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History of the CAHS Montreal Chapter

The origins of the Montréal Chapter run in close parallel to that of the National CAHS. In pre-CAHS Charter days leading up to 1963, Ross Richardson got together with like-minded aviation types from Canadair Ltd in Montréal to explore mutual interests in aviation books and Canadian aviation history. Through his personal friends in Toronto — many of whom worked with him at Avro Canada in Malton — Ross followed the embryonic development of the Toronto-based National CAHS group. The Montréal core at this time was made up of Ross Richardson, Roy Dishlevoy, Fred Shortt, Bill Harvey, and Hank Volker. George Fuller and Doug Anderson attended these sessions when work schedules permitted.

When the CAHS received its charter, the informal Montréal group decided to go for Chapter status within the CAHS framework. The group slowly grew. From living room meetings, through classrooms, to hotel conference rooms, the Montréal Chapter has grown and finally anchored itself at the Pointe Claire Legion.

The Chapter has had its ups and downs. A strong economic downturn in the aviation industry in the 1980s saw the Chapter fold and many key members move away to follow employment opportunities. There was a hiatus of some years before the flame of the group was rekindled in 1996.

Like all the others, the Montréal Chapters have had a diverse slate of speakers and events. They flew the full gamete: fascinating, interesting, mundane, history, his-story, humorous, and the odd one that came thundering in under the radar as plain bizarre. Over the years, a number of speakers have stood out leaving us contemplating their words: Vaughn Olmstead (commercial pilot) showed the changing face of the north in pictures as he saw it from the left hand seat, Fairchild 82 through to the Boeing 727; Louis Geoffrion, (fighter pilot) left us with the chill of fear that fighter pilots challenged daily; Sydney Shulemson (ship-buster Beaufighter pilot) spoke of the cold hard techniques and repetitive training that made the chance of survival just a little better; Eric Bentley (mechanic) impressed us with his competence and gentleness; Hugh Allen Martin (Army glider pilot) presented us with an unusual facet of war, revealing his broad knowledge and quiet courage; Doug Sample (tail gunner: Halifax) left us more respectful with his description of a gunner's lonely night vigil; Patrick Campbell (engineer) magically unravelled the complexities of aero engines into a form anyone could understand; Squadron Leader Boulet (RCAF) spoke eloquently of the Lancaster and it stalwart service it gave to the men in the RCAF; and, the synergy that came forth in the unplanned reunion of Bill Peterson and other Air Canada personnel involved in the Gimili Glider incident, and its follow-up, impressed all.

The Montréal Chapter has hosted two successful National Conventions (1992 and 2010) and a mini-conference (1998) in Grand-mère, Quebec, that celebrated 80 years of bush flying in Canada.

Although meeting places have changed over time, George Fuller's "Downwind," a five-minute vignette, has been a constant. Featuring local aviation historical events, Downwind is a credit to George's dedication. We were honoured recently with Downwind number 116.

Informal and rebellious by nature, the Montréal Chapter has never bothered too much about rules, be they Marquis of Queensberry or Robert's Rules of Order. Chapter Presidents often found themselves confused as to how they acquired the exalted position. Strong armed into the post was one pleasant way they described it, others left the meeting to use the toilet only to find out they had been appointed through a process of attrition. If names must be mentioned, the roll call of presidents includes, for the early days starting in 1965, Roy Dishlevoy, Ross Richardson, and Bert Joss. Restarting in 1996, the president's roles has been carried out by Alastair Reeves, Pauline Mang, Alastair Reeves (caretaker president), Christian Aubert, and Dick Pickering.