Last night I watched a CTV special on the Cuban missile crisis. You can look it up in the history books or online if you’ve never heard of it. All I’ll say, to pique your curiosity, is that those events are the nearest the US and the USSR ever came to World War III.
But, watching that drew my mind back to October 1962 and the events in my life during that month. I was in Vancouver B C during the early part of October at the army personnel depot awaiting my discharge papers (medical discharge). Just before Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving – early October), Vancouver was visited by Pacific hurricane Freda. The depot had its own power station, but for some reason, the only form of energy available in the kitchens was steam. Worked out great in some ways – I could have all the tea and coffee I wanted – not so great in others. I swear I’ll never eat steamed sausages again: once was enough. On the Monday I decided I’d go into the downtown area. Later in the afternoon, knowing all they had at the depot was steamed foods, I decided to stop at a coffee shop for something to eat. Counting my money, I realized all I could afford was coffee, so that is what I ordered. It wasn’t until I saw all the turkey dinners being brought in from the kitchen that I even remembered it was Thanksgiving. No turkey for me at Thanksgiving 1962. My dinner consisted of a cup of coffee.
A couple of days later my papers arrived and I was soon on a train back to Toronto. It was during this trip the Cuban missile crisis began and quickly escalated. By the time I arrived home, the Soviet freighters carrying the missiles were headed straight for the US blockade and the world was simultaneously holding its breath and crossing its fingers. Keep in mind that during this time I was still technically in the army, but on final 30 day leave. My stepfather was also in the army, member of the Royal Canadian Regiment (I had been in the Royal Canadian Engineers) and we were both aware that the telephone could ring at any time ordering him to his post and me to the nearest army base. Fortunately, the confrontation at sea never happened, but it was a very nervous time for my mother, my stepfather and myself and we’d jump every time the telephone rang. In early November I finished that final leave and was officially out of the armed forces.
If you ask people in their mid to late sixties, I’m sure you would get some fascinating stories of their October 1962. Mine isn’t that fascinating, but I still remember it clearly. And every Thanksgiving, I have a cup of coffee and reflect on what might have been all those years ago.