9th letter

By way of introduction, I entered College Militaire Royale in September 1963, almost exactly sixty years ago.

In short, as a young officer cadet at CMR, I wrote more than sixty letters to my parents throughout my Preparatory Year.  My mother kept the lot of them in numbered sequence.  Then, after she passed away several years ago, my sister in Vancouver mailed them back to me.  Upon opening the small box of hand written letters just recently and reading many, I was struck that these notes, which describe college life and the recruits’ experience in some detail, might be of interest to younger generations of cadets for comparative purposes and to older generations for sheer nostalgia.

 Ninth Letter 

Postmarked 12 November 1963

Dear Mom and Dad,

This long weekend is rather special insofar as it is the first long weekend leave for recruits.  Actually we are now Preps.  Most of the fellows went to Montreal or Ottawa, but I wanted to get some sleep, so I stayed here.  I don’t have to get up unless I want to and I can go to bed when I choose.  Boy am I getting lazy.

Well, not really; I’ve polished my dress boots, pressed my new pants (3 pair), scraped and painted my rifle slings, cleaned and painted my dirty gym shoes (the ones I wore through the initiation race) and otherwise kept up with  the work the others will have to do when they get back from a short but pleasant leave (which won’t seem so pleasant when they don’t have time to get everything done).

We now have our examination results.  Yech in some cases, not bad in others.  As it is, I have a spread of 68% between my highest and lowest marks.  Surprisingly enough, my worst mark was English Literature.  I got a grand 27%, not quite the lowest in the class.  In physics I was terrible; I’m in the lower half of the class with 41%.  The physics marks, as far as I know, range from 8% to 98%.  Math is divided into two separate marks.  One of which, calculus, was another of my low marks, 51%.  Well at least I passed it.  My French mark was the beast I have ever had, and the second best in our class, 74%.  The highest in our class was 75%, so I was close behind.  My history mark wasn’t bad, 79%.  My other math mark, analysis, was pretty good, the third highest in our class, 90%..  My chemistry mark was the best.  It was one of the 5 or 6 highest in the Prep year, 95%  I don’t know how the average is calculated but mine was 63.7% which placed me 57th out of 174 students in the Prep year.  What makes me mad is that one person with a 63.8% average was 53rd, which means that 4 people were just 0.1% better than me.  I also know that 30 of the 57 were less than 7% ahead of me.  But  whose complaining, all I can do in English is come up, an my physics can’t get any worse.  When Christmas exams roll along, my marks should, in many cases, improve, but we shall see then.

Last week we got our Number four uniforms.  These are our second best, only the scarlets are better.  The tunic fits like a glove to say the least.  There are gold buttons and a buckle on it, and it has the tight, high collar.  The pants are even tighter than the tunic.  Can you imagine me wearing pants with a 29 inch waistband!!!   Tell dad these are worse than the city hall, draughty too!  By the way, I have over 30 pictures of initiation week to show you when I get home; but I won’t mail them because each one needs a long explanation.

I’m not certain if I mentioned this in my last letter, but here goes anyway.  I  have been invited, more or less an order, to join the glee club.  Actually it is not a club.  It is a representative team.  If we are good enough, we shall be entered in competition and may also go on TV.  Should be lots of fun.

Another thing to show I’m thinking of Christmas.  One present you can get me (hint, hint) is a kettle so I can make coffee in my room during the cold, wintry months.  You see, we’ve already had our first snow fall and it goes down near freezing every night.  Brrr!!!  By Christmas we will all probably be animated popsicles.

Until then,

Love, John.

 Tenth Letter 

Postmarked 18 November 1963

Dear Mom and Dad,

Before I tell all the things that have happened in the last week, I will try to give at least a superficial answer to your questions.

Regarding our clothes — we have at least a dozen different uniforms or variations of uniforms.  Each is given a number, such as: 1, 2, & 3, Scarlet Ceremonial Dress, Scarlet Winter Dress and Scarlet Undress (the only differences being in gaiters, belts, winter gloves and hat, or Wellingtons); 4’s a, b and c, which is our second best, a dark blue uniform with lots  of gold buttons.  The accessories are the same as the scarlets; 5’s are a battle-dress similar to my Air Cadet uniform, except it is black; 6’s are blazer and flannels; 7’s are working dress; 8 — sports dress; 9’s — squadron sports dress.  All in all we have a helluva lot of clothing.

You asked “What do you eat?”; well the obvious answer is . . . . . food!  Ah — but now you ask “What kind of food?”  Each meal is different, that is, each meal during the week is different, but the weekly menu repeats itself, so that, every Thursday we have spaghetti, and Saturday is steak, while Friday is barbecued Chicken!!  It is all pretty good.  However, the lunches are a little more monotonous and breakfast — Eggs!!  Every day we get one woebegone  egg sitting greasily forlorn in in the centre of a vast plate.  It is sadly accompanied by a scraggly piece of bacon.  At least we get pancakes twice a week to relieve the shear horror of eggs.  By the way, we eat in the mess hall.

Every weekday evening, we have a study period from 7:15 to 10 o’clock, but it is not near enough time.  I need at least another two hours to do all the studying I would like to do.  But a sole consolation is that no one else has any more time than I do, so I am not behind in my work compared with them.

As for drill, we have drill almost every weekday morning from 6:55 to 7:20 and from 8:15 to 9:30 on Saturday, while every Sunday we have a Commandant’s Parade before Church services.   This is not mentioning  two 50 minute drill periods during the week and the hour period Friday afternoon.  This is about 8 hours or more a week which isn’t too bad at all.

Now for the events of the last week.  First of all, on Monday night, I was rudely thrown in the showers.  Why?  Because everyone on the ‘shower committee’ felt I was crazy for not going on leave and thought I needed a cold shower to bring me back to my senses.  The results of the struggle I put up are quite evident in a beautiful black eye which was given to me by a rapidly rising knee.  Thus, I am now a physical wreck having played in two football games recently.   But more about the football games later.

Last Friday was an important day.  We had our first mess dinner.  I thought it would be a solemn affair.  It proved quite the contrary.  It was the noisiest, craziest evening I have ever lived through.  After the toast to the Queen, all the cadets at my table were building castles out of wine glasses!  And gluing it together with candle wax!  This was fine until someone began using the table for bongo drums — five broken wine glasses and even more shattered dignity.  The meal was excellent, filet mignon with all the trimmings including, of course, dinner wine.  I’m now getting unwholesome alcoholic tendencies.  Still it is fun!

Buy the way, it’s quite definite that I’ll be home on Saturday the 21st, by Air Force transport.  The leave will last two weeks, which isn’t bad.  I’d like to say a lot more but I have a physics exam on Tuesday as well as an essay to write before the end of the month, so I must cease writing.

Love, John.

The conclusion of yet another ‘shower parade’.


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