Photos courtesy Tony Swain
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In WW Two, when things got bad, I was sent to Grandma’s at Leven, a quiet village in the gently rolling meadows of East Yorkshire, halfway between our devastated hometown, Hull, and the seaside town of Bridlington.
It was a safe magical place for a little kid. Of course, there was still school and all, but just a little school, with one teacher for five grades in the one room.
But I played in luxurious meadows, amidst gently lowing cows, bleating sheep, with furious bees and wasps buzzing around. I just loved it.
And nothing’s changed! Cos last week I was at the Pitt Meadows Air Show relishing the furious Wasps of Langford and Mrazek buzzing around! Or roaring maybe. But hey! The feeling’s the same. We sure pine for old Bessy.
An unexpected rural ambience was created by holding the event in the bosom of the Pitt ‘Meadows.’ on the remote north taxiway. Thus, the airport complex was far away, creating an oddly pleasant bucolic atmosphere.
Like a country fair, Mayor Don MacLean opened the show, as Pacific Skydivers performed a ballet to our National Anthem. The Kiddie Squadron rides, Wings & Wheels car show and the popular Beer Garden all commenced operations.
It was a great day, full of excitement from our popular performers. Eric Hansen and Ken Fowler, Bud Granley and son with their double Yak act. John ‘Mr. Magic’ Mrazek swooped about in his Harvard ‘Pussycat II’ - leaving me slightly envious. Sigh. Announcer Roy Hafeli told all about it, and Air Boss Donna Flynn ensured things ran tickety-boo.
I was pleased to see our old Cabin Waco sparkling in the sun from the Museum of Flight at Langley.
TOYS ‘R’ THEM
The Canadian Air Force showed off their fabulous turbo-prop Harvard 2, quite a ride for our young trainee fighter pilots today. I wonder how it compares with Old Bessy!
Warbird chum Chris MacLean’s wife Cathy was by Delta recently, and enthused how her son Scott is thrilled flying them at Moose Jaw. Sigh!
For water rich B.C. the compact little Osprey 2 amphib is most attractive. Leroy Coen of Port Coquitlam finished his in 1996, and thoroughly enjoys its performance with a 360 Lycoming which cruises at 115 mph.
I stopped by Granley’s Yak 18 where Western Warbird friends John Mrazek, Bud and Ross Granley, waited in the shade under the wing for their turn to fly.
The Granley father and son Yak formation show must be seen to believe! Their performance in the slow flying Yaks is nail biting to watch. Inside/outside rolls, rolls around each other, and other complicated manoeuvres bring gasps from the crowd. They may well be the most exciting civilian team around. Just check their ‘Family Air show’ website!
Harvard driver Mike Langford said hi, and Crew Chief Steve Rule asked me to mind his girls for a bit, so I took them to see the old Waco. Friendly stuff like this makes these shows so ‘family.’
The ‘hottest day of the year’ made strolling around booths and old cars pretty warm work, so as the show wound down, I headed to the beer garden for a snack and a drink.
"Sorry! We’re packing up, till’s closed." Jeeze, why me?
"But there’s this extra cheeseburger, no charge and some leftover fries. And oh, here’s some water." What’s a guy to do? Don’t tell The Mary! And yes, I paid anyway.
MISSION RACE DAZE
You remember my friend Siggy who stowed away among mailbags his Dad delivered in a Jenny, poked his head out at 2,000 feet and shouted "Hi Dad!" The same kid who flew me across a ditch at 90 mph in his Sunbeam Rapier on a night rally, whilst arguing which way to turn at a coming T-junction.
Anyway, this same Brian Sigsworth, persuaded me to attend the local vintage MG Car Club’s Sunday outing to Mission Raceways, once an airstrip. He said my vintage Mazda would probably be O.K. and it sounded like fun.
The theme for the weekend was ‘Historic Germania’, i.e. Porches, Beamers, and Formula V’ race cars, (a.k.a.VW’s), against the rest; Ferraris, Vanguards, and Anglias. Sigh.
True to form, Siggy’s rendezvous instructions of the Albion Ferry lot at 9:30 turned out to be a Mall nearby at 9 a.m., so my arrival at 10, was rather lonely.
Not arriving with the old MG’s meant denial of a VIP pass and parking with the ordinary people. I staggered back and forth trying to persuade various officials I was legit, whilst my erstwhile friends motored serenely through to the best grandstand.
In the program I was astounded to see there was airplane stuff! Quote, "12:00 lunch. The Red Baron arrives in the sky at noon, with parade laps and VIP’s on track.
Well shoot! Here comes my pal Fred and his Mighty Murphy Renegade, pretty as you please a la WW 1, chatting up the VIP’s. And me stuck with the ordinary folks outside the outside barrier.
After a bit of argy-bargy, and some arm waving, the Baron took off in his little fighter, and climbed for the sun like a demented homing pigeon. Just like the Somme.
It seemed the gap through concrete barriers to the viewing area was too narrow for the Baron’s comfort, and possibly suspecting an Engelander plot to bust his wings, he left. Sigh. If I’d had my VIP Pass, we could have negotiated.
THE V.I.P. GUY
Eventually, the VIP Booth Ladies sent me to VIP Top Guy, a famous Canadian racing hero, Tom Johnston, and he enthused "Tony Swain! I know you all right! You’re the guy who got all shy about sending pics for my book!"
"Well er… Yes, sorry about that, I plan my own book, must get started… but I get busy!"
Anyway, thrusting the past aside, he OK’d my pass, and generously donated me a copy of his excellent book, Road Racing in Western Canada which I’m not in. Double Sigh.
Resplendent with my VIP pass, I strolled through the pits, informing Triumph driver Peter Jeffrey that I was a TR Wizz in the early ‘60’s, even mentioned in the hallowed ‘Back east’ Track & Traffic championship list. I found Siggy and his 1949 MG TC with the vintage car bunch. And there hangs a tale.
THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN
Back in Calgary about 1955, my ‘to be’ boss Bob MacDonald, at the RCAF Overhaul base, had a TC. Much as we fly to Chilliwack for pie, the Calgary Sport Car bunch would drive like demons 80 miles on the old mountain road to Banff for coffee. The TC would do 76 mph.
One day, Bob and his brother Hugh on this quest for coffee rounded the fast corner onto the Exshaw straight and simply floated off into the bush. An intensive private investigation later over coffee, decided that the front fenders of an MG TC meet the air stream at a critical angle, and the old TC, helped by a bit of a gust, simply took off and flew! Eat your heart out you flying car guys.
Oh yes, and the big race was won by Al Ores, in his Formula Vee (VW Special), properly celebrating his 45 years of racing, and as per tradition, was mobbed by girls in the pits.
Some say I don’t respond to their e-mails, possibly due to my fierce Spam Catcher. Try quoting one of my little sub-titles in your Subject line, as a flag for me. Fly safe now
Tony Swain & The Mary, Old COPA Guys