The way it was

I’d like to thank Brian Camphaug, Bill McKeever, Rick Tyefisher and Al Nelson for providing some of the photos. Select More Photos in the menu to see images provided by David Thompson. If anyone would like to provide additional images, send me an email. You’ll get full attribution.

Click on any of the images to get a carousel.

Thanks to Brian Camphaug for two of the early pictures, one from N.A.S. Lakehurst (1951), and another floor shot of Spartan Air Services in Uplands (year unknown). The barn was our first hanger, east of Ottawa near Orleans (early 1969). It was just a stone’s throw from the old schoolhouse, which was our component shop and office. Peter C. Hill was kind enough to capture the image of Viking’s former Bells Corners facility as it appears in 2010.

 Bill McKeever has submitted images from his collection taken over the many years he flew for the company. Thanks, Bill!

Starting in the early to mid-’70s, Viking had a tremendous amount of equipment in Africa, working for World Health in the west…

and Conoco Oil in the east, with plenty in between. Here’s a link to a satellite shot of our 1975 campsite. It’s recognizable for the hill that overlooked the site. We used that hill as the camp landmark, since it was visible from almost anywhere we worked. Jean-Marc Pigeon got caught out in the dark one night, and we lit up camp for him to find us in the blackest night. The Conoco strip is to the north-east. All of Conoco’s wells came up dry. Oil exploration in the same area continues (article temporarily unavailable) but I doubt that anything substantial will ever be found.

Meanwhile, back in 1969 when men were landing on the moon, Lorne and the author landed in Newfoundland with an expense account and a G2.

Rick Tyefisher, a young apprentice with Lambair Ltd. in 1974, has provided the images he captured while working with all of us on Dryden-18. For many, this was our first time at the big show, and to this day remains in my memory as a pretty good experience. Many new techniques for aircraft management and use on large fires were experimented with and adopted in later years.

Thanks to Al Nelson for providing access to some of his images of Midwest Helicopters. If anyone would like to provide more Midwest photographs, send me an email. You’ll get full attribution.

31 thoughts on “The way it was

  1. Daniel Laskarin

    I was in Ouagadougou and Bobodioulasso for the first year of the Oncho project. Worked with Norm Toupin, Germain Gingras, Gerry Gill, Bob Harrison, Brent Morrison (Brett?), and others. Quite the year. Quite a few years ago. I had come with the crew from United Helicopters on the west coast & we started out in Abidjan, uncrating and assembling 5 Hughes 500s.

    Reply
    1. Norm Toupin

      Hello Daniel,

      Remember very well working with you and everyone that you mention. Such nice memories. Spent a few years on the Oncho project after you left. I am actually back in Africa.

      Reply
  2. John Sokalski

    Hi, my late uncle was John Juke who worked with Viking and Spartan and Pan Am. Nice seeing a picture of him in Ouagadougou.

    Reply
    1. Twolane Post author

      Hi John,

      Thanks for finding the place and coming by to leave a comment.

      I’m sorry to hear that John has passed away. I worked with him at Viking’s old schoolhouse and the old barn in Orleans in early 1969. My apologies for the condition of the black and white image of John in Ouagadougou. Unfortunately, it’s the best I have.

      Reply
      1. John Sokalski

        Hi Twolane, yeah my uncle passed away 4 years ago of heart failure. Since I was a kid he always had us all in stiches with his stories (usually some alcohol may have played a part). I remember him mentioning the great work ethic the locals in Somalia had and how it drove him crazy (the simplest task was always “very difficult”).
        He frequently mentioned how many good friends he had lost through the years. He had this one picture of about 10 guys in it drinking in a mess or bar and he would say that of all the guys in the photo, he was the only one still alive… that bothered him a great deal.
        Really happy I chanced upon this site. Thanks

        Reply
        1. Twolane Post author

          I remember John very well. He was indeed a great storyteller. A bunch of us would sometimes – quite often, actually – go into Orleans for lunch at the hotel when the special was beans. We’d all drink the cheap draft beer and chow down on the beans, and John, as well as others, would tell stories from back in the “old” days – which, back then, weren’t so old. John always had the best stories. It was the way he would tell them, and his laugh that went along with the story. He didn’t leave himself out of the story either, if he was a part of it.

          I have to agree with his assessment of the locals. At least once a day the people who pumped fuel into the helicopter had to be shown how to work the drum wrench – and plenty of other things, too.

          One of the pilot/engineers actually managed to locate a local in camp who showed some initiative and worked just a bit harder than the others when he was around the helipad. He decided to pay this guy out of his own pocket because of that. Well, when the others in camp found out their buddy was making more money than they were making, the whole camp went on strike.

          Needless to say, the Conoco party chief wasn’t too happy, and that was the end of that idea.

          I know how John must have felt about losing his friends. Many that I once knew in the business have passed on as well.

          Regards,
          Peter

          Reply
        2. david thompson

          Hi John-I worked with John in Somalia & Ethopia He had a great sense of humor and I always enjoyed working with him He was a real gentlemen. I kept in touch with him and would drop in and see him at his apartment off Merivale Rd. every once and a while. Sorry to see him go. Dave

          Reply
    2. Twolane Post author

      I took a look at some old photos last night, and was reminded of this about your uncle:

      John had an incredible sense of humour, he enjoyed telling stories that had us all in stitches, and he would often include himself in some of his most memorable tales. The finger-wagging made sure to keep the attention of the young guys – of which I was one.

      When John got into story-telling mode, one of his favourite words to use was “snockered”. I’d completely forgotten the word over the intervening decades. I hope you don’t mind that I brought it up.

      Peter

      Reply
      1. John Sokalski

        Ha Ha,….yes Peter, he told great stories whenever he was “lubricated”, another of his favourite words. We, the family that is, would only see John now and again between trips not nearly enough but he always entertained us immensely, he did have that unique laugh, I can’t imagine what it must have been like working with him.
        So good to read nice words about him from yourself and David.

        Reply
  3. Ken Korb

    I worked for Viking for a couple of years as a helicopter pilot. I flew Hughes 500Cs in West Africa treating rivers on the Onco project. Worked out of Tamale Ghana until the coup, then moved to Lama Kara, Togo. Later on I worked out of Bobo Dioulasso, staying with Brett and Marilee Morrison. Our proect manager was Peter Hairsine.

    Later on I flew Bell 212s for Viking in the swamp in South Sudan supporting seismic survey crews until the civil war started. Then later I flew Hughes 500Ds for Viking in the desert in north Sudan, doing gravity survey work.

    Reply
  4. david thompson

    Hi your site brought back a lot of memories. I worked for viking in the 70’s& 80’s. I spent a lot of time in Africa working with viking, and have lots of photo’s. If you are interested in them let me know. Dave

    Reply
    1. Ken Korb

      This is to David Thompson. Do I know you from Bobo Dioulasso? I was in Bobo as a pilot. I was the good looking one.

      Reply
      1. david thompson

        Hi ken-Yes I did work with you in Bobo and in the mud in Sudan. What are you up to these days. I just retired waiting for the snow to melt so I can start my golf career

        Reply
        1. Ken Korb

          David – Are you in contact with anyone else from Africa? Remember a white-haired pilot in Bobo nicknamed the ‘Silver Fox?’ Heard he hit power lines in Turkey. Then there was Nguyen, who crashed and burned on takeoff from Khartoum. I bumped into Dave Preuss on the street in Bangkok. Brett and Marilee Morrison. Peter Hairsine and his wife. Russ Tymrick and his colourful wife. Tom Johnson and his girlfriend Shuana. And Marcel Junior, who insisted his time was more accurate because he had a gold Rolex. The Porter pilot who got sacked for bad-mouthing the WHO manager. Norm Toupin, of course. And the old Kraut, Harold Bidlow. Who can forget? Who have I missed?

          Reply
          1. david thompson

            Ken-I hav’ent keeped in contact with a lot of the people we worked with,but do hear about them every once and a while Email me I’ at classic25 at bell dot net

  5. doug potts

    I have a few pics of dze,I do know that Mark was flying it when I took the pic.Have a few of JRH,I put a lot of time on her and TWK and TWM,CQT,MAO,EKM….pottsy

    Reply
  6. Mark Wiskemann

    I flew with Midwest in the 80s , so the names carried in the info above were familiar. I began in 1982 or so working for Wayne Johnson and Pete Medweduk

    Good memories at Midwest
    M Wiskekmann

    Reply
  7. Ray Komendat

    Interesting site, I worked for Universal and Viking late 60’s early 70’s. In the old Spartan hangar picture it looks like Phil Istance on the left at the rotor head on the table and a young Gary Fields working on the tail rotor gearbox, can anyone confirm, It was nice or see pictures of Wolf also, I worked with him in the component shop. Thanks Ray

    Reply
    1. Frank Organ

      Thanks for the great site . I had the great opportunity to work for Viking in the late 70’s fires and Baker Lake, and a great summer in Newfoundland.
      In the winter months I did some instructing for Gary Fields at Carp, also had the time of my life working with jim . O’Saugnessy (Shag) . Was great working with you Ray as well.
      I think you are right Ray , it does look like Gary Fields working on the tail rotor gearbox.

      Reply
    2. doug potts

      Hey Ray,you must have worked with my buddy Ray Gilstorf? Some of the stories that Ray told me included time at Spartan Heli.

      Reply
      1. Ray KOMENDAT

        Hi Doug, I knew Ray but I didn’t work for Spartan although I did work with a lot of ex Spartan employees, I started with Universal in 1968. Still have a lot of good memories from those days.

        Reply
  8. Francis Mandewah

    My name is Francis Mandewah.

    I am the African boy the late Capt. Thomas F. Johnson sponsored from Sierra Leone. Without the generousity, kind, humble, and compassionate heart of my dearest friend Thomas F. Johnson, I would never be what I am today; alive, healthy, employed and an American citizen. In fact, I would have been dead a long time ago without ever leaving Sierra Leone. Tom gave me opportunity, he took me as an orphan and made me his little brother, paid my secondary education while in Sierra Leone, later, he came to see me in Palmero, Sicilly, Italy where he secured a US visa for me, and paid for my room and board and college education in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    I spent time with him and his girl friend at the time ( Shauana LaFramboise), in Bobo-Dioulasso, in Tamale and in Lama Kara, in the Hotel Kara in 1980. I still remember pilots and engineers such as; Normad Topin, Doug Karatz, Brent Morrison, Peter Helsin, Ian Scott, Reard, Mark, Dan O’Donnell, and Roy Kilbourn whom I never met but Tom told me Roy hired him from Mayo Helicopters in Yukon Territory.

    I am in tears as I write this note……..seeing my friend Tom standing by the helicopter checking his flight details in Lama Kara.

    Today, I am a naturalized US citizen. I am employed full time as a Probation & Parole Officer for the State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections, in Milwaukee, WI.

    Thank You All,
    Francis Mandewah

    Reply
    1. Ken Korb

      I knew Tom Johnson in Tamale and Lama Kara when I was a helicopter pilot for Viking. As I remember, he was into reading Louis Lamour western novels and had dreams of being a gold miner in Alaska and striking it rich one day.

      Reply
  9. Twolane Post author

    Mark, thanks for stopping by and checking out the photos. I figured that there might be one or more of the young crew in those old black and whites, but I wasn’t sure. Thanks for pointing out a young Larry Camphaug and Sonny Auld to us all.

    Reply
  10. Mark Camphaug

    I think that first picture in the Spartan set features a super lightweight Larry Camphaug in the passenger seat and I don’t know for sure but it may be Sonny Auld sitting beside him in pilot seat. It’s long before my time but I’ve chummed around with one of Sonny’s son’s Chris for over 40 years and that is a splitting image of his younger brother Blair. As many of you know Sonny was killed at Expo 67 in a helicopter crash.

    Reply

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