With Thanks to 12179 Bob Hills and the Class of ’79
Al Lounsbury and I were exiled to the Frigate following two years at 5 Squadron in Club Champlain on the Cataraqui. Apparently we needed straightening out that could only occur well away from the rest of the Wing. As a Maritime Engineer in training, Al was hoping to unequivocally prove that, in fact, Stone Boats DO Float. As an Aerospace Engineer in training, I was trying to prove that a paper airplane launched from the top deck of the Frigate could clear the Old Gym and make it to the roof of the Senior Staff Mess. So far we weren’t having much success, although there was an impressive collection of paper airplanes on the roof of Panet House.
It was mid-Winter 1977/78 and the temperature was well-below zero. Al and I were on our way back to the Frigate following a marvelous mixed-grill of liver, bacon, onion slices, and something au-gratin scraped off the bottom of the potato tray on the steam line. We had dined with several other Frigateers (I think Tom Keogh, plus a few ex-Roadents, maybe Doug Campbell, Don Allen and Gord Sheasby), and were briskly marching (as was our wont) past Fort LaSalle towards the parade square. As we reached the square, I turned to Al and asked him if he remembered when we were rooks, and had to double the square. He said that he normally headed into the basement of LaSalle, walked past the football locker room, exited the building through the side entrance, and headed into Massey Library. He never needed to go to the Frigate, although he did feel sorry for the 1 Squadron rooks who needed to double the square several times a day just to get to and from their quarters. Not surprisingly, it turns out that most of the Wing Harriers team were from the Frigate.
The Roadents were astounded. “You had to run all the way across this giant parking lot to get to the Frigate?”
I advised them that there was a coffee bar “over yonder by that flagpole where you could stop and get a latte or a soy-based beverage.” And then the fateful words — “maybe we should double the square for old times’ sake.” Everyone seemed to think that this was a marvelous idea, which tells you how ineffective Greatcoats and Astro-gear are when it comes to keeping your brain functioning in the cold.
A few more key points: there was about an inch of glare ice coating 99.96% of the parade square. The remaining 0.04% is key. A light dusting of snow covered the parade square, like wax on a shuffleboard table. Also key. It was just before 1800 hrs, it was dark, and the staff from MacKenzie Building and Curry Hall were nearly all gone. Nearly….
Someone – I’m not sure who — for fun, let’s say Tom – said “Are you Ready? There’s a specific procedure for all this. You come to attention, and then Eyes-Left (two three), Front (two-three), Right (two-three), Front (two-three), flex your knees, and then take off like the College Sarn’t-Major is chasing after you waving his pace stick.” We were off!
After a few steps of slippage, we got up to speed. It was turning into a race. I felt like Hans Brinker. We accelerated further, going faster and faster when out of the blowing snow a shadowy figure appeared on our left. It was the DCdts! We stopped running, came to attention and whipped off six pretty-much picture-perfect salutes. Unfortunately, even though we weren’t moving our feet anymore, we had built up enough momentum that we continued to slide. At attention. Saluting. Past the DCdts. It was amazing! We turned our heads and shoulders to the left holding the salute as we slid by.
“Good evening…” someone started to say, when the 0.04% bare concrete was encountered by someone’s size 14 foot (Al). He went down, causing a chain-reaction of colliding bodies that eventually coalesced into a 12-legged, spinning mass that barely missed the DCdts and slid about ten feet past him. From the bottom of the scrum someone finished: “…Sir.”
The DCdts stepped over us, returning the salute: “Gentlemen.” And then, what sounded like “Stone Boats DON’T Float” as he strode off. We stood up, brushed the snow from our greatcoats and hobbled the final few feet to the Frigate.
Pretty much indicative of Third Year in the Frigate.
Editor’s Note: Banner photo from Kate Armstrong’s website (Vintage RMC: 1980 Recruit Term and College Life)