Born February 28, 1943, in Junghsien, Szechuan (“Sichuan”) outside the City of Chengdu, (while the Japanese were bombing that city). The delivery (I believe) was under the supervision of Dr. Ralph Outerbridge. I nearly died, as a baby, at about one year of age, due to a combination of measles and whooping cough. My life was saved by sulfa drugs administered by Dr. Fritz Fischer, a Viennese Jew, presumably hiding from the Nazis. The Fischer family ultimately settled in Indianhead, Saskatchewan.
My earliest memory in China was of the birth of my little sister, Diana. I remember gazing with indifferent curiosity at her tiny form in a crib, not then appreciating her central role in displacing me from the centre of our family universe. She was a cute baby.
The family returned (by ship) to Canada on furlough, in 1947, for about six months, staying somewhere in Toronto during winter (I can still remember the snow and coal-tar smell in the air). That period was long enough for me to lose all fluency in Szechuanese. It took several months, following the family return to Chengdu, to restore a measure of fluency (since lost again). My Chinese name was “Dai Way”.
We left Chengdu in 1950, smuggled to the coast in the back of canvas-covered trucks, after a period of house arrest following our father’s exasperated declaration (to the same question every day) at a Communist checkpoint that his lunch bag (in the basket of his bicycle) contained an atomic bomb. Communists have no sense of humour.
My education, in Chengdu, began at a Chinese kindergarten, in which I was the only Caucasion (“Long-nose, foreign devil”). That lasted for several days until I rebelled by climbing a tree in protest. To my surprise and amazement, my mother climbed up after me. However, I was not compelled to continue kindergarten. My Grade One education, at the Canadian School, was interrupted by the Communist incursion. The teacher (I think) was a Miss Edwards. The reading materials were Dick and Jane (and Spot). My psyche was dealt a crushing blow when I coloured sailboat pictures in my preferred selection of colours, and not those specified by the colouring book. Miss Edward’s big red Xs still sear my soul. On a dare, I also slid down the playground slide on a hot sunny day, which severely blistered my butt. I never did complete Grade One.
My memories of China include:
Our many “aunties”, “uncles”, and servants.
The incessant drone of cicadas during hot summer days.
The pain of fire ant bites when I “stomped” on their nest.
The many large and varied insects that inhabited our garden (including an 8 inch black, blue, and red centipede).
Varieties of palm trees that grew in our yard, as well as the walnut and ginkgo trees.
The campus clock tower with lily pond and frogs (the only surviving landmark of that period).
The near drowning of Diana in the canal behind our home (saved by a servant).
A flood that covered the city streets with one foot of water and watching a rickshaw submerge in a ditch, to the consternation of the passenger.
The squeals of pigs being butchered alive in the market.
The chewed sugar cane fibre blanketing the city streets.
The many delicious fruits: pumolos, persimmons, “pee ba”, lychees, etc.
The orderly exit of the Nationalist forces and the subsequent arrival of the Communist “army” of young boys with guns over their shoulders; the propaganda films shown on the University campus; the Communist nursery rhymes.
I still have a pre-Revolution 1,000,000 Yuan bill.
The good food prepared by our cooks (buns and dumplings).
The family returned (via ship) to Toronto in 1950. We lived for one year, with the grandparent Meusers. I attended a “retarded” Grade Two class at Humewood Elementary School, to compensate for my slow academic start.
In 1951, our father accepted a posting in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan (Grades 3-5). My education continued at Mountview Elementary School (Grade 6); Colonel Macleod Junior High School (Grades 7-9), Crescent Heights High School (Grades 10-12), University of Alberta/Calgary (1961-3), University of Alberta, Edmonton (1964-1972), B.Sc. (Chemistry), Ph.D. (Chemistry), MBA.
I married Marilyn Anne Benson (B.Sc.N, M.Ed., Psychologist) in 1966 and have three sons and one grandson. I have enjoyed a varied career in sulphur concrete manufacturing, oil & gas evaluation, production, and transportation, software development and consulting, corporate finance, import/export, as well as, air/water purification equipment manufacturing and marketing (two patents pending). Life and health are good.