(Click on photo to see it full screen.) There’s a shadowy “archive” that slowly leaks out wonderful new Canadian aviation history. This treasure trove comprises the scrapbooks, albums, log books and correspondence of people who spent their lives in aviation.
Sadly, much of this material still ends in the dump after people leave aviation and fade away. We’ve heard this story all too often. One day a fellow called to report that his brother (my acquaintance) had passed. Before we signed off, I enquired about my old pal’s aviation collection. The caller reported that, since he had to clear his brother’s apartment quickly, he had boxed everything and put it out to the side of the road on garbage day – library, photos, log books, everything. A sad old tale, just pitiful.
Happily, others have family members with an interest, so good material gets passed along for safe keeping. Many have sent me such goodies, knowing that their treasures will be cared for and put to good use. One day the late, great Robert Halford invited me to lunch, showed me his life’s collection of material gathered through decades of publishing Aircraft Magazine and The Canadian Aircraft Operator. Then, he handed the whole collection – box upon box – over to me. Since then, I have used many of Bob’s photos in my ongoing series of Canadian aviation titles.
On another occasion, Harry Mochulsky, a renowned old-time Canadian air engineer, sent me some of his vintage Kodachrome slides. He was done this such stuff, but knew I could use it. I published the first of Harry’s photos in Power: The Pratt and Whitney Canada Story in 1989. Wonderful old material that likely would have ended in the landfill, had Harry not thought of me.
Harry photographed anything with wings — it was a natural activity, part of his trade. Here is one of his lovely old Kodachromes of the Saskatchewan Government Airways Service base at LaRonge about 1955 (click on the photo to see it full screen). What a typical Canadian bush flying scene. Nearest, and resplendent in SGAS black and yellow, is Norseman V CF-BEM, one of the stars in Aviation in Canada: The Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.2. Then is an SGAS Beaver, another Norseman and Beaver and, far on the right, a Cessna 180. Everything is on skis. Note the neat nose hangars and custom wing covers used by SGAS. Can’t you just hear the snow squeaking under your boots and feel that crisp northern Saskatchewan air.
Having spent 1945-53 mainly in the NWT, CF-BEM served the SGAS 1954-64, Next, ‘til 1970 it was mainly a fish hauler for LaRonge Aviation and Canadian Fish Products. Later, came a stint with a tourist lodge, until CF-BEM was sold in the USA in 1979. Last heard of it was a shabby wreck in a Denver scrap yard.
CANAV is always on the lookout for ordinary old photos to bring to light in its next book. If you have any such still lying around, I’m interested, so drop me a note: email@example.com.
Thanks for a great year of reading, writing, photographing and sharing aviation. Warmest holiday wishes and all the best in New Year 2015!
… Larry Milberry