Born, Creston Newfoundland August 6, 1939, a small settlement in Placentia Bay. Third in a family of 7. This was pre-confederation and not much money around. I was fortunate to have parents who wanted better for their children and with much pushing and persuasion I completed high school. Growing up, I was always impressed by those in the community who got away from the island to work. Many of them returned for a holiday or winter and seemed much better off than those who stayed. Their stories about the outside world, their work and their experiences were very interesting and influenced my own desire to move away from the Island.
Start of Career:
After joining Canada in 1949 Vocational schools were introduced in NL to teach trades and I selected that route for a career. The nearest school was in St. John’s at that time and I sent off an application and was accepted in the Diesel Mechanic class. Sometime during the first week of classes I was taken into the office where it was suggested I should switch to Wireless Radio given my level of Education. As with many of my decisions over the years I did not hesitate to take the advice of higher authority, removed my coveralls and joined the Wireless Radio Class. Classes were held in the basement annex of Memorial University that year. The old British class system was most evident at this time. One rule was that us trades students must not mix with the University students. (Moral contamination I guess?). That same year 3 other students whom I graduated from high school with were students there studying Education. It was a real hoot to violate this rule and sneak into their dances on Saturday nights.
I obtained my 2nd Class Certificate in Radio in April 1959. At that time I was told that all positions in the Atlantic Region were filled. I then made application to all of the other Regions in Canada and in October received a Telegram from Winnipeg Region. “Position available, if interested, report Winnipeg Regional Office ASAP. Will reimburse upon arrival". No time was wasted I borrowed money for the trip, caught a taxi into St. John’s next morning and departed St. John’s on TCA at 6:30PM and arrived Winnipeg 6AM next morning. There were lots of stops along the way, it was my first plane trip and I stayed awake the whole night. Departed the plane, collected my one piece of luggage and as I had no arrangement made to stay, contacted people I knew from NL who lived there. They came and rescued me from the airport, offered me lodging and after breakfast took me down to the DOT on Portage/Main.
Signed on with DOT October 5, 1959 and was sent out to the Airport for surface weather training and some basic flight operations. This training was badly needed as we only studied Marine operations during school. Following this initial training I was assigned to Churchill and traveled there on the train over a 2 day period. Churchill Marine Aeradio Station was a big operation in those days with at least 5 operating positions each shift and a training ground for new Radio Operators going in and out of the Arctic. After 4 weeks I was sent into Baker Lake for a period as a relief Operator. The flights in and out are well remembered. Going up to Baker we had to sit on the freight with all our heavy clothes on to keep warm. The flight out following a short tour of duty was even more interesting, we caught the plane on fire during gas up on the lake. We managed to extinguish the fire quickly resulting in only cosmetic damage. The plane was declared fit for travel, we were given the choice of going out and I being young then did not hesitate and joined those who took the option of leaving. I remained in Churchill until May 1960 and then went into Coral Harbor and stayed until May 1961. Coral Harbor was a small camp of men (19) and we all worked 7 days a week. With none of the present day items (TV/VCR etc) to pass the time my background in an isolated small settlement NL helped me greatly.
Fellows who were not used to isolation or did not mix easily had a difficult time. I elected to come south after Coral Harbor and was assigned to the Marine Station in Port Arthur ON. Flew out to Winnipeg and took the train down to Port Arthur. Worked at the Marine Station in Port Arthur and also the Airport in Fort William until getting married in 1962. Against my wishes the Regional office sent us off to the Radio Range station in Graham. It seemed they needed a married operator to occupy a vacant house. I asked to stay in Port Arthur/Fort William citing I had already spent 2 years in Isolation and my new bride was not expecting to go there. I was simply told my terms of employment were to go as assigned and off we went. As you might expect we were not happy about the relocation. Over the winter a notice was issued from a fellow in Ontario Region wishing an exchange to Winnipeg Region. I applied, was accepted and relocated, at our own expense, to Belleville ON and commuted to work at the Sterling Range Station. Later that year I won a competition for Radio Operator ll in Ottawa to work at both the Airport and Ionosphere stations. We enjoyed our stay in Ottawa, made lots of new friends. I went to Night School at Liger collegiate to further my education.
Our Son came along in June 1965 on the same day I received a letter of offer for Radio Inspector at the Toronto Field Office. We moved to Toronto in August 1965 with our 2 month old Son. The next 7 years was spent working in Toronto District and various stints with the Regional Engineer to fit out Interference cars and also the first mobile Monitoring Van. Many changes to the Radio environment took place during that period (FM, Color TV, Cable..) and the DOC was created as a government department. Many of the promotions were made during that period with heavy weight on seniority and it was difficult to get ahead. In 1972 I applied for a management position in the Atlantic Region and moved to Corner Brook to open a new office there with responsibility for western NL and Labrador.
We returned to Ontario again in spring of 74 with a promotion to District Manager of Kingston. Remained there for next 3 years and again relocated back to Toronto District as Manager. Around 1980 I moved to the Region to take over the Authorization Section and then in 1981 applied and was successful in winning the position of Deputy Regional Director, Ontario Region. The next 12 years were very challenging and most rewarding with increased delegation to the Regions. I especially enjoyed being part of the Spectrum Management Operations Committee (SMOC) and the relationships with my colleagues in the other Regions and Headquarters. With a change of Government in 1993 DOC was disbanded and Spectrum Operations became part of Industry Canada.
At about that same time my wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease and was at a stage where she could not be left alone at home presenting me with a choice of putting her in a home or retiring early. I was lucky as the Government wanted to downsize its Executive numbers and opportunities came for retirement packages to those whose job was eliminated. Although my position was not one of those on the list I pleaded my case to sensitive ears and with the efforts of senior management a switch was made and I retired in March 1994. I was able to care for my wife at home until 1999 and then accepted a home for her in a Long Term Care Centre. Over the next 7 years her condition advanced until her Death in December 2007.
This spring my new partner and I sold our Condo in Brampton and purchased another in Peter borough close to the family cottage at Burleigh Falls. As I compose this for the web site we are spending our first winter in Zephyrhills Florida. Life is good with lots of activities and friends. This coming summer Hannah and I will get married during a combined Family get together in Peterborough. We make the most of our days with all the other seniors and count our Blessings for such a good life.
I enjoyed my career in the Canada’s Public Service. Tremendous advances took place during that period. I started at the bottom and advanced to a level beyond what I expected starting out. People working in the Industry were dedicated to making it all work and I have no regrets for the choices made in my career. Retirement allowed me to be a caregiver for my wife and also an opportunity to volunteer with the Peel Alzheimer Society. During my 10 years with the Board we established 3 Daycare centers and 1 Respite vacation house. Having good health and being a “Snowbird” is as one lady said when asked where she was from, “I am from Paradise NL but living in Heaven.
Links - LiensGerry Brushett's Photo Album