ROYAL ROADS 1957: is a short story an Ex Cadet wrote of events from 60 years ago. It was written for his grand children to give them a glimpse of those events. Quite the trip down memory lane and worth the read.
Some of the culprits:
Proud Grandfather sharing yarns with the grandkids
Article by: Earl Lylle
It was September 1957 and I was one of the 90 or so recruits who had just arrived at Royal Roads military college in Victoria B.C. The average age was eighteen,male and all across Canada. It was a two year program to be followed by two more years at the the Royal Military College in Kingston Ontario. Summers would be spent on military training with one of the three branches of the armed services. Successful completion of the four years resulted in receiving the Queens Commission that is appointment as an officer.
Royal Roads was a beautiful sight, in fact a castle with luxurious grounds overlooking the ocean. Some thought we were in paradise and had it made. Such was not the case.
We were lined up at attention with suitcases beside us and were immediately assailed by the senior class. They had survived their first year and it was now their turn to be in charge.
They did it with gusto. There was lots of yelling and verbal abuse (hazing). We were then assigned rooms and issued drab work uniforms.
Life suddenly became very difficult. In fact it was a hellish experience. Everywhere we went it was at the double. We received large daily doses of military drills given by regular force drill instructors. We carried a full engineering academic program consisting of the usual classes, lab experiments, assignments and exams. On top of that we had an athletic program with sports such as swimming, soccer and 5 mile runs.
All the while we were harassed by our seniors who awarded punishment in the form of circles to be run at specific times. The circle was one third mile on the circular driveway in front of the castle with the flag mast in the centre. Circles were awarded for such infractions as lint on your uniform, sprung spiffy (a spiffy was a small metal spring to hold your shirt collar in place), boots not shiny enough and numerous other sins.
When a senior awarded circles you were presented with a chit which was presented at certain set times to a senior who supervised the runs. Poor Marc was given more circles than anyone and had to wear gators to point this fact out. I think gators were also worn when you you had committed a more serious infraction and had additional punishment for a period of time usually for several days. There was also such a thing as term circles which were run in formation and in step. We were awarded two term circles when one of us failed to shout SHOWERS! after flushing the toilet in the locker room which caused considerable discomfort to the cadet wing commander who was doused in hot water while showering.
A typical day began with the rise and shine bugle call at 6 am. Wayne was the bugler and one morning he was running late and went outside in his pajamas to sound the call. This infraction was not detected. He had a knack for getting away with things unlike Marc. You had one half hour to clean up, make your bed, get dressed and get formed up for breakfast parade.
After breakfast we had a military drill session followed by several hours of academic classes. We then formed up for lunch parade. We then had several hours of lectures,an hour of sports and another drill period. Before supper it was time to run circles. Finally we were able to return to our rooms for study time. It was lights out at 10:30.
On the lighter side a couple of times during the day we had Kai (Hot chocolate) and toast in the junior gun-room which was a lounging room just for our class. A major attraction here was watching American Bandstand with Dick Clarke. Everyone had their favourite dance partner to watch. We also had a series of dance classes where we learned such dances as the Tango and Cha-Cha-Cha. The instructors were from Victoria and very pretty women. About once a month dances were held in the gym. We had dates with girls our own age from Victoria. These dances were eagerly looked forward to. It was at one of these dances that Wayne met Vivi and they were still together many years later.
When ever we left the college as a group to such things as sports events we were transported in cattle cars which were basically large trucks with benches in the back covered with a tarpaulin. Sometimes during the ride there would be a call to send Cookie around. He was the smallest cadet and he would be passed along from cadet to cadet around the benches until he arrived back at his seat. It was all in fun and Cookie didn’t mind.
We spent Saturday evening in the locker room preparing for Sunday wing parade. Most of the time was spent getting a beautiful shine on our boots by using the spit and polish method. It was considered bad luck if someone accidentally creamed your boots i.e. Stepped on them Sunday morning. In the locker room Digger led us in song. Our favourites were “Our Boys Will Shine Tonight”and “Bring Back the Claxton Cup”.
All cadets participated in the Boxing competition. We basically whaled away at our opponent for three rounds. Some of the fights were between a junior and a senior cadet. I am sure we juniors won most of these fights in any event they were the most popular fights. However I think it was during one of these fights that “Griff “received a concussion.
After a month or two the flu epidemic of !957 hit the college. About 80% of both years were bed ridden with the well looking after them. The sick were placed in one huge room with beds lined up in rows. I did not catch the flu but was run ragged bringing meals to the sick plus other duties. After the majority returned to duty I decided it was my time to say I had the flu and had several days of rest.
At the conclusion of six weeks we were confronted with the obstacle course and it was a real dandy. In fact it was a tough S.O.B. We had to crawl along a stream bed and it was very muddy and cold. We had to immerse our heads and bodies in the mud to squirm under and past tree roots After a half mile of this we were on dry land and faced with a series of obstacles. These required team work to master and we made sure we helped our buddies when required. The final obstacle was a swim across a small river. We had life jackets and a rope across the river to guide us. After completing the obstacle course we were now no longer recruits. We were now first year cadets. We were issued real uniforms including parade boots and wedge caps.
A sport that I was not fond of was the 5 mile runs. One day we just finished one of them and were told there was a new schedule for sports starting now. The new schedule called for another 5 mile run right away. Both Hooper and I struggled and lagged behind at times. We barely finished but did it.
The following is a series of flashbacks about the class that entered in 1957.
When ever we formed up in line it always was with Tex as right marker with Cookie at the other end.
While in the mess hall we often heard the loud voice of either Boomer or Dennis demanding a “Beep Beep” for the Armoured Corps from Gerry. Gerry with his mild voice would stand up and give his best “Beep Beep”.
Skylarks (Pranks pulled off at night) were part of the recruit life. One comes to mind and that was when the drill Sargent’s car was carried and pushed through the main entrance of the Admin. Building, brought up the stairs and placed in the middle of the Quarter deck.
The seniors demanded that we all buy napkin rings for some reason. Stu always stubborn when faced with an inequity refused. He receive considerable pressure from the seniors but held his ground and never was the proud owner of a napkin ring.
Many of us mastered the art of the 5 minute nap. Whenever we had the chance between class we did just that. Some, like Merle applied the technique in class.
Marcel even though he was bilingual claimed he had no knowledge of French and thus one of his classes was a snap.
On our Christmas break Graham and I got to Toronto and decided for some foolish reason to hitch-hike to Perth rather than take the train. We ended up that night in Madoc at the Blues Hotel which was at the end of a lonely street. I must add that a good Samaritan got us that far. She took pity on us standing in uniform by the side of the road in a snow storm.
I would like to know what happened to Al from Winnipeg. He was with us for 3 years but dropped out and none of us has heard from him to this day. Rumour has it that he remains a captive of a tribe of Amazons deep in the jungle.
Dick was never happy after a drill class in fact he often complained he was picked on by the RCAF drill Sargent. After one such session he entered the locker room and threw his rifle at the lockers and claimed there was no justice in the world.
Whenever he got near the piano in the gym, Tony would play a spirited version of “Beautiful Beautiful Brown Eyes”. Again on a musical note when we passed Ralph’s room we often heard “I’m Moving On” by Hank Snow.
Out of the 90 cadets who entered in 1957 about 30 graduated after the four year program. Some failed either the academics or the the specialty military summer program. Quite a few left after deciding it was not the life for them and followed other career paths.
We were like a band of brothers and remain good friends to this day. It was my good fortune to be part of it.