My American Uncle

Living in Canada, there are things you just can’t find here. When I was a kid, we thought we had it made. My Uncle Bill, known as “Gee Whilikers” by all who knew him, used to bring us things from his home in the states.

I remember once, Uncle Bill brought over this giant aquarium, and filled it with thousands of dollars worth of tropical fish. He spent years filling the tank with fish of every variety.

I used to hang with his son David. and on one occasion, we thought that we would help David’s dad out with his fish tank. We went to the local creek and using a net, we caught a dozen or so brook trout. David was excited to show is dad all the fish, but his dad was gone on the road, so we dumped the entire lot of fish into the tank with the tropical fish.

We certainly did not know that trout were damn cannibals, and we were surprised to find that the trout ate every last one of the tropical fish. At first, we laughed, saying that those dumb tropical fish were wimps alongside Newfoundland trout, but we got concerned when the only fish remaining in the tank were the dozen trout we caught in the creek.

Uncle Bill was not impressed.

My Aunt Ann met Uncle Bill back in the late fifties, while the United States Air Force had an army base here in town. Bill liked the place so much that he decided to make his home here.  He used to cuss lots, I guess that came from years of serving in the army, and since my Aunt Ann was a religious woman, she tried to get him to refrain from cussing so much. He decided that every time he chose to swear, he would say ‘Gee Whilikers’ instead. He said the phrase so often that now, years after his death, people still refer to him as ‘Gee Whilikers’.

Uncle Bill was a truck driver, and a heavy chain smoker, and despite doctors pleading for him to quit, he chose to smoke and ignore the warnings. By the time he turned 65 and retired,  he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died shortly afterwards. This was sad for the family, as my Aunt Ann waited all her life to have her husband (and father of her four children) home with her. Life as a truck driver’s wife couldn’t have been easy, as she virtually raised her children on her own.

Last year, as we moved from one end of the island to the other (an eight hour drive), we hired out a moving company to move our furniture. Upon hearing where we were from, the truck driver asked whether I knew Gee Whilikers. He said that he used to work with Bill when he first started in the business, and he remembers a kind man who was a total professional in the business, and who said “Gee Whilikers” every five seconds. Funny how people remember the strangest things.

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