In January 1969 while stationed at MARPAC HQ’s in Esquimalt Dockyard, Victoria experienced a 3 foot overnight snow dump. The roads were clogged and chaos reigned as the local mentality is summer tires until otherwise needed. On this particular white-out day I decided to stroll from Work Point Barracks into the Dockyard as I was part of the Admiralty Staff and, missing work was not an option.
While slogging down Lyle Road, several hundred yards east of the main gate of dockyard, I heard a road grader roaring up behind me; pushing snow every which way. Turning back in my military uniform: gloves, greatcoat and fur hat (yes the Russian Cossack type issued in Cornwallis), I stood in horror as the huge 8 foot high grader came to a crunching halt beside me.
Looking up into the cab I realized that my Uncle Nick, a thirty-four year veteran of the Second World War and Korean War was operating the huge beast. In a booming Ukrainian accent, Uncle Nick yelled: “jump in kid” and crawling up into the machine we lumbered down the road towards the gate. Now back in the 60’s the security of the main gate was manned by elderly Commissionaires – all veterans.
As we bounced and lumbered towards the gate, I cautioned my career Corporal uncle to slow down so that the old boy could open the metal gate. With seconds to spare the gate pushed open and we squeaked by, roaring into the yard. Blade down and snow flying in every direction, Uncle Nick rammed his way up towards the Admirals Building, executed a two wheel turn into the rear parking lot and shoved a six foot pile of snow up against a black staff car. Jumping down into the snow, I waved goodbye to my Uncle and headed into the building.
Within minutes, the Flag Lieutenant, the Admiral’s Administrative Aid and my boss, told me that that I was immediately required in front of the Admiral. As I entered the Admirals Office, I noticed that his demeanor was somewhat dour. He beckoned me towards his office window and pointing into the parking lot below asked me who the inconsiderate fool was that buried his staff car in snow. Fearing for my rebellious Uncles career prospects, I gulped and replied that he was some guy who had picked me up on the road. With a knowing look he responded that Uncle Nick wouldn’t mind if I spent the morning shoveling out the Admirals car as he had an appointment off base after lunch.
I have often wondered if the ride in was worth the effort.
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