Learning the ropes

Keeping the Peace
By Tom Lessard, C.D.

Arriving at Camp Ipperwash in 1960, I was directed to the battalion orderly room, where I was greeted and my name entered on the battalion nominal roll. After all the paperwork was completed and I was told about my assignment to headquarters company, I was directed to that office, where all the routines and paraphernalia were explained to me. After pointing out where I would be working, at the quartermaster stores, I was then told I would be living in H Block 26B. The glimpses I had of the camp as I was arriving that morning led me to think he said Stalag 26B, as I was certain that camp resembled this one. Undaunted, I stumbled around and finally found the hut that was to be my home until we left for Germany in the fall of 1962.

The voice of God
My bed was located right beside a window. I dumped my gear and headed for the Q.M. stores. As I was walking across the parade square, I heard a loud voice come over the air. “Halt! Where are you going?!” I thought it was God and almost fell to my knees. “To find the Q.M. stores, sir!” I replied. “Turn right around and march off the parade ground: NOW!” he said. Of course, I obeyed, and later found out that my first thoughts were very close to the truth; the regimental sergeant major is god of the battalion and the parade square is his holy domain.

Fitting right in
I found the Q.M. stores and reported in. By now, it was almost closing time, so the clerk quickly introduced me to everyone available, gave me a quick glimpse of the stores and told me to follow him. He led me outside to the parking lot and we drove to the wet canteen without even asking if I drank or not. The canteen wasn’t open yet, but that didn’t deter him. He just dragged me around to the back door, pounded a couple of times, and we were admitted. Since the bar was legally closed, and you never knew when the orderly officer or anyone else with authority might come along, the bartender took us into the walk-in cooler where we had a couple of pints before supper. Talk about being taught the ropes; I was learning very quickly.
After supper, I was asked to join two of the guys on a tour of Thedford. First stop, just inside the village, was the Legion. It was located off the main road and back in quite a piece so the residents wouldn’t complain about noise or other things that might go on in an establishment that served booze. After a glass or two, we went to the next watering hold, the Thedford Hotel, which would some time later be renamed The Pink Elephant. In those days, it was a jumping joint.
You may not remember, but there was segregation in those days. Every hotel was separated into a men’s room and a ladies’ and escorts’ only room. The only way to get into the ladies’ room was to have one of the women invite you over. There were times when one of the soldiers who lived in town would go home, pick up his wife, and bring her down so we could all drink on the women’s side.
To add to the fun, there were apartments above the hotel and most of the Main Street stores, and we knew many of the married couples who lived there. We had many a party up there in the days when I was stationed at Ipperwash with 1RCR.
A year later, I married Rita in Germany on February 8, 1963. We celebrated 47 years last week. With love, Tom.