St. Margarets Revisited – Bill Abbott
I was a new Comm. Ground graduate of 1 R&CS when I arrived at St. Margarets by car in late February of 1962. I had never seen a radar site before. I was driving down Highway #11 south of Chatham after dark, and on my right, next to the highway were the radomes of RCAF Station St. Margarets, illuminated in the darkened sky. I was fascinated. So this was to be my new home for the next 15 months.
Coming from Clinton which had about four feet of snow on the ground, I was surprised to see only a few inches of snow with bare patches of grass showing here and there.
The next morning, after reporting to HQ and the Comm. Ground Section, I was assigned to the Receiver Site which was about ten miles north of the base and close to RCAF Station Chatham than to St. Margarets. During the warm sunny days of late spring we would lay outside in the sun and watch the Golden Hawks in their F86 Sabres, practice their maneuvers as their home base was RCAF Station Chatham at that time.
The Station Commander at St. Margarets was a Wing Commander but I don’t recall his name. At that time, St. Margarets was the Sector HQ with Group Captain Gould in command. Shortly after I arrived, there was an alert and a newly arrived airman was placed on guard duty at the compound gate. He was told not to let anyone into the compound who did not have a proper pass. Would you believe that the Group Captain showed up without his pass and was denied entrance to the compound by the new young airman. Rumor had it he was so mad he chewed out the Wing Commander. After that, the compound guard had to be someone who had been on the station for a while, and if the guard recognized someone that needed access into the compound they were allowed in with their passes.
I don’t remember the name of the wet canteen but it was newly decorated and I have not been in many bars since that time that were decorated any nicer. I have a lot of memories of partying there. Every pay weekend we had a live band from town and I did a lot of dancing as the single guys were outnumbered about two to one by the single girls. The twist was in fashion then and one or more of the girls taught me how to do it so well that I won a twist contest at one of the dances. One of the best party nights was always the day before pay-day as everyone used to save a couple of bucks in case of an emergency before pay-day; so the night before everyone would go to the wets and blow their emergency funds.
During the winter of 1962/63, St. Margarets got the snow that they didn’t get the year before. The snow banks were so high that we were told to put red ribbons on our car antennas so that at a street intersection you could detect a car coming on the cross street. Just before Easter, we had a snowstorm that put a snow drift about ten feet high across the walkway to the Airwomen’s barracks and the CE Section had to use a truck mounted snow blower to clear the walkway. We poor LACs had to climb the drift to get to our barrack block. When the Wets was closed on Good Friday we brought a case of beer into the barracks and to keep it cold we just opened the window and pushed the beer straight into the snow as it was over half way up the window.
I left St. Margarets in the middle of May 1963 in another snowstorm. I left with regrets, with many new acquaintances, with a few super friends and many fond memories.
This article was submitted to the Pinetree Line web site by Bill Abbott in July 1998.