15
Dec
17
Memories and moments fill the quiet space of time
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Memories and moments fill the quiet space of time

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For many, memories survive in the deep waters of our mind, like shipwrecks on the seabed.

Churning and moving, they thrive in the dark and rise and fall in waves; telling us who we are and how we got there.

Sitting in his room at Carveth Care Centre where he has lived for the past eight weeks, Charlie Gray is grateful for the pool of memories that fill the quiet space of time.

At 82 years old, he knows he has a sharp mind and a damaged body. It is a harsh reality for a man who served approximately 29 years with the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

Holding a letter of commendation in his right hand while his left arm rests in a lap enclosed by an electronic wheelchair, he smiles brightly as he reminisces about his career as an agricultural mechanic at Joyceville prison farm.

“I grew-up working on farm tractors and I just carried on,” he explains about his childhood on a family dairy farm near Gananoque and subsequent career path.

The year was 1960 when Charlie was hired to work at the prison.

“I ran the shop,” he says proudly about the prison farm located outside Kingston on Highway 15. “It’s closed now, but when I was there, we farmed 2,300 acres and had 1,000 head of cattle. We supplied beef to 15 institutions.”

Pausing to think about the years he spent running the farm, Charlie notes, “I had 850 inmates working for me over that time. I tell you, if you treat a man like a man, you will get a lot of work out of him.”

Unaware of his sense of decency, Charlie smiles often, happy to talk about the work that brought him satisfaction and joy. Almost 30 years after retirement, he talks fondly about his work, family and new home.

“It’s nice. I like it here. They feed you too much,” he says with a laugh about the long-term care home.


 

His eyes dart back to the certificate he stores in a protective bag in the top drawer of his bureau. He holds it tightly on a cold December morning and talks about its meaning.

“I cherish that,” he says, nodding to the framed paper presented to him by CSC in 1987. “Nobody else has done that. Nobody else has caught an inmate trying to escape in a taxi and brought him back.”

His words hang in the air, creating mystery and drama like thick fog blanketing a stormy sea.

Charlie recalls the day vividly when he singlehandedly apprehended a prisoner.

“I always read the daily occurrence report every morning and a fellow was here for drunken misconduct,” he explains patiently. “I was in the shop ordering parts. When I drove down the road to pick them up, a taxi drove by and someone whistled for it to stop.”

Charlie grins at the next part of his story, clearly familiar with the ending.

“I chased that taxi and thought to myself, ‘I’ll either put him in the ditch or he’ll stop’.”

Once the taxi was stopped, Charlie ordered the passenger out and informed the driver the customer was escaping from prison.

“I put him in the truck and took him back to Joyceville,” says Charlie. “When we arrived, I told the guards I had just picked-up an inmate in a taxi.”

Charlie smiles at his accomplishment and admits it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

“Five minutes after I left that guy, I was just like that,” he says, gesturing to his shaking hands. “I was really nervous at the end. I was so shook-up, I couldn’t even drive the truck back down the road to get the parts.”

Closing his eyes, Charlie seems to understand the precious and fragile nature of his memories; similar to water, the driving force of all nature.

He quips good naturedly about the escape he prevented, “I thought it was alright.”

Carveth Care Centre is proud of the lifetime achievements of Charlie Gray. We are grateful for this service at the Joyceville prison farm and contributions to our community.

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