Well Well!  Hello again.    It is so nice to be able to communicate with you again….  I'm so sorry it took me this long to get back to you as it is now November of 2014.  I was 53 when I last reported to you and now I am 84 years old (young).   As you may well imagine there has been many changes and I, with the urging from good friend, Bill Hillman decided it is time to bring you up to date, while I'm still able. If I, in following pages, dwell too much on health issues, please forgive me as I find that in these senior years, the subject of health becomes more front and centre.

I had found that I made the right choice in following a career in Corrections after leaving the military.  Contrary to many of my work-mates, I enjoyed the fellowship of the staff and even working with inmates.  It may have been that I was in my fifties that I seemed to receive a healthy amount of respect from the inmates and I got along very well with most of them.  Of course one cannot expect to "reach" each and every inmate, but it goes without saying that if you show respect to most of them, respect is what you receive in return.  I have of course encountered situations where force was required but that was mostly dealing with breaking up fights between inmates, not being a direct participant.

I must have been in pretty good health because in my thirteen years working at BCI I lost almost no work because of health issues except my left leg would be subject to phlebitis in which I would have to take four days, stay home and keep my leg elevated until the nasty blood clots had dissolved.  I had twice received written commendations from the superintendent for missing no time for that particular year.

It was probably in the mid-eighties that I started to have attacks of indigestion.  These attacks would occur on the average of once a year and normally they lasted for only five or six hours.  I was examined finally by a specialist whom, after surveying my stomach and esophagus, wrote prescriptions for three different kinds of pills and told me I would have to stay on these medications for the remainder of my life.   When I arrived home,  Beth asked me how I "made out".  I showed her the prescriptions, then when she handed them back, I tore them up!  Beth thought I was crazy;  "why did you do that?"  she asked.   I said, "think of it….. I am expected to take these meds for the rest of my life just to control these attacks that I receive on the average of no more than once a year?  It makes no sense"   Incidentally, I had no more attacks after that time.  Think of what all those meds could have done to my system after taking them all those years!

It was during the early "eighties", that my wonderful daughter Donna met and eventually married her long time partner, Bill Kiryliuk.   They had been both employed at Burns Meat Packers here in Brandon. Eventually Donna gave birth to what would be her only child, a boy they named "Shawn".  Beth and I were so fortunate that we were present to see Shawn grow up.  I say this because when Heather married and moved away with Ken, we missed the childhood of Heather's children, David, Josh, Kyla and finally Andrew, who is about six months older than Shawn who is the baby of them all.  [sorry Shawn! :)]

Every year Beth and I and sometimes Donna and Shawn would make the trek to Alberta to visit Heather and family. We would do this at least twice a year but of course would have preferred they lived closer.  We always enjoyed the visits though because a bonus would always be a visit to the West Edmonton Mall.  The girls loved to shop there and I loved sitting on a bench to people watch. I've always placed the W.E.M. on a par with busy airports for “people watching” which was always one of my favourite past times.

Every year Beth and I would go out to Heather's for Christmas and occasionally she and the family would come to Brandon.  Funny thing, the following story has always stuck with me as it was so amusing at the time.   Josh was in High School and three or four days before Christmas was playing basketball in the school gymnasium. He had put all his weight on the basket and it gave way with Josh crashing to the floor.  Yes, he broke both wrists so when they left St Paul for the Christmas trip to Brandon, they encountered a heavy snowstorm. They had to stop and stay in a motel at Lloydminster and when Heather phoned to report that if it was still storming the next morning, they would have to abandon the trip and return home.  She told us then that Josh had both arms in a cast.  I asked Heather how does he wipe his bum?  She hollered to Josh, “Grampa wants to know how do you wipe your bum?”  Josh replied, “With great difficulty!”  I thought that was so funny … and yes, they did make it to Brandon the next day. :)

So many great memories of those years, whether it was me wrestling with my only Granddaughter Kyla or taking David into Camrose so he could have (and pass) his driver's test. When they lived in “New Norway” they had perhaps about two or three hundred laying hens so I would like to take the load from Heather and David and I would often go out to "pick" eggs. I eventually found it impossible as I became, I think, allergic to the dust in the barn and could barely breathe. Heather took a job tending the cash at a Service Station just outside Camrose. It was then she decided to better herself by taking a course in nursing. She did become a nurse but after a couple years took more courses so that in the past twenty plus years she has been, and is, a dialysis technician.  Whether it was us leaving them or them leaving us, there was always the proverbial “lump in the throat”.  There was no shortage of love in this family.

In 1972 I had joined what was then the only Pipe Band in Brandon, the Pipes and Drums of the 26th Field Reg't, RCA.  I enjoyed playing lots of parades with this Band around the smaller towns of WestMan. The one trip that stands out in those early days was joining with the Massed Pipes and Drums of Winnipeg to play at the New Year's day “Tournament of Roses” parade in Pasadena, California.  This trip was rewarding for me because not only the experience of leading the Rose Parade but what was so wonderful was that my mother, brother and sister all lived in the Los Angeles area so that when I wasn't on duty with the Band I was visiting with my family. Of course we not only played on this wonderful parade but also performed dockside of the “Queen Mary” which was (and is) tied up at Long Beach. We also played down the “Main Street” of Disneyland, at the Pasadena City Hall and of course for our hosts where we stayed at the Residence of UCLA.

There were countless parades and concerts but there is always one that stands out…… not for being enjoyable, but also for being unforgettable.  One such engagement was when we were tasked to play for the Wartime Pilot's Reunion which was featured with a parade and ceremony followed by the reunion in the Convention Centre. We had been flown from Brandon airport in two Norseman aircraft.  It was a very heavy cloud cover and we followed the first aircraft what we thought a little too close, especially when we were in heavy cloud and could see nothing.   After our job in Winnipeg was finished, we were to fly back in the same aircraft but then the rain came down very heavy so the aircraft were grounded.  We had to wait a considerable time for them to procure a Van from a local militia unit.  On the outskirts of Winnipeg the van broke down.

Can you imagine a pipe band standing in full uniform on the side of the highway with the thumbs up in the pouring rain! Alex Cupples, Murdoch MacIntosh and I finally got a lift from a wartime pilot on his way home to Regina. Speaking of Alex Cupples; he arrived in Brandon straight from Scotland in 1974 and took over the Band as Pipe Major, and an excellent one he was at that.  We became very close friends over the years and did a lot of kidding with each other, he had been Gordon Highlanders and I of course was Black Watch.  I could never forget the winter of 1975 Alex and I went to Whitewood Saskatchewan to play at a wedding.  After the ceremony we were asked to keep playing while the photos were being taken. Alex and I faced each other and took turns leading the way into tunes that neither of us had played since serving in the Army. We played for about a half hour and the pipes sounded great; we played very well with each other and enjoyed it so much it was something neither of us ever forgot. We would also pair up to play at opening ceremonies on the Base (Shilo) for curling bonspiels, hockey tournaments etc. Alex had a job on Base working first at the Petrol Point and later at Base Supply.

It was May of 1988 that Beth and I viewed a house at 26 Kensington Crescent.  This house was on the North Hill and had an excellent view of the city. We bought it and enjoyed that house very much and discovered we had very nice neighbours.   Beth and I had always been lucky enjoying good neighbours which means so much as, no matter how nice the house is, you cannot enjoy it if your neighbours aren't friendly.  A bonus was that I was within walking distance from the Brandon Correctional Institution where I was employed. Another bonus!   Donna and Bill bought a house within spitting distance so we were able to have a close relationship.

It was about 1986 that Beth started working at Donogh Antiques. When we lived at 740-21st St it was very convenient as they antique shop was located at the Thomas Mall, a five minute walk.  Soon after we moved to the North Hill, Donogh Antiques moved to the 900 block on Rosser Ave. It wasn't always possible but I drove Beth to and from work.  She enjoyed working with the Donoghs and had a close working and personal relationship with Claudia and Brian.  After a few years on Rosser Ave, they built a warehouse and store built five miles south of Brandon on No-10 highway and Beth was in her glory keeping the store section beautifully decorated with antique furniture.

She would occasionally accompany the Donogh's to auctions out of town. That brings to mind one particular week-end she was away to Calgary on a job.  I expected her home at approximately 10 or 11 pm on the Sunday night so waited up for her.  She didn't arrive until about 2 am…. We talked and then we went to bed.  It was probably about 4 am I turned over quite violently resulting in my falling out of bed.  My bedside table had a rather sharp handle which caught my face on the way down. I tore my face from the chin to the forehead. After bleeding all over my bedroom carpet :) I drove myself to the E.R. where the Doctor did a wonderful job of suturing.  The downside of this was that they couldn't believe so much damage was done by just falling out of bed; they thought it was more likely my wife hit me with a baseball bat. On the upside, I looked better after I healed than I had before the incident Ha Ha.

It was in Feb of 1993 I was working Corrections at our local provincial jail here in Brandon.  It was a Saturday and I was working 12 hour shift 6am to 6pm….  Nothing spectacular happened except I developed a bad headache.  I finished the shift, went home and the damn headache did not go away or dissipate for that matter.  I have always been blessed with the ability to fall asleep under the lousiest conditions probably something left over from my infantry days  LOL. I had no trouble in falling asleep when I went to bed in spite of the headache.

Probably around 4am I awoke with the need to go to the bathroom. I got out of bed, total darkness…. Made my way to the bathroom and felt very odd…  very queer and suspected something was wrong.  When I turned on the bathroom light I was confronted with a horrible fact.  My right eye produced the worst double vision you could imagine. Say I looked at you straight in front of me…  I would also see you way up about 10 o’clock.  Well of course I knew something was wrong but I think I was in a state of denial so I went back to bed hoping that I would wake at 8am and all would be normal and perfect. It was not!.  I awoke and knew I was going to have to make a trip to the E.R.  I had a shower and then phoned my neighbour across the street to see if he would drive me. He did. He took me inside the ER and I told him not to wait . . . that I would phone him when I was ready to go home  Ha!  Big joke.

I lay on a bed in the treatment room and waited until a doctor could come see me. When he questioned and examined me, he was of course quite concerned and I knew exactly what he was thinking. . .  a brain tumour.  Of course because it was Sunday morning there was no staff in the CT clinic so he called in a tech and they did a CT scan.  It was negative!   They then injected dye into my blood stream and scanned me again. Very unpleasant this time, but again it was negative.  The doctor said that did not prove there was no tumor as we all know, the scan takes pictures of the brain in slices and if the tumor is small enough it could be in between slices. They admitted me and bandaged the eye so I could not use it.  What I failed to mention was that not only did I suffer double vision, my retina would not adjust to light, therefore everything I saw was extremely bright and made me nauseous.

The next day saw me undergoing a brain scan or an EEG (electroencephalograph).  Results showed negative. We knew then it was not a tumor. I was handed over to the best neurosurgeon in Brandon.  He had a terrible bedside manner and made all the nurses afraid to work with him but he had a good reputation which was all I cared about. He ran tests and concluded diabetes. Not a neurological problem at all.  Next day saw them doing all kinds of blood work looking for diabetes.  Negative!

That same night Dr. Tangway ran more tests and concluded I had a brain hemorrhage so he set up to do a spinal tap.  I lay in the fetal position on my left side with a good looking nurse holding my hand :) while the good Doctor prepared my tap. He told me it would hurt but DO NOT MOVE!  He started to work the needle into my spine. He must have hit a nerve because I yelped and jumped and the needle came out.  He scolded me and told me, “damn it!  I told you not to move”  He started again.  I said to him, “Doctor,  what time is it”  He told me 10:15 (pm).  I said,  “Do you think it is getting late and your wife will be worried about you . . . maybe you should go home” He did something the nurse had never seen him do . . . he chuckled.

As he worked the needle in he said, “Mr Roy place your right hand on your stomach”  I did it.  He then said “now rotate your hand.”  I did it. He asked, “Do you feel anything sharp?” I said “No”  He said, “Well I guess I haven’t went all the way through then.”  Seconds later,  he said (while still guiding this damn needle), “never trust a Chinaman. They’ll stab you in the back every time.”

The nurse said later that he had never been known to joke with a patient before me. Maybe I didn’t mention he was Chinese. When he got what he wanted he personally took it to the lab and ran tests on it, returned and told me. . . negative . . . not a hemorrhage.

The following evening he came back and started a bunch more tests and when he was finished, he said, “Mr Roy, I hate to tell you this but I’m almost sure you have a Brain Aneurysm. I am going to send you to the Health Science Centre in Winnipeg for an angiogram.”

The next morning at 7:30am I was loaded onto the back of an ambulance and transported to Winnipeg. We even had a nurse onboard. To make a long story short, I had the angiogram and even watched the monitor as the dye showed all the blood coursing through my brain.  What it proved was again . . . negative. Big relief there as I figured that if it WAS a brain aneurysm, I was in big trouble!

Again to make a long story short: I was returned to the hospital in Brandon and meanwhile they had run tests on the fluid they removed from my spine which showed I had had viral meningitis. This is a condition which attacks the membrane between the skull and the brain. Apparently the area that was attacked and damaged was where the optic nerve to my right eye was positioned. The Dr told me that it could not be corrected surgically because of the severity of the case.  I would just have to learn to live with an eye patch the remainder of my life.  I was discharged and was very happy that the only negative result was wearing an eye patch.  I became accustomed to it and although it had some drawbacks, I was happy enough to live with it. At least it wasn’t a life threatening situation anymore.

Just think of it; I had just escaped all those killers so wearing a patch put me out not at all.  I later received a letter from the Motor Vehicle Branch telling me to surrender my driver's license. I had to have a driver's test which I readily passed.  My new license read, “Authorized to operate a motor vehicle using one eye only.”  It was of course a bit of a challenge but after a little practice it felt almost normal. Of course it was necessary for me to retire from Corrections. No such a thing as an officer keeping an eye on inmates with only one eye. :)

I exercised the bad eye, concentrating on bringing the two images together.  I was making progress. Finally the two images met and after about six months there was only one image. Wonderful! My sight was back to normal so I returned to the Motor Vehicle Branch to obtain a normal license.  After passing a peripheral vision test, I was told I had to take another driver's test. I refused pointing out if I passed the test with one eye, why would it be necessary to have another test because I am using two eyes?  Pure bureaucracy!  They insisted . . . no test, no license.  I insisted they phone head office in Winnipeg.  They did.  After hearing the story head office said,   “For God's sake, give him back his license!

May I at this time return to the year 1976.  I wanted very much to take Beth and the girls to Los Angeles to visit Mom, Gloria, Al and Joyce.  I was driving the wee four cylinder Peugeot at the time and assumed I would need a larger car to make the trip so I went to a used car lot to have a look. They had just taken a 1972 Pontiac station wagon. It was a huge car and obviously driven in the country because it was just heavy with dust that was so bad you could hardly see the colour.  I took it home just like that, had to work the following day and intended to clean it after work that night.  When I got home,  Low and behold!  The car was cleaned and waxed inside and out. A big job and Beth had worked on it the whole day! What a difference;  the car was beautiful. Shortly thereafter we drove to California, stopping 3 times overnight one of them being Las Vegas. So we arrived in L.A. and had a wonderful visit.  We stayed with Mom but saw the sights with the whole family visiting of course the tourist places such as Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios and even sat in for the taping of a television game show. We had lots of opportunity to visit with Gloria and family as well as Al and Joyce.  A big bonus was that Chrissie, my eldest niece accompanied us back to Manitoba and stayed with us for a week before flying back home out of Winnipeg.  We bonded so much that when I drove her to the airport and said good-bye, it was like parting with my own daughter.  She was then and is now a very sweet person.  After this wonderful trip I sold the Pontiac for one hundred dollars less than I paid for it. :)

Over the years of piping I had taught many individuals, young and not so young, the pipes.  There were more that did not stick with it than the opposite but I found it very rewarding to have a pupil that learned quickly and learned well.  Undoubtedly my favourite was China Hillman. She learned fast and she learned well.  I say this not because her father, Bill Hillman is my good friend who is directly responsible for this “Narrative” of mine finding its way onto the internet. China has gone on to be a doctor and specializes in radiography.   Another outstanding pupil was my grandson, Shawn who learned very quickly and showed huge potential.  Unfortunately Shawn moved to Edmonton and dropped any further piping.  He is doing well with his own business as an I.T. technician. My other grandchildren have all done well. David, the eldest started his career as lead singer in a rock group in Edmonton called, “Road Kill” ? Actually they were quite good but after a few years of starving had to go work for a living.  Dave was always good at what he does and became a professional driver.  He also along with his brothers has a summer business in Penticton, B.C.  It is Dave who runs every aspect of the business which, by the way, is fly-boarding.  His brothers Josh and Andrew are both Geomatic Engineers. Josh operates out of Drumheller and Andy out of St. Paul, Alberta  My only, my very precious granddaughter Kyla is a very successful schoolteacher.

But somehow I have slipped into the present day so let us return to the past.  During the early '70s, one Pipe Major Hugh MacPherson was posted to Canadian Forces Base Portage La Prairie and tasked to turn out a Base band like "now" so When Hughie had an important parade with his very young and inexperienced Band, I would go to Portage to give a hand. I had served with Hughie in the Black Watch so we knew each other very well.

About the mid-eighties, my good friend Alex Cupples retired from the Militia and shortly thereafter I had a difference of opinion at 26th Fd. I went to CFB Portage and joined the Band there. This was a regular force Pipe Band and as close to my old band, the Black watch that I could ever hope to get. At that time, Pipe Major Ernie Fox  was in charge of this Band and we became close friends and remain so to this day.  This Air Force Band was a very good Band and I enjoyed every trip I was ever on with it.   More military parades which I was still accustomed to but we also had memorable trips such as in 1989 we went to Plante City Florida to take part in their Strawberry Festival. We stayed at the USAF Base at Tampa and played at the Festival Fairgrounds when appearing the same days were notables such as the "Judds" and "Tanya Tucker"  While we were there we also played for two days at the Canadian Pavilion at Epcott Center and Disneyworld.

In 1991  The Canadian Forces (Air) were preparing to pull out of Portage.  At the same time the Pipes & Drums were tasked to play for four days at  York Boat Days,   an aboriginal celebration lasting four days at a Reserve at Norway House in Northern Manitoba.  At the same time the Commander of CFB Winnipeg had requested our Band play for a Base Parade and a Navigator School Graduation Parade.

Ernie expressed regret that we would be travelling by bus for eight hours that same day to Norway House and the only way we could play for his Parades was that  if an Aircraft was supplied to fly us up north.   The Commander said,  "it shall be done"  and it was.  I did not wish to leave my car on Base while I was away therefore I requested a staff car pick me up that morning to drive me to the Portage Base.   Ernie phoned the night before and expressed regret that there were no staff cars available as they were being readied to hand over for Base closing.   Ernie told me to be at Brandon Airport at 0830 hrs  the following morning  so that I was there when a helicopter had been sent to ferry me. Later that day after the Parades we were fed and watered and then airlifted to Norway House by Hercules C-130.  While at Norway House, we stayed at the RCMP Compound and were shown great hospitality by the local residents.

Ernie was a very capable Pipe Major and when the Cdn Forces pulled out of Portage,  we lost our uniforms as well as our drummers, who were all military and posted elsewhere. We pipers pulled together and after a year had another Band (Portage and District Pipes & Drums) off the ground  complete with uniforms and drummers.  Ernie had taken his release from the Military and became a Correctional Officer with Juvenile Corrections in Portage.

Don Roy Welcome
Narrative I
Narrative II
 Narrative III
 Narrative IV
Narrative V
Narrative VI
Narrative VII
Narrative VIII
Photo Album I
Photo Album II
Photo Album III
Photo Album IV
Photo Album V
Photo Album VI
Photo Album VII
Photo Album VIII
Photo Album IX
Photo Album X
A Lifetime of Piping
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