PENTICTON —; With a father who served in a previous war and a relative who was a pirate, Syd Taverner says he was destined to join the Canadian Navy.
Now at 91 years old, Taverner vividly recalls how he made the journey from Winnipeg to Vancouver to enlist during World War II. That was the first time he visited the Okanagan.
“We stopped in Penticton to pick apples for one day. It pretty darn killed us,” he says.
“We were only 17 but somebody said we might be able to join up in Vancouver. Once we got to Vancouver, they just laughed at us.”
Six months later, he was able to join. He served on the H.M.S Arbiter, working in the sweaty, loud engine room of the freight ship.
He traveled on board the ship for two years.
At one stop, he remembers his crew mates taking a dip in the Atlantic Ocean near Cuba.
“They were swimming around in the warm water, whether there were sharks or not, they didn’t care, they were just a bunch of kids.”
At another stop, this time in London, England, he recalls a dramatic air raid.
“We called them buzzed bombs. [The Nazis] used to come over and they cut out when they got to London and [the bombs] just dropped and you never knew where they were going to go.”
When the city came under attack, most fled for shelter but Taverner and his crew refused to leave their bar stools at the local pub.
“We were crazy Canadians anyway,” he says.
“[The bomb] blew the door open in the Black Lion pub that night, of course, that was a terrible thing, it almost spilled our beers.”
Time has chosen to ease Taverner’s many difficult memories from the war because in recalling deputy and honour, there is also pride as well.
“It is always nice to think about things, I guess, one day of the year.”