MAINER MEMORIES

 

My message to you dated 04 June 01 concerning the passing of George Mainer has resulted in a flow of reminiscences concerning one of our most enigmatic and eccentric classmates.  He takes on the aspects of a legendary character!

Tim Ryley, corroborated by George Logan, puts the motorcycle accident in Canada (at Ipperwash) rather than in Europe, as I wrote based on my conversation with George's cousin.

I have since spoken with Bill Mainer, George's brother, who lives in North Bay.  Although George and Bill were not particularly close over the years, there was occasional contact.  Bill told me that, in the years after the two accidents that affected George's neck, George was able to follow an active life.  This included his working as an aid for a Member of
Parliament (unnamed) for a while, as well as his teaching training and career.

Although George did not stay close with most of his family members, he was very solicitous of his mother until her death.

There now follow the comments received from a number of you:

Dav Stothers wrote:

I still have a note on Political Science from Murray Beck of George's.  Of course, one can not forget his famous answer to the English test question:  "Why are the English such  prolific word borrowers" to which his answer  was:  "The weather in England is very bad, thus the English stay home at night and have large families.  This is why they are terrific word borrowers".

Also have photos from his 1957 summer in Germany when he visited  Paris. Have photos of  him and other class of 58 troops with inscription "Great field commander viewing the Champs Elysees" or words to that effect. Thanks for the update; I knew Bob Grogan in the Army, and also his brother Bill.

I also remember how George would walk in on Moggridge, Howes and Wellsman and say, "Glad to see the St Kitts buddies in such harmony" as they were biting each other's heads off!  Also remembered him for "superior browning". Joined Kingston Historical Society to do well in history (George Stanley), and debating to get in with Murray Beck, who led that activity.  You will remember how he failed drafting in first year because of a crooked  T square!!


Don Smithes wrote:

I am moved to write by the story of the struggles of George.  I remember him well, a gentle and patient man in the face of his mishaps, but clearly too intelligent and perceptive for the infantry.  We only trained together at Borden for a short time.  As I recall he spent his first summer with the RCAF.  The story was that he had pranged a Harvard, landing on another one landing beneath him, but he never spoke of it.

Some may wish to send a message to the service, so I hope some contact details can be circulated.


Lawlor Rochester wrote:

Sounds like adversity was George's soul mate and more power to him.  It's great to have this knowledge and information of George's activities. Closure to an active and creative life sounds like a life well lived.


Jim Howes wrote:

While we were in college, I considered George to be one of my closest friends.  Sadly we lost contact following graduation, and I never heard from him again.  Over the years I made several inquiries as to his whereabouts and heard all the rumors that the many of rest of us appear to have heard.  Because of this, I feared that he had slipped through the
cracks and died destitute.  This has troubled me greatly over the years, but now your message gives me some closure, for as difficult as his later years were, they were not quite the disaster that I had feared.

I always admired his stubborn courage, his perseverance and the cheerfulness with which he faced his difficulties during the college years, and now I regret that I did not have more faith in him in the later years.


Tim Ryley wrote:

I can add a few details to your information because George was standing in for me as Orderly Officer in Camp Ipperwash, Ontario, where 1 RCR, was located, when his accident happened.  George spent two years in the
battalion in Ipperwash before it departed for Germany in October 1962.  The accident occurred on a Sunday afternoon.  The CO, LCol Frank Klenavic (who died two years ago), had directed that all subalterns in the battalion should get their "Standing Orders", i.e., driving licenses, on the bikes. We took a five-day course, and as you mentioned, George was found to need practice.  On the Sunday afternoon, while checking the Transport Compound, he signed out a bike and took it over to the square where he practiced doing figures of eight.

George was a meticulous disciplinarian, a point of which all soldiers were aware.  A bunch of them on hearing the noise of the bike on the square, piled out and formed a circle around George, and on a signal, saluted. George in attempting to return the salute, lost control and ran his bike into one of the buildings surrounding the square.  He was given seven extra days orderly officer for misuse of military property.  Those were crueler, less sensitive times.

I can add that George got his start teaching when he was appointed Education Officer.  He did a survey of the troops and found that many did not have Grade Eight.  He formed a school with subalterns as tutors, organized correspondence courses for those needing upgrading, and we tried to get them through their courses.

I saw George several times while he was still in the Army in Ottawa on my return in 1964 from England. He had a part-time job as assistant to a PC MP from an Ontario riding, and regaled Cindy and me with stories from the
Hill.

At the reception following my assumption of command of I RCR in London, Ontario in July 1977, George's cousin, whose name escapes me (Editor's note - undoubtedly Bob Grogan), came up to me, introduced himself, and passed on
George's best wishes.  That was the last I heard of him, but when in Toronto from time to time, I would check the phone book but could never find his name

George was definitely a character.  At one time in Ipperwash, he was Food Member on the Mess Committee.  He liked his beef very well done, and so expressed his wishes to the cook.  One weekend, he tried to put the duty cook on charge for failing to cook the roast to his specifications, but wiser heads prevailed and the cook was left to wonder about officers.


Marnie Hargraft wrote:

I am sad that George has died.  From your note, poor George didn't have a happy life.  You may not recall that he and Michael were friends at the College.  I have in a box [whose whereabouts I am certain] a copy of the Hargraft-Mainer Protocol.  It was the details of a bet that they made before a final exam concerning the questions that would be on the exam, which one I don't recall.  In any case, can't you see the two of them wasting' the night before the final by going into such an elaborate rigmarole?  I shall photocopy the Protocol and send you a copy as soon as I can.  Such wit is rare.

George and Michael corresponded for a time after they left the College.  I remember Michael reading me a letter from George when he was at Dal.  The phrase that sticks in my mind was that, being unsure of something or other in the future, he killed a bird and examined its entrails;  the auguries being inconclusive, he killed Theakston and examined his entrails!

I only met George once, at the Ex-cadet weekend on the first year Mike and I were married.  We were having drinks in the Navy (?) mess on the north side of the highway.  We were talking to Stothers when George came up and the verbal jousting began, fast and furious, all very 'punny' and very muchover my head.  The absolute crusher came when George turned to David and asked him, 'How the court martial was coming on?'  I was astonished [as was Mike I think] and Stothers either passed over that or something mercifully intervened, like the piper appearing to call the 'boys' to dinner.

When Jane was born, Michael had one of the Moderns masters at the School address the birth announcement, in the Cyrillic alphabet, to George at the DMI.  Amazingly he got it! [well not that amazingly - Ottawa looks quite the same in either alphabet].  George's reply was classic Mainer:  'The Director of Military Intelligence, the Russian ambassador, the RCMP and I congratulate you on the birth of your daughter.'

Some years later, probably in the mid-70's, Mike had a call from George asking him about enrolling a boy in TCS, the son of his boss who was an MP for someplace like Perry Sound.  George was 'working' for him, whether in Ottawa or in the riding, I don't recall.  Nothing came of it.


George Logan wrote:

Although George and I spent a fair amount of time together at the Royal Canadian School of Infantry at Camp Borden and we got along well, I don't think I really knew him.  I'm not sure anyone did.  Of course, part of my problem is that my memory of long-ago events is failing and more and more I recall fragments rather than the whole.

From what I remember, George was more restrained than most of us in talking about our hopes, dreams and insecurities.  Not that any of us ever completely revealed our imaginings or our vulnerabilities, but George kept
things a little closer to the chest.

I remember, or think I do:  George had a separate toothbrush for each day of the week.  He did not consider this eccentric, just a matter of disciplined dental hygiene (and, Al, if you have a separate toothbrush for each day of the week, I hasten to assure you that I do not consider it eccentric either). 

Of course, George was very strong willed and determined.  This may have been both a blessing and a curse.  Do you recall the exercises we had to do on the box horse - the vaults, the neck-bends, and so on?  George lacked the coordination to master some of these moves (and I can say this without trying to sound superior because I was similarly afflicted).  His efforts to dominate the horse were something to behold.  I am sure he must have hurt himself on a number of occasions but he would have had the consolation that he had hurt the horse more!!!!

While at Borden, George made something of a name for himself by charging one of the instructional staff (a sergeant I think) for passing him on the road and not saluting him.  Now technically the NCOs had to salute when we were not under their direct control, and most of them did so, but as they had the ultimate power over us in the broader scheme of things, this is not something that would normally become an issue.  George's charge was something of a precedent and if I remember rightly, almost everyone up to and including the Commandant tried to get him to back off.  I don't recall how it was finally resolved but I do have this vision of George rigid and uncompromising.  Years later, when I heard about George's motorcycle accident there seemed to be strange irony to it.  The story I heard, and it may well be apocryphal, is that George was saluted while he drove past a group of soldiers.  What could he do but return the salute?

 

Bill Hughes:

My favorite story about George occurred during his very brief posting to pilot school in Penhold in the Summer of '54. (With his lack of coordination, it didn't take long to weed George out of the group. The big surprise is how he ever managed to be selected!) 

An instructor normally sat in a towable trailer at the end of the live runway. From this vantage point he could judge the quality of each student's approach to landing on the 2900' runway. If he didn't like it, he fired a red flare from a Varey pistol mounted in the roof of the trailer, and the student would gun the engine, overshoot and go around for another approach. Students not assigned to fly often joined the instructor to watch the landings and listen to the banter from the instructor.

One day George was there and he was aware that his buddy, George Kato, was in the circuit. Well, Kato came in, hit hard, bounced, and landed on his nose. Without a second's thought, the Chief charged off on foot down the live runway to see if his buddy had been hurt. Of course, nobody is allowed to stroll down a live runway. In an emergency, another aircraft could land, and a stray student pilot is simply going to get in the way of the ambulance, fire truck and mobile crane that are racing to the scene.

Kato, of course, wasn't hurt. The Harvard was a remarkably sturdy aircraft. Even those who flipped over on their backs were protected. The mobile crane would simply lift the aircraft by the tail and the red-faced pilot would walk away to fly another day.

You have to admit there's a certain irony in putting Mainer, Hunt, Hughes and Petersen in the same room.

 

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