10982 ‘Charlie’ Oliviero 1976 Cadet Wing Sports Officer: Rosy Memories
I was born in Naples, Italy on the 3rd of April 1954 to Italian parents. My parents immigrated to Toronto in 1956 where I grew up and attended school. Depending on when we met, you will know me as Carlo (birth name) Charlie (high school and RMC) or Chuck (after grad). Don’t ask why . . . .
My life changed when I was accepted to the RMC. Instead of going to university to become a lawyer, engineer or architect I ended up as a career army officer, something that was literally inconceivable to be in high school. Initially, I accepted because it was a “free” education. Once I got to the College I realized it was much more. Before I knew it RMC was not just where I went to school; it was how I self-identified. From August 1972 to June 1976 I packed more adventure into every day than I thought was possible. Whether in the rainforests of Chilliwack, aboard one of HMC ships or staying out past curfew downtown practically every moment included classmates and the friends and mates I made at the College remain my best friends to this day. Some like those who retired nearby I see routinely. There are about a dozen of us in Kingston and we meet monthly for breakfast. Some I only see at reunions and it is like there was no intervening gap; we pick up conversations left off years or even decades before.
My memories of College life are understandably rosy. As we age, we look back perhaps a bit more warmly. In my case, I truly cherish my RMC memories. Frozen mornings in the Frigate and standing on a sweltering parade square in a wool scarlet tunic easily give way to better times. Whether it was debating through the night with 10968 Mike Maxwell, defining what a Renaissance Man was with 10917 Dean Brassington, being instructed on US college football by 11018 Cole Tokei, having 10950 Dave Hall drag me around the track so I wouldn’t fail my PT test, learning from 11104 Doug Konkin how to brew drinkable coffee or having 11115 Ross Matthews “tune me up” for hiding my dirty laundry under my bed, the memories always make me smile. These guys and dozens of others were so much more than classmates at a university; they were and remain true friends.
After graduation I went off to the joys of the Combat Training Centre in Gagetown to begin what would be a career worthy of a Hemmingway novel: Armour Troop Leader, a UN tour, travelling the world at Her Majesty’s behest, jumping out of Hercules aircraft, German Army War College, shooting real tanks (no video games), taking the Arms Control Unit into the old USSR, and commanding Canada’s only tank regiment. I felt like I just kept winning the lottery. Certainly the best part of the adventure was that the raven-haired beauty I had met by accident literally weeks before I went to the College had put up with my alcohol-soaked foolishness from 1972 to 1976 and agreed to marry me after graduation and share my life as we packed up every couple of years and found a new place to live. Jane and I are still together (I am sure she is wondering what stupid thing I am going to do next) and I continue to wonder how I got so lucky.
By 1998 I had decided that I was more interested in getting a PhD than staying in the army so I left to work in the defence industry and go back to school. By then Jane and I had two sons and had begun to sink roots into the limestone in Kingston. The respite was short as I was talked back into the Army Reserve by the Army Commander in 2006 and then in 2011 was honoured by the Minister when he appointed me the Honorary LCol of the Queen’s York Rangers (1st Americans). Not moving afforded our two sons some stability and they both followed me to RMC, one graduating in ’05 and the other in ’08. They are now on their own post-RMC military adventures.
As my class approaches its 40th Reunion this fall, all I can say is that I still feel like I won the lottery and with no offense intended I cannot imagine how dull my life might have been if I had gone off to study anywhere else but RMC.
The photo (left) was taken shortly after the varsity Fencing coach, PERI, Sgt Bob Lowe had ‘retired’ from the Canadian Armed Forces and joined Corrections Canada. Bob stayed on for one season as the coach and so, cadets being cadets, the team thought it would be creative / funny to dress up as inmates with the ‘Coach’ in his Corrections Canada uniform acting as their guard.
‘Charlie’ fenced for all four years at RMC and was proud to have “lettered” in fencing or as RMC called it, Outstanding Athlete. In fourth year the College could not find a coach so as team captain he acted as the ersatz coach with much help from the weapons captains and other IV yrs.
When he retired and entered War Studies ‘Chuck’ became involved as the RMC Fencing Chair, then took on some minor coaching duties and when the coach, who had coached RMC and Queen’s simultaneously became full-time at Queen’s he was left as the Head Coach, a job “I was uniformly unqualified to have”.
As he recently admitted, “We did our best; I just treated the team like a military unit!”
Back in the mid to late 1990s RMC hired a number of full-time varsity coaches. Consequently, Patricia Howes became the first (and to this date the only) full-time professional varsity fencing coach; ‘Chuck’ went back to being the Chair and assistant to Patti.
“By 2005, my PhD studies were lagging and so I stepped away to finish my dissertation but by then Coach Patti was well-ensconced and running the team so well that my services were no longer required, so all was well.”