Avro story anything but straight as an arrow


(To view our November/December 2018 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

By Mike Williscraft

What is one of Canada’s most legendary mysteries is a vivid memory for Grimsby’s Bill Logan.

The Avro Arrow – infamous for its seemingly arbitrary cancellation by then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in February 1959 – is still looked at as an engineering marvel.

This although Diefenbaker ordered every plan, every blueprint, every complete Arrow and all materials related to testing destroyed. Simply, he ordered that every aspect of the project be shredded, burned and/or eliminated.

For Bill, now 96 years old, was fulfilling a lifelong interest in planes and aeronautical engineering when he took a job at Avro Canada, based in Malton, Ont., at the end of WWII.

Avro – with its parent company in England – on its own was a mercurial Canadian success story which opened its doors in 1945 and, at its peak, employed more than 50,000 people with 15,000 of those employees working at the Malton plant and fellow subsidiary Orenda Engines.

Previous to the engineering work on the Arrow, Avro had gained a top-drawer reputation with planes such as the Avro Lancaster Bomber as evidence of their efforts and expertise.

With dedicated employees like Bill in their fold, success was almost guaranteed.

Bill, a Niagara Falls native, adored planes from the time he was a toddler.

“It was all I thought about when I was a youngster,” said Bill with a smile, adding, “you can put the P.Eng. after my name because I am still an engineer.”

“I built more than 100 model planes. I was interested in aircrafts right from the start.

With aeronautics as his sole goal, a university degree in engineering was his immediate goal as a youth.

“I checked out Toronto and Montreal but they didn’t have degrees, I wanted the degree as well, so I went to University of Michigan.

Crossing the border for studies or socializing was much more simple in that era.

“Growing up in Niagara Falls it was nothing to hop across the river for a coffee or entertainment,” Bill recalled.

As a side note Bill noted that he is likely the only living person left who would have seen the collapse of the border bridge in Niagara Falls in 1940.

“It collapsed due to ice build up. I was right there,” said Bill.

Bill got two years in at UofM before WWII broke out, at which time he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Much of his time in the RCAF was spent at the airbase in Dunnville.

Bill Logan with a model of the Arrow and a photo on the wall from the jet’s first flight, March 25, 1958. The photo is signed by Arrow pilot Janusz Zurakowski. Williscraft – Photo

“Because of my stature, they wanted me to be a gunner on a bomber,” said Bill.

“But I had red/green blindness, so I could not do it.”

Because of his knowledge, it made sense to keep Bill involved with pilots and flying so he began his stint training air crew on how the aircrafts work – all phases.

“I got them trained, then the fellas left here for England to join the war effort,” said Bill.

War time in Niagara was a pretty simple time as resources were scarce, something many today would find hard to believe.

“I had an old Chevy so I could get back and forth to Niagara Falls. You couldn’t get tires, so mine had a lot of patches. If you had a problem, you patched it and kept going,” recalled Bill.

“And that was if you could get gas. It was not unusual for a gas station to have a ‘no gas’ sign up.”

So when he had no gas but had to get some place, he used his thumb.

“Hitchhiking was not a problem back then. If you had a uniform on, somebody would pick you up right away,” he said.

“One time in Niagara Falls, I got picked up by a snow plow in a big storm. He needed help working the wing, so I rode with him all the way to Dunnville working that wing.

With the end of the war, soldiers returned home on a “first in, first out” basis. This meant Bill would be released towards the end of the process. This would have compromised his return to UofM to complete his engineering studies, so he wrote a letter asking for permission for early release so he could get to school in time for the semester start.

“The granted my request, so I was one of the first soldiers to return to civilian life. The other fellas weren’t back for another six months or so,” Bill recalled.

“They gave us $150 and told us we could wear our uniforms for one month after we got out. For some, those were the only clothes they had. I was a bit of a celebrity. I got invited everywhere. It was great. I told them I was Canadian but they said that did not matter.. It was a fun time.”

And part of his fun at UofM was extra-curricular activities. Bill was a champion badminton player for Big Blue.

When his second stint at UofM wrapped up, he had a summer work placement and then it was time to job hunt. Post-war, it was not much of a hunt.

“It was really easy to get a job. You didn’t need any experience. When I was done with school, I went to Avro to apply. I got in right away. My first job was just drawing different designs, like wings. Gradually, you worked your way through different aspects of design and eventually I was moved into electrics and hydraulics,” said Bill.

For Bill, who knew what he wanted to do with his life right from the moment he gave it a first thought was now living his dream.

The first major project he worked on for Avro was the Canuck fighter. He spent about 10 years on that project. In 1957, he started working on the Arrow.

Bill Logan, 96, of Grimsby with a set of Avro Arrow drawings. Williscraft – Photo

For an aeronautical engineer, working on the Avro Arrow was the Super Bowl of jobs. There was nothing in the world at that time which was more dynamic, more cutting edge and more challenging than working on a jet fighter which had the world talking. The Arrow was about to make Canada a world power when it came to developing and manufacturing fighter jets.

“We were far ahead of everyone, especially the U.S.,” said Bill with great pride.

“It was the hermetic seals on our electrics and our hydraulics which set us apart. No other plane had what we had.”

The Arrow was developed to combat Soviet spy planes which were regularly invading air space over Alaska and Canada’s northwest.

The Arrow had a wingspan of 50 ft and was 77 ft in length. Its loaded weight was 68,605 lbs.

While there are a lot of other specs to go with those, the major feature of the jet was its speed – maximum Mach 1.98 (1,307 mph) – and its ceiling altitude was 53,000 ft.

The highest altitude passenger plane in use today, 60 years later, is the Gulfstream G650 which has a cruise ceiling of 51,000 ft.

Bill explained that the hermetic seals and hydraulics that had been developed were what allowed the Arrow magic to happen.

“We needed to have our electrics in hermetic seals to keep the air pressure consistent around them. When the plane was at altitude, we had to ensure everything would work,” he said.

During this part of his tenure, Bill said his team had a lot of meeting with U.S. representatives who were seeking to understand how the Canadians were doing what they were doing.

“We had a lot of meetings with U.S. officials. Each time they came around, my boss would say run off of a copy of that design and give it to them. That bothered me,” recalled Bill.

“Why would we give them our technology. I asked a couple of times, ‘Are you sure you want to give that to them?’ I was told, ‘Why not? They are our ally’.”

The key to that situation, said Bill, was the U.S. was not interested and never would be interested in buying fighter planes from any other country. If it was not U.S. made, they were not interested.

“The U.S. wanted our plans and theory, not our jets. I didn’t like giving away our work for free,” said Bill.

Despite the advances in technology which made the Arrow the fastest jet at that time, there were issues.

It was not until some research was assessed from firing eight test models out over Lake Ontario did designers realize that the “steady plane” of the wing’s front edge was “no good”.

“The break in the front edge of the wing solved the in-flight problem,” said Bill.

“The tests really did it.”

And with that, the Arrow was on the edge of making history.


With the U.S. feted with all the information it needed, and England an interested customer, but one which did not have enough financial resources to be a serious bidder, the days of the Arrow came to a screeching halt with an edict from then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the project.

In keeping with much of the lore of the ill-fated Avro Arrow, its, although sad as far as Canadian history goes, somehow fits its meteoric rise to infamy.

“The day it was cancelled was like any other day. I was sitting at my desk and an announcement came on, “As of now, the Avro Arrow has been cancelled. You are all fired. The security people will see you out of the building,” recalled Bill.

“It was horrifying: thousands out of work just like that.”

Bill was one of the lucky ones. He got two more years of work, shifting over to the CF-100, but most were not so lucky.

“Most of the people I know went to the U.S. to work,” he said.

The end was brutal. Everything was ordered destroyed.

“They came in and cut up the actual jets right in the hangar with blow torches: brand new planes. It didn’t make an ounce of sense. All the investment was done. It was ready,” said Bill.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

But with the Avro Arrow it seems very much to be a living history as there are several conspiracy theories about what would lead Diefenbaker to not only scuttle the project, but to wipe it from the face of the earth, especially given its stature as a source of national pride.

As much as the lack of a customer to buy the jets was part of the mix, Bill says there were other complicating factors.

“The fact we gave the U.S. drawing after drawing, they didn’t have to buy anything. The Canadian Air Force wanted it, but the government didn’t want to pay for it,” he said.

“And aside from that, two of the key people involved just didn’t get along. Our manager at Avro and key government representative had what you would call a personality clash. They just didn’t like each other.”

Michener’s Upper Thirty School rings in new era


(To view our July/August 2018 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

By Joanne McDonald

It took 40 years, but Evelyn and Mark Michener have finally graduated from North Grimsby S.S.
No. 6.

They’ve been industrious students of architecture, engineering, construction, planning and plumbing.

And through the decades, the drywall and the dust, they created a magnificent and unique home, raising a family under the bell tower that for many years summoned the Upper Thirty community kids to class.

The ringing of a school bell will always call them to home. Cherished memories, kindred ties and lots of hard work – the Micheners have lived life to the fullest under the slate roof of the school house they’ve called home.

Now 40 years later another epic brick has been added to the school’s rich history. The house has been sold and the Micheners are moving on, taking their memories, but leaving a big part of their hearts, family history and the dedicated labour that has allowed the beautiful historic building to be preserved for the next chapter and a new generation.

Before packing up for the move, the Micheners extended an open invitation to the entire community to tour the house – former students, historians, neighbours, everyone was invited to visit during an open house held Sunday, June 24.

“We wanted people to come and share their connections, memories and memorabilia,” said Evelyn. There is more information on the Facebook page – The Upper Thirty School Centennial North Grimsby. S.S.6

Next year, 2019, marks the centennial of the Upper Thirty School, located at 498 Elm Tree Road East, Grimsby (corner of Thirty Road) and the family wanted to celebrate this landmark before they move.

It was a hard decision to pull up roots, but the three Michener boys, Andrew, James and Stephen are grown, and Evelyn and Mark reached a point where they no longer needed so much space.

“In our hearts we wanted to drive by and see kids playing out in the yard again. It was a beautiful place to raise a family in the country on an acre,” said Evelyn. The family buying the school house have two youngsters and undoubtedly, they will take great glee in sliding down the school’s original iron banister handrails.

Much has been written about the school’s history, an inheritance which the Micheners have treasured and respected throughout the renovations, restoration and years raising their family.

First came Andrew, born in 1980, then James in 1984 and Stephen in 1988. Mark and Evelyn were kids themselves, 23 and 22, when they purchased the school house at the corner of Thirty Road and Elm Tree Road E., Grimsby.

“You really should look at it,” said Mark’s father Lavern Michener when the property came up for sale by the school board in 1978. “It was a project my dad always dreamed of,” said Mark and they worked together every night after supper and weekends.

Moving from their home in Beamsville, the young couple lived with Mark’s parents Lavern and Nell Michener in

Beamsville for four months. Mark was an electrician working with his dad at the time. Evelyn had just become a dental hygienist and graduated that same year.

“It was boarded up with grills on every window in the basement, one large room with 13-foot ceilings and a basement,” said Evelyn, adding that her only condition to purchase the school house was that the glorious huge windows that open to the east in the kitchen would stay.

The school house was still structurally sound and the original slate roof has been repaired and maintained, but inside, they stripped the school to the walls. It was lathe and plaster and had no insulation. They insulated, put in false ceilings, built partition walls, added plumbing and rewired the house. Indoor/outdoor carpet was pulled up revealing original maple floors, which today still bear the screw holes where the desks were placed. They replaced the old

Lincoln furnace with an electric furnace.

Walls went up, dividing the school’s one room into living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.

The boys’ and girls’ cloakroom was extended to become a bedroom. The teachers’ office was the nursery. The door has since been removed and the space serves as a nook off the kitchen.

The basement renovations were started in 1983 and an addition, built by Hendriks, was added in 1993. While Hendriks constructed the exterior, Mark did the interior work from drywall to electrical and plumbing, and installed maple flooring to match the original school. By then Mark was working as an electrician at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and would later become head of maintenance.

The original bell tower was returned to the house in the 80s. “We got the bell tower back, the new owners can find the bell,” Evelyn said.

A newspaper clipping dated July 2, 1988, written by David Cuthill, and information shared by Bill Sobye in his news column Around the Kitchen Table, recorded that Goldie and Harold Aston, who lived in the white frame house at the corner of Ridge Road and the Thirty were the keepers of much of the school’s history.

“Perhaps it was because she boarded the teachers that taught at the U.S.S. #6 that created her interest in the history of the school,” Sobye said of the local historian in his article. Goldie preserved many priceless photos and documents about the community and the school. According to the article the first Upper Thirty school was built around 1800. It was constructed of logs and lumber was supplied by John Beam, who had a sawmill on the Thirty. “In the late 1850s there was a squabble in the community about the location. A vote was taken and those wanting it moved to the corner of Elm Tree and Thirty road, north of the cemetery, won. There are bitter feelings, but the move proceeded. The school was left on the side of the road when night set in and during the night it was burnt, no doubt by the sore losers,” Sobye wrote.

A new frame school was build at the corner of Elm Tree and Thirty road and was opened in 1859. This school served the community until 1919, when the new brick school was built right behind the old frame school. The school closed in 1965 and after being used by Community Living and the local cadet corps, it was boarded up. “The Michener family rescued it and turned it into a beautiful and comfortable home Sobye said, thanking Mark and Evelyn in his article.

Like any busy family, the years passed swiftly, each day beginning with the light pouring through the beautiful kitchen windows where the three boys sat around the table for breakfast.

“We didn’t notice the architecture,” said James, now living in Toronto. But it was unique to live in a school and local landmark and all the brothers credited childhood adventures for their adult appreciation of history and preservation of the past.

“The windows broke just the same as in any house,” recalled Andrew, now a father of two and living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

As youngsters they slid down the school’s iron banister handrail and as young adults, memorized every creak in the floors for safe landing after curfew.

When someone asked where he lived, Stephen, who now lives in Fulton, only had to say, “the old school house on Thirty.”

Evelyn can still see three little boys, standing on tiptoe on three turned-around chairs to see out the classroom windows and watch the traffic go by.

“The old ‘abc’ school house, the cradle of the mind, at least where it first awakes to a consciousness of its powers and its responsibility of improving them, is hardly less dear than the mother’s cradle where its infant body was rocked,” noted an academic writing in 1859 in the North-Carolina Journal of Education in his plea to build a school for local children of the era.

“Build….. a comfortable school house. Let it crown a gently rising eminence with an ample play ground, first trees to catch the first breezes of Heaven and convey them to the fevered brows of the studying children in summer,” said ‘Professor Owen.’

Close to a century later, it could’ve been written for the Upper Thirty which crowns a hill and catches the summer breeze.

Need to get away from it all? Travel in pursuit of wellness


(To view our May/June 2018 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

By Lorraine Simpson

Have you ever returned home from a trip claiming you “need a vacation to get over your vacation”?

You wouldn’t be the only one!

Traveling for your physical or mental health isn’t a new concept, but it might have you thinking about enforced exercise, strict diets, or engaging in activities you’re just really not interested in.

So what do I mean when I say Wellness Travel?

Wellness travel promotes your health and wellbeing, both physical and mental, through activities that you do during your trip. The idea is to return home feeling healthier and better than when you left!

While there’s nothing wrong with a fly and lie on the beach sort of vacation, you may be searching for something more meaningful.

Perhaps you would like to go hiking or cycling on a trip?

Maybe partake in the luxury of a spa vacation?

How about a yoga retreat? Perhaps even a luxury river cruise that incorporates many activities to destress and enhance your wellbeing.

With the growing trend for staying healthy while you travel, you can make your entire trip an adventure to feeling better in both body and mind.

If wellness travel makes you think of spartan facilities and strict bland diets then you’ll be happy to know that thing have come a long way.

There are plenty of wellness retreats in five-star accommodations and options for as little or as many restrictions on your diet as you like.

Perhaps your particular needs do not involve diet changes or exercise but simply a vacation to regroup after a major life change.

A floating market in Bangkok which participants in the compassionate retreat attend.
When I lost my husband a few years ago to cancer I decided to go away on a Culinary Vacation in Italy.

I joined a group of people who all had similar losses at some point and they knew my situation. I laughed so much that week; I cried, too, sometimes but it felt very healing to be among people who just understood.

Everyone allowed you to laugh uncontrollably at silly things without judgement or they would be an ear if you just wanted to talk. It was a very healing week for me and one I will never forget.

Vacations are often an exercise in overindulgence, which can lead to feelings of guilt when we return home.

How good would it feel to enjoy what a new destination has to offer, without the negative consequences?

That’s what wellness travel is all about; reenergizing, rejuvenating and finding balance.

Taking part in physical activity while you’re away can teach you how to incorporate it more into your daily life at home. A wellness trip might include eating and enjoying culinary events to tantalize your taste buds, but it may also involve physical activities like hiking, paddle boarding, yoga, surfing, or even running.

If you’re not sure where to start with searching for a wellness trip then think about the kind of place you want to go and the activities you might enjoy.

Yoga in sunny Italy with wine tasting by bicycle, or maybe in the unspoiled nature of Costa Rica? Hiking in Croatia?

A week in a wellness spa? Perhaps a medical spa in Eastern Europe where treatments are legendary – especially for anti aging – may be more up your alley.

Perhaps you have been battling a major illness and want to celebrate your recovery with a trip you have always wanted to do?

The possibilities really are endless!

Just a few weeks ago I was in Hungary with a group of ladies who were going on a Danube River cruise. Before the cruise they all visited a dentist and an optician of a very high quality whose services were far less expensive than back home.

Going natural – shooting during a safari with a camera – can prove just the tonic for someone seeking relaxation.
Some people feel uncomfortable traveling alone as they traveled with a loved one for many years who has since passed.

We take care of you; carrying your suitcases, making sure you are in the right place at the right time and just by making you feel like you are as protected as you had felt before. This is all part of the traveling concierge service you get when you travel with us.

Wellness travel is a vacation which focuses on putting you first and it’ll help you to come back feeling refreshed and in a better frame of mind, rather than marking your vacation as just another check on the long list of things to do this year.

So, where would you like to go?

Here are my top wellness trips; each with a different purpose.

1. Wellness River Cruise

In addition to a plethora of wellness activities offered on board and on shore, Ama Waterways incorporates healthy eating and locally-sourced ingredients into its culinary offerings. Gluten-free, low-sodium and vegetarian options are available and the company features a hydration station with infused detox and gemstone water.

Concierge Travel Group will offer two specific wellness river cruises for 2019 as a small group – including a private excursion just for our group – as well as gifts and recipes in rooms daily as well as your very own traveling concierge for anything you need.

2. Wine, Women & Wellness in Italy with The Wine Ladies

Next spring we will take a small group of women to Italy for a week of wine tasting, healthy eating and, of course, some activities including cycling, hiking and yoga in stunning locations.

3. Compassionate Friends Retreat

After a major life change or loss you may just want to break away from routine, getting completely away. Spending time with people who understand what you are going through automatically removes the so called “elephant in the room” and help makes you feel comfortable. Our escorted trip is open to all – without question – and offers a safe, comfortable environment for you to enjoy a vacation which can be a vital catalyst which sets you back on the road to wholeness.

• Thailand April 2019 — Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket
• Sicily September 2019
• UK Castles, Gardens & Shopping May 17 2019

Top Tips for choosing your Wellness Vacation

1. Don’t go anywhere you are positively convinced you won’t like, no matter how enticing the price or how much your travel partner tries to convince you with comments such as “Trust me, you’re going to love it!” Maybe not;

2. Don’t travel with someone you find annoying, frustrating, argumentative, causes you stress or will more than likely undermine your wellness goals. (e.g. I know you have to get up at sunrise for that yoga class, but there’s this all-night party….)

3. Don’t stress the small stuff. Regardless of how well you plan there are bound to be at least a few bumps on the journey. Go with the flow and maintain your sense of humour. Accept what is, and let it go;

4. Identify your biggest stressor and avoid it. It could be the airport experience, flying itself, a noisy resort environment, lack of reliable WIFI (unless your goal is a digital detox), a hotel environment (either too high-end or too basic) that is not comfortable for you.

5. Be flexible and kind with yourself. It is impossible to simultaneously experience the riches of your destination while maintaining the wellness plan you are accustomed to at home. So, do your best to drop that perfectionist way of thinking. You may not be able to work out every day or have the willpower to say “no” to that luscious, creamy Napoleon dessert, and that’s OK—more than OK, actually.

In order to truly explore new places, we need to ditch some of our usual modes of thinking and doing.

(For More information on wellness travel and our Compassionate Friends program visit our, call Lorraine Simpson on 289-273-8095 or email