Happy 100th Birthday Stubby


My father’s name was Herman Samuel Stubbs. I don’t know what his precise birth weight was, just that he was a large baby. Indeed, he often joked that his mother tried to get her revenge for a long, painful period of labour, by naming him Herman. If that was her goal, she failed, as everybody, including his wife, in-laws, family friends, co-workers, and acquaintances called him Stubby. Today, Wednesday, September 21, 2022, would have been his 100 birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away forty-five years ago in June of 1977, at the much too young age of fifty-four. I was just seventeen at the time of his passing.

If that was her goal, she failed, as everybody, including his wife, in-laws, family friends, co-workers, and acquaintances called him Stubby.
My father and yours truly

June 4, 2014, marked the thirty-seventh anniversary of my father’s passing, which occurred precisely 109 days before his fifty-fifth birthday. I was born on September 22, 1959; therefore the fifth of June 2014 was 109 days before my fifty-fifth birthday. On that day I was the exact age my father was when he passed away. The next day I had outlived him.

I am far from unique in this, but it does provide me with food for thought. I imagine this thoughtfulness is a more acute phenomenon for people who, like myself, lost a parent at a young age. Although just a generation apart, our lives differ greatly.

During World War Two, my father joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, serving on the HMCS (His Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Prince Rupert, which played a major role in the Murmansk Run, bringing supplies to Russia. When victory was declared in Europe on May 8, 1945, VE Day, the HMCS Prince Rupert was in Halifax, Nova Scotia preparing for its next overseas convoy. That no longer being necessary, the ship made its way to Esquimalt, British Columbia, on the opposite side of Canada, to be refitted for use in the Pacific theatre.

My father and his three sons

The voyage to B.C. was lengthy, via the Panama Canal, and those crew members who signed on for the war in the Pacific, including my father, were granted some leave before making their way across Canada by train. It was during this downtime that my father met the girl (she was just sixteen at the time) whom he would marry and who would become my mother. He made his way west, to rejoin the HMCS Prince Rupert all the while maintaining a correspondence with his girl back home in Montreal via mail. While he was in B.C. waiting to head to the Pacific Theatre, the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thereby negating the HMCS Prince Rupert’s refitting, and ultimately ending the war.

… he was a great tea drinker but was more likely to call it slops, the term often used to refer to the less-than-high-quality tea served aboard RCNV ships.
My parents circa 1945

Like many World War II veterans, my father never spoke about what he had witnessed during his time at war. Except for the occasional humorous yarn, one of which involved an Oerlikon Cannon, if you can imagine that possibly being funny! However, he did from time to time throw in the odd navy expression. For instance, he was a great tea drinker but was more likely to call it slops, the term often used to refer to the less-than-high-quality tea served aboard RCNV ships.

By the time of his passing, my father, had not only fought in World War Two, but had been married to my mother for thirty years, and worked at Seagram’s distillery for twenty-five years, receiving his congratulatory watch at his home mere months before passing (his longtime employment at a distillery is ironic as he was essentially teetotal, having a drink only on rare occasions such as Christmas dinner or weddings). At the time of his death, he was also the father of three sons (he often mentioned the television show My Three Sons, which was popular in the Sixties), and grandfather of one.

Christmas Day 1960; my rarely drinking father wields two bottles

Because of the efforts of my father and millions of other volunteers, I have been spared military service and war.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to earn two university degrees; yet, unlike my father, I have had several “careers” of varying lengths, ranging from months-long to sixteen years in duration, with no golden watch looming on the horizon.

I can take pictures or videos with my pocket-size mobile phone; he wasn’t a big fan of telephones in general, including the one that was affixed to our kitchen wall. To commute to work he bought tickets from a streetcar/bus driver while I charge my bus pass and scan it to gain entry to the Metro and bus. He read a newspaper and took tablets for various aches and pains. I read the newspaper on a tablet.

He read a newspaper and took tablets for various aches and pains. I read the newspaper on a tablet.

He was a lifelong smoker. I haven’t smoked in almost twenty years. I imagine he would be shocked to learn that a package of cigarettes, in an effort to deter smoking, now costs nearly $20.

Enjoying an after-dinner smoke

He was a natural lefty, but, as was the practice in grade schools at that time, he was forced to switch to right-handed penmanship. The result was ambidexterity; not only when it came to writing, but throwing a baseball, or kicking a soccer ball; in fact, he was able to do most things left or right-handedly.

Soccer was his game of choice as a young man. He played in a local commercial league and had the scars on his shins to prove it. One time as a younger player, during a pick-up game, he was involved in a collision that, once examined medically, left him with a separated shoulder. Although he did not continue to play in the game, he stayed on the sidelines before going to the hospital. Was this due to a deep sense of sportsmanship? Was he cheering on his teammates through his pain? Nope; he was waiting to take the ball home, it was his, and he didn’t want to end the game for the others!

Was this due to a deep sense of sportsmanship? Was he cheering on his teammates through his pain? Nope; he was waiting to take the ball home, it was his, and he didn’t want to end the game for the others!
My parents

At the end of the workweek, he enjoyed a quiet Friday evening in front of the television, having a cup of tea, smoking, and just unwinding. I have no doubt he would have been impressed, perhaps overwhelmed, as am I sometimes, with the vast number of channels now available for viewers.

Having birthdays one day apart, I like to think, that as well as the above differences, we had many things in common, including sharing several birthday cakes.

My recollections of my father are, and can only ever be, as a vibrant middle-aged man.

An interesting birthday aside: while I missed being a birthday gift for my father by several hours, I was a 67th birthday present for my maternal grandmother with whom I shared a birthday until her passing.

If there is an upside to losing a parent at a young age, it’s that they are forever young in retrospect. My recollections of my father are, and can only ever be, of a vibrant middle-aged man. I have no possibility of memories of him as an old man, although I wish I did.

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