David Greatrix is an air force brat and Prairie boy who did most of his early growing up in Canada’s capital and in Germany, in addition to spending a good number of his formative years as a child and adult in Winnipeg. He wrote Farewell to the Good Old Days in part to expose the details of a long and sometimes sticky career in academe in Canada, a career that included facing an ongoing string of professional obstacles. He considered his experiences with these and other obstacles worthy fodder for a “no-holds-barred tale of betrayal, ambition, and stupidity” that would ideally help spare others in similar circumstances from suffering the same fate.
In addition, Greatrix penned Farewell to the Good Old Days to educate individuals interested in what he considers the dubious evolution of modern university life, and on a more positive note, to inform an audience curious about engineering, and aerospace engineering more specifically, as a profession. Greatrix is adamant that his literary deep-dive into stories of so-called professional people behaving badly serves not only as a cautionary tale, but also as a salute to those worthy colleagues in the academic world who were sincerely trying to do the right thing.
Before The World Forgot (a tribute to those who gave their lives on 9/11; from Ch. 11 of Farewell to the Good Old Days)
On September 11, 2001, two airliners were deliberately flown, by hijackers of mostly Saudi origin, into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A third hijacked airliner was deliberately flown into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., that same morning, by members of the same Sunni terror group, Al-Qaeda. A fourth airliner was similarly hijacked that morning, but due to the intervention of some brave passengers, the airplane was forced to descend and ultimately crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside, well short of its intended target (generally presumed to be the White House or the Capitol building). The world, at least as we knew it here in the West, had changed forever—or so we thought.
I was in my office that morning of September 11. I remember someone in the hallway saying that something unbelievable was happening in New York City. Televisions hooked up with the outside world were around some parts of the campus, although not close to where I was located at the time. A few more people dropped by my office and said that airplanes were accidentally flying into the World Trade Center, as if some grave error in air traffic control had occurred. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from City Television asking me to come over to their downtown Toronto television station to comment while the video evidence was replayed for the viewers. I would be interviewed by Kevin Frankish, and later, David Onley (future lieutenant-governor of Ontario). That same day, I was also interviewed on a street corner near City TV by Dwight Drummond (at City Television at the time as a street reporter), and for a radio station, I was interviewed via phone live on-air by well-known sportscaster Jim Van Horne.
A Return to Lahr (from Farewell to the Good Old Days)
From p. 240 of FTTGOD, this is for all the Lahr Brats, RCAF Brats and Canadian Forces Brats (i.e., my blood brothers and sisters) out there:
During the summer of 2015, just a few weeks after my father’s funeral, I visited Lahr, Germany, for a day. I had taken the train down from Frankfurt, where I was staying at that point in my trip to Europe (I had a conference in Krakow, Poland). I walked from the train station at the west of Lahr, heading east. I passed by some of the old PMQs where the Canadian dependants had lived. The buildings were understandably in pretty rough shape, given their age, but still serviceable. They appeared to be occupied by refugees from the Middle East, with young children running around. The grocery store my mother and I had gone to some forty-five years earlier was now run by some chaps from the Middle East. I had a short conversation with them in my broken German. They seemed friendly at first but grew tired of my presence fairly quickly. I moved on. Further east, I went into one of the old PMQs on Jamm Strasse. When I emerged, an older Middle Eastern gentleman on the sidewalk spoke to me in German. He asked me to hold on for a moment. I wasn’t sure if he thought I was trespassing. Then his daughter came up to us from a parked car and also spoke to me. In broken English, she said she was finishing up her studies in medical school elsewhere in Germany. I apologized for my poor German language skills, and we parted. I continued my long walk around Lahr, trying to recognize what I could. On the way back to the train station, taking a footpath well up on the hill that looks down on the city of Lahr, I came across a well-hidden subdued memorial to Lahr’s German military war dead from WWII. Lahr’s older memorial for its WWI dead is more visible and vibrant, prominently placed on a principal street near the city centre.
On my way back to Frankfurt, I had to switch trains at Offenburg. My Canadian classmates and I had taken a field trip to Offenburg many years before. Walking through the relatively busy market square with some time to kill, I happened to cross paths with a wizened old gentleman who looked as if he had been plucked from the poppy fields of Afghanistan and plopped down on the cobblestones of Germany; he nearly ran me over on his dilapidated bicycle. Given the confusing demarcations on the sidewalk for cyclists and pedestrians co-mingling in close proximity, he may very well have been in the right. He cussed me out in broken German. I responded, in perfect English, that he should kiss my ass. My father, had he been beside me then, would have reminded me of the old British army saying: “the wogs begin at Calais.” Which, if you’ll indulge me, further reminds me of a certain dry-witted senior USO professor’s suggested name for a departmental sub-committee (that he was chairing) that was looking at a graduate studies program for the Aeronautical, Industrial & Mechanical Engineering Department (way back in 1997): the “Working Group on Graduate Studies,” or “WOGGS,” for short. This running gag with the name, which only a very few on the committee picked up on, would last a few months before mercifully disappearing from view.
To Defeat Your Enemy, You First Have to Understand Them (from Ch. 10 of Farewell to the Good Old Days)
... beyond their need for exploiting the benefits and technological advancements of the wider society surrounding them that they don’t currently have (e.g., pickup trucks, cellphones, C-4, etc.), one can nevertheless observe a distinct aversion to “overly” mixing with outsiders who do not believe what they do. They especially, as my friend pointed out, feel a deep need to isolate and control their females, in addition to indoctrinating them. It’s safe to say that assimilation with the outside world, potentially leading to a dilution of their ranks, is not on...
... transition from playing the role of perpetual victim [to gain sympathy, trust and advancement] when their numbers are relatively low, to playing the role of victimizer and destroyer, when their numbers are sufficiently high. In other words, with the passage of time, individuals in their group exhibit a progressively more public desire to eventually dominate every location (an institution or an entire region) they (as an eventually sizeable group) move into, as some kind of imprinted collective imperative. For these true believers, their insidious indoctrination makes it too difficult for them to have a broader perspective of our world and to be tolerant of outsiders sharing their space. Instead of long-term friendship and mutual cooperation, they prefer that their inferiors be exploited over a period of time and ultimately deceived...
For this knowledge, I am forever indebted to my friend, who had the courage to fill me in on what had been bothering me for a long time—i.e., my observation of people who superficially appeared normal, but mysteriously (at least to me) didn’t appear to have a conscience.
Death of a Dean (from Ch. 14 of Farewell to the Good Old Days)
In the autumn of 2011, retired Dean of Engineering Winston Nasser died at age sixty-eight. He had spent thirty-eight years of his working career at Southern. It was an end of an era, to be sure. Nasser’s actions, and inactions, left a certain legacy. People like Bahman Jamshidian, Youssef Majdalani, and Mourad Didoush would never have gone as far, or as fast, if there hadn’t been a vacuum in leadership and senior faculty experience at Southern. If Darren Southvale had swallowed his pride and stayed on as Dean of Science & Engineering back in 2002, Nasser would have likely retired by 2003, and none of the scandalous behaviour documented here would have occurred, at least not to the extent that was inflicted upon us. The autocratic control by the gruesome twosome Majdalani and Jamshidian (the so-called Twin Towers) of the Aerospace Department between 2002 and 2011, entirely facilitated by Nasser, would not have been a reality. The shenanigans of Aerospace academic lightweights Pho and Heyd would not have been tolerated under different departmental and decanal leadership. Similar stories almost surely apply to several, if not all, of the other engineering and science departments at Southern, where comparable outlandish behaviour was tolerated under Nasser’s oversight.
Miscellaneous Bonus Background About Farewell To The Good Old Days
Some readers of FTTGOD have indicated an interest in knowing the true identities and/or inspirations behind various disguised names of places, people, etc., appearing in the book's Part II, and to a lesser degree, Part I. By way of background, to avoid litigation and hurt feelings, my publisher suggested before the book's publication that I be fairly thorough in masking various items in Part II, so I was. Now, with the passage of time since the book's publication, and subsequently the complete disruption of the universe as we knew it, I don't see a problem in slowly releasing some details, to help out curious readers... to some degree. Call it a phased disclosure. Some preliminary examples from Part I and II, dear readers:
Stanley Beaver (FTTGOD) = David Weaver (true life, TL)
Bruce Bannonbridge (FTTGOD) = William Whelan (TL)
Roxanne Bolderz (FTTGOD) = Tonya Rose (TL)
Chet (FTTGOD) = Brad Billson (TL)
Colonialism & Reconciliation (FTTGOD) = History (TL)
Alan Edwards (FTTGOD) = David Poe (TL)
Sally Forrest (FTTGOD) = Beth Weckman (TL)
Doug Furkas (FTTGOD) = Douglas Coats (TL)
Vig Huang (FTTGOD) = Vigor Yang (TL)
Jack Hughes (FTTGOD) = Hugh Jack (TL)
Little Crankie (FTTGOD) = Little Frankie (TL)
Allan McDonald (FTTGOD) = Allan McDonald (TL)
Anne Pellegrino (FTTGOD) = Cathy Lace (TL)
Institutional, Tribal & Global Governance (FTTGOD) = Politics & Public Admin, (TL)
SINATRA (FTTGOD) = INAERO (TL)
Pete Robertson (FTTGOD) = Robert Black (TL)
Jayant Prat (FTTGOD) = R. Sharma (TL)
Slappy (FTTGOD) = Brian Gilmore (TL)
Brent Karras (FTTGOD) = Vaios Lappas (TL)
Ron (FTTGOD) = Ron Bouchard (TL)
Girl at the Grade 9 dance (FTTGOD) = Elizabeth Johnson (TL)
Kirkfield Hotel waitress (FTTGOD) = Erika Voth (TL)