Hank Kyle, where the rubber meets the road

Henry “Hank” Kyle has a keen interest in people, an indomitable spirit and a well developed sense of humour. He is a humble man who admits, “I’ve stumbled a time or two.”

But where the rubber meets the road, he continues to be a leader and a mentor within his community and is known for working with the legion, with kids, as a school bus driver, instructor and the publisher of the News in a Minute.

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He has taught everything from tank driving to insurance sales, as well as school bus driving, Ridership (bike safety for kids) with the school division and first aid with St. John’s Ambulance. Many people who worked with Kyle say they have learned a lot from this man. 

“I enjoy seeing people at the starting line, and we are going to get to the finish line together,” he says, explaining the sense of satisfaction he gets in the role of instructor and mentor.

The Kyle family was originally from the Two Creeks District. “My Grandfather, William Asa, (known as Ace) homesteaded the land where Ross School was. He sold them the land that the school was on for a dollar.”

As a teen, Hank became a cadet, and later worked with the cadet corps. He served as Zone Commander of RCL Branch No.8. and continues to sit on the executive.

A keen interest in the military grew from his initial experience of two years in the militia with the armory located where the current Post Office is, on the corner of Seventh Ave. in Virden.

“We went to Shilo for exercises. A regiment trained out of there, they were the Border Horse Regiment before they became known as the 12th Manitoba Dragoons. This was between World War I and II.

The regiment was eventually retired and became a part of the 26th Field Regiment. The armoury in Virden was torn down and a new Post Office was built there.

Born to teach

“It all started back when I was actually with the militia,” he says of his role in training others. “I instructed tank driving at Shilo. We were a tank regiment and had to go there twice a year to drive tanks. They decided they needed another instructor and they elected me. I instructed tanks for four weeks.”

Henry Kyle married his sweetheart Caron 54 years ago, he proudly tells. They raised two children. Their daughter Nancy is a registered nurse in Calgary. Their son Dave instructs the journeyman electricians course at ACC in Brandon.

In their early days, Hank and Caron lived first in Thompson, then in Calgary, where the children were born. Hank did everything from insurance sales and management to truck driving.

After he realized that his two-year-old son barely knew his truck-driving daddy, he knew it was time to make a change; the Kyle’s returned to Virden.

He followed his interest into may endeavors in and around Virden including the Redi-Mix company. There, he worked for “probably the best gentleman boss I ever met… Bob Dillabough.”

Some years later, in 1987, the Kyles purchased the dry-cleaning plant that had been started in 1941 by Larry Fontana. He said the business did very well until 1988. “The big change came in clothing, because everybody could launder them.” Kyle got out of that business and purchased embroidery equipment and a photo lab. He was mentored by a photographer out of Alexander, for a year.

“The only way I was going to make the thing work was if I started taking pictures myself,” and he began to prove his own photo lab through his photography business.

“I did it for many years on my own. But I got a call to do a wedding, and my wife went along. She drove and I just sat and contemplated and that was probably the first good quality shoot I ever had. So she went with me all the time after that.”

His work became far more organized and her chauffeuring allowed him to think creatively. Kyle admits they have always been a good pair. “It’s a good job she’s around.”

He still does passport photos and an occasional photo sitting for friends.

Kyle has a philosophy about youth when they begin to question their parents.

“They want to find out what your opinion is,” he says. “They take you into their head and they take everyone else into their head. Their moral standards come from all the people that are around them. And you hope they take them from the right people.

“Some of them get into so much conflict with their parents that they both just need a breather. So that’s kind of where we fit in.”

That was years ago. The Kyles laid down the law when youth came to stay with them. He says rules and discipline are important. “You can’t do it any other way. I had [our] two children in my home that were living under the same rules.”

Kyle works with Fort La Bosse school division. He explains how he began to lead the Ridership program, which is mandated in the curriculum. To provide consistency, “Bob Findlay, who was supervisor of transportation at that time, decided that instructors should be teaching it, doing it all the same.

“Brian Hayward and I have been instructors for 22 years with the schools doing (bus) driver training and First Aid.”

Kyle admires kids. “Oh, I think they’re great. We steal from them. We steal their excitement, their enthusiasm, their honesty, all that sort of stuff. It’s too easy to brush kids off. Kids are smart. Oftentimes all they want is a little acknowledgement that they exist.”

He says there are a lot of strains on families.

“In today’s world where we have both mother and father working, coming home tired after a day’s work, it’s easy to forget what family is all about. That breaks up a lot of marriages,” he adds.
He continues to drive school bus. “It’s because of the kids. I like being around them.”

© Virden Empire-Advance

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