Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dad's Navy Days: 1944 - Comox, Vancouver Island (32)

"I ended up on the business end of a
pair of oars in the Captain’s dinghy..."

["Navy boys ready to board a train to Vancouver"]

["Navy boys on The Spit; turn left for oysters"]

What my father recalls about his 'navy days' from 1941 - 45 is now an essential part of how I view him 11 years after his death. Memories that go back seventy years to an isolated spot on Canada's vast west coast allow me to time travel to many faraway places with wide open eyes.

Some of his memories are found in an article he wrote for his hometown newspaper in the early 1990s:


    In 1944 I was stationed in barracks on a piece of land
    called “The Spit” at Comox on Vancouver Island, B.C.
    About a half mile of water separated the spit from Comox
    and to get ashore we had to be inspected and travel to
    Comox on a real Liberty boat. 

["Ship at Comox pier; oyster beds to the right":
photo courtesy of Comox Library and Archives]

    Fishing for salmon was great there. I myself never fished;

    I ended up on the business end of a pair of oars in the
    Captain’s dinghy while someone else sat in the stern and
    trawled, using filleted herring as bait which acted as a shiny
    spinner. Some Fridays we were able to supply the noon meal
    with freshly caught salmon. We didn’t have meat
    because of the R.C.s.

    In order to catch herring for bait we used an old Indian

    custom. We acquired a thin piece of wood, similar to house
    trim, about six feet long. At one end we pounded in about
    18 inches of finishing nails about an inch apart. The heads
    were snipped off the nails and it looked like a long comb.
    When we saw the sea gulls diving for fish near the jetty we
    rushed down with our long comb and when a school of
    herring swam past we just poled them up onto the jetty.
    What we didn’t require we threw back in. The natives had
    a rule; if the gulls are in, the herring are in, and if the herring
    are in, the salmon are too, and away we went fishing.

    A few miles west of Comox was the small town of Courtenay,
    and I stood amazed on the bridge over the river in spawning
    season and watched the salmon. Bank to bank salmon -
    it didn’t seem possible. [The Norwich Gazette]

["Photo taken on bridge over the river in Courtenay":
courtesy of Courtenay/Comox calendar for 2012]

Salmon, herring and spawning season are mentioned. And not one word about the Royal Canadian Navy and World War 2. I bet he enjoyed times like that on The Spit.

While I was on The Spit in 2012 I fell in love with the beaches and fresh breezes. While I was in Courtenay and standing upon the bridge that replaced an earlier model (see above photo) I saw nary a salmon except, in my mind's eye, the ones my father discovered about seventy years earlier.

All beauties.

Photos by GH unless otherwise stated.

More Dad's Navy Days

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