I am not sure why this letter was yet among my mother's possessions at the time of her death. It certainly sums up a moment of time, in my life, in 1960. My brother Pal, for whom my mother always had a special concern, had, not long before, moved himself down to the United States. As a licensed photoengraver, he could join the union in any city that had a major paper and he would immediately have a good paying job.
The world, in general, in 1960, kept turning and there were any number of interesting events unfolding, some of which I was conscious of at the time, others, not so much. On February 5th, the switch was thrown on the first CERN particle accelerator located in Geneva, Switzerland. On May 9th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it approved the production and distribution of the oral contraceptive pill. Also in May, in Buenos Aires, Israel agents abducted the fugitive Nazi criminal, Adolf Eichmann, who was taken to Israel and put on trial, convicted and eventually executed. Harper Lee published her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which won for her the Pulitzer Prize. On August 6th, in response to an embargo imposed by the United States, Fidel Castro nationalized all American and foreign-owned property in Cuba. On September 26th, in what was the first televised debate between presidential candidates, the Democratic candidate, John F. Kennedy took on the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. John F. Kennedy won the debate and the election to become the President of the United States, and the youngest man, at age 43, ever, to be elected to this position. In Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) won his first professional boxing match. And, in November, Penguin Books was found not guilty of obscenity in the case of D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. To finish off the notable events of 1960 we mention Andy Warhol and the growth of Pop Art. And, it was in 1960 that the machine that revolutionized the world's offices, the original Xerox 914 copier became available.
As we mentioned in our last chapter, in the fall of 1959, I started at St Marys University. One of the more memorable things through the winter was the drama club's production of Terence Rattigan's play, "The Winslow Boy." In pre-WW1 England, a youngster, Ronnie Winslow was expelled from a naval academy over a petty theft, but his parents raise a political furor by demanding a trial. I played the part of the older brother. From the paper: "One of the most enjoyable portrayals was given by Peter Landry in the role of the elder Winslow brother -- an Oxford student who confined his studies mostly to the Bunny Hug and ragtime records. This performer always enlivened the stage, and his flair for comedy was bolstered by apt timing vocal inflection and sense of mime."
When I was making my rounds at the university and getting the hang of the place I ran across a recruiting desk in one of the lobbies manned by a couple of Canadian Naval Officers. Up to that point, I had no interest in joining the navy, in any capacity. However, I did stop and talk to them and learned about the University Naval Training Division (UNTD) and ended up taking papers away including an application form.
The UNTDs date back to WWII. It was intended to be a way to recruit officers, in reserve for the Canadian Navy. This programme was different from the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP). The reservist plan (UNTD) provided training during your university years, but did not pay the cost of it as ROTP did. In the ROTP one received regular military pay throughout the time at university. The catch was, in the ROTP the member was obliged to to spend a term of years (I think it was three years) in the regular armed forces after receiving a degree; not required for the UNTD. The attraction of the UNTD to me was, though I or my family would have to foot the costs of university, I would have some money coming in without a commitment to join the regular forces. First off, while attending university they paid for the weekly sessions at HMS Stadacona; then there would be a paying job for the summers and the chance for a trip over seas. At the end of it, one would be a commissioned officer in the naval reserves.
I do not distinctively recall discussing the matter with my parents, but I am sure they were all for it. Now, my grades up to that point were only passing and I was told they put a lot of emphasis on grades, however, as one of the recruiting officers advised my stint as a navel cadet would give me a leg up. I applied; went before a naval board that heard such matters; and, I was accepted. I remember one of the officers on the board asked the question of me as to what I thought of the cold conflict between the western nations and Soviet Union. I replied, "I had not made a study of the issue, but thought that things in time would work themselves out with western nations gradually adding needed social programmes and the Soviets gradually loosening their grip on the citizenry so that they could become more productive; and that eventually there would not be too much of a difference between the major nations of the world." They seemed reasonably impressed with the reply. (I think back now, and figure that I had it pretty much right.) Anyway, I was in.
That summer I was in training. The summer was divided into thirds. First we (Cadets from all across the country) were at HMCS Stadacona, then HMCS Cornwallis and finally, to finish the summer off, aboard one of Her Majesty's Canadian Ships. Cornwallis is in Nova Scotia, on a small peninsula jutting into the Annapolis Basin near Deep Brook. It came into being during WWII. During the war years HMCS Cornwallis was the largest naval training base in the British Commonwealth. There we learned: seamanship, how to use small arms, how to run assault courses, navigation and elementary communication procedures. Though it accommodated a few hundred cadets in the summer months, the facilities at Cornwallis existed primarily as a training facility for new entry seamen. Incidentally, political cutbacks led to its closure 1995.
HMCS Cap de la Madeleine (K663) was a River class frigate that served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1944-1945 and as a Prestonian class frigate from 1954-1965. A group of UNTDs occupied one of its messes during the last part of the summer of 1960: I was one of them. We went to sea and went through all of the drills, from scrubbing the decks to launching depth charges. We visited two ports: Argentia, Newfoundland (then an American naval base) and up the Saguenay River (a wonderful Fjord) to Chicoutimi.
A final word on the UNTDs: Between 1943 and 1968, approximately 6,000 university students passed through the UNTD program. In 1968, because of steps taken to reorganize the Canadian Forces, the UNTD disappeared into history.
Among the Movies of 1960: Exodus directed by Otto Preminger and starring Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Sal Mineo and Peter Lawford. Butterfield 8, being "The romantic life of a fashionable Manhattan beauty who's part model, part call-girl -- and all man-trap." It starred: Elizabeth Taylor. Then, there was Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins. The Magnificent Seven, where an oppressed Mexican peasant village assembled seven gunfighters to help defend their homes. It starred Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.
The popular songs of 1960 were many. I choose but a few: Cathy's Clown by the Everly Brothers, El Paso by Marty Robbins, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Brian Hyland, and The Twist by Chubby Checker.
That September, though my heart was not in it, I started my 2nd Year at SMU.
NEXT: [Chapter Twelve, Love & Marriage]