For we were young and we had wings
welcome to harry mcfee.com
author of military history
About the author-Harry McFee
As with many Canadian families at that time, the daily activities were hockey in winter and baseball in summer. Harry spent many hours at the Earl Grey Community Club honing his skills! He participated in soccer at his school. Without the invention of television, families enjoyed weekly radio programs and Saturday afternoon matinees at the nearby Crescent Theatre. For many years Harry and his brother were devotedly involved in their Church choir, as well as alter boys and bell ringers.
They shared a paper route and enjoyed the extra money benefits. Harry has fond memories of following the Artic Ice truck to a nearby apartment building to pick up ice chips on a hot summer day, and visiting the Eaton’s stable nearby to watch the men groom the horses following their daily deliveries. During the summer the family was fortunate to share their grandparent’s cottage at Victoria Beach in a sheltered environment. The family would take the train from Winnipeg to the beach to spend the summers there and then return home in time for the beginning of the school year. As a youngster, Harry recalls riding in the engine’s cab when the train turned around at the nearby ‘Y” which was the end of the tracks.
When Harry finished high school in 1959, he was hired by the Toronto Dominion Bank. The following year he became employed with the National Grain Company Ltd. joining his brother and sister in the grain business. This work experience took him to Dawson Creek in 1965 and Calgary in 1966, after which he returned to the Winnipeg Head Office. After leaving the private grain company in 1969, he then faced the challenging employment with the Teachers Retirement Allowances Fund, a board of the Manitoba government, as payroll supervisor for thousands of retired public school teachers. These were exacting duties for Harry’s investigative skills and innovative ideas. Following more than 27 years of working in this capacity, Harry retired and transferred these skills to gathering historic information for this published book. Now, with an abundance of data gathered, he plans to produce another one or two books about the Army and Navy.
Following these many life changes, of the 1960’s, Harry met his future wife, Darlene at a Winnipeg Canoe Club outing in 1970, and they were married a year later. As loving and caring parents, they have two daughters born in 1976 and 1978. Ironically, their older daughter, Jennifer is a newspaper writer in the Vancouver area, while their younger daughter is employed with Via Rail, carrying on the family tradition of railway employees! Harry’s grandfather was a CNR engineer, Darlene’s father was a CNR line maintenance employee of Engineering Department and Darlene’s brother Don was an electrician for the CNR.
On the 26th day of May 1941, Harry McFee was born in the Canadian prairie city of Winnipeg, aptly referred to as the Heart of the Continent. As the youngest of three children, his family became very frugal due to financial restrictions of both the depression years and the government legislated “wage and price controls of wartime.
Most families had Victory Gardens in their backyards. Restaurant meals were not experienced; however, the children enjoyed the annual Lion’s Club Christmas party, as their father was a faithful member.
This small family celebrated Christmas with their grandparents, enjoying the freshly cut tree adorned with a few homemade decorations. As a child, Harry learned not to ask for very much in toys, as clothing was a priority.
Harry would receive the hand me down clothes from his older brother. For a number of years, there was only one bicycle belonging to his sister that the family shared.
Although Harry’s father was an only child and medically unfit for military service, his mother had two brothers who volunteered and experienced front line served for extended periods of time. The younger brother, Norman, joined the air force, graduating in October 1940 with the first class of the BCATP and was immediately sent to England. His brother, Howard was an Infantry Officer who saw action from Normandy to Germany.
As Norman was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and Howard was wounded, it became obvious that these two had seen considerable action. No doubt, these experiences contributed greatly to their early deaths; Norman at age 42 and Howard at age 59.
There was very little opportunity for Harry’s family to become acquainted with the war veterans as Norman resided in Aurora, Ontario, just north of Toronto; and Howard was a traveling salesman outside of Winnipeg. Howard was transferred to Vancouver and then Hamilton during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and then back to Winnipeg. It was during this time that Harry was on the move to the Peace River and Calgary area and then back home to Winnipeg.
Sadly, Norman died (childless) in 1956 and Howard, the father of three sons, died in 1972. Subsequently Harry felt a void.
It was not unusual that Harry’s parents did not talk about the war or about the exploits of his two uncles, so Harry was middle-aged before his curiosity took hold. Following the death of his parents in 1987 and 1988, he inherited a great deal of wartime material which became the basis of his research. Employment colleagues and fellow Masonic/Shrine members also began to relate their experiences. With his wife’s support (she had six uncles in the military), a retirement project of recording this information began and Harry’s now shares with you the twenty years of research in an effort to honour those who fell in war battles and the after effects of these experiences.