CM Reunion 2000 - Keynote Address by Dave Smith

Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening. My name is ...... - oh yes, David Smith -- and I'm an alcoholic. Excuse me----, wrong venue - that meeting's tomorrow night !

A few weeks ago, George contacted me and asked if I would be interested in saying a few words tonight. We agreed that a trip down memory lane might be appropriate and that's what I am going to do this evening.

First however, I simply have to express to George McKeever and his team for what is a very special weekend for us. To Eleanor Ryan, Roger Banville and Barrie, this reunion is just magic. I feel quite safe in saying that this is probably the only reunion of an occupational group in the history of the Department. The fact that CM's are no longer makes it extra special. I would, on behalf of everyone here like to express our appreciation for this wonderful reunion. Let's show George and his team our thanks.

Many of you here tonight have come thousands of miles to share the comradery between us. From Nova Scotia to BC and points in between you have come to enjoy this reunion. I must also tell anyone who is not aware that Jacques Bergeron has come all the way from Costa Rica to be here. Jacques, you deserve our recognition and applause. Well done.

There are former colleagues here who joined the department when most of us were youngsters and some weren't even born yet. I refer to people such as Ken Thomas who joined in 1953 - - - That's 47 years ago folks. Others like Ed Smith, Eleanor Ryan, Laurie, Rod, Marty and the list goes on, signed up shortly after or during the years 1960-61. Hat's off to all of you oldies.

Before I continue, I just have to mention my generous friend Howie Abbott. Howie, it's good to see you but Lord Tunderin' Jezuz boy, did you have to give all your hair to Fred Buburuz !!!

Continuing on, let's take a short trip down memory lane. After all, as the saying goes, "It's difficult to know where were going if we don't know where we've been".

There used to be a popular saying that "You can always tell a CM" ------- "You just can't tell them much". For some, we were a bunch of tattooed, beer-swilling, pot-bellied, no-mind, foul-mouthed bunch of rabble-rousers ---------- and that was just the females !

Well folks, history has proved that view very wrong. CM's have distinguished themselves as AS's, EL's, CS's, and a whole gambit of other professions. (Ivory smuggling comes to mind). How many times have I heard in the past few years since the departure of the last CM, how valuable a commodity we were at the time. During the build-up to Y2K , I often heard comments about how management wished the CM's were still around. Well we ain't ! That time has come and gone and tonight we look back at ourselves and hopefully will laugh a little.

Let's play "Who can forget" - and jump back to where it all began

For myself and many others - Miss McQorqadales school of torture and pain. Here I learned just how loud Cecil Van Allen could belch and Larry Porter kept us amused with stories of his sexual exploits. - I hasten to add Miss McQ. wasn't one of them ! It was also a time when we were introduced to strange sounding machines such as TYPEX, Rockex, Bid 610 and of course good old book cyphers. Everyone kept mentioning this girl Noreen and it was a real letdown to discover that Noreen was a slow, battery operated poor mans version of Rockex with a habit for crapping out when you needed it most. The vaseline used for the Typex rotors did come in handy for other things however.

The Pearson building was just a dream in those days so it was off to the East Block where we met really old but experienced CM's. There was Laurie A, Marty B, Marcel S, Gus Portelance, Trevor Chappel and Joan Jeakins (NOT JENKINS!) - I could go on for quite a while.

It was there I learned that if you really want to get Marcel Seguin angry, bring in a portable radio, stick it on top of a Rockex crypto machine and watch the sparks fly. Marcel you put the fear of God into me that night.

It was also a time when only a few years before, Departmental communications circuits totalled six - (might need help but I think Ldn, Paris, Wshdc, Nyork, Hydra and something else. Heck, we still used CNCP for delivering our messages - remember all those DOMCAN mission addresses and those awful military call signs?

Who can forget the telex transmissions to places like Delhi where the Indians passed on our coded groups to Saigon via morse code. It took a real feat of imagination to decode a lot of messages back in the early days and people in supervisory roles like Cathy Okeefe, Gerry Patrick, Gerry Gauthier and Joan Jeakins would spend hours working their magic to make sense of some of the corrupted messages of the day. I guess you could say the CM's really dealt with corruption in those days.

Who can forget the dupe room in the East block where Ralph Guitard would finish his shift covered in blue ink from the paper we used . Laurie reminded me of the time that Bonnie and Ralph filled a ditto fluid container with soap instead of that foul-smelling stuff required. Talk about laundering ministers messages !

Who can forget the comfy little beds in the dupe room made up of dip bags and burn bags so Larry Lackie and Wilf Gervais could sleep on the midnight shift while Bert Miller did all the cleaning during the day shift.. It was probably after that when Larry was switched to working days ! Who can forget the day Larry dropped the 5 gallon water cooler bottle and water soaked the tapes just as they were going through the TD's . Nice touch Larry - and I apologize for it was my remark of not understanding how he could flip those bottles upside down without spilling any water that prompted him to demonstrate - and to drop and smash the bottle.

Who can forget being tagged for messenger duty where you had to trudge from building to building (especially fun in the winter) where the SCYS of the day treated you as less than human - I REALLY hated that job Gerry - thanks a lot !!

Who can forget Rena Graham and her attendance bible - in the form of a sign-in/sign out book. Thanks for only putting it out just five minutes before quitting time and yanking it away five minutes after starting time. Can you imagine such a thing today. Half the staff in the mission I just left three weeks ago could be counted on to arrive an hour late on a regular basis. (The CM's just couldn't afford to do such a thing and of course we were far too honourable)

We must not forget our Courier colleagues where some of the best stories were created as they travelled their way around the world. Stories about Jack Barnes the world traveller who would divert his trip to countries with no Cdn mission just to see the place. Or the courier who was fed up with fancy first class food and ordered a hot dog which the airlines promptly served to all couriers ! Some of you will remember Jim Bruce. Jim used to boast that his wifes sandwiches would last all the way to Vienna. Can you picture sitting in first class amongst all the linen and fancy dishes eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich ! Nice touch . Other memories are of people like Jack Ashe (A-S-H-E) who travelled on Eastern so much they presented him with a first class seat made into a lazy boy when he retired. (RECALL PERSONAL STORY ON ETHIOPIAN) - dish.

My favourite courier story concerns the most famous courier of all - perhaps I should say infamous. ANY GUESSES who that is ? - Ray Boisvert !. Unlike Jack who was given a nice gift, Eastern was most disrespectful to Ray and actually banned him from their airline. Personally, I thought it was a neat touch when Ray tied the airline stewardess's apron strings to the seat in front causing her to spill hot soup in the lap of the passenger ahead. - Hardly something to ban someone for - and compared to todays air rage stories, seems pretty tame. When Ray retired, the security branch needed a truck to haul away his files for destruction.

Couriers will not forget Eleanor Ryan and Cathy Okeefe who kept them reasonably honest on their courier claims. If one was smart, they didn't even try to fudge anything with those two sharp-eyed folks about. And remember, they were both one-time CM's ! Who can remember Eleanor and Cathy when they were CM's !!

Who can forget the days of Colonel Lockhart, Ted Warren, Stan Daley, Bob Burns, Gerry Patrick, Gerry Gauthier, Archie Mathews, Gord Happy and T Arbuckle (known as Buck) - Buck what the devil is your real name !!, . All these folks affected our lives as they sought to control a bunch of totooed, no mind, beer swilling, pot-bellied, foul-mouthed bunch of CM's !!!!

Who can forget the human spell checkers - long before Wordperfect we had human spell-checkers called Ray White and Marg Newton. Boy, weren't those the days !!

Those were the days when a window was left open in the EAST BLOCK comcentre and a wind blew a bunch of tapes into the surrounding trees - that day saw RCMP and CM's climbing the trees to the rescue - in those days CM's were allowed sharp things and windows - and believe it or not, the windows actually opened.

Who can forget these phone numbers - tell me what they were -- 992-3866 992-3844 and 992-2920

Those were the days when CM's like Laurie Archibald and Marty Banville took weeks to travel to their postings or back home again. I recall learning during Marty's retirement that he took three weeks to travel from Rio to Ottawa and Laurie recently told me it took him 34 days to travel from Colombo to Canada. For some of the younger folks here (do we have such a thing) you should know that in the early days, employees had to travel by ship and train. Only after your third posting could you fly - but at least it was first class. What a change today - when one can't even rent an SQ with a pool. Those were also the days when Gay Shanahan bombed around in a Nash Metropolitan Convertible (some of you won't even know what that is). I remember being pressed into escort duty for Gay when she parked under the Rideau Street bridge on the evening shift. Stan Daley warned me she might try to attack me in the dark confines of the bridge but she didn't. I guess I wasn't her type. Speaking of Gay reminds me of when Kit Carson often found it too hot in the comcentre in Rome would strip to his knickers - and Gay (actually it was Jeannie Charron!) the supervisor, didn't mind at all !!

Here at home in the Pearson building, we had other events which provided so many laughs. Come to think of it, we should have been paying the Department to work there ! Allow me to tell you a short story about my special friend Rod Villeneuve. For a number of years, Rod was the principle of Rod University which was a group of offices deep in the bowels of the building. There was an empty office nearby which Rod coveted but unfortunately, one had to go out into the hall and around the corner to get to it. Rod was very persistent in his efforts to have the branch have a doorway cut from his offices so he could utilize this space but all were to no avail. One day, Rod decided to take matters into his own hands . Ladies and gentlemen, you have no idea how fast my friend Rod can cut a door-sized hole in gyproc and then cover the jagged edges with duct tape. I for one was most impressed. Doug Woods and Bob Brill didn't share my admiration however and Rod once again found himself in the CACA - but he had his door. Rod, you are my HERO!!!

As CM's in a world which no longer exists we have many stories and we all have our favourites. Here are a couple of mine. Many of you will perhaps recall what some referred to as Broomgate - which involved the Cleaning staff in London. CM's being the irresistible folks they are, were asked to join the cleaning ladies for tea. As these tea times progressed, one thing led to another and tea led to romance which inevitably led to something called Hanky-Panky. I guess it was the Hanky-Panky that caused the CACA to hit the fan with management and suffice to say that the CM's tea parties ceased pretty quickly. It did however give us all something to chuckle about for years to come. Sorry wives, no names, no pack-drill tonight.

The other story is one which Jim Reid amused us with concerning a Christmas party in Colombo. (Perhaps some of you know this one?) It seems that the High Commission had hired a Santa complete with suit and elephant to come on Christmas morning and pass out pressies to everyone. Well Santa screwed up and arrived on Christmas Eve. He of course was asked to wait until next morning. All night long Santa and his elephant were kept waiting on the hot street outside the mission gates. Next morning, by the time those gates were opened, Santas elephant had developed quite a thirst and the first thing the elephant spied was the swimming pool. No matter what Santa did, he couldn't stop the head-long charge to the pool. The trouble began when the elephants brakes failed and into the pool went elephant, Santa and suit. There was a dripping Santa in a pool-soaked outfit looking pretty sad. The real problem began when everyone realized the elephant couldn't get out of the pool. It wasn't long before the pool began to fill up with elephant pee and poop and I guess not many took a swim for a while after that. Apparently, a crane had to be located to hoist the Ceylonese version of Rudolph out of the pool that day. It must have been a sight. As Jim explained, it turned out to be one of the best Xmas's ever as the kids thought it was the best excitement they had ever had.

Folks, such was our life in the Foreign Service - I don't know about you but I for one will not forget all the good times I shared with you whether it was the East Block, the Pearson Building or overseas. Our era has come and gone but no one can take those times away and I for one say to each and everyone of you "THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES". God bless.

(Editorial Note: After Dave's address many people pointed out to Dave and myself that we missed the opportunity to highlight the attendance of several ex-Communicators whose service dated from the '40s. Present at the Saturday dinner were Jeannine (Charron) Gauthier, Fernande Cright, John Dolan and Bernie Mongeon, all who started with External Affairs much earlier than those young whipper-snappers who started in the '50s. Dave requested the opportunity to add some additional comments to those he provided above, and they are included below...)

A postscript to "A trip down memory lane"

It was almost inevitable that during my little "memory lane trip" that I would omit mentioning many of our colleagues - given the years we have in our memory banks and the considerable number of CM's who have passed our way during those years - it would have been impossible to mention each and everyone of you.

Notwithstanding the above however, there are two individuals who attended the reunion and who could and should have been included. Both these individuals had a long and distinguished career in the communications field, first as CM's and later as management. They were both people whom I personally admired because they continually showed great empathy for the CM on the job, be it in HQ or abroad. They were cool, calm and collected and in my view were a great asset not only to the Department but to the communications branch in particular. I refer of course to John Dolan and Bernie Mongeon.

Both John and Bernie had already had considerable years in what was then called "External Affairs" when I came on board in the mid-60's. During our reunion, Ken was identified as one of the longest serving CM's. Not to take anything away from you Ken but it was pointed out to me (and heretofore unknown to me personally) that John Dolan joined External in 1946 - and by anyones calculations, 54 years is one hell of impressive number. John never seemed to get any older as I returned to HQ after various postings but then one day he was retired and gone. His daughter Betty used to fill me in on what John was up to and inevitably it involved some form of activity that benefited others - be it neighbourhood watch or something else. John, it was great to see you once again at the reunion and I hope our paths cross again soon.

Bernie will always remain in my mind as the supervisor of the Comcentre who kept things on an even keel without resorting to anything but a calm and reasoned approach. It always seemed to me that when things got a bit hectic, Bernie would break into song and as we learned at the reunion, he has a hell of a good voice to boot. He was the consummate gentleman who treated us all with respect and for that I will always thank him.

My heartfelt apologies to both John and Bernie for somehow neglecting to include them in my notes during our reunion. I stress it certainly was not intentional and I hope you accept that. Thanks to George for the opportunity to add the above to my reunion evening notes.


David R.L. Smith

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