The Reality of Donald Trump

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Remembering Tom Lamb


Remembering Tom Lamb

By Norm Richards

He's the great doctor of the north; Tom Lamb was so honoured at the University of Manitoba in 1969 for his legendary life and given an honourary Doctor of Laws degree. He grew up at Moose Lake, his father a trader and pioneer settler. Tom became Canada's greatest bush pilot and champion developer of the north. He literally invented everything he did.
"I had to, if you wanted to survive," he would say.

Lamb was first at most things. He got fish to market by plane when tractor trains were slow. He had his heart torn out losing teams of horses after falling through thin lake ice. He created habitat for growth and harvest of wild muskrat in the 1930s when no one else did. He helped feed and clothe the people around him when other northern communities wondered how government would do it.

Lamb and his wife Jennie would raise three daughters and six sons to live as fully as possible. Tom had them work hard and never look back. Lamb formed a great northern airline shaped out of a single engine Stinson Reliant aircraft he bought in 1931. Before his boys could consider any other career, they were already doing a full day's work with dad. Don't tell anyone, but they were flying planes before they qualified at flying school.

His sons and daughters had remarkable careers of their own. They served northern needs with honour and saved lives flying many to safety. Carol and Jock kept store at Moose Lake. Cal and Phyllis (Skippy) Lamb Gibson ran Cal's Cabs in The Pas. Cal took over a small garage from Frank Bickle. He turned it into a successful Chrysler dealership named Twin Motors. Tom's sons Greg, twins Don and Dennis, Jack, Doug and Connie all flew under the Lamb Airways banner. Each, expert in some area of the Lamb operations; Greg managed the Thompson base, Jack became company president, Connie, a proficient Cat and dragline operator, developed his skills working on the ranch before he was old enough to fly. He built many northern roads and remote runways. Doug spent much of his time flying in the high north. Dennis flew helicopter. Don had Tom's 7 Bar L prize Hereford cattle ranch near Moose Lake running smoothly. He flew even when eye-sight restrictions limited him. Each of the boys could do one another's jobs if called upon. Tom insisted.

I met Tom Lamb for the first time at Moose Lake. Resident Mary Bercier came to visit my grandmother. I'm eleven. I feel older. School is boring. I beg to travel to Moose Lake. I'm warned the trip's long and dangerous. Mom finally relents. The next thing you know I'm hustled into a dark blue Bombardier, ( we called it a Bombadeer ). It's an early cabin sized snowmobile used for freight and minimum passenger travel in the north. It cuts a swath through bush and out across barren lakes enroute to Moose Lake on winter roads.

We arrive after many hours sitting sideways like grunts going to war. It's dark when we arrive. There are no lights. I see only an outline of the house. Someone holds a flashlight as I step out of the snow machine. I recognize Mary's eldest son Ted. They speak Cree. I don't. I say words in English. Reaction is delayed as if unheard. I'm a stranger among caring faces. I wake next morning with a headlock on my little red stuffed bear. He's familiar while nothing else is. We become the subject during breakfast. I count six kids of all ages. I'm teased for loving my teddy bear. While I'm here, each day is marked with new experience.

The Bercier home sits high above the lakeshore. The house looks official by day. Batiste Bercier is Game Guardian. Two other buildings stand nearby. The terrain is bleak except the ice rink down on the lake.

I ask to visit next door. We enter. I see a white man whose complexion seems carved out of the Canadian Shield. He speaks Cree to a younger woman. Mary's middle son Melvin is with me. He asks her something I can't understand. While he's responded to, the man greets me in Cree. He switches to English and back to Cree again. He asks me who my dad is. We exchange a few words before I'm whisked out the door seeking the next adventure. Here I've met Tom Lamb for the first time. Later, I see him often in The Pas. Going to the post office brings people together. Dad exchanges jokes with Tom. I Love hearing my dad laugh so loud together with this colourful man.

My week at Moose Lake is marked with keen memory. I'm fitted with oversized skates and several wool socks. In my own element, I hit the big lake ice rink as if in charge. I meet many kids and get reacquainted with the Bercier brothers and their sister Ma Fille. When we were in the store Melvin asked Carol ( Lamb ) McAree if her kids can join us. He introduces me to Greg McAree and his sister Bunny. I'm fascinated with these fair skinned white kids speaking Cree. It's unique and I know it.

One night, lit by only a flashlight, we walk through the woods to Lucian's Store at Moose Lake Village. We watch cartoons and a western movie while sitting on homemade benches rolled out for the occasion in the middle of the store. The projector clacks away over my right shoulder while I sit in awe of my surroundings. We hustle down a snow covered forest trail afterward by light of the moon and nothing else. Someone flicks the flashlight on. We find our way home in 20-below weather but warm as toast, delighted with being alive in the moment.

In spring 1966, under the tutelage of Ron Davie, Tom's chief mechanic, I'm hired to assist where I can on the Grace Lake float and ski base near my home. School's not working out for me but I have plenty of hope for my future. I become a Lamb employee. After three days cleaning parts and trying to be useful, I'm assigned to help pilot Jim King move mining equipment. We fly north from Grace Lake in a Lamb workhorse, the single engine Otter aircraft equipped with skis for taking off and landing on snow and ice. Jim was a senior NCO in Air Cadets when I joined years earlier. Now he's flying for Tom. I'm impressed. This trip is a full story by itself but I'm convinced it would never have taken place unless Tom endorsed it. By now, Tom is semi-retired and the boys run everything. They have a fleet of nearly 20 aircraft and growing. Tom has a fight on his hands. Moose Lake is being flooded to make way for the Grand Rapids Dam. He's losing everything he worked for. He has a failing heart in this period when transplants are not common. He can no longer fly. I'm glad to have met Tom and lived during part of his era. Tom died at Christmas 1969, while on vacation with his wife Jennie in Hawaii. Jack and two sisters flew out to bring their mom home.

Tom's ashes were scattered by his youngest son Connie over his beloved Moose Lake and cattle ranch now covered over by dam backwaters. There was the biggest memorial service ever seen at The Pas for Tom Lamb. People came from everywhere to be with his family and celebrate the life they knew.

Tom believed in taking risk and would have stood behind his sons when they made a bid to improve north-to-south air service linked with east-west travel. But by 1981, with record high interest rates and extreme costs to operate, Lambair hit an obstacle they could not overcome. The bank holding their operating loan refused to support them further and the company went into receivership. Their assets were liquidated and the Lamb dynasty ended.

I wonder what folks think when they see the bronze statue of Tom Lamb in the airports and in the Leo Mole Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. I can tell you that the Lamb family has continued to live their lives in dignity and respect. Jack wrote a book about his life in the north with many colourful photos to remember the times. Each of the brothers went on to work for others and continue to watch their children grow up to be happy healthy contributors to society.

This story was previously published in North Roots Magazine.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The 60s Rocked in The Pas - Three Hairs and a Hat


By Norman M. Richards

previously published in North Roots Magazine

Photo provided by Jim Moran

When they started out they called themselves The Venturas. Their name was derived from the well known American instrumental group called The Ventures from Tacoma, Washington. For their time they played an easy to listen to style of guitar based songs. They became major contributors toward the surf sound that largely emanated out of California. The Ventures had a nationwide hit in 1960 titled “Walk Don’t Run.” That song and many others were a major influence on scores of upstart guitar players. Lead parts were fed whole to guys tuned into it. Charles Nabess was one of them. American rock and roll was taking shape. Elvis Presley hit the biggest. Gene Vincent, Eddy Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard had big radio hits. Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and The Comets, even Cliff Richard and The Shadows were an influence on Charles. Near the end of high school he began to imagine being in a band of his own. He met Larry Haynes who had the same thoughts. Jim Moran heard them talk and showed interest. Jim bought a basic drum kit. The boys acquired their first electric guitars.
Their first practice was in the Anglican Church Hall down by the river. They learned “Perfidia, Walk Don’t Run, Pipeline, Apache” and Jim had to learn “Wipeout” once other songs were ironed out by the guitar players. The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. That was a home run measured by the influence felt by every kid in town. No one moved unless a Beatle song played somewhere. It gave repertoire for The Venturas. Charles’ younger brother Donald was invited to join the band. I was interested in drumming too. But, I started as a non- instrument playing member of the band and helped with equipment setups and sound adjustments at dances.
Donald brought another side to the band’s performance. He did an uncanny imitation of Elvis Presley. Mom told me their Uncle, Simon Nabess was good at impressions too. Indeed, something felt essential about what they did on stage. The idea came to change their name to The Essentials. Along the way, the band had girlfriends who handled the door and band business. In passing, one gal, attached to a local skating coach said he might help the band if they were interested. He had a keen interest in music and knew performance well.
The band was introduced to Mel Metzner. He began to assist the band with rehearsals first and soon took over business affairs as manager. He encouraged them and became close confidant not unlike Brian Epstein was for The Beatles. Mel was friendly but was all business around local kids. Mel had a stutter like country star Mel Tillis. That endeared him to band members who’d grown close to him. Larry Haynes more than the others, took pains to finish Mel’s sentences. A kind of short hand took place between Mel and the boys. He helped with costuming and advice on everything. Charles bought a Mosrite guitar like The Ventures played. Fender amplifiers were purchased and Jim ordered a white pearl Ludwig drum kit. Their style and sound improved. Jim adopted a top hat most thought he slept in. He always had it on. Since The Beatles set trends, everyone wanted Beatle haircuts. British and American rock groups joined in. Again, time and circumstance was ripe for change. Three Hairs and a Hat became their new moniker. They played dances out of town more often. It helped them improve. Another step in the band’s evolution was to write songs and record. Being a recording act meant larger purses and bigger venues. They knew it and wanted more. One day they went south to record.
On return, it was clear something had changed in the hair and hat camp. It was an uneasy time for the band. Not long before, they did a triumphant show on the Lido Theatre stage. The town was excited. Jim was at his best. He had energy never before displayed. The band shone at this moment in their lives. Yet, not long after returning from recording, the band and drummer Jim Moran parted ways. Jim felt let down over the recording experience. I was surprised. Jim’s showmanship gave the band personality and even credibility. The band had to reorganize and find a new drummer. Everyone else in town was playing with somebody so they went without a drummer while improving their own chops. Their age, experience and time spent in their hometown matured. The band outgrew younger audiences. They changed their name to The Fallen Angels and scooped drummer Bill Allard from the other leading group in town.
That year I came back from Alberta where I had broken my arm working on an oil rig. On substantial compensation and in recovery I could now afford to buy those drums I had been dreaming about. I catalogue ordered the best professional drum kit available from Wagner’s Jewellers. Not long after, word got out I had drums. Jack Hebert and Garry Wenger called to form a group. To complete the sound we asked Patrick ‘Paddy’ McLaughlin to join us on keyboards. I felt wanted and they needed me since Bill had joined the rivals. We learned top forty dance hits. Our first time out we played on a CBC Radio program recorded live on stage at the MBCI auditorium. Our first song was “Light My Fire” by The Doors. It went over well. We soon began playing dances under the new name Symbols of Sound. Things were simple then. We hung posters up at popular spots each week and the kids came in droves to our dances on weekends. On long weekends we did midnight dances just as the other band did.
After playing for more than a year, we developed a good following. Since the angels left town often it made room for us. There was an unwritten agreement between bands not to hold a dance the same night. One day, over chips and gravy at Bob’s Restaurant someone said let’s play Friday. The kids in the next booth pressed us on. We decided, no posters, no nothing to play. Three hundred kids showed up. Someone said the angels were playing in the other hall. We looked at each other surprised. No one knew. There were four loyal couples dancing over there. Our hall was full. It felt so good we went for late night burgers at the A&W Drive In. We drove around town in the grey goose (dad’s 52 Pontiac) till five AM wondering about our future while patting ourselves on the back for being good musicians. Bands broke up over incidences like this but the angels stuck it out. Soon after, they started playing bars and night clubs. For them, it wasn’t about pleasing a younger audience, for us it was an imperative.
In the fall of sixty eight I moved to Winnipeg to join a band. The angels became better known as Three Penny Opera. Bill stayed with the angels for a year. Eventually a handsome blonde guy named Sherman Murphy joined three penny on tour. I stayed in touch with Garry and Jack over the years. We made a small recording some years later. I moved through radio, film and television as a host, writer and producer. I still love the entertainment business. Maybe one day I’ll be famous for something I wrote for the movies. How about a rock fable?

Rockin 60's at The Pas

Symbols of Sound 1967 The Pas


Norm Richards, Jack Hebert, Garry Wenger, Patrick McLaughlin

Flin Flon's Rock Bands


Flin Flon’s Rock Bands

By Norm Richards

Previously published in North Roots Magazine

Photo provided by Richard Lyons

By 1963, a small number of guys with talent, influenced by American artists, began picking up instruments. Forty-five RPM records of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Little Richard began cropping up at music shops across the country. In Flin Flon there was Photo Music and the Record Bar; in The Pas we had the Dial. Instruments were ordered in by catalogue. I bought drums through Wagner’s Jewellers in The Pas. Early on, I had travelled to my cousin’s wedding in Flin Flon. Kenny married into a family of musicians.
Three sisters sang and their father played accordion and strings. Mom joined them on piano. This celebration and spontaneous jam struck my imagination. I knew there was something going on in Flin Flon and I wanted to be part of it.
Big bands, jazz or country combos were common around town. Even before the 1964, appearance of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, music had roots in Flin Flon. Swing dancing and waltzes gave way to the jive and the slow waltz hit teens with gripping energy as rock and roll took hold. The style of dress completed the package. Record covers, magazines and movies showed us costumes the performers wore. Groups like The Shadows and The Ventures showed what good guitars could do. Overnight it became a goal to own Fender and Gibson instruments. The talent of ’63 found ways to buy these instruments. Rock groups took shape. The first rock groups in Flin Flon were The Starfires, The Blue Shannons and The Tensions. Then came Les Tempests or The Tempests. As members came and went, some seemed to come from out of the blue. Two in the morning food feasts at the Northern CafĂ© after playing and thinking up names inspired poetry. This phrase; ‘out of the blue ’ became a name.
Out of the Blue turned into the most popular band of the mid 60`s not only in Flin Flon but throughout northern Manitoba. The first members of this group were Ed (Edric) Mason, Bill Black, Richard (Dick) Lyons, Bret Davie and Del Ward. Bill Black also played with The Starfires from Snow Lake. Bill Putko became the drummer. Lyons neighbour from Willowvale, Paul Bergman became a member and joined their uptown buddies in the band.
The Starfires had a great drummer. John Klonteg, a resident of Lakeside. Many people heard him practice blocks away from his Queen Street home. On a live stage he partnered with Ed (Buzz) Carate and others. The two played in a group called The Blue Shannons with Don Hood, Glen Petersen and Murray Trondson. Buzz went on to play in a popular group in Vancouver and was eventually seen on television.
Murray Trondson went on to sing for Out of the Blue after Lyons left. Lyons moved on to a career in broadcasting after graduating from Hapnot High School, joining CFAR Radio. The next year he moved up to CKXL Radio in Calgary.
Continued ……..

Fair-haired boys Out of the Blue meanwhile, were good enough to turn professional. Performing at EXPO 67, in Montreal is a proud moment although it was tempered by the absence of Lyons. The band was making money. They found themselves adored across the north. They played every kind of dance. The band bought six of everything as they progressed. Elli Ross of Ross`s Style Shop helped outfit them in cool blue suits. They even ordered six red motorcycles to run around town on. They always had a reserved spot in local restaurants as a sign of respect by the owners.
Lyons was a practical minded guy. When career outside of singing offered new possibility, he took it. He became an announcer, producer and agreed to take on sales in a busy radio business. While in Calgary; Richard joined a group called Society’s Children, yet he remained at CKXL Radio. Living in a city and singing again brought him close to touring acts; the professionals. He said it was frightening to see extreme long hair, grey skin and green teeth on these acts his group performed on the same bill with. Out of the Blue had contemplated turning pro. Now Richard saw how extensive touring to promote records affected groups and he felt some redemption by not becoming professional.

Summers in Flin Flon are always glorious. Beautiful lakes, fishing and water sports of every kind just makes it easy. Hockey out of mind for a couple months and the start of the annual Trout Festival gives reason for city residents to party and welcome visitors to town. This gave reason for summer bands to take shape with players available to do dances. I remember seeing groups like Sir Orville Sextet, Blue Monday and three guys who chose to use their ethnic background to shape the bands name. Yuki-Joo & The Iceman, their sound was hard, louder too. They played Jimi Hendrix songs surprisingly well. John Ginsburg was the drummer. He played in several previous groups I knew well. Paul Bergman played bass and sang lead. I admired Jim Woronuik ( pronounced Wornik ) For his style and finesse on guitar. I first saw Jim play in The Pas with The Tensions. Tom Rusinak played saxophone in that band. On another summer visit I made to Flin Flon, I saw Jim once again in Sir Orville Sextet. For more than a decade, Blue Monday with Dennis ( Rugged ) Hyndman, Wayne Deans, Doug Eidt, Allan ( Krazz ) Krassilowsky and Curtis Borley were together for hot summer crowds in the Community Hall. Curtis played longest with Ron Billy, Joe Lambert and John Ginsburg than he did with this band. I remembered a groups Joe called Children of Stone but there seems to be some difference on that name. Anyhow, they played dances in The Pas since other bands had the dates and main halls booked in Flin Flon.
Each of these groups were led by the best singers to be heard anywhere. Richard Lyons, Murray Trondson, Bob Simpson, Joe Lambert and Al Krassilowsky gave their rock groups a marquee quality second to none. They could be joined by Susan and Jennifer Hanson who each did stints in various recording acts down south and went on to exciting careers of their own. Jennifer continues to sing with Jazz bands and has her own CD available on the market today. I have great respect for Flin Flon musicians since I sat in at my cousins wedding party at age 10. Years later, I got to play the Community Hall with my band Symbols of Sound. At the end of our dance some kids assembled at the base of our stage. I was asked for my autograph. I had to look twice to be sure the request was sincere or they were just being smart. I was pleased to be praised and grateful to have played on the stage so many other great groups had performed on.