By Normand Chouinard
I decided to make Nova Scotia my home while I was in sea cadets. We had a summer training camp at HMCS Acadia in 1962. I found Nova Scotia beautiful. I was from Montreal at this time. I joined the regular navy in 1966 in Montreal. They had a recruiting center on St Jacques street in the center of Montreal. Being the oldest of a family of 7, I had to go and fend for my own. I was allowed to finish my grade 10 and then I was on my way to Cornwallis as I was bilingual. This is what got me in Nova Scotia. I didn’t know at this time I would spend the rest of my life here.
Once in Halifax, the party was on. I met experience sailors and was introduced to rum. Hootenannies at the fleet club… My trade was Sonarman. After leaving the Weapon’s school, I was posted to Gatineau… a proud looking ship part of the “Barber pole squadron. Commander Hughes later to become Admiral was the captain. I was privileged to have served under such a knowledgeable skipper.
My first trip was a NATO trip… gone for 6 months. When I came back, I was posted to St Laurent. This is where I learned to be a good seaman. I got my Leading Seaman tg2 on her. This is also where I got to meet the girl who was to become my wife and after all these years, we’re still together and we also have three kids that take care of us. My daughters are in Ontario and my son doesn’t live very far from us. We are lucky to have them. They’re our pride and joy. Nowadays I’m 73 years old and my wife is 71. My kids are 47, 45, 43. All born in July. This is my actual situation. When the kids were born, I went submarine. I qualified on Okanagan in 1969. Then I was posted to Ojibwa for a full cycle. Then I was posted on Onondaga while she was in refit. I went from this boat to my tq 5a sonar course and became a sonar technician. Upon completion of this training, they needed a sonar technician on Skeena, as she was going on NATO. A beautiful trip that lasted 6 months.
Upon my return, I was posted to Okanagan. We went back to England for 3 months. Then I was posted back to Skeena since I was bilingual. By then I had been promoted to Petty Officer second class. When Skeena went in refit, I took all the operators to Stadacona and trained them intensively on sonar operation. I had been a sonar instructor there before. We won the submarine shield. We had a tremendous time on this ship. At the end of this posting I was posted to the language school in Windsor park. This was my last posting. I keep a very good souvenir of everybody working there. After retirement, I did 17 years with the corps of commissionnaires and then I retired fully.
Since I was 15 years old, an old Irishman living on the third floor of the apartment building where I live had taught me to play harmonica, mostly Irish, Scottish airs. I expended my repertoire to include fiddle jiggs and reel and I joined to other musicians and we started playing in retirement homes. The idea was to bring a little happiness to peoples that in quite a few cases had been placed there against their will.Placed in there, abandoned, in the broom closet, quite a few were furious. Eventually, bit by bit, they got used to us and our undisciplined ways of playing and they took a liking to us. You could see the feet going, keeping rhythm with what we played. They would forget their misery for a little while. This made us feel good. We kept on doing this until this COVID 19 showed up. I was decorated by the Governor General for this.