MAC’S MUSINGS: Duffy would do it all over again

Claude McIntosh

For 13 months Elburn Duffy had a front-row seat to the horrors and mass destruction of war, but when asked the question some 61 years later, he is quick with the answer. “Yes … do it all over again.”

Duffy was one of 150 Cornwall and area young men, all volunteers, who fought in the Korean War. Six never came home.

The retired Domtar employee was just 21 when he landed in Korea with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR). He soon found himself involved in fierce front-line fighting. A few months earlier, he didn’t even know where Korea was. During his time in country his view of the country was from fox holes and bunkers;  always hungry, cold and tired. He recalls just two warm showers in 13 months.

Any lingering misgivings Duffy, 86, may have had about the carnage of the brutal war that ended with the signing of a tenuous truce were put to rest when he along with several other vets visited South Korea in 1987.

What he saw was a vibrant, prosperous, free country filled with people who haven’t forgotten the tremendous sacrifices made by Canadian and other United Nations soldiers. The difference between the South Korea he left in 1952 and post-war South Korea is night and day.

That is when he knew the sacrifices had not been squandered.

“The only building still standing (one South Korean city) when I left was the Imperial Palace,” said Duffy. “We (returning vets) saw a modern country.”

He was touched by the decades old daily ceremony which sees South Korean school children place a flower on each grave in a Canadian war cemetery where one of his boyhood chums Don Steer, killed by a North Korean sniper New Year’s Eve 1951, is buried.

Time has not dulled the poignant images of starving, homeless people begging battle-hardened Canadian troops for food.

He can’t forget the faces of scrawny, filthy kids digging through garbage cans for scraps of food.

Despite orders not to do so, Duffy said the Canadians would give away clothes, candy and food to the starving kids.

The sight of homeless starving people, especially children, still haunts Duffy.

“That really bothered me,” he said. “Still does.”

And while his mother taught him to eat all his veggies, Duffy said he came home with a strong dislike of lima beans.

Seemed that every U.S. supplied can of C-rations doled out to the Canadians contained lima beans.

“Haven’t eaten one (lima bean) since Korea,” he laughed. “Can’t stand the thought of them.”

THIS AND THAT Gerry D’Alessio takes his civic duty to vote seriously. At 84, he has never missed voting in an election – municipal, provincial or federal. But that milestone almost came to an end on Oct. 27 when he showed up to vote in the Cornwall municipal election. The poll clerk claimed his apartment number didn’t exist and denied him his right to vote, despite the fact “I had all the documentation needed,” he said. However, some 11th hour intervention by Mayor Bob Kilger and Coun.-elect Mark McDonald rectified the problem and D’Alessio got to vote at city hall. The streak is intact.

SEEN AND HEARD Good for the Trenton legion folks for reporting to police a stolen poppy donation box. Hard to believe but there are some narrow-minded branches that won’t report stolen donation boxes because they think it will harm poppy sales. Not so. The news coverage boosts sales. … Cornwall native Jack Miller, sports director with Quinte Broadcasting in Belleville, was re-elected to his third term on Belleville city council. There was a Miller for Mayor push earlier in the year but the popular radio personality decided to seek a third term as a councillor. Miller, who has called the Belleville Bulls games since 1981, has been at the station for 40 years. … The cloak of secrecy thrown over the sudden “retirement” of Upper Canada District School Board Director of Education Dave Thomas is nothing short of amazing. Three months after the fact and nothing has leaked out. … Veteran councillor Glen Grant, defeated in the Oct. 27 election, hopes to continue serving the community on a lay committee, preferably the waterfront committee.

ROUND AND ‘BOUT Johanne Baril, daughter of Cornwall Coun. Denis Thibault, is the new mayor of Val Rita-Harty (near Kapuskasing). She unseated incumbent Laurier Bourgeois who had held the job for 25 years. … When it comes to tenure, Andre Rivette will become the dean of city council. It’s a good bet he will continue as a council rep on the police services board. … Angelo Lebano once described himself the “dean” of council. Francis Guindon quickly proclaimed himself the “senior dean.” Each had 25 years service but Guindon’s tenure was consecutive.

IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR When the Cornwall Minor Hockey Association had 1,400 kids registered in the house league program and games were played on three outdoor rinks at the Athletic Grounds. The registration fee was $5 a kid and a hockey stick cost 75 cents, and you wore hand-me-down skates. Only the “rich” kids wore hockey pants. Referees and timekeepers volunteered their time. Championship games were played at the Water Street Arena and a big end-of-season banquet was put on at the Cornwall Armoury. Head table guests included star pro athletes who didn’t charge appearance fees. … When NHL superstars made $7,500 a season and held down summer jobs, and $2.50 got you a standing room ticket at the old Montreal Forum.

SPORTS STUFF China is lobbying to have a National Hockey League preseason game played in that not-exactly hockey mad country. Back in the 1990s, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds made history when the squad travelled to China to play an exhibition game against a Chinese team. After the game the U of B. C. captain was asked what it was like to play the Chinese. He paused for a moment then announced, “Not sure, but we’ll probably want to play them again in a couple of hours.” … The first batch of “Moe the Toe/Never My Dream” biography sold out but author Thom Racine, Moe’s son, says a new order is on its way.

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