All posts tagged RCAF

This morning, the Gander Airport Historical Society shared a tweet that I retweeted and started a discussion on Coca Cola, the Second World War, the United States, and advertising. During the discussion, James D Kightly shared a short article he wrote about the Coke advertising during the war, and I mentioned I had done a presentation about it some time ago. So, I am sharing that presentation with you now.

An advertisement for Coca Cola dominates the slide. It's of US servicemen on a doc reaching down to share Coke with fishermen in their boats and a rocky coastline in the background. The title reads North American Soda at the Globe Theatre, Gander.

Have a “Coke” = How are things goin’?: North American Soda at the Globe Theatre

By Lisa M. Daly

Prepared for the Stuart Brown Lecture Series, 2013

(note, I don’t believe this lecture series went very far, there may have only been a couple of lectures, and, to be honest, there were only two people at this one, and one of them was my mother! As well, as this was only supposed to be a presentation, there is no bibliography)

An old map of Newfoundland fill this slide

In 1935, surveyors Vatcher and Hall determined that Hattie’s Camp, at milepost 213 along the Newfoundland Railway line was an ideal location for an airport. The land was flat and relatively fog free, both a rarity for the island. Such an airport would make mail delivery faster. Aircraft could take off from ships, allowing for mail delivery days earlier.

Two images show construction at the Gander airbase. One is of the wooden building that was the train station and the other is of two workers and a small bear

Soon after construction started and on January 11, 1938, the first aircraft, Fox Moth VO-ADE flown by Captain Douglas Fraser, landed at the airport.

Three images on this slide. The first is a black and white of Hudson aircraft waiting at Gander. The second are Hudson aircraft in flight, and the third is the Air Transport Command patch

With the advent of World War II, the airport took on a greater importance and construction efforts accelerated. On November10, 1940, an experiment was undertaken to see if flying, or ferrying, of aircraft from North American factories to the European war effort was possible. Seven Hudson aircraft, fitted with extra fuel tanks, under the supervision of Captain Donald C. T. Bennett, took off from the Gander airfield. The flight would have been deemed successful if three of the seven aircraft were safely delivered. Under Bennett’s guidance, all seven aircraft landed in Scotland the following day thus creating the Atlantic Ferrying Organization, which later became the Royal Air Force Ferry Command and ended the war as the United States Army Air Force Transport Command.

Two more black and white photos. This time one is of an aircraft flying over the ocean and ships (a convoy) are scattered across the sea. The other is an aerial of Gander airport with aircraft lining the runway waiting for their time to take off

Gander’s second role during the war was as a base for Eastern Air Command. This was part of a joint Royal Canadian Air Force and USAAF effort to add an aerial patrol to convoys, and, to a lesser extent, hunt U-boats in North Atlantic waters. All of this war activity meant that what was to be an airport meant to allow for faster mail delivery became the largest airport in the world, one that saw thousands of aircraft pass through and saw a joint effort between the RAF, USAAF and RCAF in the name of fighting the war.

An aerial view of Gander with the American and Canadian sides of the base indicated

Large numbers of Canadian and American servicemen and women lived at Gander, first known only as the Newfoundland Airport, its exact location kept secret, and Newfoundlanders worked building and maintaining the airport. Gander, unlike any other base in Newfoundland, was not built next to a community, and entry to and from the area could be controlled. Only those with business in the area were permitted to get off the train at Gander. Therefore, was available at Gander had to be specifically brought in for base personnel.

A line drawing map of part of the Canadian side of the Gander base

The Globe Theatre was the theatre on the RCAF side of Gander. This area was closer to the railway station than to the runways. The American Side of the base hugged the runway, and was all destroyed after the war. The RCAF side of the base was in use up to the early 1960s, with documents suggesting that the last building to be used in the area was the Sir Frederick Banting Hospital, which was abandoned for the James Paton Memorial Hospital now located on the Trans-Canada Highway near what is currently called the town of Gander.  The Globe Theatre had a short life, with an estimated use from 1942 to 1962, and screened movies and performances such as variety shows, base glee clubs, traveling musical and comedy acts, and bands, both local and traveling. Going to the theatre was a favourite activity of GIs, as it was a great place to bring WDs (the women’s division) and visiting women from Grand Falls for a date night. Newfoundlanders were allowed to go to the theatre on certain nights, and children were given access. If it could be timed right, children could catch a show at the Globe Theatre and then run across the base to catch a different movie at the Star Theatre on the American side.

Trail signs on the Canadian side of the base indicating where the Globe Theatre used to be.

Excavations were undertaken at the Globe in the summer of 2011. The site was chosen because, in contrast to the aircraft crash sites examined for the rest of this project, the Globe was a happy place, a way to escape the hardship and tragedy of war, at least for a short time. Plus, it is one of the areas where there could be more interactions between Newfoundlanders, Canadians and Americans, potentially revealing an exchange of goods between the different countries. Coupled with that, much of the land surrounding the Gander Airport has been contaminated due to improper disposal of hazardous materials after the war. While Transport Canada has cleaned up the area so that it is safe, digging would upset monitoring probes and could potentially unearth hazards. The Globe was in the residential part of the Canadian side, and was one of the few areas determined by Transport Canada to be safe for excavation.

An image of a surveyor's level pointing toward one of the excavation crew who is holding the measuring rod. The area is cleared of trees and bushes

Some foundations were visible on the surface of the site, so, at the suggestions of my supervisor, Dr. Michael Deal, the team worked to uncover the outline of the building. This team consisted of MA student, Eric Guiry and a variety of volunteers, including Kathleen Ellwood, Shannon Green, Chelsee Arbour, Maryanne Baird, Matthew Brake, and of course, Mike Deal.  At our busiest day, we had five people working on the site for two days, but usually the team consisted of Eric, Kathleen and myself.

Over 10 non consecutive days we uncovered the foundations of the building, focusing mainly on the exterior foundation, and opened six excavation units. Originally, the plan had been to excavate four units at the entrance to the building, three in the approximate center and one on a rear interior foundation. This unit had a high number of surface finds, including an aluminium tank cover, but excavations revealed little more than the rest of the foundations. This excavation plan was a little too ambitious for the number of excavators available, and only 6 of the 8 units were opened and excavated. During excavation of the foundations and the units, most glass was placed in bags designated to the day, excavator and location on the site. Much of the glass recovered was non diagnostic clear bottle and window glass. Any pieces of interest, involving patterns, logos, bases, etc., found on the foundations were marked and measured in with the surveyor’s level from the site datum; those from the excavation units measured from the unit datum.

Fragments of glass with different paint found on site

Of the glass found on site, most was window glass covered in black paint. While I have not been able to find any pictures of the exterior of the Globe, all buildings on site supposedly looked the same. Therefore, there would have been windows in all of the social buildings, which would have been blacked out for the purpose of the theatre.

Fragments of mirror glass, a metal handle, and porcelain found under the stage

A fragment of mirror glass was also found near the rear exterior foundation. A surface find of porcelain, most likely from a toilet, and a decorative cabinet handle were found in this general area. These artifacts and personal recollections from Peter Hoyles, a frequent site visitor who used to attend the Globe just after the war, indicated that the stage was at the rear of the building and the washrooms where located under the stage.

Unidentified bottle glass. Some is clear but unmarked, one is bright green, and one is brown.

Bottle glass was found throughout the site. Most pieces were clear or green, unidentifiable glass. But, other pieces reflect the countries that were in Gander during the war. Keep in mind, the theatre was in use until the early 1960s, so the glass found is not just reflective of the war period but also the immediate post-war era. Both the Star and Globe Theatres were operational for a time after the war, and many who were children during and after the war remember frequenting both up until the Star was bulldozed and the Globe shut down when the new theater opened in Gander.

An image of two Keep Cool bottles from the 1940s and 1950s. The bottles are clear with a red painted label featuring seals on ice flows

There were sodas and aerated waters being sold in Newfoundland at the time, one of the most common companies being Gaden’s Aerated Waters Company, Limited (the name shortened to Gaden’s, Limited in 1942. Gaden’s bottled Keep Kool drinks, which included lemonade, soda water, ginger ale, champagne cider, and nectar drinks when they first opened. Gaden’s opened on Duckworth Street in St. John’s in 1889, and moved to Water Street in 1942 and remained there until it closed in 1977.

Fragments of Keep Cool bottles found on site

Gaden seemed to be popular drinks in Newfoundland, with beers (sort of flavoured sodas) being very popular, to the point where Dominick DeAntonio, a GI who arrived on the Edmund B. Alexander (the ship which brought the first American troops to St. John’s) could no buy pop at a St. John’s restaurant, as the waitress informed him they only sold beers, cherry, grape or orange. A Gaden bottle fragment was actually one of the first diagnostic bottle pieces to be found on site. A piece reading “NEWFOUND(?) This bottle/ of Gaden/ Deposit/ Refi (?)” was found toward the rear of the building. It was unfamiliar to all excavating that day, so Dr. Deal took an image of it back to St. John’s to try to identify it. My mother, on the other hand, grew up in Newfoundland and recognized it right away. This shows that Newfoundlanders were bringing their own favourite beverages to Gander, to the point where it was available at the theatre. Keep in mind, Gander could only be accessed with permission, so unlike other bases in Newfoundland, products could not move in and out of Gander so easily.

The base of a green bottle with a diamond pattern on the bottom

Another fragment indicating the presence of Newfoundland products is a green bottle base which features a D inside a diamond. This is actually from a Canadian bottle manufacturer, Dominion Glass Company, Limited, but was used in Newfoundland. There were no bottle manufacturers in the colony, so all soda bottles were imported. While I did determine this was a Canadian made bottle used by a Newfoundland drink company, I could not determine which one.

Fragments of Coca Cola bottles found on site

The most common bottle fragment found on a site belonged to Coke bottles.  Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Robert Woodruff, the then president of the Coca-Cola Company, ordered that “We will see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he is whatever it costs our company.” And the cost was to be the same for all American men in uniform; five cents a bottle. If Americans were attending the Globe, Coke would have cost five cents, but, the Canadian side was subject to different duty prices (meaning Canadian supplies were subject to duty whereas the American goods were all duty free) so it is conceivable that the price was different on either side of the runway. To provide Coke to the men in uniform, and because shipping bottles of Coke took up too much space needed for weapons and war supplies, Coke began building factories around the world and would ship only the syrup needed to produce the drink. But, Coca-Cola was already being bottled in Newfoundland. In 1938, Gaden’s began bottling Coke, and continued to do so until the facility closed in 1977.

A timeline of the shape and colour of Coca Cola bottles

One of the reasons why Coke dominates the assemblage is the iconic Coca-Cola bottle. The green glass and the curved bottle are trademarked to the Coca-Cola Company, so any of the light green glass, or clear glass with the ridged curve is known to be part of a Coke bottle. No other soda has such a distinct bottle, most being identified only if part of the logo is found. In other cases, such as a cross hatching pattern seen on a fragment, the piece could belong to multiple types of sodas made by a single company.

World War II saw Coca Cola spread all over the world, and Coke used this as an advertising tool in the United States. Advertisements depicted servicemen and women in all of the exotic locations sharing Coke with the local populations in places such as Alaska, China, Iceland, New Zealand, the Admiralty Isles, Brussels, Panama, and of course, the fishermen of Newfoundland.

An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
An advertisement for Coca Cola from during the war. Image from www.adbranch.com
from www.adbranch.com
Fragments of Pepsi bottles found on site with a Pepsi-Cola advert

The history of Pepsi-Cola in Newfoundland is a little more difficult to piece together. Pepsi was a registered trademark in Canada in 1906, the first bottling facility outside of the United States opened in Montreal in 1934. This obviously does not mean that Pepsi was available in Newfoundland at that time. A Pepsi franchise was obtained in 1944 by Reginald C. Harvey of Browning-Harvey Limited, and this was the first instance of Pepsi being bottled in Newfoundland. I could not determine if Pepsi was regularly shipped in to Newfoundland at any time before this date.

A complete Pepsi Cola bottle and an advert with a drawing of Pepsi bottles

The style of the Pepsi-Cola bottle changed within a few years of the end of the war. During the war, Pepsi had a sort of cross-hatch design with the words “Pepsi Cola” embossed on the glass. A fragment of this was found at the Globe, identified by the pattern and the LA in cola. The Pepsi-Cola logo is not as easy to date, as although the bottle changed slightly after the war, the Pepsi-Cola logo remained the same.

A possible fragment of a Canada Dry bottle and advertisements for comparison

Finally, this piece is potentially, but not confirmed, to be part of a Canada Dry bottle. Canada Dry began manufacture in 1890 as a dry ginger beer, something less sweet than others on the market. It was popular in Canada, and it would be unlikely for it to not have been present in Gander. But, the presence of Canada Dry at the Globe cannot be stated for certain.

As previously mentioned, much of the bottle glass found on site could not be positively identified. There was a large amount of unmarked clear and green glass excavated, but without distinct markings or logos it is not possible to know one bottle from another as many bottles used by different companies and coming from different manufacturers were of similar styles. For instance, Gaden’s ginger beer was marketed in emerald green bottles, but none of the green bottle glass found had the distinctive Gaden’s trademark of a sea-lion on an ice-pan.

Parts of soda tins found on site and comparisons of Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola tins for comparison

A major problem with framing this research within the timeframe of the Second World War is that the theatre was in use after the war. Evidence of this is seen in the presence of soda cans which were not available until after the war. Coca-Cola began putting Coke in cans in 1955, but took a few years to determine how to make a liner that would not alter the taste of the drink. Coke in cans was available for mass distribution in 1959. The slight markings on the lower can are similar to the can shown; a design available in 1961. Again, an exact date for the closing of the Globe could not be found, but the residents and services of the Canadian side of the base were transferred to what is now Gander starting in 1950, mostly completed by 1957, and the hospital, believed to be the last building transferred, closed in 1964. In 1957, many of the more specialized buildings were still in the old town area, such as the post office and the library, and as the library was next to the theatre, it is assumed the Globe was still in the old town. Therefore, given the evidence of the drink cans coupled with the documentary evidence, it is believed that the Globe closed in the early 1960s.

A complete Gordon's Dry Gin bottle found on site with an advertisement for comparison

One last bottle of interest is that of a complete Gordon’s Gin bottle found a half meter below the surface, near the entrance to the building. There is no other indication of alcohol available on site, and during the war, if the regulations were the same as the USAAF theatre, the Star, alcohol was not permitted on site. Therefore, speculation can lead to ideas that this bottle may have belonged to a projectionist, as it was in an area close to the pieces of the projector and film fragments, or perhaps some liquid fortification for a performer before a show, or, more likely, one of the servicemen or women looking for courage before getting on stage in front of their peers to perform in a variety show or a glee club performance.

An image from the magazine The Gander with Coming Attractions at RCAF Theatre and a list of special thanks

As usual, I cannot thank the people involved in this project enough. I had so many great workers and volunteers who without whom I might still be wandering the woods or lost in a bog in Gander. And to Mike for all of his help, hopefully we can get this thesis finished quickly and I’ll be out of your hair, at least until another interesting plane crash project comes up. And to all of the companies, groups and offices that provided financial and logistical support, access to sites, and for helping me locate sites and sharing historical records, it is all so very appreciated.

Pictures of the crew along with photo credits and image citations
Share Button

It has been a busy start to the year. Between preparing a presentation in absentia for the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference in Boston, preparing an abstract for the Canadian Archaeological Association Conference in May, #stormageddon, and preparing a talk for the Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society (February 22, 2020, 7:30pm at Hampton Hall, Marine Institute, St. John’s, NL. Free admission, all are welcome) it has been hectic. But, I always take on too many projects.

A black and white image of a crashed aircraft in a bog with a line of trees in the background.
Text reads:
Aviators and Airfields, Aviation Archaeology Work in Newfoundland and Labrador by Lisa M. Daly
Newfoundland and Labrador has seen many events in aviation history, some of which have been historically significant, such as the plane crash that killed Sir Frederick Banting in 1941. Other events involved early aviators trying to set and beat records, or men delivering aircraft and supplies and keeping convoys safe during the Second World War.
For this talk, Lisa Daly looks at recent aviation archaeology conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador. She focuses on the aviation material culture of the province, the reasons for conducting this type of archaeology, and the activities of various communities in recording a protecting sites. Archaeologists in this province have been leading the way in the relatively new field of aviation archaeology.
Thursday, 27 February 202 at 7:30pm
Hampton Hall, Marine Institute, St. John's, NL
Free admission, everyone welcome!
Presented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Historical Society

It isn’t very often that I can easily share a book that I’m reviewing, but this book is available through the Digital Archives Initiative and Memorial University of Newfoundland, so if you would like to read it yourself, or look at all of the pictures, you can find it here.

I received a well-worn copy of Per Ardua…: A Pictorial History of RCAF, Torbay from a Nelson Sherren as part of a collection of papers and books a couple of years ago. This text was part of his research into the Torbay Airport, a manuscript I am still editing in the hopes to fulfil his dream of publication.

This short book was published in 1944 with sponsorship from the station fund for the exclusive use for personnel of RCAF Station Torbay and features the photographs of Jack Speare and his photography staff. The book does not focus on text, but shares a number of photographs of Torbay from early ground breaking to the height of the Second World War, and is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in historical photography as well as aviation history.

Three black and white photos. Top left is a man walking, knee-deep in the snow toward his surveyor's level. Small scrubby trees are visible. Top right is a muddy, possibly frozen terrain and two surveyor's and their level in the distance. Bottom left is a drainage ditch that is being dredged. Machinery is visible in the distance and a couple of boards are in the water in the foreground.
Early surveying and construction at Torbay

Of course, as the text is sponsored by the RCAF and published during the war, it is very positive about the establishment and operation of the airport, and stresses the need for it to be built. That said, it even makes “months of bog-slogging, hacking through heavy underbrush, and squinting through freezing transists and levels” to survey and plan the airport in the winter of 1940/1 sound like an adventure. The construction company, McNamara Construction Co. moved in with 450 workers who worked day and night, concentrating on the runways, to get the base operational. G.M. Cape Co. worked on the buildings once the runways were surfaced.

A snowy scene where cars and trucks have snow up over their tires. Buildings are on the right of the picture, and have snow built up around the doors. In the middle of the picture, snowclearing equipment are working.
Snow in Torbay

Though lighthearted, the book also covers the seriousness of the situation. An anecdote about a nose-hangar collapsing and damaging one of the aircraft was later mocked by Lord Haw Haw, part of German propaganda, mentioned the hangar as being poorly built on his radio show. The book doesn’t say who might have leaked the information, but, with everyone on high alert, a trapper was fired upon, and from then on, trapping was banned from the area.

A aircraft is back on to the photo with its nose in a small hangar. The hangar just covers the nose, leaving the wings outside of the structure.
A hangar like the one refered to by Lord Haw Haw

This isn’t a long book, really just magazine sized, and does feel a lot like the publications that were coming out of Gander, but a little broader as it was covering many years of RCAF Torbay and the publications in Gander were coming out multiple times a year, so would have some historical information now and then, but would mostly focus on the current happenings (much like the sports section in this one). It does show that there were many of the same kinds of activities at Torbay as at Gander, such as picnics and swimming by the late (here Windsor Lake, there Gander Lake), dances (and finally found the source for a photo that shows up in many later publications), bands, a theatre, library, and debates. Torbay did have it much easier compared to Gander, where it was a much shorter trip into St. John’s, whereas on leave, those from Gander would go to Grand Falls, all the way to St. John’s, or in the case of the Americans, Corner Brook to go to the USO. In St. John’s, the publication praises the bacon and eggs, and the chocolate cake with whipped cream at the Blue Puttee (near Rawlin’s Cross). While much of the talk of St. John’s and surrounding areas as that tinge of condescension that many of these publications carry, the excitement of shipments of oranges and coal coming in to the harbour, of the meagre pebbly fields. While I like this line, it does paint Newfoundland as lesser: “We have come to respect the people’s feeling for this strong land that is not easily loved, their sturdy pride, which makes them desire to create their salvation themselves.”

A group of five Newfoundland men talking in a circle, with one looking at the camera. They are wearing long, heavy coats and salt n' pepper caps. The caption from the book reads: "Rugged faces of seafarers."

This publications does treat the WDs as invaders to the male space of the servicemen. This is also common in these publications, but the RCAF ones seem to like to have their glamour shots of women. The book actually bemoans the WDs arriving at Torbay because the servicemen had to stop swimming in the nude at Windsor Lake (also the city’s water supply). The section devoted to the WDs makes it sound like their only role is planning and providing entertainment, and their goal is marriage, ignoring the clerical work, and even the nursing, that women did at RCAF Torbay. Many classes were offered, and while the pictures show both men and women attending a typing class, it seems implied that most classes were for the men, except cooking and sewing which is specifically for the WDs. That said, one woman does get special mention, LAW Galliot, as she taught the French classes, something important as many servicemen and women from Quebec served in Newfoundland and Labrador because it was not considered to be overseas.

Two photos. Top right is an unnamed outport. In the right foreground is a dock with a small fishing boat. In the back centre is a white float plane with two people standing on the wings and a dory trailing behind it. The photo on the left is of two servicemen on either side of a female nurse who is folding a baby. They are sitting in a dory with a woman who is lying down.
An unnamed outport and a first air party helping a local woman and her child.

Of course, this, like other publications that were likely to be sent home to family or kept as keepsakes, focus on the positive. There is a brief mention of the Knights of Columbus fire, something which would have been devastating to RCAF Torbay, and of missing aircraft, but the focus very much on the light and happy day-to-day activity of the airbase: the dances, the church services, the visiting celebrities, trips around the Avalon. Such publications give so much insight into the down times while incident reports and logs discuss the actual work of the base. Sports were a big part of the social life, usually with friendly competition between the RCAF and the RCN, with the rare game against the US Army (the Americans won in basketball). The women didn’t get as many sports competitions, as the softball schedule was almost completely rained out!

Three photos. Top left are two women sitting next to a rocky stream. Top right are a group of men and women sitting and lying on the edge of a forest. Bottom are four people next to a waterfall, backed by a rugged cliff. Two women are standing at the base of the waterfall while a man is helping a third woman climb a small pile of rocks.
Exploring the area

As someone who loves going to the library (when I visited Florida a few years ago, I just wandered the library close to where I was staying just to explore it), it was lovely to see that apparently the library at Torbay had the highest circulation of any library in Eastern Air Command! The library averaged about 50 books circulated a day!

Top photo: The library. A wall lined with shelves of books in the background. On man sitting at a desk covered in books is having a book to another man standing on the other side. Bottom photo: A woman is walking between rows of desks as servicemen and women are sitting, working at large black typewriters.
The library and the typing class

The best parts of this book, from a historical perspective, are the photos of early Torbay and talk of the construction of the airbase, as well as the group photos and roll call pages. The group photos have everyone listed, which is a wonderful resource for finding people, and perhaps finding pictures of family members who served.

I have only shared a couple of pictures, so I strongly recommend finding Per Ardua… at the DAI and looking through the wonderful pictures of the construction of, and life at, RCAF Torbay.

A large splash in the ocean, possibly from a depth charge. Next to the image reads: " In peace there is nothing so becomes a man, As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Them imitate the action of a tiger."
Throughout the sports and leisure, it is remembered that RCAF Torbay was built for war.
Share Button