I posted this on a message board and then thought I’d expand on it a bit, so here it is, modified slightly with a bit of editing for clarity. My original was in response to someone who suggested that some stories shouldn’t be told. Of course, I took exception, as evidenced by my follow-up post, edited below.
Again — Maybe some stories don’t need to be told???
Actually, the stories do need to be told.
A lot of the stories are the background and history of some great helicopter companies that operated in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that are no longer around today. They and their employees pioneered inventions, techniques, operating standards and working conditions, some of which weren’t perhaps the greatest.
Some of the engineers went on to the early DOT and helped to eliminate hazardous and dangerous working conditions. Some pilots became fantastic flight instructors who had learned the hard way what worked and what didn’t work in a bush or mountain environment. They then did their best to pass on their accumulated first-hand experience and knowledge to student pilots. Many of us were trained by those guys and we’re alive today because of them.
I know for a fact I am.
The old apprentice engineer method would never have survived for so long had not experienced, dedicated maintenance people passed on the kind of knowledge that could never be picked up by attending a classroom and reading a book. Tom Murray comes immediately to mind, as do Ray Coursol, John Juke and Lloyd Mackenzie. Those are only a few of the ones I knew, but there are many, many others all across the country. Those days are long gone now, but such people all helped to make the business what it is today.
Midwest S55 landing at Moosonee – 1968
Here’s one example of a company: Midwest Helicopters. That was a pretty good outfit during its heyday. There were some fantastic employees, great engineers, a couple of real characters (I’m reminded of Klaus Lebrandt, Bill Henderson), and a few who didn’t matter, but that’s all water under the bridge now since the company has long disappeared. I’d like to see a website dedicated to that outfit. And I don’t mean the “we were a great company and some fools ruined it all for the rest of us” kind of website. I mean one that tells the stories. Those are much more interesting than “I’d better not tell this story about Fred or Ted or Bruce. He’s gone now and can’t refute it.” The people and the stories are what made the outfit interesting.
More nurses. Top floor on the barge at Norway House – 1971. Ken Fraser (in the blue cap) was the Admiral of the Fleet. It was all good fun.
Another example is Skyrotors. It’s heyday was during the Mid-Canada Line construction, but it operated into the early ’70s under Tom Cannon in Arnprior. Tom was a real character all by himself, and I’m sure there are many stories to be told about him, but he and his company are long gone now, and many of the former employees are getting on too, just like the rest of us.
There are many just like Midwest and Skyrotors – small, independent, localized for the most part – who were great to work for once you got past the somewhat “unusual” characters who managed or who worked for them. Still, that too is what made those companies what they were.
That doesn’t mean that we should go out and name names, but it does mean that if the story gets told in a responsible way, those who were there will recognize and remember, and those who weren’t will scratch their heads and wonder how the hell THAT happened. The rest of us will get a good laugh and perhaps remember some of the minor characters who played a role in it all.
Remembering the good times along with the bad, combined with the loss of those we worked with and knew and liked, is part of the history of the helicopter business in Canada. It’s a tough business, and it was especially so in those early years. I don’t think that telling the odd story, whether names are used or not, is a bad thing. It’s all in the presentation, and hopefully it will lead to a laugh and another story about somebody else we all knew and liked.
On the other hand, derogatory speculation is not a good thing. If you weren’t there, shut up and listen to the stories of the people who were. If you live long enough, grasshopper, you’ll have your own stories to tell, and you can twist those any way you choose when your time comes.