‘Eerie coincidences’ involved Kabayashi!

Right after I had written a column on my wartime friend named Kobayashi, the only Japanese person I ever knew, the TV news came out with a story on Canadians of Japanese descent and the name featured there also was Kobayashi!
So how about that for a coincidence, but that was only the second one involving the same name which got me wondering many years earlier.
The first “eerie coincidence” that hit me was why my old friend and working partner, “Koby,” did not leave a wartime radio course at Winnipeg along with the rest of us.
When an RCAF fight sergeant came to our course with an invitation for us to go elsewhere, but refused to name what we were expected to study next, “Koby” was not among us when we got sent east to Kingston, and I wondered about him right away.
We had filled two CN passenger coaches, with radio repairmen as well as aircraft and air engine students, to leave the old Ford factory at Winnipeg. Very few stayed behind at those trades because what we were offered was both “secret” and “somewhere else,” and we were mostly very young.
So we were issued khaki army uniforms to spend 12 months at Barriefield in Kingston.
Koby was my own age (19) but he missed Kingston, where we learned right away we would be trained to intercept Japanese messages in a code called “Kana,” and working with earphones and typewriters.
We spent a full year getting our typing speed up to a perfect 40 words a minute—a skill that meant much to me after the war ended when I took a journalism course.
But Japanese? Whoever heard of being drilled on such a thing.
Even if Koby had been with us at Kingston while we sweated out this ordeal, he probably would not have had any language advantage without previous knowledge of that code.
But where was he—a question that has bothered me ever since.
You see, Koby had been right ever with me on our radio theory and repair course before the rest of us went east. He had applied himself to radio theory before that, and knew as much as some instructors, and definitely enjoyed radio work.
We had radio repairman with us at Winnipeg who were fascinated with some of Koby’s ideas, and my own marks on that course were improving because of working with him.
But was there more to him remaining in Winnipeg besides the fact that was his home? Had he received some sort of psychic warning to avoid the new course, and was he reacting to “an eerie coincidence” being a Japanese himself and loath to combat his home country in any way?
Someday I may find Koby in a Winnipeg radio store or shop, let’s say, and he may solve my old puzzle.
Perhaps he couldn’t bear to leave Winnipeg for personal reasons, but after hearing that TV newscast concerning Japanese enjoying Canada, I’m as mixed up in my thinking about it as ever.
Despite my training in Japanese code reception, I’m no closer to understanding the Japanese psyche if that, indeed, holds the answer.
I just wish my old friend had gone down to Kingston with the rest of us. We had been promised fresh postings with our training closer to Japan, in either Australia or the B.C. mountains, in order to listen in on more code.
But then, the Japanese war ended just as we finished that course. And there’s another “eerie coincidence” for you.
And now our grandchildren will be playing hockey in Japan, according to a news item in the Sports pages last week!
• • •
Why our earliest robins returned more than two weeks ago, they were accompanied by huge flocks of seagulls and together all those birds quickly made their presence felt while bringing hopes we were all through with snow for the year.
But there has been occasional white flutters occurring since while the weather forecasters keep on warning us!
• • •
I enjoy meeting our older citizens and among them the other day was Greg Bunnell, brother of Darryl, who went to high school with me. Their father worked with me one summer on wheelbarrows at a papermill construction job for the Paul Lawrence company.
Greg’s daughter, Maureen, is a favourite checker at Safeway.
• • •
While the Andrusco brothers, Walter and Nick, continue to enjoy very old ages, such is not the story of the Pidlubnys whose sister, Mary, is Nick’s wife as well as being a former high school secretary like my late wife.
Mary, not doing very well herself health-wise although staying in good spirits, has lost all of her four brothers. Mike, the eldest, gave our town bowling at two locations. Then there were Bill, who went to high school with me, Gordon, and Walter (or “Toots”), the lawyer, now all gone.
Their father, George, was a town councillor and hotel keeper.
• • •
When I met Joe Bliss and wife from Mine Centre in McDonald’s here last week, I forgot to ask him whether there are sometimes still bear steaks available—as occurred in the spring outside his dad’s store.
Bear meat was dark and somewhat greasy, but tasty, as I seem to remember!
• • •
An error in my column last week put Dr. Harry Skinner in an air force uniform instead of his sailor suit. He served in the Canadian navy during the Second World War.

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