Saturday, 25 October 2008

Army stint - A Richmond ditich - fate - true

This is my first writing since my skating incident - and I reckon maybe the beginning of a new perspective on life - don't want to get to maudlin but it seems to make one (me) look a little more to the past. I have written several little stories - as most of you know - I am not going to bore you with all forty. Just one.

I was pleasantly surprised with the success of finding the article in the Peace Arch News re the overturned boat. So I decided to go into Richmond the other day to see if there was anything in the Richmond Review about the following rather stupid incident I dropped myself into (literally) about forty five years ago.

I wrote the story about eight or nine years ago. I wasn't sure just which year it happened- 1961-62-63 or 64. I couldn't find anything in the first three years (other than in the monthly summary of the fire dept) " three cars in ditch this month - one survivor." Have decided to have one last go next week at 1964.

Nov 2nd 2008 - did go to the library in Richmond again did not find anything for 1964.

However I remember that we had a very large snowfall in March of the year this took place - so I found this on the Internet. I remember the snow very well as I was ordered by the corporal (during my six week stint in the Canadian Army) to go out and shovel off the driveway (due to some small incident) - since I had on my soldier suit and a city snow grader was passing I commandeered it and had the driver clear the driveway and parking lot - took about ten minutes - Corporal was madder at me than before, when I came in and reported mission accomplished.

From - the Canadian trivia weather page

March 1st 1962 An unexpected snowstorm in Vancouver produced 35.6cm snow, a 2 day snowfall record here. Click here to see what the weather's doing there now. 5

As I'm sure you now realize I have become quite determined to see if there was anything reported about my midnight swim in Richmond BC.
I will go back and look at the March issues of The Richmond Review.

Nov. 5th 2008 Beth and I went into the library in Richmond again - could fine nothing
about my ditch thing - just some pictures of the snowfall in 1962.


I had just got off afternoon shift at midnight from the Air Traffic Control Centre on Sea Island in Richmond BC. It was early spring, and the temperature was just above the freezing level. A light drizzle had just begun to fall. As I was about to turn on to the cut- off leading to the freeway, I suddenly got this great idea; I would pick up Chinese food and surprise Beth.

I quickly turned on to number 3 road, and drove down to the Bamboo Grove restaurant, across from the City hall. I had finished ordering and started to drink the free coffee they gave you while you were waiting for the take-out food. Suddenly the door slammed open and a lady screamed that a car had just gone in the ditch at the dead end corner of Granville and Number Three Road.

In most cities in the world, this may not have sounded like such a big deal. Richmond in the 1960s had real ditches. On #3 road they were about 20ft wide, and at least 10ft deep. Not only were they wide and deep, but they were used as an overflow drain from the septic systems In effect, they were part of a weird sewer system.

As we hurried out of the restaurant, I noticed the drizzle had turned to freezing rain. The road was covered with a thin layer of ice, and we could hardly stand up as we ran. For some reason I was wearing my good suit, (I guess it was because it was my first day back as a Controller, after several weeks in the Canadian army). I was getting wet and cold as we arrived at the spot where the lady said the car had gone into the ditch. There were four of five of us and no one could see any sign of a car.
“There’s no car here, you must have been mistaken.” One of the men said.
“Well I could swear I saw a car go in here, but I guess you’re right.” Said the lady. “It was going straight west on Granville, it didn’t appear to turn, it’s tail lights just disappeared.”
The rest went back to the Restaurant, but I stayed for a few minutes to have another look.

Why I went back I really cannot say - fate??

Peering into the black frigid water, I suddenly noticed a faint red glow beneath the surface. I realized the woman was right, and this was the taillight of some unfortunate soul's car. It was then that I heard it; a sort of gurgling followed by a whistling sound, regularly about every six seconds. I definitely thought it was somebody having a terrible time breathing. It was obvious that if somebody was in the car, they wouldn't last long unless we got them out quickly. There was a problem, the sides of the ditch were vertical and slimy mud, getting into the ditch would be easy. Getting out, with, or without, an injured person, would be impossible.

So using my smarts I jumped into the water.

This was during the Diefenbaker Era in 1959/60-62 I believe. I was only about 25 years old, a SCUBA diver, hockey player, and had just finished a stint with the New West Regiment in their civil defense brigade. What I’m trying to say is this; I was in very good shape. The idea of going into the ditch really didn't seem like such a big deal. When I hit the water, I instantly went completely under. I don't know why, but this caught me by surprise. I surfaced and two things hit me simultaneously, number one it was very cold, and number two, there was absolutely nothing to grab on to, or stand on. There I was, treading water, in my best suit, in this pitch-black smelly ditch. It appeared that everyone else had left, in any event I couldn't hear or see anyone from my rather limited perspective. I started to slosh around. Suddenly, I stepped on what I believed to be a wheel of a car. I deduced this since it turned, and I fell off. Using my great intellect, I instantly realized if this was a wheel, the car must be upside down. It then struck me; the strange whistling sound must be someone breathing against the floorboards, at least that was the instant picture in my Mind.

I decided to dive under the water and see if I could find the door. On my first try the shock of the dirty frigid water in my eyes and ears, (yes I remember I kept my eyes open for some unknown reason) affected me so much that I only stayed down a few seconds. On my second try I got much deeper and found the door handle. Unfortunately by the time I found the handle, I was running out of air. After a quick try at opening it my lungs were burning. I just had to take a breath. I started to the surface.
It was then I realized that my coat was caught on something. I couldn't’t surface. Fighting panic, I struggled for a few moments to get loose.

I was not happy.

Suddenly I was free. I popped to the surface just as my lungs were about to burst.

After taking several deep breaths I dived down again, this time, I got right to the door. Bracing my foot I pulled with all my might, the door burst open and the car filled totally with water. At the same instant I felt a person and grabbed him (it was a him) and attempted to pull him into the water with all my strength. I knew there would only be one chance, because I had ruined his small pocket of air when I opened the door. If I didn't get him out now, I would have to surface and come back down. In the mean time he would have taken in water and be unconscious (providing of course I could find him). I was rapidly running out of air and pulling him frantically. He appeared to be stuck behind the steering wheel.

Somehow, to this day I don’t know how, I got him out and managed to get to the surface with this madly struggling man. When we surfaced of course there was nothing to hold on to and this elderly gentleman could not swim. He was crying, praising God and thanking me all at the same time. Unfortunately, it appeared he was also trying to drown the both of us; and he was doing a good job of it.

At about this moment, the Richmond Fire Dept. arrived. They had on life jackets, and were trying to reach us but they couldn't reach far enough into the ditch. I was rapidly going numb from the cold. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold on to the elderly gentleman much longer. Since I was breathing a mixture of about 50% air, and dirty water, I wasn't going to last long either.

They yelled at me to hang on. They were going to get ladders or something. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, but I totally lost my cool and swore at them (between gasps for air) and called them cowards and other appropriate names. They still didn’t get into the water, even in their life jackets. So, I called them a few more nasty names and finally two of them jumped in to the water. They helped us keep afloat until those on the shore somehow dragged us out.

As they were taking the man to the hospital he asked me my name and where I worked; I do not remember if I gave him my name, but for some strange reason I told him I was in The New West Regiment. Since I had just finished a six week stint in the army (which is a story unto itself) the day before. I guess it just popped into my head.

Anyway, I forgot about my Chinese food. I went straight to my car and drove home. I was so cold I could hardly hold onto the steering wheel, and I smelt like the monster from the lost lagoon. When I got in, I went straight to the bathroom, and into a hot shower, wearing all my clothes, including my shoes.

My wife thought I had lost my mind.

Written by Larry W. Bennett

Friday, 24 October 2008

Reality is Setting In!!

I have not had a lot of energy lately, it has started to bother me - particularily since I have been convinced my energy levels would be rising rapidly after my last radiation treatment, which was two months ago. I have been trying riding my bike, started out right after radiation ended - did pretty well - even made it all the way up the hill from Zellers without getting off. But since then it seems my endurance and just general energy level has continued to decline.

The problem with my feet and knees (peripheral Nuropathy and Pseudo Gout) has just slowly gotten worse, which I have tried to ignore - will little success. My walking gate (due to the numb feet) is looking much like a old man shuffling along with a cane or walker. Now I am getting a little older, but I am NOT an old man!

I have been thinking of going Ice Skating since the motion is totally different from walking - plus I have been skating and playing hockey all my life. So it seemed logical to get out of the house - get some fresh air - and do something I was really good at.

Looked up the local rinks and found the North Surrey rink had public skating today from 11:30 AM till 1:00PM - decided to go. Got my skates and blue touqe and started off for a fun little skate at the rink I had played hundreds of games in the past.

I arrived about 12:15 - lots of time left - I figured a half hour or so would be enough for my first time out in about four years.
The first thing I noticed was there were virtually no Adults skating - a few out with their small children, most with the little metal things the small ones use to get started. I realized I had probably read the time wrong and this was tots and moms time.

Anyway it was general skating so I paid and sat down to put my skates on. Just as I sat down this cute little guy (about 18 months old) came over and lay down on his tummy on the bench beside me to watch me put on my skates.
"Do you ski?" He said to me, or something similar (he was Chinese)
"Yes I ski - do you?" I said.
"Do you ski?"
"Yes do you?"
"Do you ski?"
You get the idea - this went on for the entire skate putting on time.

Speaking of skate putting on time - it was not going too well at all. After getting the shots that turned me into a bit of a female my tummy seemed to grow about three inches - just enough it seemed to make reaching over to lace up my skates next to impossible - not quite impossible but close. By the time I had put one skate on I was all tuckered out.
My little friend was not.

By the time had both skates on I was breathing pretty hard.

As I walked to the ice entrance I noticed my skates did not feel right - not sure what was wrong but it did make me a little cautious when I got to the gate. Normally I would just jump out onto the ice and away I would go.
I held on to the gate and put one skate onto the Ice, so far so good, but as soon as I got the other foot on the ice I started to fall - I couldnt believe what was happening - skating had always been as natural to me as walking (of course walking isnt so natural anymore) and I just couldnt comprehend what was wrong. I do believe there was a bit of rust on the bottom of my skates, as the gliding slowly got better. I would try to go forward (holding onto the boards) but the skates would grab and let go and grab again - each time making me almost fall.
After about two minutes of this I decided to pack it in. When I got to the gate there were a few little people blocking it - I was afraid I might fall and injure one of them so I went back along the boards and tried to see if I could improve - I think the rust was wearing off a bit because I did a little better.
About this time a little girl (about five or six years old) came over to offer me her little red mittened hand. I almost cried. She was so concerned and sweet.

In any event I did stay another twenty minutes or so, and I did improve a little - still could hardly turn or stop, but I did get away from the boards.

For a guy that just a few years ago was a hard skating-hard hitting-stop on a dime kind of player, this was more than unexpected/shocking/embarasing, it was mind numbing.

As I toiled getting my skates off, this little voice in the deep recesses of my mind was saying - this is the end of life as you have known it - the beginning of a completely diferent life - how are you going to handle it?

We will see.

love to all

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Just one more of my stupid moments

Overturned boat - Ocean Park

I am writing this June 2nd 2008 – it has been sitting in the back of my brain for twenty years or so, I guess I should let it out.

It was Boxing Day 1987; I was relaxing after a large lunch of Turkey sandwiches from the leftover Christmas meal. Sandra decided we (Cameron, her four year old and me) should go for a walk along the beach at Crescent Beach in Surrey.

It wasn’t really a good day for walking, the wind was blowing at about twenty knots it was about 6C and there was a light rain. However we drove out and parked at the end of Sullivan St. close to the walk along the sea front (there was very little traffic).

We started walking along with the wind at our backs, stopping often to throw rocks or look at dead things that had come in with the tide. Cameron (or maybe it was me) whined from time to time about the cold and rain. In any event we continued on toward Blacky’s Spit. As we approached the small dock at the end of Wickson Rd. I was just about to announce I had had enough of this fresh air stuff when we heard a woman shouting. She was yelling frantically to us against the wind and at first I had no idea what the problem was, but the three of us started to run toward her.
As we got closer I noticed an overturned boat about a hundred yards off shore and then heard the anguished cries of a father.

“Help, help, my son is trapped under the boat, help, help.”

It was then I saw a mans head around the far side of the upturned boat. I ran down the dock toward a small cabin cruiser, it had a small skiff tied to the top of the cabin. I immediately untied the rope and dragged the skiff to the edge of the dock- there were no oars or paddles anywhere. Suddenly I notice a small one by four board about three feet long a few feet away. I grabbed the board and dropped the skiff into the water and jumped in. I noticed there seemed to be a bit of water in the bottom of the skiff but I never gave it a thought as I began furiously paddling (I guess it was more like thrashing at the water) toward the overturned boat.
It was only then I realized I had on a very heavy leather trench coat on. It restricted me more than somewhat, but I was getting close to the boat. I reckon I was about ten feet from the hull when I realized three things simultaneously, first my skiff was almost full of water and secondly there was a hole in the bottom of the skiff about eight inches square, yes I remember that clearly the hole was square!

Lastly I was sinking.

It took all of about five seconds for the skiff to disappear from under me. Man was the water cold. Now I was s pretty good swimmer and a healthy fifty-year-old man, as such I was not to worried about getting into the water. In fact I had some sort of a fuzzy idea that I was going to dive under the overturned boat when I got there, and comfort/rescue the child.
All this changed as I began to sink beneath the water, I could hardly keep my head above the water and my winter clothes, particularly the leather coat and my heavy leather boots, seemed to be like an anchor. I was only a few feet from the upturned hull. I managed to reach it but there was nothing to hold onto. I kept slipping off and sinking under the water. Suddenly I realized this was very serious and I was probably going to drown within a few minutes. I couldn’t hear the man anymore, but I thought I could still hear the Mother screaming.
Within a few moments a large fishing boat with several young men aboard appeared from out of nowhere about five feet away from me. They yelled and waved at me to swim over to there boat. I started to paddle the few feet to the side of there craft when I again went under. As I surfaced I was right against the side. A strong hand grabbed my leather collar and started to drag me up the side, but he couldn’t hold on and I slipped under the water again. He got hold of me again and another pair of hands got the other side of me, but they couldn’t get my over the side. Suddenly two very strong hands got me by the throat and the three of them heaved me onto the deck. I lay there cold and in shock, a few guys dragged me into small cabin, and they went back to help get the boy and his dad out of the water. It seemed only a few seconds when two ambulance drivers came in and threw a warm blanket over me and sort of dragged me along the dock to the waiting ambulance. I noticed the man and his son on the floor of the boat as they dragged me past them.
As we passed the Mother she thanked me profusely, I couldn’t respond. They left me in the warm ambulance and said to wait there till they got back. I was still rather numb and confused. After a few minutes I felt much better, I opened the ambulance’s back door and got out. I noticed Sandra had moved the car to the end of the dock. I went over got in and drove home to a hot shower – Sandra offered to drive but I was stubborn and insisted. I had a hot shower when we got home. It may seem strange, but we have hardly ever spoken about that day since.

When I went into work at Lakeview Realty a few days later Ron, a co-worker came over and in a rather to loud voice said.
“Just what the hell did you think you were doing in the water at Crescent Beach on Boxing Day?”
“Were you there?”
“Just got there to see you sink.”
We left it at that.

To this day I do not know what happed to the Father and Son I vaguely recall that Beth mentioned she saw something in the paper about the incident, I’m sure if they were seriously injured she would have mentioned it. I am going to go to the Peace Arch News in a day or so and see if I can find the names of the family in the Archives. I feel a little nagging in my soul to finalize this incident.

I never really have never spoken about this misadventure to anyone since.
It is now Oct 15th 2008 - about 22 years since the above took place - I finally got over to the Peace Arch News. They did not have their papers on microfich, but they did have the full papers bundled in large yearly books. They let me spend some time with them until I found the above account of my little story. Unfortunatly they would not let me take the paper out of the large book - thus the rather poor reproduction
It is too bad the article did not mention the names of the Father and Son, I guess I will have to do a bit more digging.
larry bennett