Remember Their Service Always

November 11, 2014
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Uncle Ken with my grandmother. Although the youngest he was the tallest at well over 6 feet.

November 11, 2014 another Remembrance Day.

I always think of the young men and women who have given so that we can live in freedom and happiness today.

As a history buff and genealogist I’ve discovered so much to appreciate about these people, especially those who were my relatives.

World War I (The Great War)

Grandfather Bert Sendell

My grandfather on my mother’s side served in World War I. He was in the Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) from 1915 until 1919. He drove ammunition trucks loaded with shells and ammo for the troops from behind the lines to forward positions. Most times he was under shell fire from the enemy who were attempting to stop supplies from reaching the troops in the trenches. He told me one time that many of his friends were killed when the trucks were hit. Although he didn’t talk about the war much but occasionally he would. One of my heroes for sure.

World War II

My Father – Mike (Lloyd) Davis

MikeDavis with RCAF in Eng 1945

My father with the RCAF in England.

Dad served in the RCAF. He was posted overseas to London, England for several years from 1944 until 1946. Dad told me he served in military intelligence. His group set up phoney airfields around England to fool the Germans. While in London he was subjected to the V-bombs that fell almost daily near the end of the war. He was a newly-wed when he shipped overseas.

My Mother – Helen Davis

Mom served in the RCAF in head office in Ottawa. It was while there she met my Dad and eventually they were married. Because she wasn’t allowed to fraternize with officers she had to resign to marry my father. Ironically after her resignation they hired her back in the exact same position as a civilian.

Uncle Glen Davis

Glen served in the RCAF mainly on the west coast of Canada keeping watch for enemy subs and such. He survived the war and lived a good and long life.

Uncle Ken Davis

My father’s youngest brother Ken served in the RCAF and trained in the British Commonwealth Air Training Program. The day before he was to get his wings as a pilot he was killed in a training accident along with his best friend. He was 20 years of age.

Modern Era

Cousin – Robert (Rob) Davis

Rob served in the Canadian Forces. He was on the frigate HMCS Calgary and based on the west coast of Canada.

Thank you all veterans for your service to my country Canada.


Why We Still Need Fossil Fuel

October 19, 2014
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Car show with consumers eagerly inspecting new models. photo by Steve B. Davis

Energy and Fossil Fuels

First let me make it clear to the reader I’ve been employed in the petroleum industry for over 35 years. Like most people I consume energy to support my lifestyle. That energy for the most part is derived from fossil fuels. We all drive a vehicle, heat our home, and sometimes take airline flights all of which require the use of fossil fuels. Most items I purchase have packaging of some kind. These are derived from petroleum which like coal is a fossil fuel. When we refer to the use of fossil fuels we’re talking about a lot more than gas for your car and natural gas for your home. Society consumes a myriad of products derived from fossil fuels, many of which most of us are unaware of. In summary, our present lifestyle requires the use of energy.

Environment and Energy

Most of us will agree environmental protection is an essential part of enriching our lifestyle. My children and I love hiking, biking, camping and being outdoors. Golf is a personal passion I enjoy outdoors. The point is we all have an impact on our planet just by living. The health of our planet is affected by our lifestyle choices. Our goal should be to minimize that impact.

Lifestyle and Energy

At the present time the lifestyle we enjoy is supported in the main by fossil fuels. Over the long term sustaining this lifestyle will require humans to investigate the use of alternative and cleaner energy sources. However, we will still require reliable and affordable energy sources. Society must reduce the waste of existing resources, use energy efficiently, and make a sustainable, minimal-impact lifestyle the priority.

Impacts of Energy Use

Planet Earth is our home. We need to reevaluate our impacts on a regular basis. It’s imperative to educate ourselves in the sources and uses of all forms of energy. It’s important to be aware of where energy comes from, how it’s used, and the impacts. It’s prudent and wise to seek better ways to do things in our own lives and in society in general.

Continuous improvement for the human race is a necessity if we want to survive and not face extinction. Dinosaurs inhabited the planet for over 100 million-years, humans have only been alive for a few million-years. Throughout history creatures of all shapes and sizes have inhabited Earth. Many became extinct for various reasons. Extinction is forever. Will the human race become extinct? Solving our energy problems is one step towards ensuring our ultimate survival as a species.

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Wind farm in central Montana. Photo by Steve B. Davis

Energy Challenge

Here’s a challenge for the reader. Examine your own life. Make a list of all the things in your home and lifestyle originating from fossil fuels. To assist you I’ve listed the fossil fuels and some of the products and uses derived from them below. Once you’ve created your list ask yourself how many you could eliminate, and if any substitutes exist at the present time. I’m confident this exercise will make you think.

Crude Oil/Bitumen (Heavy Oil) from conventional reservoirs, shale and oil sands

  • gasoline for automobiles, trucks and motorcycles, lawnmowers
  • diesel fuel for trucks, trains, buses, farm tractors, ships, power generation and some automobiles
  • heating oil for houses and industrial facilities
  • jet fuel for airliners, military planes and private planes
  • plastics – automobile parts, house siding, roofing and insulation, toys, electronics, packaging
  • chemicals – fertilizers, cosmetics, food additives

Natural Gas

  • fuel for home heating, industrial heating, some buses and automobiles
  • propane – fuel for some vehicles, heating, BBQs
  • ethane and other components for chemical and plastic industries
  • power generation plants

Coal

  • power generation plants
  • steel making industry

I hope you’ve learned something from this short article. Constructive comments and questions are welcomed, just click on comments below.

 

 


Hillcrest Mine Disaster: 100 Years

June 21, 2014
The site of mass grave in Hillcrest Cemetery. Coffins were laid side by side in the grave. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

The site of mass grave in Hillcrest Cemetery. Coffins were laid side by side in the grave. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

One hundred years ago on June 19, 1914 Canada’s worst mine disaster changed the Village of Hillcrest, Alberta forever. At about 9 a.m. a massive explosion thundered through the mine. Of the 235 men working the morning shift 189 were killed. In a few seconds wives became widows and children lost fathers. The Pass was rocked to its core.

The Crowsnest Pass in Southern Alberta was and is still coal mining country. In 1914 coal was king. Virtually everything ran on coal, trains, heating for houses and industry. Demand was high and the Pass had many mines employing thousands.

I visited the area recently and took in the history. I stood beside the massive grave site in Hillcrest Cemetery. It shocked me how many men were buried there. The entire Pass area reeks of history. Visit soon to take in this fascinating history and beautiful scenery.

Memorial in the cemetery erected to honour the miners. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

Memorial in the cemetery erected to honour the miners. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

Here are some links I recommend to learn more about this tragedy and the history of the times. I especially suggest the Crowsnest Pass Museum in Coleman. They have exhibits on coal mining and the disaster in Hillcrest. They are also stewarding the centennial remembrances.

Crowsnest Pass Museum, Coleman, Alberta
Centenary of Hillcrest Mine Disaster
Hillcrest Mine Disaster
Discover Crowsnest Pass Heritage

 


Forgotten Tragedy: Sinking of the Empress of Ireland

May 28, 2014
Empress of Ireland. Photo: Library & Archives of Canada, Public Domain

Empress of Ireland. Photo: Library & Archives of Canada, Public Domain

May 29, 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Empress of Ireland in Canadian waters.

RMS Empress of Ireland was a Canadian Pacific Steamship liner plying a regular route between Liverpool, England and Quebec City, Quebec.

In the early hours of May 29, 1914 she was outbound from Quebec near Rimouski on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. The pilot had just disembarked and the ship resumed her journey to Liverpool. The lights of a steam ship had been sighted nearby. Both ships became hidden in a heavy fog bank. Fog whistles on both ships began blowing regularly. Suddenly the SS Storstad, a Norwegian steamer, crashed into the side of the Empress causing severe damage below the waterline.

At the time of the collision the Empress carried 1,477 passengers and crew. Most of the passengers were asleep at the time of the accident. Within 14 minutes the ship sank. Only 465 persons survived. The death toll was 1,012 (840 passengers and 172 crew). Tragically 134 of those who perished were children.

Removing bodies of children from rescue/recovery ship at Quebec. Photo: Library of Congress, Public Domain

Removing bodies of children from rescue/recovery ship at Quebec. Photo: Library of Congress, Public Domain

The wreck lies at the relatively shallow depth of 130 feet (40 metres) and is accessible to skilled divers. Over the years many artifacts have been salvaged. Shortly after the accident salvage crews recovered 318 bags of mail and 212 bars of silver.

In 1999 the Canadian government designated the wreck a National Historic Site and it is now protected from further salvage.

On May 29, 2014 Canada Post  issued stamps to commemorate the sinking and loss of life. Numerous memorial services are planned to remember those who died in the sinking.

The Empress played a significant part in Canadian history. It made 95 trans-Atlantic crossing and carried over 120,000 immigrants to Canada. Many of these people settled in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and contributed to the development of the West.

The sinking is still considered the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.

References for more information:

Maritime Museum of Quebec

Library & Archives of Canada

The Empress of Ireland (Facebook)

Merseyside Maritime Museum (Liverpool, UK)

 

 


The Way We Were 1964: Fifty years ago.

May 21, 2014

1964-the-beatles-life-270In this year of 2014 it is now fifty years since some of us lived through 1964. Here are some interesting things about this important year. Most of this information and factual data is from American sources, but at the end you will find some tidbits on Canada. Enjoy and please leave a comment about something you remember from that year.

What it cost:
Average yearly income $5,880
Gallon of gas .25c
Gallon of milk $1.06
Loaf of bread .21c
1st class postage stamp 5c (to mail a letter)
Magazine subscription (51 issues) $5.00
Pair of shoes $9.95
19” TV black & white $139.95

Entertainment:
1st appearance of Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show
Shooting starts for Star Trek pilot on television

Hit singles:
Baby Love – The Supremes
Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles
Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
I Get Around – The Beach Boys
Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Rag Doll – The Four Seasons

Movies at the theatre:
Goldfinger – James Bond movie with Sean Connery
Mary Poppins
The Pink Panther – with Peter Sellers
My Fair Lady

Deaths of note:
General Douglas MacArthur – commander of the Pacific operations in WW II.
Jim Reeves – country star (plane crash)
Harpo Marx – comedian – part of the famous Marx Brothers. He was the one who never spoke on screen.
Gracie Allen – comedienne – wife of George Burns – Burns and Allen comedy team
Herbert Hoover – former President of the U.S. – just before Franklin Roosevelt.

Births of those who would become famous later on. Who knew:
Nicolas Cage – actor
Matt Dillon – actor
Rob Lowe – actor
Sandra Bullock – actor
Keanu Reeves – actor
(remember all these will turn 50 years of age this year)

Notable Factoids or Events:
Cigarette smoking is enjoyed by 60% of population.
U.S. Government reports, “that smoking many be hazardous to one’s health”.
Hasbro introduces the G.I. Joe doll.
Ford Mustang goes on sale ($2368 base price).
U.S begins bombing of North Vietnam which dramatically ramps up the Vietnam War. An LBJ decision.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is published, written by Roald Dahl.
Sony introduces first VCR video recorder.
Computer mouse invented, but not generally available until much later.

Notable Canadian Facts from 1964:
Prime Minister is Lester Pearson (Liberal Party).
Social Insurance Number cards issued for first time to Canadians.
Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup (over Detroit Red Wings). Most recent win for Leafs was 1967.
First Tim Horton’s donut shop opens in Hamilton, Ontario. (This is the one I like the best.)


Extreme drug smuggling.

May 9, 2014

Smugglers attempting to get illegal drugs across the Mexican border into the United States have begun using exotic and extreme methods. The construction of the new, secure fence along the border has forced them to get smart or lose money.

Some of the methods employed to cross the US/Mexico border include, tunnels, ultra-light aircraft, catapults, ramps, and cranes. Tunnels are dug under the border and can be as long as several miles. They can remain hidden for months, even years until someone tips the Border Patrol.

Ultra-light aircraft fly across the border at low altitudes, usually at night, drop a package of drugs in a field, then return without landing or being detected.

Catapults similar to those used in ancient times to besiege castles are rolled up to the border fence at night and packages of drugs flung across the border to waiting dealers.

Even portable ramps are placed across the fence, then a vehicle is driven across loaded with drugs. Once across the fence the vehicle disappears into the night.

One of the latest methods employs portable cranes to lift cars or trucks loaded with drugs across the fence at night. By the time this is discovered the smugglers are long gone.

The only thing the new fence along the US/Mexico border does is slow the smugglers down. The smugglers learn to innovate quickly to ensure the flow of drugs and money does stop. It takes all the ingenuity and resources of the Border Patrol to keep pace with them and their sometimes bizarre methods of crossing.


The Cold War: A nostalgic look back in print.

April 18, 2014
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Replicas of first nuclear weapons Little Boy (foreground) and Fat Man. These were like popguns compared to modern weapons. Photo Steve Davis

During my recent road trip I visited the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico. More about the museum itself in a future post, but the gift shop had some older government publications for sale. I picked up one titled, “Survival Under Atomic Attack”. This is a printed by the Office of Civil Defense, State of California in October 1950. California reprinted it from a federal government brochure.

It is an extremely interesting document from the Cold War era. The government tried to prepare and reassure the populace by telling them it was actually possible to survive an all-out nuclear exchange between the USSR and the United States. Not only that they actually told people that life would go on much as before. Reading this brochure I found it so asinine that I actually laughed out loud at a lot of the contents. I thought I’d share some of the ‘deep thoughts’ found in the booklet.

First off on the very first page it states,

“YOU CAN SURVIVE,

you can live through an atom bomb raid

and you won’t have to have a Geiger counter,

Protective clothing, or special training

In order to do it.

The secrets of survival are:

KNOW THE BOMB’S TRUE DANGERS.

KNOW THE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

TO ESCAPE THEM.”

Forgive my skepticism but okay folks whatever you say.

Then there is a page titled “Kill the Myths” I found this just absurd. Here it is,

Myth #1 “Atomic Weapons will not destroy the Earth. Not even hydrogen bombs will blow the earth apart or kill us all by radioactivity.”

Yeah right they’ll just kill most humans, animals, and all other life and leave the planet uninhabitable.

Myth #2 “Doubling Bomb Power does not double destruction.”

This is total bullshit. Nuclear weapons would be detonated above their targets causing enormous damage. The governments who control these weapons have done extensive testing and know full well that this statement is an outright lie.

Myth #3 “Radioactivity is not the bombs greatest threat.”

Maybe not over the short-term, but over the long-term it is the greatest threat. It would linger and as proven by studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagaski, do damage for generations. Why do you think those x-ray techs in the dentists office leave the room when they take those shots of your teeth?

Reading this document now is an amusing peek into the mindset of those in power during one of the most frightening periods in recent history the Cold War. As a child who grew up during the Cold War the contents of this document are beyond comical. It shocks me that we actually believed this stuff. I guess it reassured us that we shouldn’t have been scared. Hell no in reality most of us were scared shit-less!

My personal philosophy in the event of an all-out nuclear exchange was simply that I would prefer not to survive thank you. Let others deal with the nuclear winter and fall-out that would affect the Earth for thousands of years. Let others try to live on without law and order. Let others live on without the benefits of modern civilization like drinking water, heat in winter, and food. The dead would be better off of that I have no doubt.

Contacts:

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
Alburquerque, New Mexico

 


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