Warning: reading Lorne’s Christensen’s memoir Tides Turbulence and Tailwinds will send you straight into an adventurous journey.
The book recounts Christensen’s fascinating career as dock boy, a seamen on coastal ships, soldier, and airplane pilot flying from the North Pole to the Caribbean, Alaska to Greenland and many places in between over a 50-year career.
From when he first saw the “light of day” at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Sept. 23, 1937 until his last flight with with Air North nearly 73 years later, the very readable Tides Turbulence and Tailwinds is a reflection of a life well lived.
As Christensen writes, “Looking back on my long career, there is very little I would change had I the power to do so. Along the way I learned the importance of decency and treating people with respect … I learned the value of friendship and that, regardless of position, every person has value and will be of value to you if you allow it.”
Tides Turbulence and Tailwinds is the first book for Christensen, who launched the project two years ago to leave a record of his life for his grandchildren. In two years, he went from jotting down chronological notes to writing a 307-page book.
What emerges is a tale of fascinating adventures of growing up in B.C. to tense moments of life or death decisions in the air.
“It’s all from memory,” Christensen said. “Everything is as accurate as I can remember it to be.”
Born in Nanaimo to a B.C. provincial police constable and a homemaker, Christensen lived in Victoria and Campbell River as a youngster. His first jobs ranged from caulking wooden hall fish boats, working with a plumber, even as a sales clerk in a men’s wear store.
Christensen, 82, came from a long line of master mariners. (His great-grandfather was Capt. James Christensen Sr., who arrived in Victoria in 1864 as boatswain aboard the German ship King Oscar.) Yet when Christensen was hired a seaman in 1953 on a freighter that went from Campbell River to Long Beach Calif, he found the seafaring life wasn’t for him.
He then joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as an air frame technician. He left, only to sign up later with the Royal Canadian Navy. He found a job with Island Airlines – with benefits. He was hired as a dock boy and all the flying time he wanted to achieve his commercial flying licence.
“Many pilots flying large jets for the major airlines got their start as docks boys and float-plane pilots before moving on,” writes Christensen. “It was an apprenticeship system that served the industry well for many years.”
From those early days of flight manifested in a long career filled with thrills and chills.
Christensen and his wife Donna raised their family in Sooke.
Since retiring from his flying career, Christensen has remained active in Sooke, with the Lions Club, Canada Day, Sooke Regional Historical Society and other organizations.
“All the stories I tell are of significance to me,” he said.
“I tried to write how I might talk and tell somebody about it over beer or whatever. So some of the language is a little raw but that’s the way it was back then.”
A launch party for Tides Turbulence and Tailwinds is on Oct. 20 at the Royal Canadian Legion, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The book is on sale at the Sooke Region Museum gift shop and other outlets.