the Zehr’s there I decided to go in, what a mistake. As soon as I went in I should have known that I was in trouble just by the set up of the store. After wandering aimlessly for 10 minutes looking for where everything was I screamed like a school kid heading back on the first day and ran out hopped in my car and drove to the safety of Hespeler and did my shopping there. Another example was the new beer store in town, since my wife drinks wine I always went to the liquor store and did one stop shopping, wine and beer and had no reason to go to the Beer Store, but I wanted something for a family get together that the LCBO did not have so for the very first time I entered the new Beer store and immediately knew I was in trouble. The set up confused me like a curve ball confuses some of the Toronto Blue Jay hitters, but I persevered and 20 cold minutes later I had what I wanted and got the hell out of there, probably to never set foot in there again.
But alas, the worst was yet to come. This time I dragged my wife into the confusion, we had to visit a family member in the hospital and we were totally unprepared for the excursion that was to come. Just finding our way in was a challenge, then figuring out which way to get to the room took some effort as neither one of us seemed to have our direction right. We wandered up and down the halls and elevators of the hospital and in some cases seemed to do complete circles, I am sure we passed the Tim Hortons 3 or 4 times before finally finding the right room. After the visit I thought “okay, we are safe”, I was wrong, 25 minutes and 2 bathroom stops later we eventually emerged into the outside light, more embarrassed than anything and as I said to my wife as we were driving out of the parking lot, ” Next time I am bringing popcorn and marking where we had been”. Now I have to go to city hall so, Mike Devine, if you see me wandering, point me in the right direction.
As summer begins its decline, things sometimes heat up and here in Hespeler that is so true. On Sunday, August 6th the neighborhood of Redwood saw the 4th or is it the 5th (hell, I can’t remember) annual Wilson house party, and as usual it was a great time with good food, drinks and plenty of folks having a delightful Sunday afternoon and except for the unwanted call from the bylaw officer responding to one complaint everything went well. Can imagine a party that the average age was around 60( even though there were a few more young people this year) garnered noise complaints? Damn, we rock in Hespeler. We also raised $300 for Lizzard House, giving the afternoon a fine finish. So, without further ado, I present to you the photographic evidence of Hespeler at it’s finest.
Summer time is always slower and this year is no different, but I did manage to get a few photos that I liked. Here is a sample of my June work.
Sometimes inspiration can come to people in the strangest places and on Saturday it happened to me. I was stuck in a traffic Delay in town and thought to myself”self, this could be a long wait, maybe you should do something to spice this wait up” And so I have come up with some ideas on how we the citizens of Cambridge can make the Inevitable summer traffic delays in the city more palatable.
You could pretend that you are in a rock band and start head banging to the music you are listening to, this usually is good until you realize too late that you are listening to Neil Diamond’s “I am I said”, not really a head banging tune, but you get the idea on that one.
Next time you are stuck in traffic in Preston or anywhere in Cambridge you can get out of your car and encourage others to do the same and start a flash mob, just make sure someone has a copy of “YMCA” on their iPod and you will be good to go.
You can provide entertainment for others stuck in traffic by exiting your vehicle and performing some street mime, everyone loves a free show.
I think I am going to keep some snacks in a picnic basket in my trunk and the next delay I will set up a little picnic on the hood of my car and invite the others to join me, thereby making some new friends and having a little conversation at the same time.
If you like to have a little fun with people and you have a car where the back seat folds down you could unlock your trunk, fold the back seat down and then crawl out of the trunk yelling and screaming “I’m Free”
I think to get out of your car, running up to another and touching it then yell Tag Your it would certainly break the tension of the moment.
If you are not into participation games there are some that you can do by yourself while waiting, like perhaps practicing your accents, go from german to Russian and so on and so on, after all, you never know when it will come in handy.
You can freak people out by waving to the car next to you and ask how grandma’s doing, See how they react.
Along the same lines as a flash mob, you could try to get everyone to honk their horns and co-ordinate it as a song, perhaps try “Kung Fu Fighting” to start.
You could find out what other people are listening to on their car stereos and start singing along real loud, watch their expression while you are doing this.
And of course, if the delay is long enough, just take a goddamn nap!
I hope I have giving all of you some ideas, so happy idling everyone!
Certain Songs from my past always seem to bring memories with them and this is just one of those stories.
Moon River is a song that may not immediately bring the past back to many people but it is one of those crooner songs that I always seem to remember at the weirdest times and for the last month or so I have been singing it, but don’t worry, I have only been singing it to myself and to my wife so you readers are not in danger of having an ear worm installed. Why do I even remember this song you may be asking yourself, well the answer lies in Bala Ontario and the summer road trips with my siblings and my parents to my Mom’s Sisters cottage in Bala to visit our cousins which also happens to have a river called the Moon River. Now, my Dad loved the crooners and one of his favorites was Andy Williams and boy did he ever like him, Andys records would play on a Saturday night at our house and Moon River was one of his favorites and in the mid 1960’s he would be humming it as we entered Bala and he would make sure we stopped at the Bala Falls to see the river before heading on to Uncle Ted and Aunt Theresa’s cottage, along of course with a stop at Don’s Bakery for a fresh Chelsea Bun or two. But this is not where the story ends or the reason that I suddenly am singing Moon River, with both my Aunt and Uncle departing this world I was informed by my cousin Mary ( Damn, there is another song memory) that the cottage that was a summer get away as a child has been sold, a place where I first heard Black Sabbath and discovered Pink Floyd, and is now just a remembrance of the joys of youth, just stories and memories now, damn good memories that will never be forgotten but life goes on and every time I hear Andy Williams singing Moon River I can think of those carefree joyous summer nights in the ’60s and ’70’s on Lake Muskoka, look at the sky and say thanks for the memory’s Aunt Theresa and Uncle Ted.
“Moon River, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heartbreaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way”
Rise my little ones Rise! City Council’s revenge will come back to haunt them. Their slow silent attack on my home has been thwarted and I will put my revenge plan into action. This morning the Formicidae(ants for those who don’t use Wikipedia) that rose from the sink and the wall in my home that they sent in response will be turned against them. I will slowly train them, feed them and then set them on their way back to destroy what they hold dear. I will train them to infiltrate City Hall and act as security until the time comes to devour my enemy’s( that might take a while). I will train them to attack the construction workers when construction season starts going up, they will crawl all over the workers causing fits galore. They will learn how to turn off fire hydrants and foil their attempts at running Cambridge out of water. I will set my ants into every restaurant that would not hire me and ruin their kitchens, I will teach them to battle the bees and Armageddon will happen in Riverside park. They will be trained to sniff out the crack dens in this city thereby improving the quality of life. They will be trained to fix the roof of the Preston Arena thereby thwarting their plans to silence our children’s good times.They will learn to destroy the roundabouts and force the planners to leave things alone. And when all this is done My army of Ants and I will be ready to take on the Mayors Flying monkeys and Rule this City with an Iron Fist, City of Cambridge, You will bow before me…aw crap, here comes My wife with the Ant Killer, son of a bitch, another great plan to rule the world down the drain. Oh well, there is always tomorrow.