I was chatting with a few ladies in the Fairmont Hotel’s Absolute Spa, when one of them said, “You should interview my 86 year old grandma! She’s meeting her 91 year old boyfriend in the International Arrivals tomorrow at 3:00pm.” I couldn’t believe me ears, “A 91 year old boyfriend?” I’ve heard of 16 year old boyfriends, 30 year old boyfriends.. but 91? This had to be a good story!
It was 1939 and WWII had officially started following the invasion of Poland. Both France and the British Commonwealth had declared war against the Nazi invaders. Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) needed a safe place to train their pilots and ground crew, so they chose the Canadian prairies. Between 1939 and 1945 thousands of RAF troops would train in remote locations across Saskatchewan. One of the largest bases was located in the small farming community of North Battleford, and that’s where the story unfolds.
He was a young, 21 year old aviation engineer with the RAF. His job was to train pilots on the procedures of ‘blind flying’, an essential skill when navigating through thick clouds or rain.
She was a 17 year old prairie girl, still living with her parents (who were actually from Britain). Her family missed the old country and was excited to welcome the hundreds of tea loving troops into their sleepy community.
Although Ethel had her share of strapping young lads to choose from, it was David’s charm and English wit that captivated her heart. They spent close to three years together, skipping rocks in the summer and snuggling by the fireplace in the winter. It was a time of promise and a new future for both of them, that was until David’s post was relocated to England. Although it brought tears, the War’s end was uncertain and Ethel was forced to stay behind.
They continued to write, but responsibilities toward their families and careers had taken a priority in both their lives. Eventually they followed separate paths.
But fate works in mysterious ways..
It was 1999. Ethel and her husband were touring England when Ethel noticed a shockingly recognizable street address, it was David’s. Surprisingly enough, her husband convinced her to place the call. The three of them met and ended up spending the next few days together. Their reunion must have sparked an age old flame, because when they returned to Canada her husbands first remarks were, “I have some competition, looks like Ethel found a new boyfriend.” Ethel commented on how kind her husband was to her from then on.
It was Ethel’s husband that kept in contact with David over the next few years. Together they shared old war stories and memories of the past. But fate took yet another turn when Ethel’s husband unexpectadly passed away. David sent his regards and waited for Ethel to greave, but he couldn’t wait any longer. After a few months he suggested a visit to Canada.
David and Ethel have been 'friends’ (as Ethel puts it) for a couple years now. David now enjoys six months of the year in Canada, serenading Ethel as she makes his favourite dinner, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings.
I would like to thank David and Ethel for allowing me to share their beautiful fairytale. I didn’t know what to expect when approaching this story, but like most great things in life.. they arrive unexpected.
I was rushing between video shoots, but just had to snap a few photos of this Starsky and Hutch duo.
They were hanging out in the US Departure Terminal in YVR (Vancouver International Airport). Mr. Shaggy Boom-Bastic (real name “Binky”) was a little shy at first, until I brought the camera out. His dad is an avid photographer and has been snapping his picutre since he was a pup.
It was a quick meet and greet and I had to run. Binky and his dad were off to Mexico, where they kick-back for a few months each winter.