Digging Up Roots

Tony Swain


Old photos recall cherished memories

Further to last month’s ramblings about the Great Western Warbird bunch, current locals clamor to know what Delta life was really like back in the Old Pacific West. Sigh!

That’s an Auld Lang Syne! …I’m an image guy, and that stuff resides in heavy boxes on the top shelves of my Number One archive, where the index is a bit blurry.

However, after a couple of days of arthritic struggling, I found the desired files missing. Disaster!More huffing and puffing eventually discovered their remnants with two battered old Kodak Carousels under the bottom shelf, covered in dust.The ancient sets had been pillaged long ago for other projects.I felt like that Egyptian mummy chap. What I do for you guys!

About 40 years old, and mostly faded duplicates, they took a lot of tender photo editing to see the light of COPA’s day… So no complaining!

When I arrived in1968, Delta Air Park was run by a genial farmer and his wife, Darmel and Cory Diston. They’d had a few puddle jumper Champs and such, and were currently zooming about with their EAA homebuilder friends in a fabulous Stinson Gullwing.

The day I arrived, Darmel had a Harvard in bits behind the shed, doing what he called, “The Annual.”

He wanted two grand for it. I was appalled! Cos I knew the RCAF sold ‘em off for 500 bucks apiece out of Saskatoon, and that was many moons ago.The Tony-think of the day thought they should depreciate like clunker cars.

Three years later The Mary and I got a deal at $4,000, and 35 years later, reluctantly sold old Bessy to CHAA for much more than that! Mind you, the mandatory upkeep kept us honest!


Anyway, back at Delta, Chapter 85 EAA met in Cory’s Koffee Port, and was a hive of activity, with an incredibly enthusiastic bunch of guys. They were building all kinds of rag on wood stuff. Jodels, Flybabies, Minicabs, Spiten Fires, Emeraudes, Volksplanes, and Elgood Moths.

The leading light in all this was Gogi Goguillot, who’d built a very nice Druine Turbi, that he sort of lent out to trusted folks, whilst he and Big Dan McGowan, dreamed up the incredibly nostalgic Replica SE5a’s I told you of last month.

They were fascinating. Even the Affairs magazine editor, one Mac Parry, convinced us to do a formation photo shoot over downtown Vancouver, from the front seat of the Turbi, and got some magnificent pics.

He did freak a bit after a whiff from the gas vent, and demanded I land in Stanley Park. Nevertheless, Dan and Gogi were on the front cover of the next month’s Vancouver Affairs magazine!And much later, he put good old Bessy and I in a centre spread in Vancouver Magazine, with a friendly, detailed story on the local flight schools! These days Mac is the Vancouver Sun’s popular ‘Social Commentator’.

In 1973, with funds from parking cars at the Abbotsford Airshow, they built the great EAA, now RAA, ‘Roundhouse’ which after a big rebuild recently, still provides excellent club meeting facilities on the field, complemented by the Boundary Bay Flying Club now in the Old Coffee Shop.

Over the years, many celebrated flying folk have visited Delta, COPA’s Herb Cunningham, to hand over EAA Canada reins to Gogi, then EAA President Paul Poberezny, to spread the EAA word, and famous aviation writer Richard Bach, a contestant in The Great Cross Canada Air Race, and others.

And so it continued till today, surviving a developer’s ownership to become a Metro Vancouver Recreational Park.Serving everybody! And being at various times, home not only to the EAA/RAA, the BBFC, but the old Delta Sportsman FC, the Vancouver Aerobatic Club, IAC Chapter 18, Western Warbirds, Vintage Airplane Group, and others. Enjoy the old pics!


Excitement is building here-abouts for the great COPA Fly-In AGM & General Conference and everything just down the road from here at Langley’s excellent airport.Langley is a fascinating little town, with a funky main street, and a five minute flight from Delta (Please read your Flight Supplement!).

It’s wonderful to see all the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island flying groups working together to make this a big success. You may camp under the wing on the field, but due to limited space, recreational vehicles and campers will use local RV parks and campgrounds.

To help you navigate the Rocky Mountains, the ‘Pathfinder Program’ has been arranged with seminars and stuff for those heading west from Alberta, etc. It’s a magnificent flight! The Mary, Bessy and I have done it dozens of times. It’s awe-inspiring. Ensure your digi-camera batteries are up!


B. C. COPA Director Tim Cole and I pondered recently where members living in Vancouver City proper could socialize over a friendly pint and some grub. Tim fondly recalled taking visiting flying guys to the Billy Bishop Legion in Kitsilano for lunch. The décor is really comfortable, and based on the iconic English pubs near every RCAF bomber base in WWII. Whilst it welcomes all services, The Billy specializes in RCAF Warplane history and is a recognized Military Museum. Squadron badges and photos festoon the walls.There were even two magnificent Pietenpols, Fred Imrie’s with a genuine Model B Ford engine, and George Noble’s really husky one with a five-cylinder Kinner Radial. It was amazing.

So we propose a ‘Virtual Flight X’ at The Billy? A sort of secret society to complement the not-so-secret Pigasus Society!

The Billy opens at 4 p.m. these days, and we thought it the perfect place to get together and talk flying. Some COPA members already do, and initially you’d be our guests. But hey, member forms are by the bar!And they’re good across Canada.

So, we suggest dropping in for the Friday Night Roast Baron of Beef, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., a scrumptious steal at $12 a plate. It’s a kind of buffet, with the chef carving - get your tickets at the bar.

After dinner, the famous Bea plays nostalgic sing-along stuff on the piano, just like the old air force mess days, so lubricate your vocal chords. And they’ve got WiFi! Or you could play darts!

The Billy Bishop Royal Canadian Legion #176 is one block east of Arbutus on Laburnum St., a half block north of Cornwall. The ubiquitous #22 City Bus goes right by.

The first meet of Virtual COPA Flight X is scheduled for Friday, April 8, then every second Friday of the months following.

See you there!

— Tony Swain and The Mary, the Old Copaguys in Vancouver