In the early seventies, we lived in Goose Bay Labrador and I worked for Canadian Marconi maintaining Tropospheric Scatter Radio systems linking Goose Bay with the rest of the country. Tropospheric Scatter systems allowed relatively wideband communications between sites several hundred miles away. At that time broadband microwave systems had not made their way to “The Goose” as it was called by the natives.
The main site was on a small mountain a couple of thousand feet high with a bald stone top. On the top was a US military radar site, a Bell Canada tropo-scatter site and a military tropo-scatter site maintained by Marconi. This is where Ken Gillard got the moniker “Hot Ass Gillard”. Ken was an older gentleman from my perspective. I was in my early twenties and he was probably my age now. It’s funny how one’s perspective changes. Ken was a good technician with wide experience, and we called on him for advice when the manual let us down. He was also a Tandy Leather hobbyist. I don’t know if there are any of those left. Ken was always making wallets, belts and purses by cutting, stamping and dying various pieces of leather he would order from the Tandy catalog.
I am digressing because this story happened for three basic reasons– extremely cold weather, propane toilets and Ken’s ingenuity. Yes I said propane toilets. Remember I said that the radio site sat on top of a bald stone mountain. Bald stone mountains don’t lend themselves to digging wells and septic tanks so that one could use conventional toilets. I think I heard you ask “What is a propane toilet?” Well, it’s a special toilet that looks like a galvanized metal can with a toilet seat on top and a chimney connected at the back. When one feels the urge, one lifts the toilet seat cover which with a series of levers opens a ﬁre pit in the base of the toilet. One deposits what one does and simply closes the lid. The action of closing the lid also closes the cover over the ﬁrebox and an electrical ignition system lights the injected propane while a small fan sucks the airborne efﬂuent up the chimney.
All in all these were pretty neat inventions. The smell of burning fecal matter is kind of interesting both inside and outside of the building. I really can’t describe it in terms of aromas that you might be familiar with. There are certainly more pleasant aromas available. The engineers who designed these high power radio sites lived in warmer climes and probably didn’t know that LPG Propane freezes near minus forty degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit since minus forty is the cross over point of both scales.
Temperatures below minus forty are common on The Goose.
Let’s imagine several days in a row where the temperature did not rise much above minus forty. Let’s add to that a dozen or so guys working at the radio site 24 hours a day on rotating shifts who from time to time felt the urge to use a propane toilet. Urges strong enough to cause one to want to sit on a propane toilet had to be very strong. Most of us would try and wait ‘til we were down the mountain and in the privacy of our homes to evacuate ourselves.
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and the temperature is very, very cold. One by one, some of the guys have done what they had to do in the propane toilets, and each time the lid would close to entrap the crap, so to speak, and the ignition system would come on and the frozen propane stayed in the tank outside, and therefore no ﬁre in the hole.
The smell around the propane toilets was getting higher and higher, and the whole site began to take on a crappy odor. Ken Gillard to the rescue! Ken found several bottles of a piney smelling cleaning ﬂuid that he poured into the open ﬁreboxes. Yes we had more than one of these ﬁre crappers. This cut the smell considerably and now we could smell the piney woods throughout the site, pungent but a pleasant change from the other.
Day 4, Day 5, Day 6. Damn! It’s still cold. The only hot things were our tempers. Ken came to the rescue again. He realized that the piney smelling ﬂuid was ﬂammable and by simply lighting a match and dropping it in then a ﬁre could be created. The crap had built up in the ﬁrebox of one of the toilets to the point that the lid that covered the ﬁrebox lid would not close properly when the toilet seat lid was down. Imagine a bowl of shit on ﬁre with its ﬂames licking at the sides of the toilet cell burning the paint. Imaging the smell of burning pine oil and human dung. The ﬁre was extinguished!
One of our radio site techs was a great cartoonist. On the door of that particular toilet he created a cartoon. It was a picture of a man with his pants down around his ankles bending over while exiting the door to the toilet with ﬂames shooting from his derriere. The caption under the cartoon was simply “Hot Ass Gillard”.