AN INCREDIBLE LIFE by
AN INCREDIBLE LIFE by
If any of you dear readers are wondering whether the title is an exaggeration, consider this; by the time
I was twenty years old, I had been from New Zealand to England to Canada to New Zealand to Canada to New Zealand
and back. Traveled from tip to tail of New Zealand.
Climbed some forty or so mountain peaks, piloted a sail boat through an anti-cyclone in the Cook Strait Worked for the Moscow Circus, been a trainee shepherd and had high tea with the Governor
–General. I lived it, yet even I think that’s an incredible amount of adventure; but these are just a few tid-bits
of the early story. Turns out our entire family history is incredible! I have tried to incorporate elements of that too into
Chapter #1 Game On P2
Chapter #2 Trouble
Returns to New Zealand P23
Chapter #3 Canada Calling P37
Chapter #4 Racing
Chapter #5 After
Chapter #7 Mikes
Chapter #8 Relationships
and Law P6
Chapter#12 My Music
Chapter#14 My Space
One Game On
I was conceived in New Zealand
around New Years 1953, the product of an unwanted pregnancy. I imagine this was probably derived from wild drunken sex in
the back seat of a Holden after some New Years party. The question is, what makes me think this? Ah, what a question. The
answer and its effects are what lie ahead. Yes, it was an incredible life and still continues to be. Live to the max could
be my mantra.
I was born on September 21st. 1953 in Plymouth England
after my mothers’ sea voyage from Wellington New Zealand. Anyway, my mother, Annette
Forster had quit her dietien job at Wellington Hospital
and sailed to England probably through the Suez Canal,
as I recall seeing a picture of her pregnant on a camel. I was born Michael George Forster (and that is still my legal name)
though much of my history has been under the sudinome “Milne”. In October 1954 we sailed from Southampton England to Montreal. My Canada
Immigration card (#193 issued Nov. 4, 1954) as provided in pages ahead, is interesting in that it provides lots of facts otherwise
unknown; as well, it shows some officials’ complete incompetence. Several dates are scratched out and altered and even
the location changed. Here first, the word father is mentioned; as payor of the fare. I however, seriously doubt that Stan
Milne was my father, but I may be wrong. He never acted fatherly and never even gave me his name. There is a picture on a
following page of a 1952? photo of Annette with a tall handsome curly brown-haired man.
The photo may have been my real dad or maybe Stan Howard; a close family friend until grandmas (Phyllis nee Fache)
death. His last name may be from a branch of the family that intersects with the McBride’s in Akaroa (or not); as in
1971 I was kind of hanging out with his daughter Jane and was never aware of any family ties.
I recall as a youngster seeing
a marriage certificate of Stan and Annette dated sometime in the fall of 1954. So my mom became a Milne at that point, they
just never bothered to change my name. One of my earliest memories is being in a church without my mom; I believe that was
their wedding. I definitely recall living in the Beaches of east Toronto
we left when I was only three. I recall our German shepherd “Kiwi” retrieving sticks thrown in Lake Ontario. I was driving through the Beaches
in 1986 and believe it or not I recognized the area and surprisingly, it had hardly changed at all. I even found the house we lived in! What bothers me is how I could remember this and other details from
such a young age! I recall being alone at that young age in the local grocer (which is now long gone) and my mom confirms
that I would run away to there unattended. She claims I climbed out of my crib and out a window, but this seems unbelievable.
I have been told I had a broken arm at that time and received a broken bone in my nose, perhaps this was when the parental
I guess it was 1956-7 when we
moved to the white house. Ahh yes the white house, it was so lovely. What memories. There are films of those days which some
family members have (not me) which I have not seen since say 1965? They were some of best days of my life. Our home was called
the white house simply because it was a large ranch style house alone in the shoulder of Bayview Ave. and the 401 and it was white. While in New
Zealand in Jan 1960, news reached my mom of some storm hitting Toronto
“like a bomb” that I translated to my New Zealand
kindergarten teacher (which as I recall her shock of hearing) “we lived in ‘The White House’ and it was
bombed!” I remember that I did believe it was a bomb and not a storm.
I am still searching for a copy of
my favourite book I enjoyed immensely at 4 and 5 years old. I made many a fantasial escape through “Grimm’s Fairy
Tales”, a green hard cover book that had these amazing colour plates with onion skin cover pages over them. You could
see right through the onion skins but it only made you want to peel back the cover to reveal the illustration of whatever
tale was being told. Beautiful fantasies created in bold paintings! I recall Peter Pan with his hands on his hips saying “I
won’t grow up!” and at that tender age deciding “I’m with you Peter Pan. I won’t grow up!”
and I never have. Today (Jan. 2007) my 14 year old daughter asked why babies always look at me and after some joking I told
her it was because I am still only 4 years old. On that subject, yes it appears babies and old people are attracted to me,
generally speaking. Personally I believe it has to do with my internal nature (? spirit?) which unexplainably seems quite
different than most. I digress.
In those days I had a cowboy outfit that Wild Bill himself would have lusted after. Double leather holsters with ruby
and silver inlay, leg tie straps for quick draws, two pearl handled cap revolvers with loadable silver (simulated) bullets.
Real cowhide and cow hair matching chaps and vest. I even had a belt with a pop-out buckle of a single shot cap pistol. At
that time I also believed I could fly like Superman; so with towel around my neck I flew off furniture. Even while performing
thus I really believed I was actually flying and would proclaim that I had flown from the bedroom hallway to the kitchen.
To this day if I look back and see what that kid saw, I have to agree that I was flying. I put this down however to an extremely
I wish to comment at this point that to balance the telling of this story best, I feel compelled to allude throughout
the telling to many other “GREAT EVENTS” that have occurred and continue to occur in my life.
It was at Bayview Avenue that I got to pick
my pet dog Mary, from a station wagon full of puppies. Mary was the first great love of my life. She was such a great pet.
She had this trick she would play with her eyes when she wanted something, raising one eyebrow and then the other. She could
make herself look so forlorn and pathetic with those eyes. It was aided with her brown eyebrows on black fur that melted hearts.
She often saved me the agony of eating the meal my mother regularly served which I hated with all my being, Brussels sprouts
and liver. Mary would sit under the dinner table and I would sneak her bits of the liver. This didn’t work for long
as my parents caught on to this trick. One time I chopped the liver into little
bits and tried to hide it under my knife and fork which in English custom are positioned at the 6:30 position on the plate
when finished with. This did not work at all. Another time I stuffed this horrid concoction into my mouth and headed outside
where I spat it out into our garbage can. Many times I was forced to sit at the
table for hours until I ate this vile repast, I was even sent to bed from the table only to receive the same plate of now
cold repugnance for breakfast. I do not understand how I thought like this at 4 years old, but I determined that taste is
reduced when food is cold. This I believe was my first foray into science.
I recall in those days receiving what my mother called “CARE” packages from Grandma.
They were surface mailed boxes from New Zealand
and took about three months to be delivered. There were all kinds of wonderful and some not so wonderful things. I remember
like it was yesterday (fifty years ago) getting these amazing belts my grandma had sent my brother Chris and I from N.Z. which
had moving scenes. Mine was of cowboys riding the range. His had native Americans paddling a canoe. I thought this was incredible!
I also had an amazing mechanical horse that I loved and recall brushing his hemp rope mane. Friends
and neighbours Jeff and Reid Aitken lived down the street and we played together for endless hours. We had a game called hero
where I would battle them for the ‘princess’ who in this case was their sister, my first girlfriend. My mom used to sing some great bed-time songs, unusual and some down right weird, which I still remember.
I don’t know their proper names but a few went like this:
1) when I die paint my tombstone green cause green is the colour of the cocaine bean, so baby, baby have
a sniff on me baby have a sniff on me ….,
2) I met an
Indian female who stood about 6 foot high, her nose was painted sky blue pink and she only had one eye. She made signs that
she loved me, that she’d be mine for life; but I wonder what my mama would say if I married an Indian wife, for it was
kikarow joe I grow joe the mongrel jippy jippy jok and a jippy jippy jok and a funny little tokum box drat drat take it out
of that funny little tokum box,
and my favourite
which I sang to my daughter Mirielle when she was little (which she also loved), 3) a froggie went a wooing go ahoo ahoo a
froggie went a wooing go ahoo ahoo he went on down to the old oak tree ahoo ahoo he sat miss mouse upon his knee ahoo ahoo
and he said miss mouse will you marry me ahoo ahoo. And when will the wedding breakfast be ahoo ahoo september 4th at half past three And what will the wedding breakfast be ahoo ahoo a slice of
cake and a cup of tea ahoo ahoo And where will the wedding breakfast be ahoo ahoo oh down in the hollow of the old oak tree
ahoo ahoo the first to come was Mrs. Moth ahoo ahoo she came to lay the table
cloth ahoo ahoo the next to come was Major Dick ahoo ahoo he ate so much that he got sick ahoo ahoo the next to come was Doctor
Fly ahoo ahoo in case poor Major Dick should die ahoo ahoo they all went sailing down the lake ahoo ahoo and got gobbled up
by a big fat drake ahoo ahoo.
This song was featured on some children’s show that I happened to notice in around 2000. It is clear that the
story writer was working from memory as do I, but parts of his version were easily interpreted by myself as wrong remembering.
One easy example is in his telling the wedding party gets gobbled up by a big fat snake. Well at least I know snakes are in
the grass not on the lake!
I loved Lassie(Nestles Quick had
Loved this movie 1962?(Kurt Russell/ Gary Busey
a promotion in 1958, send away for a picture which I put over my bed)
crying one night probably in Dec. 1959 mom asked why, and I stated because we are going to N.Z., and I will miss Santa. We
indeed went to NZ that month, my mom, brother Christopher and sister Anmarie. We flew on the first cross Canada jet and I remember we received commemorative wine glasses in boxes placed
on our seats when we boarded. One thing I would like to note here, how come I
am able to remember all this stuff? I clearly remember things from when I was two years old, living in the Beaches with our
German Shepard, Kiwi. I even remember when I was younger, being in a church without my parents. What I believe that occasion
was, was their wedding! Anyway the way I remember going to Vancouver
in 1959/60 is that we flew TCA, but I was later told by an old-timer employee of Dehavilland and collector nut of all things
aviation that we flew TWA. He even had several of the TWA wineglasses that were presented to customers. This information is
still to be confirmed. After landing in Vancouver we headed to Los Angeles
where I recall visiting Disneyland and riding the cup and saucer ride and Capt. Nemo's submarine.
From LA I enjoyed the wonders of sailing on a ship to N. Z.. seeing ‘flocks’ of flying fish, Neptune boarding
our vessel at the equator (a real mariner’s custom), visiting islands where young boys dove off docks to catch coins
tossed by our shipmates and the awesome power of a tropical storm in Tahiti (I believe) where we harboured long enough for
us to visit a family acquaintance high up in the plateau overlooking the sea. What a spectacular view it was looking down
this swooping valley ten miles inland from the coast. It must have been a volcano
at one time. I will try to fill in this blank too, what island was that? I have tried to remember the name of the ship but
can’t. It was the S.S. Queen Anne or something like that. I believe it was a P.& O. ship, or perhaps Cunard. Note
to self, try to find this out!
After arriving in N.Z. I attended two different schools. one was in Akaroa, a true paradise the other, Roseneath in
Wellington. It was at Akaroa at age 6 that I learnt to ride
a bike in the front yard of the home of Paddy McBride known as “the Glen”. Even today locals are aware of “the
Glen” which sadly is longer standing. The yard where I practiced my falling off a bike was thick long grass which they
referred to as the ‘tennis court’ though I was sure no one had ever played tennis on it. Once I had got the hang
of balancing in that sea of grass, I was then instructed to ride my bike to school which I feel now was at least a mile or
more away. Descending on this one steep gravel road hill every day I would pull on the hand brake to slow down but instead
would immediately fly off the bike, over the handlebars. This happened day after day. I never knew until I was an adult that
I was locking up the front wheel each time. My knees were such a mess of wounds with scabs on top of scabs. At school lunch
time I would go into the town and buy fish and chips wrapped in newspaper which I felt made them taste better. We had a school
Olympics and I received a team singlet which I was so proud of, as well as my grey leather lederhosen shorts with carved ivory
elephant on the chest flap. At Akaroa I had a bee collection which I kept in a cage. I got stung a lot but it didn’t
slow my collecting down, as I recall having quite a number of bees in my cage. also I used to catch crabs under rocks on the
beach by the house (there were millions of them) and I recall a tiger skin on the living room floor. I believe it may have
been the one mentioned as coming from Burmah (Myanmar)
from my famous great grandfather G.C. Fache’s brother.
my great grandfather George Cox Fache O.B.E.
One morning when getting up late, Paddy McBride carried me down to the bay and threw me in the sea; pj’s and
all. This may have begun my dislike of rising early.
Next it was on to Wellington where I attended Roseneath
Primary. I recall a helicopter landing in the school yard. Only one other person has positively confirmed this, (another student)
but to date I have no official confirmation nor discovered its purpose in landing there. Years later my grandma (a saint of
a woman) recalled a time when I brought home a boy to show my grandma, and of my joy at how he could squeak like a mouse.
Years later when I returned to NZ in 1970 I worked part time at Woolworths warehouse
and was befriended by Chris Walker (actually he admits that he spied on where I lived and then talked to me as we were soon
both to be in 6th form at Wellington College. Anyway as 17 year olds one of our adventures brought us close to
Roseneath and somehow I recognized it and told him I attended there briefly 11 years before. “So did I” he said.
We deduced that we were in the same class then and when discussing it with Grandma she felt he kind of resembled the squeaking
mouse boy! If true it seems like an almost unbelievable coincidence!
My grandma bought me a brown patent leather back satchel, into which she put a container of lemonade every day. We
still had that satchel in our attic in Wildwood (Ontario)
years later and I would take it out to smell the still present odours of that sweet elixir lemonade. Fifty years later I still
remember and long for that familiar scent. Lemon and leather, ahhh. Someone, probably Grandma, bought me a pair of leather
shorts that had shoulder straps and a fancy cross brace across the chest with a bone or ivory carving in the middle. I was
told as I recall that the leather may have been elephant hide. I was very proud of those shorts and recall wearing them a
lot. There was a rather long train trip I recall taking with Arch Elliot, my step-grandfather. I have no idea what we were
doing or where we were going, but I recall he loved to hear my Americanesque drawl of ‘granpaw’, and that I was
into barking like a dog. On our trip he diplomatically was telling me that dogs were not allowed on the train. He and the
conductor had a good laugh over that one. Perhaps this was the start of my enjoyment with making people laugh.
Our ship that was to bring us back to America was docked just below
my grandma’s house at Oriental Bay
in Wellington, and when boarding for the return voyage I asked
about a sword that Arch had promised I could have. “We will mail it to you” he said and sure enough about 6 years
later it arrived. Ownership became an issue for my mother later on, but hopefully I will tell of that at its proper time.
So we sailed from NZ... I recall many stops at island paradises. Actually, I should investigate the route
for the actual itinerary, I recall seeing flying fish Neptune’s visit as we crossed
the equator again, swimming in red pop and lots of candies. There were child activities set up daily and in one of our classes
I recall I made some weaving and stitching with words which my mom kept. I want that item back as much as any priceless treasure.
Next thing I recall is living cramped up in a cottage type motel beside Appleby
College in Oakville, Ontario, as mom apparently had reunited with her husband, Stan. We moved into another ranch
style house on Birch Hill Lane, #79. Tommy Bath lived
through the woods and across the creek 3 minutes run away. He was my best friend. We often played down by Lake Ontario even in winter when big chunks
of ice the size of houses pushed their way onto the shore. We once found a $20 bill. We bought smokes, wieners, marshmallows
and candies went down to the lake had afire and as great a party as anyone ever has. By grade 2 I had decided to win Heather
Cook as my girlfriend, so I took guitar lessons hoping to serenade her.
Brother Chris, his wife Cathy and I 2007
Memories from W. H. Morden Public School...
Having just arrived from
New Zealand, I remember Miss Pretty my grade2?teacher in 1961,I delivered the Hamilton Spectator; my best customer was Appleby
College, the cooks gave me cake, cookies, pie... my best friend was Tommy Bath and a very special girlfriend (at 7?) Heather
Cook. I had to meet the principal though as to get Heather's attention I had thrown a dead mouse at her. I also took guitar
lessons to impress her. Amazingly after 44 years we got in touch again...her first words were " are you the boy who threw
the dead mouse at me". After grade 3 I moved to a farm in Georgetown.
I wanted to be like Hank Snow but the teacher said
my fingers were too little and I must play slide guitar. I was never content on slide guitar, though the sound occasionally
made me feel alright. I was invited for lunch at the home of my sweetheart one day and to really impress her I found a dead
mouse on the way to school and threw it on her. Of course she screamed, but when we got to school she told the teacher and
soon I was in the principal’s office. If this was the only visit to the principal then we must have had eggs for lunch
as after a stern talk the principal told me to go wash my face as there was egg on it. During
these days I delivered the Hamilton Spectator. Appleby College was one of my customers and the ladies in the kitchen always fed me pie, cake
and cookies. I loved those ladies. I really don’t know how I remembered my route or made change but I did. During this
time is when I began to be a collector of things. My grandma would send me stamps and I was awed by their individual beauty
and cataloging and displaying them I had many books of them but they were all confiscated by my mom. The collection would
have a great value by now. I also collected civil war cards and money, as well as miniature revolvers. I have since had collections of so many different things that have kind of spun out of control; from business cards,
match packs, stickers, crests, pens, fridge magnets hockey pucks and sweaters, coins, motorcycles, hats, letters from my grandma,
guitars, postcards and even to women. I still keep just a few 45 records as well as LP’s’ beta vhs and audio tapes
though I do not use them. I have also kept all the art of my daughter Mirielle as well as all the court records of the battle
for her custody.
In Oakville where I lived from 1961-1963, I recall spending endless hours
playing a Burl Ives album of my parents over and over again. He was one of my first heroes. I sang with the record and still
know every note and nuance of that album, from “Oogie woogie bee” to “It takes a worried man”. Coincidentally,
I found out much later that Burl Ives was a personal friend of my grandparents and had even slept in their spare room. I have
a picture of them together in a rowboat in NZ. It must have been around the time I was playing his album!
After grade 3 our family moved to ten acres of land out in the wilds of Georgetown
called Wildwood Manor. The problem was the family left me behind. Some neighbour in Oakville
(the Snoffels I believe), called around and some 8 hours later the family came back and picked me up. Once out of Oakville I never returned or saw my friends again. This has always been
a problem with my life on the move; becoming involved with people but then moving on. In 1997 I was early for a meeting in
Oakville so I went for a memories tour around my old neighbourhood.
Stopped and talked with the owner of our old house and at Tommy Bath’s house. I also left a note at the house I believed
was Heathers house and 3 days later I got a call from her. “Are you the boy who threw the mouse on me”, yes I
confessed delighted and yet stunned she remembered, but how did I remember her full name and address for some 37 years since
I left when I was 8? A Christmas card arrived in 1997 from Heather with a mouse Santa on the front; unbelievable! We still
keep in touch; she turned out to be quite a woman, now living happily with a nice family and solid position in the upper echelons
of Oakville City Hall.
When we lived in Oakville
my Grandma fertilized my obsession with collecting by sending me packets of stamps she received from her many international
correspondents. I made many books of stamps which I enjoyed organizing by country. I was confused and never knew why there
were stamps from the Netherlands and Deutschland,
I thought these were all Dutch and filed them as such. Always wonder what my mom did with this large and by now valuable collection.
Grandma also sent me an English publication called Boys Own World which I absolutely loved. She also sent regularly editions
of a magazine Flora and Fauna which had no lasting interest for me, other than seeing pictures of some rather odd looking
birds that live in New Zealand. Just recently I discovered that her dad, George Cox Fache; after retiring from Commissioner
of Pensions, had done some research in Australia
for them, so maybe that was where the tie-in arose from.
I attended Stewarttown Public
school, a four room country school from 1963-1967. Each room held two grades. Our classroom was
for grades 4 and 5 and they accidentally put me in grade 5. I went and set the record straight with Mrs. McKelvey my teacher
and was given the right books for grade 4; I should have kept my mouth shut. All through school at Stewarttown I was the class
clown and as such spent a lot of time standing out in the hall. How are kids supposed to get ahead spending countless hours
standing in the hall? I calculate that from grade
4-8 I spent at least 200 or more hours standing in the hall. I got the
strap often. Once I was caught doing art for a mother’s day card in class and got the strap for that. I recall that
my tears from getting the strap had washed out some of the art; I gave the card to my mom anyway. For those who never witnessed
this instrument of corporal punishment, ours was pink rubber, about eighteen inches long, three inches wide with bristles
which added to the sting. I got the strap perhaps a dozen times. I usually got three strikes of the strap, once six. I tried
to be brave but by the second strike tears would usually start to flow. I’m sure I was one of the most punished students.
What is silly is I was being physically abused at home by my mother as well, so there was little place for peace in my life
at that time. My response was to delve deeper into my imagination for release. In grade 6 our class made a year book we called
“Thirty Nuts In A Shell” and someone’s art featured me balancing on the back legs of my chair which I did
a lot to keep myself occupied. This trick often ended with me crashing to the ground. During these years I ran several paper
routes for the Globe and Mail. Delivering in Glen Williams in winter was hell. I had to get up at 5am and often had to walk
crying from frozen feet and hands. When I would finish I was often late for the school bus and then would have to walk the
3-4 miles to school. I believe I used to hitch hike as I walked. Sometimes I rode my pony on delivery and even at least once
I rode my pony to school. In 1967 our grade 8 class boarded a bus for Montreal
and Expo 67 which was awesome. I had a rather large collection of centennial coins, silver dollars and fifty cent pieces which
later disappeared mysteriously. Our grade eight had a graduation dance which was a horror from hell for me. I had no social
skills nor did I have the first idea about a public dance or even any idea how to dance. I was also very insecure and felt
I was ugly.
initially was very hard for me. I felt lost in the big school. Also at that time my mom was having sex with many of the neighbours
husbands which I had a hard time dealing with. In fact I quit being religious the morning after I caught Mr. Gimpel and her
screwing on our sofa. At St. Albans church I was alter boy crucifer and also in the choir.
On that morning I had to serve her the sacraments which made me sick. At that time I was also being physically, mentally and
emotionally abused on a daily basis by my mom. She would come up beside me and shout with all her might that I was worthless;
would never amount to anything, etc. etc. on and on. After several years of this I learnt to tune her out. I could see her
lips moving, spit flying from her lips, but could not hear her. This became a problem later in life as I would often ask people
to repeat what they said as I tuned them out accidentally. Oh the beatings though, they were hard to tune out. She drew blood
often, hitting me with anything at hand. She went through lots of kitchen utensils that she broke on me. Kid’s golf
clubs, anything within reach. One time swinging a hammer at me she got me in the back of the head which took 4 stitches to
close. Besides the paper routes and school I was running her little hobby farm feeding and cleaning 20 pigs, feeding horses,
sheep, chickens and milking our cow. The worst job was the watering. Oh, the watering. Every winter the barn water froze and
I had to carry bucket after bucket from the kitchen sink to the barn, maybe 250 yards away. It could not be avoided that as
I walked toward the barn with two large buckets full that water splashed down into my gumboots. I would work until about 930pm
like this and ended up by 17 with rheumatism in my feet. I probably carried twenty buckets a night. By 930 the kids were usually
in bed. I had dinner then began washing dishes. As these were finishing was usually when my mom in drunken fits would assault
me. I never knew who called Children’s Aid but they came by one day and asked me a bunch of questions. There was no
doubt what the answers were as further beatings were sure to get worse if I was to spill the beans. They never came back but
the beatings always did. Children’s Aid were a lousy bunch; at the very least incompetent at their job. Today in the
21st century, I believe they have elevated this to an art and that family protection agencies are completely overrun by sadists
who deliberately foster child abuse. A recent political cartoon shows a new CAS going up between a morgue and a hospital;
the caption has the worker saying: location, location, location. How true! I ran away from home first when I was thirteen
unable to tolerate another beating. I hung out in the back woods, until 11pm or so, walked along the Eighth Line, ducking
into the ditches when cop cars came by, then snuck back to the farm and into the barn to sleep. Somehow my mom must have seen
me sneak in, caught me and dragged me out. I guess she called the police as they arrived a little bit later. They advised
me I could not leave home until I was 16, which I did. If such a thing is possible I think my mom was possessed by the devil.
Other odd behaviours by my mom include a time when I was about 10 she dropped me and at least 3 other of her kids at a movie
theatre in Toronto. I believe it might have been in the Eglington
theatre. All I recall is how magnificent and huge the theatre was. Sumptuous and ornate, it was like heaven. I recall somehow
losing one of my troop and that we waited for a very long time after the film until my mom returned. One of my favourite memories
of that time was riding my pony Jady. I rode him to school a few times, just parking him out in the large field/playground.
He loved the luscious grass he got there. One of the trips we made was in winter. We headed up Trafalgar Rd. to Ballinifad, headed east journeyed down the eighth line to visit the
Sales family and then headed down to Glen Williams and back home. When Wildwood Manor was sold the farm was relocated right
across the road from the Sales home and became known as Wildwood Ranch. The trip was quite long (maybe fifteen miles) especially
amazing as I could not have been older than twelve at the time. At thirteen I began working picking fruit; strawberries, tomatoes
and apples. At that time I filled in a form for my social insurance number. I filled in my name as Mike Milne not knowing
I was actually Mike Forster, but none the less I received a SIN for the ficticous name. I even later received a driver’s
license and passport in that name. It was not until 1991 that the British Embassy informed me I was actually Mike Forster.
It was easiest at that time to sign a form to say that I wished to continue using this sydonome rather than reapply. I continue
to use this name to save the bother, but my legal name is actually Mike Forster
In high school I had a best friend Bruce Gregg. we hung out a lot together especially skipping class to play pool.
He was in a band and one night I was their roadie, setting up and running a light
show with a box full of switches. I clearly remember one song they played; Louie Louie. In 1969 I was offered a seat on a
bus to Woodstock, but realizing I had farm chores to do, I
declined. If I was a year older I would have said screw the chores and gone for the ride of my life. Of course who knows if
I would have ever made it back! In grade 10 Bruce broke his leg and so he and
I could leave class early to get to our next class. We had a lot of fun.
On July 28, 2007 Georgetown District
High School had a reunion and dance. A classmate Geoff Pantling paid
for my reservations wirelessly so I could attend. Leading up to the day I grew nervous and anxious for the event. It forced
me to remember stuff I haven’t thought of for 40 years. I have written elsewhere of my women, well there was this one
in Grade nine and ten that was different. She had these brown eyes puffy red cheeks and unbelievable lips. I don’t think
she ever knew of my crush on her as I was mostly immobilized with love unable to communicate anything more than duh. I may
have asked her for a dance once. She may have even danced with me once. Not sure, that was 1968. I always thought of her after
I left and in 1973 when I returned, I called her and we met again. I recall we met at Wildwood Manor, our ten acre farm and
for an hour or two we chatted and walked the fields. The thrill was gone, but even
now forty years later I am still captivated by my memory of her unique beauty. Again I am not sure what transpired when she
visited our farm, but things didn’t click so we did not meet again. Still think of her!
I trained with the wrestling team and was forced to wrestle Clive Llewelyn to represent GDHS but he always won. Gratefully
for me, Joe Ingerosa our coach started a B team which was the only way I could go on trips representing the school. I remember
I was very good. Coach called me Tiger Mike. I liked that. Anyway years later (1976) I am watching the Montreal Olympics and
there was Clive representing our country! I nearly choked on my sandwich. No wonder I couldn’t beat him in high school!
He went on to win an Olympic Bronze and a Pan Am gold! At our high school reunion in 2007 we met again and we had a good chat.
He became a lawyer practicing out in Alberta
Clive and Mike in 2007
I remember that high school dances for me were kind of like
some weird form of social torture. I would stand stiff as a board unsure what to do, feeling like a dork. I believed I could
not dance and hated the whole idea of it. Still do mostly, but occasionally I drink enough to enjoy groovin’ to some
At 16 I got a job at Master Feeds Research farm. Stan (my mom’s husband) told me that I must now pay $50 rent,
but I would not. I did not feel it was fair! I was still doing most of the farm work and buying my own clothes. For example
my last night before leaving I came home from my work and while I was doing the chores everyone was eating dinner. I was called
from the chores as everyone was in the car ready to go gather hay which we did even in the dark until1130pm. I still had not
eaten since noon. On the drive home Stan said “I understand you received your first cheque why did you not give your
mom the rent”. I presented my opinion about the chores and buying my own clothes. But all he said is “write your
mom a cheque when we get home or get out”, so I left that night, without even getting dinner. In fact as I went to leave
with a few of my things, Stan made me take all my belongings. So I struggled out into the early morning air overburdened with
most of any gear that I could carry. I decided to crash in my friend Bruce’s garage and the next day I rented a room
in a rooming house. Next day I was ambushed by my mom and her henchmen (my younger brothers Peter and Chris) but I got free
and when they tore the beautiful New Zealand
wool blanket my grandma had sent me specially stitched with my initials MGM in huge letters I let it go and they kept it.
I was finally free from the Witch of Wildwood!
The rest of the summer of 1970 went very well for me. I continued my day
job and went to local rock concerts with Bruce and a girlfriend of mine Marion Vlietman. I remember we saw Nino Martino perform
with his band at the arena. I admired how cool he was twirling his microphone in the air. Not sure but Gig Hillock was in
a band perhaps they were in the same band. One time Bruce took me to a show that he and Gig were doing at the Catholic church
behind the high school. This band was called Station House with Bruce and Gig and Brent Barkhouse. Gig used to roar around
town on his Triumph (Bonneville?) and once stopped by us to chat; Gig asked Peter Noble (of Noble dairy at Mountainview and
Guelph St.) his name and then dumped Peter’s
books on the ground and drove off. I thought he was so cool.
Informal gathering during the 2007 reunion…Paul Chisholm(standing) Randy ?(guitar) Tom Smarda
( glasses) Paul, Brent Barkhouse and I were in cubs at St Paul’s
away from home I even went to back to school in the fall of 1970, but my savings were melting away fast. I had ambitions of
becoming a phs. ed. teacher and so I wrote a letter to my grandma. She agreed to help me, so off I went once again to New Zealand. Just before I left I went and saw my
hero Burton Cummings with the Guess Who at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto
which was great.
Ch 2 Trouble Returns To Paradise
Seventeen years old and off I went alone to the other end of the world. I changed planes in Chicago
and La, and while refueling in Tahiti, I got out for a stretch. the weather was unbelievably
hot and humid. Smoked Camels all the way to NZ; spoke with a nice old minister enroute who gave me his lapel pin of a gold
kiwi (the native bird of NZ). My grandma flew to meet me in Auckland
and then we flew on to a heavenly time in Wellington under
the loving care of my grandma.
I was given my own room, Grandma and her second husband Arch had bought me drawers full of new clothes shoes, sports
equipment etc; they even gave a bank account with money already in it. Within
the first few weeks of arriving in Wellington I attended the
governor general’s residence for an outdoor summer party. They probably called it a high tea. We spent the afternoon
chatting with all kinds of distinguished folks. It was quite the affair for a seventeen year old farm boy from Georgetown.
My room when I arrived was all freshly painted and with an awesome view looking down onto the tourist ship docks in
the harbour of Oriental Bay.
This was the same room used by many visiting dignitaries including my childhood hero Burl Ives. It’s funny to think
that while I was playing his record in Oakville Canada
years before over and over and over again, he was sleeping in my room in Wellington.
By 1961 at age seven I was a devoted fan of Burl Ives from listening to his record.
Before 1971 I had never even had my own room! When I left Canada
I weighed 120 lbs, I know this as I wrestled in high school, first in the 115 and then the 123 lb class and never had to sweat
it out like my nemesis and hero Clive Llewelyn. In NZ they weigh by stones but all I remember was I soon weighed 178lbs. with
no fat. In fact my grandma enlisted me in judo and I often had to sweat out a pound to make my weight class. It was her cooking.
She lovingly made all kinds of lovely meals; she had a funny line that if you didn’t have room for seconds she would
ask what was wrong with her cooking. We often had high brow company at our table. Artists,
musicians, film makers, world travelers, intellectuals all visited our elegant dining room which had the most fantastic view
of the bay, the city harbour and the distant Ruapahue mountain range. This view was twice the view of my room which was also
quite spectacular overlooking the harbour and just below my window the very dock I had sailed from in 1961.
Living in N.Z. I also drank gallons of that thick rich NZ milk they so quaintly still delivered door to door to each
home, leaving as many bottles as money was set out for the night before. Sometimes Chris Walker and I would go on milk money
raids to buy smokes and play snooker. Sorry neighbours.
living room was like out of some fancy magazine; richly furnished with priceless artworks and world travel mementos, a far
cry from the unpainted messy, dirty life at Wildwood. Life here had peacefulness, dignity and nobility. We attended all kinds
of theatre. Operas, ballet, concerts, films repertory theatre and stage plays. I saw the stage show of Hair 4 or 5 times.
Jesus Christ Superstar, the same. Saw the film Woodstock a
dozen times. I snuck in a tape recorder to a concert by John Mayall and about 30 other musicians. One show that I attended
over and over again was Man of La Mancha. I always teared up at the part where Dulsineah (sp) asks Don Quixote don’t
you remember and he begins to sing that song To Dream the Impossible Dream. Later I was inspired by that play to read the
My step-grandfather, Arch, had been general manager
of JC Williamson, the management of all major theatre in NZ and though now retired he still had an office in the opera house.
He got free tickets to everything. He even got me a position on the world renowned Wellington Salvation Army band, but I bowed
out after only two sessions. My two years of trombone at GDHS did not equip me for their advanced musical selections. He told
me of some of his famous encounters and even when the Beatles came to NZ though they had their own manager he traveled with
them. I believe it was through him that I also got to work for the Moscow Circus. I was only an usher but after the show started,
I would go backstage and help out; wheeling cages of lions and tigers into the main ring while the show was on and hang out
with the performers. I also got to enjoy Russian peasant cigarettes from the artists. Every day one of the trapeze artists
(a slim, beautiful Russian woman of about twenty-five) would get me to hoist her up to her warm up rings. I think she knew
I looked forward to hoisting her up! I also met a short term girlfriend Melanie who worked as an usher too. We spent lots
of lovely experiences together off the job.
The fact that my grandma helped
me out and took me in was marvelous. They really were doing me a world of service. Etiquette, social development, culture
and a love of the arts were all gifts they gave lovingly. Arch had never had kids so I reason he had a hard time dealing with
me. He especially hated my longish hair. While I was with them they bought a cottage out in Paekaeriki. We went out there
on some weekends which was really great. Our cottage was #6 The Parade which was 60 feet from the seashore. We swam a lot
even in winter. I remember Arch was out deep into the ocean and he called out. I looked toward him just in time to see a small
dorsal fin going by and under. You could tell it belonged to a very large whale. Huge, unbelievably huge! Today I believe
it may have been a blue whale. I’m no expert but I believe they are the biggest thing ever on earth.
In my incredible life there has been basically two women who really loved
me: a girlfriend Guada whom I shall write about later in the book and my Grandma. She was such a sweet person and despite
all my failings, inadequacies and ignorance she helped me get to higher ground. I should nurse me when my heart got broken
or when I came home bloody from my many adventures. One time I had been running down the winding pathways from our house to
when I tripped, flipped and slid for quite a distance. Limping home she had me soak in a bathtub with about a cup of Dettol
in it. Boy did that sting. Personally I would not recommend anyone doing this, but I understand the mistake. It worked as
I healed up quickly. It was at that time while she implored me to be more careful that she suggested that I am accident prone.
Ever since that moment and that comment ( be it merely a casual comment which I doubt) I have fought against that monicker.
Perhaps that comment has saved me as maybe I do have some negative magnet stuck to me somewhere. I mentioned somewhere that
I have always been inches from fame; I have also often been inches from disaster.
me in judo as part of her help Mike plan. What a great idea. They had no wrestling at Wellington College so judo would be a good
replacement. I excelled in judo and even as an orange belt came 4th at the North Island Championship meet in Hamilton
NZ. I would have done better but having failed the weigh in, I tried to sweat out half a pound, and failed, so I entered the
competition at a higher weight division. Now fatigued from not eating or drinking and all my efforts to sweat it out, I went
to a fish and chip shop where I ate a bunch of paua fritters. Suddenly my name was called to a match. Minutes later I was
fighting in a match. The fritters and fries were rolling around in my stomach demanding to me to rest. No options attack!
I was doing well with my foot sweep which won me lots of matches. I am tall and slim. When I pull your left arm left I am
like a big wheel. I lean back and then boom, foot sweep (my right sole against your right heel) enemy on the ground! This
worked almost all of the time. In this particular fight the blue belt I was fighting twisted my belt in a normal part of a
ground move. It was at this point that the paua fritters were demanding to see
daylight. When the belt is twisted it normally doesn’t do much but with the fritters the knot that ties your belt together
was pressing against pauas so I had to tap out of the match. That was the only fight I lost that day, which placed me fourth
overall. For all aspiring judokas, never eat paua fritters right before a judo match. If I had not eaten right before that
match, I am sure I would have won that match. That would have put me in at least third place and thus I would have qualified
to compete in the all NZ finals to represent New Zealand
in the Commonwealth Games of 1974. I have always seemed to be within inches of fame in the things I do. In high school for
example I had to wrestle Clive Llewellyn to represent our school. Mostly he beat me; he went on to a university scholarship
and won gold in the 1976 Olympics and I believe silver in the 1980 Olympics.
I met Chris Walker at a warehouse job in Lyall Bay, actually he confessed later he had followed me home after work one day. We became
best friends. In Jan. 1971 we traveled by ship to Picton on the south island
of NZ to walk in a 26 mile benefit. Met a girl, Jill Fagan, a terribly
good looking red head. She was a 10 on the wow factor. Her dad owned a sheep station that was so big it was listed on a map
of NZ. “Koromiko’ in RD# 2 Cheviot. We wrote to each other a lot, but when she made a trip to Wellington we met again at a party at one of her friends. I spilt tea all over my tennis
whites and I suspect that this incident turned her off for after she went home I got the always dreaded Dear John letter.
I was devastated, cried a lot and could not be consoled. Sometime in that busy year of 1971 Chris and I with Nigel Taylor
and another guy tramped the Ruapahoe Mts
above Upper Hutt over to Paekakeriki. It rained all the way to near the summit where our
clothes froze solid. I had the urge to sit down and rest but felt if I did I would die, so I pushed on. There is one point
where you have like a 15 foot wide path with two vertical drops on each side of some thousand or so feet. It was awesome but
scary. As we came around a corner, the summit was right there in front of us. In my state of near death, it looked like we
were climbing into heaven as the summit is adorned with a very large wooden cross with the sun hazed over with thin cloud
directly behind the cross. The trip down the other side was a breeze comparatively and weather was sunny and relatively pleasant
the rest of the way.
was too much for me. At Wellington College;
a boarding school I attended as a day scholar, there was a lot of smoking going on in the lavoratory, and at the back of the
dorms, behind the pool, back in the bushes and the paths in between. I do not exaggerate, there was more smoking going at
school than anywhere else I have ever been. This seemed like more a rebellion against the excessive manipulation by the masters
(as they call teachers), headmaster etal. rather than turbid addiction.
I never caught up with the NZ style schooling and really at that point had no real interest in school at all; though
my classmates of 6B6 made me class president and the 3rd 11 field hockey team made me team captain. I had a lot
of fun traveling all over the Wellington area with our hockey
team, but we had a very dismal record of losses. I bet we had the worst record of any Wellington
college team in the long history of the college. I still don’t know why, I believe we were solidly committed to the
group with lots of individual talent, yet we lost game after game. I know now
that I really had no leadership skills at that time, even now I am no leader. I was just having fun, and unable to discern
what would improve our performance. During my year at WC I decided I would not pursue my dream of becoming a phs ed teacher.
I did not want to go to school anymore. At WC we were expected to do 3 hrs homework each day. I sat in my room as my grandma
wished, usually playing my Hofner ‘Beatle bass’ but rarely ever did the homework. The headmaster, Mr. Hill, called
me in his office one day and warned me I had been spotted holding hands with a girl and I would be switched (beaten with some
long branch thing). I was 18 at the time with hairy legs sticking
out of my shorts and knee sock uniform. I felt I was a man already and so corporal punishment was absurd. I almost laughed
Later I had a real knock-out girlfriend Charlie… short for Charmaine I think. She was another red head. Can’t
recall how we met; she lived in Paekakeriki. I had even asked her dad for her hand in marriage and been given his consent.
That in itself is an interesting tale. I am sure I had set it up with the mom and after dinner (shepherds pie) which was my
favourite dish she made; it was out of this world sensational, Charlie’s dad and I sat down to a game of chess. We talked
of many things predominately his daughter and the ending came like this believe it or not.” Anyway” I said to
him, “I would like your daughters hand in marriage and by the way check-mate”. I swear that is how it happened.
On a cultural note, Charmaine had kept a hope chest that she proudly displayed to me early in our relationship .Keeping a
hope chest was a custom which I had never heard of and for her to share this with me such a strange thing that I didn’t
know how to handle it. Another odd tale with this family is one day I watched the two brothers working on an engine in a car.
The one son was somewhat of a giant. Anyway, I saw him lift that engine right out of that car himself. Unbelievable but true!
At that time I was in a small rock band and we played our only dance in her hometown of Paekaeriki that she was running.
It was a wonderful experience for me to show off my rock and blues skills for the patrons. Sadly Chris our lead guitarist
couldn’t make it and he was an important part especially as Marks brother who played rythmn guitar took several self
scheduled hour long breaks. That day was to be my last performance for the next 35 years. Early in 1972 Charlie and I broke
up. I can’t even remember her full name. Our band featured Chris Coad on lead guitar Mark Bennet on drums, his brother
on rhythm and me on my Hofner bass with nylon wrapped strings. I also had a Hofner lead guitar and fuzz wah wah sound effects
pedal. Later a new girlfriend of mine became lead singer. She was a young Jewish virgin with the voice of an angel. Okay the
question is ‘how did I know she was all these things’ is on an adult mind, but suffice it to say that I knew.
Our greatest performance as a band had no audience except ourselves in some church Mark had accessed (maybe his dads’
church who was coincidentally a church minister) I will never forget our ‘knights in white satin’ originally by
the moody blues.