Here’s a video in which I talk a little bit about the Casson family from Edmonton, AB that ran a pair of pizza shops called Pizza Plus that were an escape from Richard’s home of dysfunction.
Well, I’ve written a few things about my father. So I thought maybe I’d touch on my mother.
I don’t really know her all that well.
She left in the spring of 1977. I would have been 5 at the time.
Richard would always moan and bellyache that Marie had abandoned the family and that she had run off with a guy named Gus from the PPCLI.
I know she came to visit my brother and I after we arrived on Canadian Forces Base Namao. I remember grandma telling her that she’d have to wait until my father was away. I do remember grandma telling me to not say anything to my father. I think Richard would have killed her had he found her on the base and in his PMQ visiting his children. On the day she came for the visit I sat by the entrance to the PMQ patch waiting for her car. I only remember her coming up for the one visit in the two years that we lived on Canadian Forces Base Namao.
After the Captain Father Angus McRae child sex abuse scandal on CFB Namao and my family’s subsequent relocation to CFB Greisbach. I remember my mother coming for a visit once. Again my father was away on yet another training exercise and it was my stepmother at home. My mother stopped by with her friend Karen to take me and my brother out for a dinner for my 10th birthday.
She picked me up, but Sue wouldn’t let my brother go. Marie drove towards 137th Ave and then stopped before leaving the base. We sat there for a few minutes. Then she turned the car around and dropped me off at home again.
There was a screaming match between my mother and Sue.
In 2011, when I got my hands on my social service records, this incident is mentioned. It seems that I had become quite withdrawn after this. When the social workers asked Richard if he had any idea whatsoever as to why I had become so withdrawn, he volunteered that my mother had wanted to take me and my brother out for a birthday meal, but that Sue wouldn’t let my brother go, and Marie said that if my brother couldn’t go, then she wasn’t taking me.
I wouldn’t see Marie again until the summer of 1990
It was weird how my family arrived at Edmonton in the summer of 1990.
My father, my stepmother, and my step brother moved into the PMQ on CFB Greisbach before I did, even though I drove across the states with them. During our drive across the states, I came down with a bad case of tonsilitis. As soon as we arrived in Edmonton I went straight to the Charles Campsel hospital and I spent about a week there receiving treatment for a severe tonsil infection.
My younger brother never lived in the PMQ on CFB Greisbach the second time we lived there. He wouldn’t arrive in Alberta until sometime in the fall.
One of the first people that I met after I arrived was my uncle Doug. Doug set up a meeting between my mother and I. Uncle Doug made me promise that I would never tell my father about Doug’s involvement with me meeting my mother.
I met my mother at Northgate Mall. It wasn’t an emotional meeting. She was kinda happy to see me. It wasn’t like she was overcome with emotions.
In late August of 1990, my father bought a house up in Morinville, AB
Things didn’t work out all that well between my stepmother and I. Sue is about 12 years old than me. At that point in time, she was like the older sister that I never wanted.
I stayed at the YMCA downtown Edmonton for a few weeks, but being that I was only 18 at the time, finding an apartment to rent was proving hard to do.
So, I stayed at Marie and Art’s acreage from late September until November 1st, 1990 when I got my apartment in Edmonton.
Art was an interesting guy. Really great mechanic, and very knowledgeable. But I only really knew Art from about September of 1990 until January of 1992.
When it comes to mental instability, I don’t know which one’s worse, Marie or Richard. They both had their faults. Richard lied better than a rug. Richard had his out of control anger issues. And Richard drank like a fish. Marie on the other hand would play stupid to the point of being very annoying. And Marie is an outright racist, the likes of which I’ve never seen. In the late ’80s and into 1990 she had been working for a news magazine called the “Alberta Report”. Yes, that Alberta Report.
I could easily compile a list of the pros and cons of having lived with Marie. I think the cons would far outweigh the pros.
For instance, we had stopped at a Dairy Queen on Stoney Plain Road for burgers. We were sitting in a booth facing each other. I was facing towards the counter, she was facing towards the front doors. As we were eating, this look of utter disgust kept appearing on her face. I asked her what was wrong. She said “turn around”. So I did. There was an older East Indian couple sitting a couple of booths down eating their food. I turned back and said “I don’t get what’s wrong”. As soon as she said “those people, they don’t belong here” I knew my mother was a fucking racist. Fuck was that ever disappointing.
Things became interesting after that. When we’d talk about my grandmother, Marie would explain that grandma was a proud Indian, but that she was part of a conquered race.
I don’t remember much about Marie from our time on CFB Shearwater. I do remember coming home from playschool and having lunch while watching TV. I know she liked to do yoga like exercises. She used to lay on her back and she’d get me to stand on her feet and then she’d lift me up. I don’t ever remember her hitting me. I do remember her driving the Thunderbird a lot, which is why I had always thought that it was her car. I remember us going for visits and staying with other people. I remember Richard coming to pick us up from these visits.
In late 1991, I answered a classified ad from Brentwood Lanes in Burnaby, BC. They were looking for a “B” mechanic for their centre. Marie insisted that she come along with me on the drive. We fought like literal cats and dogs on the way down and back. I think that’s one of the reasons I decided to leave Edmonton in February of 1992. The other reason I decided to move is I fell in love with the Vancouver area as soon as I saw took a drive around the city. Edmonton was well below freezing at the time with snow and ice on the ground. Burnaby and Vancouver were in the teens with the only snow visible being on the North Shore mountains.
I left Edmonton in February of 1992. I didn’t get the job at Brentwood Lanes. But I had heard through the grape vine that Lions Gate Lanes in West Vancouver was looking for a pair of mechanics. So, I made the decision to go. I didn’t let Marie know. I drove to Vancouver. On my second night in the city, I called her up to let her know that I was in Vancouver. She exploded. Just before she abruptly hung up the phone, she said that I was an asshole just like my father and that I was never to call her again. <slam>.
It was a little rough settling in in Vancouver. The job at Lions Gate kept getting postponed. But once I was hired on in May of 1992, I got an apartment in the West End of Vancouver. I decided to call Marie up to see if she had calmed down any. There was no answer. The Acreage was on a party line telephone system so after letting the phone ring for awhile, another family answered. When I asked them if he had seen Marie or Art, he said that he hadn’t seen Marie or Art for a while and wasn’t sure where they were. I took this to be that Marie had told her neighbours to not say anything to me.
In 2013, I had to examine my father for a Federal Court of Canada matter. My father made some statements to the CFNIS which were completely at odds with the social service records that I had obtained. For instance, he “forgot” to tell the CFNIS that he was often away on training exercises and that his mother was living in his PMQ raising his children. One of the questions that I asked him related to social services. Because of the answer, I decided that I had to try to track down Marie. It took a bit of sleuthing, but I was able to track her down in October of 2013. Just over 21 years since the day she told me to never call her again.
I flew out to Calgary that Christmas to see her. She was older, but she was still as racist as she had been when I last saw her in Alberta. However, it was good being able to sit down with her and get some answers out of her.
When I arrived, she wanted to know how I found her. I explained to her that once I found Art’s son Terry it was very simple.
She asked me why I decided to find her now after all these years. I told her that I was curious about the PEI government stating that Richard was never awarded custody by the PEI government, and that for Richard to take my brother and I from one province to another, that he would have needed her permission.
I asked her why she blew up at me on the telephone back in early 1992 when I moved to Vancouer. All she said is that sometimes peope make mistakes, and that we can’t dwell on them.
She wanted to know why I moved without telling her. I told her that Alberta was in the midst of a massive recession and that I had been on welfare for 5 months and things weren’t going to get any better. I knew I could get work in Vancouver. I said that I also knew that I could fit in better in a city like Vancouver.
She asked me why I told Richard about my move without telling her. I told her that Richard didn’t know that I had moved until I got my first apartment in Vancouver in the summer of 1992. Richard was the first person that I called when I got my phone installed by B.C. Tel.
I asked her why she would never answer my phone calls when I tried calling her in the summer of 1992. She said that she and Art had sold the acreage in the spring of 1992 as the company Art had been working for needed a refrigeration / gas field compressor mechanic in Saskatchewan. Art’s son Terry owned houses across western Canada, so Art and Marie moved into one of Terry’s houses in Saskatchewan while Art worked there. The next stop was BC for a few months. And then Calgary. And then back to Edmonton. The house that Art and Marie lived in when I visited them in 2013 was another of Terry’s house. According to Marie, after selling the acreage in 1992, they never owned another house.
We started talking about other things.
She had been born in Hull Quebec in 1946. Her father had been in the Royal Canadian Navy during WWII. Both her father and her mother had epilepsy. Both died from it.
She had two brothers. Al Dagenais was born in 1944. Jean-Yves Dagenais was born in 1950.
I asked her about Al. I said that while growing up with Richard, Richard would often say that I was insane just like Al. I said that Richard would claim that Al was so insane that he’d just walk out in front of cars daring them to hit him. She laughed. No, Al wasn’t the one running out in front of cars. That was Richard. Al was usually the one dragging Richard out of the traffic.
I asked her not to laugh or get upset at what I was going to ask her. I asked her if I was the product of incest between her and Al. She gasped. No. I was not an incest baby. She wanted to know what this was about. I told her of the numerous times as a child that Richard would tell me that I wasn’t his kid, that my mother had slept with uncle Al.
She assured me that all of my respiratory issues came from Richard’s side of the family. I would discover in the summer of 2013 that CFB Shearwater had been downwind of a massive Esso refinery and that this refinery had been responsible for many a child developing respiratory issues on the base.
Marie said that she had gone to Dartmouth in 1965 to see her brother Al. This is how she met Richard. Richard and Al were inseparable at this time.
Al had forbidden Marie from dating Richard, but they continued to see each other. Marie and Richard were married in 1968.
She said that everything was okay right up until the HMCS Kootenay incident. She said that Richard was with the Sea King attached to the HMCS Kootenay. What’s wrong with this is that the Kootenay had never been fitted with a landing pad or a hangar like some of her sister ships. The Sea Kings went out with the Bonaventure and some of the other ships in the contingent. So, there’s no doubt that Richard was with the Sea Kings. Just that he wasn’t with the one attached to the Kootenay. No biggie.
She said that it was after the Kootenay that Richard’s drinking started to get out of hand. He would often get so drunk that he’d lay on the floor, naked often, and make lour howling animal noises.
I asked her if Richard had ever hit her or abused her, she said no. When I showed her copies of my conversation with Pat Longmore, Marie decidedly changed her story. Yes, there had been physical fights. Yes, Richard had drawn blood on more than one occasion. And yes, we often went to stay with “relatives” while Richard cooled down again.
Did Richard ever strike me or my brother? She said that he didn’t mean to, but sometimes he just got too angry.
I asked her if she ever remembered me being dropped off at the IWK Children’s Hospital and admitted as a “border” for a couple of weeks due to “parental issues” in the houshold. She wouldn’t believe me until I showed her my medical records. Yeah, she remembered. My father did not want to get help from the military for his issues and sometime they just exploded.
I asked her about one curious note from my medical records from the IWK Children’s hospital. I read her the section in which the doctors remarked that I had very noticeable “wide set eyes”. And that my head circumference was always above the 98th percentile.
She turned her eyes down at this. Richard was apparently upset at the prospect of his first born having “issues”.
I asked her if my conception was a trap to keep Richard in the marriage. First she heard of this. She said that Richard was the one who wanted a kid.
What about my brother’s conception? Nope, not a trap either.
I asked her about the domestic assault that Richard had been arrested for in January of 1977 at our PMQ in Summerside, PEI.
Did Richard hit her?
Turns out that Richard had assaulted his mother, my grandmother, after a heavy night of drinking and it was the Summerside police that called in the base military police.
I asked her about when she left. She said that after the plane from Richard’s squadron on CFB Summerside crashed, Richard went off the deep end and was very destructive and abusive. She said that she wanted to take my brother and I back to Nova Scotia to stay with our uncle Al while Richard sorted himself out, but that Richard found out. This resulted in the base military police coming to our PMQ and warning her that if she left the island with my brother and I that she’d be arrested and charged with child endangerment and kidnapping. She said that a short while later someone from the office of the Judge Advocate General came to the PMQ, told her that the Canadian Forces had awared Richard custody and that she was being evicted from the PMQ.
All in all, she was very similar to my father. And this probably explains why their marriage didn’t last. They were too alike. Neither of them could accept being at fault. Richard blamed Marie. Marie blamed Richard.
Richard didn’t have a temper or a drinking problem.
Marie wouldn’t admit that she had been wrong to leave her kids with a man with a temper and a drinking problem.
Some may say that I’m showing Marie favouritism.
But, let’s look at reality.
I had known Richard for a total of 17 years.
I had known Marie for a total of 7 years tops.
Both were abject failures as parents.
Although I grew up in my father’s house, I know very little about him. He wasn’t a man that shared much of his life with anyone.
Richard was such a complicated man that to get through him will take a few posts.
The most that I ever knew about my father came after I had obtained my foster care records from the Alberta Government and when I examined my father for Federal Court in 2013.
Richard himself came from a dysfunctional household.
His mother, Margaret Winiandy, had been through Holy Angels residential school for Indian Children in Fort Chipewyan, AB.
Grandma had a drinking problem. She also had an affinity for the church.
Knowing now that she had been through residential school as a kid explains a lot of her issues.
Richard had two brothers. His eldest brother Norman was full Cree. Both Richard and his younger brother Douglas were from Margaret’s second marriage. By the time Richard invited his mother into the house to raise my brother and I, my grandmother had married a third man, Andy Anderson.
My uncle Doug had his Metis status, and in 1990 Doug encouraged me to apply for my status. Richard forbade this. My father would get very upset if you ever suggested to him that he was half Cree.
Richard’s father, Arthur Herman Gill, split when he was young and his mother moved her family from Peterborough, ON to Fort McMurray, AB.
Richard attended grade 1 through grade 9* at St. John’s Separate School in Fort McMurray, AB.
*Richard stated in 2013 that he had completed grade 9. Marie, my mother whom I tracked down in 2013, stated that Richard and my uncle Al, Marie’s brother, both had to take academic upgrading as both only had grade eight. Neither had completed grade 9. It was through this academic upgrading that Richard and Al became best buddies. And they enrolled in the Navy together and became inseparable until about ten years later.
As a kid, what I remember the most about Richard is that he was quick to anger. Asking him questions was akin to walking on broken glass.
Just after we moved to CFB Downsview, I had asked him for help with my math homework. We were still living in the LDH at 94 Sunfield Rd, so I know I was going to Sheppard Public at the time. I think the math question was something along the lines of long division. That was the first time he had ever hit me with a closed fist. It was a couple of days later that he tearfully apologized and said that he was going to take a math upgrading course and that he’d be able to help me with any math homework. That was another one of the many Richard promises that would come to naught. Yes, he took the upgrading course at York University and Seneca College, but knowing math and knowing how to teach math are two very separate issues.
Like most kids, I think I took an interest in electronics and mechanics to be closer to my father. But, this was a foolish endevor in my case.
Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t learn my electronics from him. Yes, his interest in electronics intrigued my interest in electronics. But most of my skills I got from either Radio Electronics, Popular Electronics, or the Radio Shack hobbyist books.
By the time I was 14, I was repairing arcade video games, pinball machines, and jukeboxes. I was honing my skills with real world technicians. Dorian was probably my greatest teacher. House and Winston would be second and third.
My father couldn’t teach. He could redicule. He could humilate. If you made a simple mistake, you were a fucking idiot. That’s just the way things were.
I remember asking him once how to do the calculation to determine the gain of an amplifier stage and he got seriously bent out of shape.
When I moved out of the house just after my 16th birthday, I went to work servicing video games, pinballs, and jukeboxes full time.
Electronics though was never a serious interest of mine. Yeah, I understand it. But no, I don’t get any pleasure from it. Pursuing your hopes and dreams was never something encouraged in Richard’s house. I don’t honestly know what I’d be doing today had I been encouraged or supported in my interests back then.
When I was 15 years old, I bought a 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit for $175.00 with money from my after school job repairing video games.
The car was a piece of crap as one could imagine. Floor pans were rotted out, rocker panels were shot, engine had a shot head gasket.
But it was my car. I even had it registered in my name. Just couldn’t insure it, and couldn’t get plates for it.
I bought the car so that I could get a membership at the base auto hobby club. My hope was that my father would come over to the club on the weekends and help me work on it.
In the days after it was brought homes, he pulled the head off the engine one weekend in the parking lot over by the PMQs. He said that he’d clean the head and block and then he’d put the head back on for me. He told me that I could watch, but that I had to stay out of his way and not ask questions or annoy him. That’s not what I wanted. The reason I bought the car is I wanted to learn how to work on cars. I didn’t buy the car so that I could watch him fix it for me.
In 2011 I tried tracking down my uncle Doug to see what he remembered about CFB Namao from 1980. Turns out that Doug had died in 2010. In speaking with Doug’s widow Yvonne she said something interesting about my father. She said that Richard was the type of guy who would always help, but if you asked for his help you had to stand back and stay out of his way because if you tried to help out as well or pointed out that he was doing something wrong he’d get very upset almost like a little child.
So one afternoon after school I sat out behind our PMQ with the head upside down and clamped in the Black and Decker workmate. I was following the instructions in the service manual that I had bought. I had even gone over to crappy tire and bought head gasket removing solvent and some knives made specifically for scraping head gaskets.
You’ll have to excuse my English, but holy fuck did Richard ever lose it. “Can’t you fucking do as you’re told”? “I told you I’d fix the fucking engine for you, I don’t need you fucking things up!”, “Don’t you understand that if you fuck this up, there’s no fixing the damn thing?”.
It was a $175.00 car that cost him nothing. He just didn’t get it.
Bill Parker overheard this exchange. He waited until Richard went into the PMQ. He told me to go put the engine head in the car and he’d make arrangements for my car to be towed to the auto club and then he’d help me work on the engine and get it fixed up and running right.
Bill Parker was a navy buddy of my father. They had served together on some of the ships at CFB Shearwater between 1963 and 1968.
When we lived on Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, I remember going for visits with the Parkers, and staying over at their house on occasion.
In 2013 I would make acquaintances with a woman named Pat Longmore who had been in the Royal Canadian Navy. She knew my father, she knew my mother, and she knew the Parkers. And she had some rather interesting information about the visits to the Parkers.
I’ll have more to say about the Parkers and Pat Longmore in a later post.
The autoclub was fun. Normally the club only gave out memberships to service members. But as Bill Parker was the president of the club, and Bob Wrightson, another former navy buddy of my father was the treasurer, rules were bent and I got a membership.
I was even supplied with a set of licence plates to put on the car to fool the base military police. Uninsured and unregistered vehicles were not permitted on a Defence Establishment, so the auto club had a collection of plates to thwart the MPs. The MPs at the time had to manually run plates if they wanted to run them. And this was time consuming, so they usually didn’t.
I had fun at the auto club. Tore the engine completely down and spent a month rebuilding it. Learnt how to do clutch jobs. Learnt how to do brake jobs. Brazing and TIG welding sheet metal was interesting. All these skills I learnt from the other guys in the auto club. Other members would pay me to do brake jobs on their cars.
Richard had an early ’80s Cadilac at one point while we lived on CFB Downsview. The car started to develop a fuel leak infront of the rear driver side wheel. The car was hard to start when the fuel leaked out. The car had two electric fuel pumps. One fuel pump was in the tank. The second pump was outside of the tank just in front of the rear wheel arch. Richard pulled up to the autoclub one weekend at the autoclub when I was there working on my car. Richard mater-of-factly pulled the car into one of the bays. He told me that he wanted me to look under the car and see if I could pinpoint the leak and then he’d deal with it. I slid under the rear of the car and he would cycle the ignition on and off to trigger the fuel pumps to prime. I started moving the hose that went between the pump in the tank to the external pump. When I moved the hose it split open and sprayed me in the face with high pressure gasoline. Bill Parker grabbed me by the ankles, pulled me out from under the car, and ran me over to the eyewash station and started washing the gasoline off my face and head. Bill had me take my gasoline soaked shirt off. Richard? Richard thought this was the funniest thing he ever saw. Richard told me that all I was supposed to do was find the leak, not make it worse.
And that’s the way Richard was.