Harold James McKenzie

Harold James McKenzie

Male 1920 - 2000  (80 years)

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  • Name Harold James McKenzie 
    Born 17 May 1920  Shiningbank, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 18 May 2000  Sardis, British Columbia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Harold James McKenzie was born May 17, 1920, in Shiningbank, Alberta. He enlisted in WWII with the Canadian Army and received the 1939-1945 War Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service medal and the Defence Medal. Harold died on May 16, 2000.

      Story by Harold James McKenzie: 17 May 1920 – 18 May 2000: Submitted by Lisa (Davidson) Begg March 2011

      Well I don't know how this will turn out. But we'll start by trying to put something together that we can compile into something that will make sense after it is audited. I was born in 1920 on May 17, on a little homestead in Macleod Valley. My dad was running the ferry on the Macleod River. I don't remember much about that, I was just a bambino. The first I remember after that, we moved back near Bon Accord to the Lewis Hill property. I went to Bon Accord school there, about 2 1/2 miles away, that's when I started school. I went to school there for about two or three years. We live down below Lewis Hill and I remember they had a mineral well there. You could smell the sulfur, it smelled like rotten eggs, for half a mile. People used to come from all over to get their water there. Mineral water was supposed to be good for your health. People would get it in bottles and take it home and use it for medicine.

      We used to have lots of fun sleigh riding, on the Louisville property. There was quite a steep hill there, about a mile long. We used to coast down there on our bob sleighs. My sister Mabel married Earl Killips, they didn't live too far from there and Earl used to come down sometimes with the big horse sleigh. He would pull the tongue over the back of the sleigh and we would ride on the runners, it would really go scootin’. They would be going so fast they would go 2 miles past the bottom of the hill. I know every time they hit a big snowdrift and buried the guys sitting on the front of the sleigh. It took about two hours to dig them out of the snow bank.

      We lived about a mile and a half from the Sturgeon River in Bon Accord. I remember we used to go down and swim in the river. I never did learn how to swim but I remember dad used to dive off the bridge. One time someone was drowning, and dad pulled him out. It used to be kind of a wicked little river, it wasn't very wide but it was fast.

      Mabel and Earl came down one Sunday to visit. They had just bought a car, it was an old, even at that time, convertible type thing with a spare tire bolted on the back. Slim and I came out and rode in on the back of the spare tire. Slim fell off and Earl happened to be backing up at that time, not knowing Slim was there he ran right over him. We were wondering if he would survive or not but he came out of it all right. Where the house was at there was about 80 acres and there used to be lots of partridges and rabbits. It was right in the middle of the Depression and sometimes mother used to get the shotgun and go out hunting for what animals were available. And that's what we would have for supper. We moved around the area quite a bit. We must've been in seven or eight different houses, whatever was available for free or for a minimum. Mostly we would end up at a farm where dad worked in exchange for rent. One of the places we were in, December there was a huge windstorm. It was an old log shack and it wasn't very big. It was after mother had passed away. Us kids were home alone and my sister Esther, was looking after us, my other sisters Mabel and Eva were both married by that time. The wind came up and blew the roof about three quarters of the way off the house. It was just sitting cockeyed on the old log shack it scared the shit out of us.

      There was another place we lived in, it was also on a farm where dad was working in the bush. We had a pasture on it, it was about 60 acres of bush. Dad built a place, about 16 x 20' that they were going to use for a granary when we finished living in it. We raised turkeys there and we put about 200 turkey eggs out to hatch. There were turkeys all over the place and they became wild. For years after that they were hatching on their own. Everybody came from town to hunt them. Whenever we wanted a turkey we would sneak out at night and they would be sitting out in trees and we would just sneak up and drag them out of the tree and take them home. We had lots of turkeys to eat there for a while anyway.

      When I was about 10 I went to live with Mabel and Earl out on the farm. I lived for a few years there. I remember we used to go out harvesting, driving the horses hay racks in the fall. That's where I would get my year’s money. We used to get what was considered pretty good wages them days during the fall harvest time, a dollar a day. We would get out for a time in the fall and end up with $40 or $50. We thought we were pretty rich, we could buy clothes and books to go back to school with, that sort of thing.

      I stayed at Eva and Jack’s for awhile and went to school there, up in the Homestead country. It was way in the boondocks and it was really bushy country. There were no roads back in there at that time, it was muskeg country, I remember when we used to walk to school we had to follow all the high ridges and wear rubber boots or else go barefoot because of the water. You couldn't get out of there with a vehicle of any kind. Thorhild was the closest town and we had to walk into there once in a while to get the basics: flour, sugar, salt, that sort of thing. We wouldn't make too many trips because it was about 15 miles one way the way you had to go, following the ridges. One time, Tom and Roy were up at Jack in Eva’s and we heard that there was some work way up on the muskegs. I forget exactly where but it was a long trip, so we decided we would take off and cut across the bush and see if we couldn’t find some work of some kind. There just wasn't anything around where we were on the farm. We got out of the bush and we walked and walked. We had only a couple of sandwiches to begin with and about three days later we were still in the bush. We managed to catch a hold of an old duck that was wandering around with some young ones. Well, we didn't have any matches, I don't know how come we didn't, but we didn't have anything to start a fire with. We didn't really fancy tackling that raw duck very much but we didn't want to leave it either because if worse came to worse we could eat it raw. So, we packed that old dead duck for about two more days before we got out to civilization and it was getting pretty rank and we fired it away then. We would've eaten it raw if we had to. Finally we got to a ranch and they fed us but there was no work there either. So, we took off again and got over to the railroad. We jumped a freight when it came through and rode it back into Thorhild and we headed back through the muskegs and ended up back at Jack and Eva’s again for a while. That used to be real good hunting country up there where they lived because it was, you know, right up in the wilderness. Also, people used to come up there and cut Tamarac fence poles to haul back to civilization and sell to the farmers. During the depression they used to get a few cents for them. Jack and Eva’s was a kind of a stopping place for hunters and fencepost guys and sometimes that little shack of theirs would be wall-to-wall with people lying on the floor. They would bring some blankets and they would be sleeping all over the floor and under the table and everywhere, because there was no place else to stay. Then they would get their fencepost and head back to Edmonton or Fort Saskatchewan.

      About 30 miles back in the bush there was a man, Uncle Jimmy we used to call him. He was the First World War Veteran and the government gave veterans, as part of their reward for being in the Army, a Homestead. This piece of land, being the generous people that they were, was so far back in the muskeg you couldn't hardly even walk out. Those poor old guys, some of them were from England or all over the place, just became hermits. Jacque, one guy, was living up there on one of those homesteads. He had a team of horses when he went in there and he was going to start a farm. He had wonderful things to do, but hell it was way back in the bush, muskeg and everything. He couldn't even make enough hay on it to feed his horses. So, he tried to feed them spruce boughs. He was a kind of a weird, old fellow he was a little sick in the head. Maybe he was always that way, either that or he went goofy from living in isolation. Anyway his horses, we went up there one time and said, "where’s your horses, Jacque"? "Oh", he said, "them dam horses! Just by the time I got them so that they would eat spruce boughs, they died". A few years later Esther and Phil were working in the logging camp at a sawmill north of Athabasca in a place they call Lawrence Lake. I went up there and went to work in the bush. My brother Tom and Dad were up there at that time, so we all, the three of us made a falling team. In those days we used a cross-cut saw -- we would get two guys on the saw and one guy on the axe. We lived across Lawrence Lake and the only way you could get back and forth was with an old boat they had there and in the winter time you got across on the ice. We used to pile logs upon the bank in the winter and in the summer when the ice melted they would boom them up and drag them across the lake to the sawmill on the other side of the lake.

      I remember the old bunkhouse there. It was green logs they had and they used an airtight barrel heater in the middle of the floor. You were either too damn hot or too cold. It was a long log shack and there were beds down both sides of it. The guys in the middle were too hot in the guys on the ends were too cold. If you happened to get lucky and be about half way you are fairly comfortable. Of course the guys that were living there all the time had priorities so that new comers ended up either in the too cold or too hot area. When I wasn't over on the other side of the lake cutting down logs I worked in the mill. I used to do every job there was, even fired the steam engine. Oh yeah, Roy, my brother was there with us also. One night he was coming back from a house party or card party on the other side of the lake. There was no one coming back over, so he decided he was going to walk across, it was only about 6 miles. There had been a storm the night before in the ice broke up. Out of the middle there was a channel and the water was faster there, he broke through the ice and fell in. He was in that ice water for about three or four hours before anybody got him out. They couldn't walk out to him because the ice would break. They finally got close enough to him that they could throw him a rope and they drug him out. They got him into the bunkhouse and wrapped him up in blankets real good and he came out of it all right.

      About that time the work ran out so Tom and I decided we would go trapping. We used to shoot squirrels around here but we wanted to branch out and go muskrat and beaver trapping. We took off, packed ourselves a backpack full of traps, took some salt and flour, and handed into the bush. We were lucky that we ran into an Indian band there that was trapping and they were pretty good to us. They taught us how to trap. We would catch muskrat and we would hang them up in the willow bushes by the fire. They would kind of BBQ and dry out and then we would grab one of those muskrat carcasses to eat, boy did that taste good.

      I was around there working in the mill, trapping or whatever, until I was 18 or 19-something like that. When the 2nd World War started I decided that for me; - me and another young guy that was working in the mill. There was a lumber truck that used to haul lumber and sell it and we jumped on the back of the lumber truck on top of the load and headed for Edmonton. When we got there we joined the army. When we joined the army it was the spring of 1940. The war had started in September 7, 1939. We hung around Edmonton for a day or two. They didn't even have uniforms for us at that time, so we went to Calgary from there, and they outfitted us and gave us part of our uniforms. We had some pants and boots, they weren't really too prepared for that war you know, they didn't have too much equipment. We ended up hanging around Calgary for a week or so and then they loaded us into old wooden cars and the friggin’ dust from the steam engine and the smokestack cinders used to blow in through Windows. I remember the time we got down to Petawawa. It was a big military camp, well, it turned out to be, but when we went there it was sand dunes. We went there and we lived in tent camps for basic training; you know all your weapons training, marching all that stuff. We were there for three months, I think, I'm not just too sure. No, it was a little longer than that because I remember I got a leave home after we finished our basic training. I got a 30 day leave to come home and visit and then we went back and we headed for England. After we finished our basic training in Petawawa and they got us all outfitted we got back on to that old tourist train headed for Halifax. There was a bunch of troops from all over Canada that ended up there. We got on the boat, headed overseas that's the time the U-boat submarines were so bad in the Atlantic, so when we started across we had to swing up north pretty near to Icelandic and in through there. Then we would swing back and forth, every three minutes we would change direction. They figured that the subs couldn't surface and fire in three minutes, so changing direction would help to keep the submarines from zeroing in on the troop ships. Then we swung clear down pretty near down to the equator before we swung up north again to Scotland. We were 28 days on that damned old tub. We ended up in Scotland and then we went down by convoy to Cove. Well, that's just out a ways from London. We were stationed there for quite a while. We were about the only completely equipped troops in England at that time. The British had just got wiped out at Dunkirk when they went over across to France. Every boat that could stay on top of the water was across the Channel evacuating, but they lost all their equipment and were taken prisoner of war, so they didn't have much of anything there for a while. We were there in England during part of the blitz when they were bombing London. We were digging people out of the rubble, defusing bombs and that sort of thing. After we finished up and got re-equipped in England, we headed for the Sicilian campaign. We travelled down through the Straits of Gibraltar. We were used to black-out laws being enforced in England and Spain was a neutral so the lights on shore when we went by sure were a beautiful sight to see. As we got closer to Africa and our convoy got torpedoed so we ended up in Africa. We had to stay there for about 2 to 3 months getting reequipped. We were stationed out of the desert in the sand with scorpions and tarantulas. They used to get into our sleeping bags and boots. In the morning we would have to shake out our boots really good and you never knew what you would find in them. It was hot, it was 130° and that sand was just cooking’. One thing that I remember with pleasure about Africa was the grape season. We happened to be there at the right time and there were grapes in some fields nearby. We hadn't had fruit of any kind for all of the time we were in England, they don’t grow fruit there and couldn't import any. Any ship that was coming in was loaded with equipment. So we sure enjoyed the grapes. We ended up in Africa with all of our winter equipment, our overcoats and everything like that. As you might imagine we didn't feel like packing great big overcoats around in 130 degree weather, so we used to swap them with Arabs for anything that they wore. And, you would see them wearing these big overcoats in that heat. They said that anything that would keep the cold out would also keep out the heat. I guess they had something going for them. Anyway, they used to travel in tribes, they were nomads, and you would see a group of them passing by, everything they owned they took with them. They would carry mattresses, bedsprings and everything on top of their heads. Well, we finally got our equipment all lined up went to Sicily for the rest of the campaign. We were camped in Sicily one time when a bunch of recruits came in. They were greenhorns and they didn't know how to handle themselves in that situation very well. We got bombed that night and we couldn't figure why that happened all of a sudden because we thought we were pretty well hidden. The next morning we woke up and looked around. It turned out that those recruits had come in and set up their tents without camouflaging them. They were made out of white canvas. From the air we must have stood out like a bunch of snowballs. They had a real good place to zero in on. I remember Mount Etna was a dormant volcanic mountain in Sicily. Our bombers coming back from a mission would have to get rid of their bombs because they couldn't land with them, so they would drop them into the volcanic crater up on top of Mount Etna. This eventually caused the volcano to erupt and as far as I know it is still active to this day. Well, we got all lined up and headed across the channel. My platoon was in one of the troop assault barges. I had a bulldozer and a bunch of mining equipment. Our job was to get in and pick up the mines and bulldoze the bombs so that the tanks could get in to support the infantry. The Germans were starting to move out about that time. We got a lot of artillery fire but the small arms fire wasn't too bad on the beach. We were crossing the Straits of Messina going into Regiocallaabrea on the ‘toe’ of Italy and it was in the middle of the night but it was as bright as day because of the artillery shells going back and forth across the channel. It looked like the Fourth of July only much bigger. Once we got ashore and got organized, we started chasing the Germans across Italy. The winters were terrible in that country. It rained all winter, much the same as our West Coast weather, but we had no place to shelter. We had to live in pup tents and slit trenches. The slick trenches would fill with water. We would lay alongside of them but if they were shelling and it got too rough we’d dive into the water and just keep our noses clear. We were wet and soggy all winter long because we had no place to get dried out. Once winter started we couldn't move. We tried to keep going, but the vehicles would bog down and we would be in mud right up to the top of our wheels. So we had to give up and dig in for the winter. What ended up happening was that we were stuck on one side of the river and the Germans were stuck on the other side. We just stayed there and agitated each other all winter by sending out patrols and that sort of thing. From there we went to Naples. Naples wasn't too badly destroyed. It had been bombed and shelled but there was part of it left. They had kind of passed it by. There were even a few civilians left in the town. Then we headed north again towards Rome. Rome was a beautiful city. The Germans and the allies had made a pact that Rome would be spared if possible. Some of it did get destroyed, but most of it, the art treasures and the Vatican City were still there. I saw the Sistine Chapel that was painted by Michelangelo. It is three-dimensional and almost unbelievable, something you have to see for yourself. So, we saw a lot of Rome and like I said it was very beautiful. We carried on up through Italy, the farthest point was Florence. That is where we saw the leaning Tower of Pisa. The southern part of Italy is nearly all mountains and that made it hard fighting in through there. The bombs blew the sides off mountains and that created other difficulties. But the city of Florence and the surrounding area were quite level. The area was mostly farmland and it was quite nice. So, that was as far north as we went. The first Canadian division, which was the one I was in, we had been attacked to the British Eighth Army until now, was loaded on to a tank and troop carrier, taken across to France and rejoined with the rest of the Canadian Army. We traveled through France, Belgium and Holland, in fact we were the first ones in Holland, and we liberated them. That was quite a thing to see. The people were so excited. I always liked Holland; I was treated very well there.

      Next we went further north to one of the big crossings that the Canadian Army did. We built the bridges across the River Dzella. This crossing became quite famous as the longest floating bridge that was built during the war. A lot of Holland was underwater at that time. The Germans blew all the dykes and half of the country flooded. It was now the end of the war. Germany had been defeated. I joined the Army of Occupation and we went into Germany to blow up fortifications and manage the prisoner of war camps, and displaced person camps. We were also trying to get the country back into a self-supporting situation. I did this for one year, about six months in Holland and six months in Germany. While I was in Holland, in the city of Amsterdam, I managed a Canadian Army hockey team. But, finally we returned to England to get ready to come home. We had thought we would be coming straight home but there were too many troops and other things that were also being shipped that we ended up staying in England longer than we would have liked to. Well, the war was over, and everyone wanted to get home. This resulted in a massive riot in Aldershot. The Canadian Army went on a rampage. They must've busted every window in the town. It was a terrible thing to do, but that's what happened, and it didn't help anything. It actually slowed things down because even more planes were occupied shipping glass from Canada and the States to put the town back together again. The protest actually slowed things down by about three months. Finally I got home, and, I don't know, I felt kind of lost. I had been six years overseas, and I was a kid when I had left. There wasn't much work to be had, but I finally found work plastering. It was the first work I could get hold of. I worked for $.80 an hour. We soon realized we couldn't make anything working for someone else so we started up our own outfit and headed up to Westlock to do our own contracting. Just before we went to Westlock I met Faye. She was working behind the food counter at Eaton’s. We got married, and Donna was born. She was with us, the scrubby little fart, when we moved to Westlock.. She slept in a dresser drawer in a hotel the first night there. We did a lot of contracting in that area. We went all over the country, clear up to Peace River and Cold Lake. We did the first hundred houses in Cold Lake. We were there when they put in that big airport. We also worked on the Vegreville Hospital, the Barrhead Hospital, the Westlock Hospital, and all the schools throughout the country. We did an awful lot of commercial work. We used to put a fish trap in the Pembina River to get our fish supply for our smokehouse. I think we got about 15 different types of fish. We used a net, about the size of a 45 gallon barrel and sometimes that thing would be half full of assorted fish: Rocky Mountain Whitefish, Sturgeon, Suckers, Jack Fish, Pickerel, Trout, every damn thing. We sure had a good variety. About that time we all decided to get our pilots licenses. We figured it would be a lot handier getting around to the jobs and we could get home a little oftener. So we bought a little Aronka Chief, some of the crew would drive the trucks and we would fly in. Once in a while we could sneak home in the evenings. Otherwise it would be too far to drive and we couldn't get home. I bought a farm out of Barrhead, but the cutworms got into the first year's crop and destroyed a lot of it. I didn't seem to care too much for farming anyway and so we sold the farm. After that Faye and I bought two service stations one at Clyde and the other in Lesser Slave Lake, so the three of us moved (Donna had just arrived by this time). They were both 24-hour truck stops and the only way north to Alaska so the trucks used to go that way and they would be lined up for half a mile down the road. We had the service station for about five years. It got a little much living right there and having people waking you up in the middle of the night even if you weren't on duty. It got to be a little bit more than we could handle so we decide to sell both stations and move on. We moved back to Westlock again for about a year and I went back to plastering again. While there we were checking for something closer to the West Coast. We had found something we thought we would like in the paper and decide to have a look, it was a resort motel in the town of Moyie, B.C., we decided to buy. By this time Sandra, Darlene and Janice were born. Janny was about two years old when we moved to Moyie, it turned out to be a really good place we didn't make a fortune at it but we made a living and it was a wonderful place to raise a family, everybody was happy there. The girls all lived at the lake in the summertime. They were out there canoeing or swimming or something. Donna, she was a great one, every spring before the ice wasn't barely melted she would conveniently have an accident and fall in the water. She was supposed to wait for the water to warm up but never quite made it. When the girls used to go out in their canoe, I used to say, "Now if the wind comes up don’t try to fight the waves just kind of keep your canoe under control and stay on whichever shore it lands and I will come after you with the powerboat. This kind of got to be a racket, if it there was slightest bit of breeze they would end up on the farthest shore possible, waving a shirt for me to come rescue them, after about the third or fourth time I had to change the rules. Moyie was a great place for wild game, you used to be able to go out and shoot elk, deer, moose, Partridge or Big Blue grouse. After a day on the mountain you could add the meat in the freezer and keep it full pretty much all the time. We lived in Moyie for about four or five years, I guess that was about as long as we had stayed anyplace, so I guess it was time for a move. I had gotten into the mining business and had started a few companies, Columbia River Mines, Norco Resources and Red Metal Mine and a few others I got involved in, so we moved to North Vancouver where we bought a house. It was a real nice place, it overlooked Burrard Inlet, we could watch the horse races across the inlet.

      I got involved in the stock market and running mines I made a good living at this for about seven years or so, until the NDP government decided to start assaying ore in the ground, which made the mining business drop right off. It wasn't a very good situation for a while and I figured it was time to look for something else in the way of a business. It was on a drive one day that we came to Chilliwack and found the Stardust Motel.

      I bought this Motel and lived there with Faye, Janice and Darlene; Sandy had stayed behind in North Vancouver. At the same time I had purchased a marina in Sydney on Vancouver Island and was also in partnership with Faye’s brother Lyle in a Café and nightclub at Gibson Landing. After a while there were just not enough hours in the day to properly look after all the investments. About that time Faye became sick, and I want to spend more time at home so we sold the Motel and moved to Sardis. Then I decided that sitting around was just not enough or the most interesting thing to do, so I started figuring out different jobs. I started to buying older houses that you could get quite cheap and were in need of repair and fixing them up to resell them again. It turned out to be something to do and made a buck at the same time.

      I went to work at Thousand Trail at Cultus Lake for a couple of years. That was quite entertaining; I met a lot of people there, from all over the world. I've been living in the same place in Sardis for about 18 years now, this is the longest time I ever stayed in one place in my whole life I was always on the move.

      I bought some property in 100 Mile House, now it's just raw land, treed, lots of lakes in the area, beautiful country. I am thinking of building a place up there and moving, but I haven't quite made up my mind yet as I'm going to sell this place and move up there permanently or just sort of rotate between the two.

      That seems like an awful lot of investment to be tied up in one place to live. To begin with I am putting a 24 foot trailer on the property in 100 Mile and use it for summers or until sometime as we can decide what to do. It will really be a nice place to spend some of the summer, fishing, wandering around the bush and getting to know the area little better before I make any serious decisions.

      Well due to health reasons and to distance we didn't get up to 100 Mile House as often as what we had figured on. And, things had changed considerably up there. I didn't get around to doing any of the building that I had intended to do. So, I let the property go to the girls. That doesn't mean that we won't get up there. Just last summer I didn't feel like camping. A few years ago we had all the waterfront on the south side of Secret Cove. A couple of parcels there of 18 acres each. We had to put roads in and subdivide the lots which are sold now. There is still a Westcan Rd. and a McKenzie Rd. up there on the Sunshine Coast, the two left over from where we were subdividing. It was long ago and that area is all built up now. Secret Cove is just off the main highway and yet it is far enough in behind the road to make it pretty private. When we moved to Moyie there was no TV reception of any kind there. We had brought a big, new TV down from Westlock with us and it was sitting in a corner of the living room with a blank face there for a couple of years. Richard Stanton and I decided to see if we couldn't figure out some way to get TV into the town. We went up on top of the hill with an antenna and we tramped all over the top of that friggin’ mountain there for two weeks trying to find the best location where we could get the best signal. We carried a TV set around and an antenna and we would try setting it up in different spots. We finally located a spot where the signal was pretty good but we were about 5 miles from town up a real stiff mountain. But, that was the only place we could get reception so we decided to build a line down the mountain. In some places we use trees and where there weren't any trees we put poles in. We ran the line all the way down the mountain and then all through the town. We put TV into the whole town there. It was pretty good actually. I think we got about three or four channels which was better than nothing, not too bad really. The line was there for a long time even after we left. But the last time I was through there I looked around and they had TV cabled into the town from the big companies. So, our line was starting to deteriorate. The posts were rotting off but there was still a bunch of telephones on the line. We had installed a phone every so far up the mountain. If there was something wrong with the line we would go up the line to where there was a telephone and phone back and that way we could check the line and tell where it was broken without going all way up to the top and back. In the winter there would get to be about 20 feet of snow and it was a real shamoozal trying to keep that line open. The snow in that part of the country is really heavy. In the winter time we had to travel up and down the mountain with snow shoes. If you stepped off the snowshoes you were right up to your shoulders in snow. We finally moved to Vancouver and Richard looked after the line for a while. I think after that it sort of went downhill until the big companies put in cable.

      All the time I was Overseas I never did run into my brother Tom. We just seem to pass by each other. He came overseas quite a bit after I did. But, even when I left Italy and got into Europe were Tom was I never did seem to run into him. The closest I ever got was Slim and I met one time in England there and we went looking for Tom. We went to his outfit where he was and he was on leave too. We were just behind him for two weeks and we never did catch up until after the war was over. I guess it's about time I inserted a little comedy here. And one thing I always considered was comical anyway was some thing that happened when we were up on the Homestead in this old log shack that Eva and Jack had. The wind blew through the house in the winter and the snow blew through the cracks -- it was quite an old place. We used to sit around there in the winter and there used to be a lot of mice come in for shelter and Jack, he would get out the rifle and by the light of the cook stove fire, (he would leave the stove door open), he would sit in the semi-dark shooting mice. It didn't do the roof much good and we had a few more leaks that we really needed.

      As we were advancing into Italy one time we came to a river crossing where the bridge had been blown up. The Germans had just blown up the bridge and then went back a few hundred yards and set up machine-gun posts on the other side of the river. We couldn't get across without tank support and the tanks couldn't get across without a bridge. So, we had the honor of getting them across somehow. We finally swept (cleaned) the mines in the dark to get up to the bridge where the opening gap was and then we stood there in the pitch black of night and somehow manage to get the bridge across. We always called that the Silent Bridge afterwards, because we got up there, built that bridge and got out of there without getting fired on. They didn't even hear us. There was the odd artillery fire coming over because they had the gap pinpointed, but the machine guns on the other side never did open up on us. When we were coming up through Italy we camped on the Sango River one time. It was in the winter. The Germans were camped on one side of the river and we were on the other side and we used to agitate each other. Back and forth all winter long. It was a fairly permanent camp. We built outside biffys there. The Germans used to shell us every hour or so and you could hear the stuff coming. Well this one time a guy was sitting in the can when he heard the artillery and mortar fire coming and he came roaring out of there with his pants down heading for the slip trenches. He just got into the trench when the friggin’ shell hit the toilet and it just disintegrated. From then on we called that ‘Shit House Crossing’. On the road north again -- that's in Italy -- just before we go into Ortona we had this river crossing. There are five bridges there, in one area of a couple of miles, which we had to put in before we could get into Ortona. Ortona was high ground and the Germans were up on top there. They could see everything that we were doing down below so they used to shell the shit out of us pretty regular. And so we were in a hurry to get across, and get the tanks across, and get mobile and get back up there so we could get a little bit of shelter in behind the hill. Anyway this one bridge went across and it was light. You could put different classes of bridges across and this was one bridge we put up to begin with to get the infantry across and then light armored vehicles, that sort of thing. We reinforced it a little bit so we could get the odd tank across. Well we told the tank guys to cross it one tank at a time and not more than one because the bridge wasn't that strong. Well, one tank started across and then the Germans started shelling and another tank came roaring behind. I guess he wanted to get out of the shell fire as quickly as possible. The two tanks got into the middle of the friggin’ bridge and it collapsed. Not only did the two tanks go down but they totaled the bridge. So, we had to bulldoze the wreckage out of there and start over again. We finally got the bridges all built and got up to Ortona and into the flat country up on top. We were relieved for a week to go back and get a bit of a rest. We went back to Salarno to the rest camp there. All the roads in Italy were mined right to the fields so that stopped traffic and vehicles, everything from getting through. The Germans as they retreated put mines all over in strategic spots. It was the Engineer’s job to clear the mines so we could get the infantry and tanks and everything through. Usually, that was a night job, we would sneak in ahead and pick up the mines during the night. In lots of places we would just get the roads open. The one’s along the side of the road we would get rid of those as we got time, on each side of the road. We were pretty sneaky there, we could uncover them real quietly and slowly and carefully and unscrew the detonator in the top so they wouldn't explode when you picked it up. So they got wise to that and they’d bury another mine and tie them together so that when you lifted the top one up the bottom one would explode. We lost a lot of people there before we got used to that trick. We picked up thousands of them along the road and across the field and that sort of thing. We finally got where we could get at it -- open fields -- and we made a rotor on the front of a tank with chains on it that turned around and pounded the ground way out in front of it. We would drive that where it was feasible and it would explode the mines. It saved some but any place where the mines were in Bush or anything like that -- river crossings we still had to pick them by hand.

      We were in the mining business and we decided we would need a helicopter. We had been on foot you know, wandering around through the bush, up mountains and every other thing and we decided if we got the chopper we could do magnetometer surveys for other mining companies and cover a lot of our expenses that way. So, we did that, we traveled all over the place. We had a station for a year up in Stewart flying them glaciers there. We used to go up on top of the glaciers and drop crews off and then they'd walk around and sample any outcroppings up there. There was a bear up on top of that damned thing, polar bear. We went up there one time Racine and me in a chopper and we flew right down close to the bear. He stood right up on his feet and was walking toward the chopper. He was just out of reach of the blades. We got to hell out of there. We didn't think it would be a very good idea if he would take a swipe at us there. We crashed a helicopter on top of that glacier one time. There was a kind of a makeshift log affair sticking out of one side of the cliff to land on. The wind caught the helicopter just as it touched down and blew it over the cliff. The pilot broke his leg and we had to pack him down off that mountain on a stretcher. It took nearly a day to get him out of there. Another time we had the chopper stationed in Vancouver. One time Manual Racine and I took off. We got about 300 feet into the air and the motor quit and down it came. We landed in a machine yard on top of a cat, and the chopper just tore itself all to hell. There was nothing that you couldn't carry when it was finished. There were three of us in it and we were very lucky that we walked away from it that time. So, about that time we decided we didn't need any more helicopters. We decide to get rid of it and get what we could out of the insurance and forget about it. It was real handy though for a long time because we used to get into some inaccessible spots up on top of the mountains. A person couldn't really walk up there; you couldn't carry enough grab to get up there and back. So, we found some pretty interesting spots that way.

      When we were mining we went all over the country looking for the areas with mineralized outcroppings so we could check them out to see if there was an ore body beneath the ground or not. One place we went to see one time that we thought was a real high-grade copper body was on an island up by Lund. That's up on the north side of Powell River. We took a boat up on a trailer, parked the car and went in by boat. There was some high-grade copper there but it turned out to be mostly surface. It didn't go down deep enough to put a road in and so was too hard to get out. Anyway there was this old guy up there on that island. He'd been up there for years prospecting. He kind of hibernated there and we got to know him when we were traveling in and out. It was a fairly good-sized island and he took us to some interesting spots. But, there was this one part of the island where there was a water-straight between the island we were on and another one where he would not take us. There was one narrow spot in this straight about twice as wide as a road and cliffs down off the island into this deep water. This old guy would never go to that part of the island at all. He wouldn't show us anything up in that area. We finally went up there and hiked it ourselves. We could never find out why he wouldn't go up there until one time he came into telling us. He said there were monsters up there. He said at nights he could hear them sliding off the cliffs into the channel. He wouldn't go near it, he was scared. So, we went and looked round up there and we saw some places on the bank were something had been sliding down there. It was too big for otters, it could have been deer I guess but I never heard of deer sliding down the banks like that. I really don't know what it was. We never did find out for sure but the old guy was sure it was monsters.

      When we were prospecting around Greenwood we ran into an old fellow there too. He must have been close to 80 years old -- an old doukabour guy. He had some claims up on the mountain there, some gold claims, high-grade. We went up there and looked them over. We thought that we could get them off him at a reasonable price, some kind of down payment and then a part of the money that came out on them when they went into production, something where it would be a fair deal to both of us. We went to see this guy and the first two or three times we went to see him he wasn’t there and we couldn't figure out what was the score. Well, we cornered him one day and he said that no, he had decided not to sell. He was a poor old guy, living in a shack, just barely making it off of a pension, and I think very little money. We couldn't understand why he wouldn't sell. We kept going back figuring that maybe he got some reason that he might eventually tell. Well finally he did. He said "well, it’s this way. Right now I have all those gold claims up there that have never been checked out. We don't know how deep that ore goes into the ground or anything. But, in my own mind I’m a very rich man. And, if you guys got up there and drill and that ore body don't go very deep into the ground and it turns out that it isn't worth anything then I'm gonna die a poor man. The way it is now I'll be a rich man when I die". So, we just let it go at that. There wasn't much to say to a guy like that.

      When I was in Italy I got a two-week leave in England to rest. During that time we traveled around and looked at everything we could with a chance to go to Buckingham Palace. It was kind of a big old barn of an affair. It didn't really impress me that much. It was big rooms and lots of hallways and the queen she had little place set in one corner of it that was fixed up. It was nice but we didn't get to see too much of that, just a quick walk-through. The rest had guards and the offices and everything like that in it. It was a big thing, housed a lot of people, the guards at the gate, the posting guards and a bunch of the famous regiments. The guards on duty used to stand there like mannequins and never even blinked. It was worth seeing all right.

      Another time we were in Italy we got up to Rome and we had a chance to go into the Vatican. The Vatican is governed separately and is just like another country with the Pope as its leader. It has its own regulations and is separate from the rest of Italy. The guards at the gate are dressed up with spears and golden helmets, pretty impressive. Inside the Vatican, the Cardinals and officials are everywhere. Vatican City is where the Catholic Church trains all their representatives and then they go out and update everyone on what's going on in the Vatican. They have a big world to govern out of that place; the Pope has authority all over the world. We had a private audience with him for half an hour or so. He spoke to us, he could speak a little bit of English, enough to make us understood what he was talking about. It was quite a deal. There was a balcony there, overlooking the square and the Pope addresses the crowds from there. Also in that square is the Sistine Chapel. It is a very beautiful old building painted inside in three dimensions by Michelangelo. It was really wonderful to see.

      During the first part of the war we were in England. The forces were not very well equipped yet. They had a few planes -- fighter planes -- but they didn't amount to much. They were short range; they'd couldn't go very far They would make it about halfway across the English Channel. The Germans used to come over -- they had long-range fighters at that time -- and bomb London. They came over at night, they were well equipped for this. They were much more advanced technologically than the Allies were at the time. These little fighter planes that the British had would go up in the dark and they couldn't see anything. They used to drink carrot juice until they turn yellow. It was supposed to be good for eyesight. You always tell a pilot because he was so yellow. They flew over the channel in the dark to meet the German planes coming in and stop them. They got a lot of them stopped, but a lot of them got through and they bombed the hell out of London. They evacuated all the kids out to the country in the southern part of England. They housed them on farms in and effort to get them away from the bombing. Those fighter planes didn't have hardly any instruments on them at that time. They were just like the little private planes like they have now. The pilots just flew by the seat of their pants. When they got Canadian bombers and Canadian and American planes over there they were able to control the area a little better. There weren't too many Germans that got through after that. Also they got the long-range bombers that they used to bomb Germany. Towards the end of the war you would see them going over, 2000 planes in the air. The sky would be just black with planes heading across the channel to Europe. A little while later you would see them limping back, some of them partly on fire or smoking, some of them ditched in the channel. Most of them got back but they always lost some. On a flight like that 100 aircraft would get shot down over Europe.
    Person ID I02794  McKenzie Genealogy
    Last Modified 22 Apr 2019 

    Father Clarence Anthony McKenzie,   b. 18 Nov 1878, Granville, Tippicanoe County, Indiana Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 Jan 1973, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 94 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Grace Mae Graham,   b. 19 Jul 1888, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 Sep 1930, Bon Accord, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 42 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 5 Mar 1907  Blaine, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F01552  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Faye Bernice Phyllis Schwabe,   b. 16 Mar 1926, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Jul 1994, Chilliwack, British Columbia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 68 years) 
    Married 26 Sep 1947  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Donna Maureen McKenzie,   b. Private  [private]
     2. Dianne Marguerite McKenzie,   b. 13 Aug 1949, Westlock, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Oct 1949, Westlock, Alberta, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 0 years)  [natural]
     3. Sandra Lynn McKenzie,   b. Private  [private]
     4. Darlene Heather McKenzie,   b. Private  [private]
     5. Janice Hope McKenzie,   b. Private  [private]
    Last Modified 22 Apr 2019 
    Family ID F01593  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Photo of Oklahoma - Alberta, Canada McKenzies Circa 1900, 1910 and 1950
    Photo of Oklahoma - Alberta, Canada McKenzies Circa 1900, 1910 and 1950
    Photo of Roy Raymond McKenzie (b. 1922) and Harold James McKenzie (b. 1920)
    Photo of Roy Raymond McKenzie (b. 1922) and Harold James McKenzie (b. 1920)
    Circa 1942 - Sons of Clarence Anthony McKenzie and Grace May Graham
    Photo of Thomas Arthur McKenzie (b. 1925 ) and Harold James McKenzie (b. 1920)
    Photo of Thomas Arthur McKenzie (b. 1925 ) and Harold James McKenzie (b. 1920)
    Photo of Harold J. McKenzie Brick
    Photo of Harold J. McKenzie Brick
    Located at Engineer's Memorial, Chilliwack, British Columbia. The phrase "Luceo Non Oro" is the Mackenzie clan motto, which literally means "I shine, not burn". Apparently the saying came from blacksmithing or smithing in general, where one had to make sure that the metal you were working with didn't get burned, but shone in the heat. Information from James' Rambling Blog located at http://blog.jambe.co.nz/2006/12/luceo-non-uro.html

    Obituary of Harold James McKenzie (b. 1920)
    Obituary of Harold James McKenzie (b. 1920)
    Harold James McKenzie was a son of Clarence Anthony McKenzie (b. 1878), who migrated to western Canada from Oklahoma.
    Alberta-Northwest Territories Command, Military Service Recognition Book, Volume II, 2010
    Alberta-Northwest Territories Command, Military Service Recognition Book, Volume II, 2010

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