War And Remembrance
From Vancouver shipyards to Italian battlefields to Nazi death camps, Canadians recall the war that changed the world
We brought him to the surface and opened fire'
Richard Aldhelm-White began a 29-year career in the Royal Canadian Navy at age 16. Born in Victoria, he has been based in Halifax most of his life. He lives with his wife, Rosemary, and has four children.
In October, 1944, on HMCS Chebogue, we got hit with a torpedo after an eight-hour battle with a submarine in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of France and Spain. We were escorting troops to France in a convoy. We went out ahead because there had been a report of German submarines in the area. We detected one with radar. In the navy, you very rarely saw the enemy. You fought them by dropping depth charges and hoped to God you got them.
We kept it up for eight hours. We finally brought him up to the surface and we opened fire. Then he started firing at us. The surface action bell rang and everybody who could be spared went to their guns. As I was moving up along the deck to take
over one of the guns, he fired torpedoes at us. One came right at our bow, went underneath and blew up the stem—just rolled it up like an accordion. I was very lucky, I just got away from there when she blew. I had turned my position over to another chap and he disappeared into thin air because he was sitting on top of where the explosion was. It would have been me.
Shrapnel from the explosion was flying in all directions. I went flying through the air. I had a heavy life jacket on. I bounced off the funnel and ended up on the deck. Seven were killed and 14 were wounded. It was about 9 o’clock at night and the seas were calm. She went over on a 20-degree angle and settled in the water. The submarine dived and disappeared. It didn’t come back, thank God. A few hours later, the other ships from the escort picked us up.
It’s hard to know at that age what the hell you were fighting for. They were the enemy and you didn’t like Hitler and the problem was he was going to conquer the world. I suppose, at first, it’s an adventure. I grew up awful fast.
I thought, wow, is this what I came back to?
Five members of the Cady family from Saint John, N.B., served in the air force during the war. Gerry, the fifth son, was a pilot in Europe; now 70, he lives in Fredericton with his wife, June, and has four children. Don, now 71 and living in Toronto with his wife, Doris—they also have four children—served as an air force technician at various Canadian airbases.
Geny: When I was I6V2,1 went with my closest friend, Gordie Barnes, to see the recruiting officer. We selected air crew. There were 90 or so in our flying course and I came first. I was commissioned as a pilot officer at 18. When I graduated in 1943,1 had the weird distinction of being Canada’s youngest officer.
Four days before wings parade, I was asked to step into the commanding officer’s office. The
^ discussion took about 20 seconds. He just wanted 5 to see me. Apparently, he had received a memo from Ottawa asking: “Are you sure this is the man you selected for commission?” It seems headquarters had seen pictures of me. The officer was mad as hell that such a letter had been written. That’s about the only time I had encountered discrimination in the military.
When I was posted to England in 1943, mother sent me a picture of my friend Gordie from the newspaper in my first mail. He was the tail gunner on a bomber and he was killed on his first trip. That was my first contact with death. I never cease thoughts of him.
After the war, I applied to Air Canada. There were mailings back and forth, it all looked good. Then, I submitted my photo and never heard from them again. I thought: “Wow, is this what I came back to?” I didn’t find much discrimination in Canada when I was growing up. And I wasn’t bitter against Air Canada. I opened up an electronics servicing centre. I set up Fredericton’s first cable system in 1955. And I started my own air charter company.
Don: I joined in May, 1943, because there was a war on and most of my brothers were in the service. I was 19, still green. My dad and several uncles were in the First World War together. My dad said they had to canvass to get a commanding officer, because nobody wanted to command black troops.
The discrimination I ran into was more or less on an individual basis. You’d go on parade, and somebody would think it’s time to tell minstrel jokes. Or somebody would expect you to sing and dance. You learn how to handle these things, and you change a lot of attitudes. I generally had the support of the command.
After the war, I eventually became a postman. But it was not easy to find a job. I would apply and they would tell me it was taken. Or you would look for housing and be told it was taken, and you’d call back moments later and they’d say: “Oh yes, the place is still open.”
Underwear made from a nylon parachute
Betty Hawkins, who grew up in London, married a Canadian during the war.
Now 69, she lives in Fredericton and has seven living children.
I met my husband making beds. I did volunteer work at one of the Maple Leaf clubs run by the Canadian Red Cross. Servicemen could go there for sleeping accommodation. Kenneth was in the First Canadian Parachute Battalion. They were the smartest boys going. They kept their uniforms absolutely immaculate.
I asked Ken to help me move the beds and he asked me if I would like to
go to the show. We met in August, 1944. He used to get weekend passes, but we really didn’t see a lot of each other until he proposed because they were sent over to Europe for the Battle of the Bulge.
With most of the war brides, you would be surprised how seldom they saw their husbands before they married them. Everything was so . . . well, you didn’t know if they were going to be there tomorrow. Ken asked me to marry him in February, 1945. He said: ‘Would you like to cook for me?” And I said: “What do you mean?” And he said: “Well, you know, do you think you’d like to marry me and come to Canada?”
I was 19 and Ken was 22. Somebody lent me a dress and a veil. My wedding nightdress and some of my underwear
were made from a nylon parachute my husband got for me. But I had red and white carnations and we were able to hire a car with a white ribbon on it. We had two days together, then he had to be back in camp because they weren’t sure when they would be shipped back to Canada. I didn’t see him again until I arrived in Halifax in March of 1946.
The Canadian government arranged for all the war brides to come over. I was lucky. My husband was in Halifax to meet me. Our reunion was in one of the big sheds and there were hundreds of people around. We had to get to know each other again, but we clicked. I had a very happy marriage. But a lot of war brides had a terrible time. Some found their husbands were living with somebody else.
We ended up moving to Fredericton to the small family farm, and I kept house for his father and sister. It was a difficult adjustment. I had never lived in a house without a bathroom, running water or electricity, and I got used to an outhouse, a hánd pump, oil lamps and wood stoves. But I never learned to milk the cow. I was never having anything to do with cows.
Now, here in Fredericton, we have a wonderful group of war brides. I’m helping to organize a trip to England for a bunch of us. We’re going over to celebrate VE-Day. We still talk about going “home” to England, but Canada is home. I wouldn’t go back to live in England for anything. I have had a wonderful life here.
You lived day to day, checking the papers'
A friend helped me get a job in the shipyard payroll office—my first job.
They had new payroll machines, rented from Remington Rand, and they were running on all three shifts—day, evening and graveyard. It was really busy, with ships coming in that had been damaged and new ones going out. Sometimes, we’d work back-toback shifts and then go across to the greasy spoon for breakfast.
I had two brothers in the air force overseas. One of the brothers ended up in a POW camp in Germany.
We’d send things through the Red Cross. One of the men who ran the shipyard, Clarence Wallace, arranged to have boxes of chocolate bars sent to him. Sugar was rationed, so anything that was sweet was scarce.
I worked at the shipyards until 1946, when
Alice Christian was 17 when she began working in the Vancouver shipyards in 1942. Now 70, she is single, has one grown son and lives in Toronto, where she is a massage therapist.
Remington Rand offered me a job. During the war, I used to take buses to the shipyards and I started seeing one of the bus drivers. We got married in 1950, and our son was born nine years later. I kept working until he was born. We lived out in Eagle Harbour—which was a lovely place out in West Vancouver with a beautiful sandy beach. Our house only cost us $10,000 and we paid $65 a month for it, which was about all we could afford. Unfortunately, my husband had a drinking problem. He never knocked me around, except once. I was
preparing the meal and I said I was tired. WAP!—he hit me right across the face. Of course, he was drunk. We went for counselling but it didn’t work. A few months later, I went away to a camp for a week and I never went back.
I think the war taught me not to take life for granted. You lived day to day, checking the papers for word about family or friends. You went to the dances for the soldiers, to entertain the troops. There was so much death and pain and anxiousness when you knew people were missing and you didn’t know whether they were alive or dead. The sad thing about today is all the fighting that is still going on. We’re all part of the same globe—why do wars get started? People always seem to want more than they have.
We were locked in a boxcar, like animals
Paul-Emile Lamouche served with the Montreal-based Royal 22nd Regiment, First Battalion, Company B. He was taken prisoner on May 19,1944, in Monte Cassino, Italy, and released 11 months later. A retired pharmaceutical worker, Lamouche, 70, has one child and lives in Pierrefonds, Que., with his wife, Emily.
After six months training, we left Halifax on the Ile de France with about 1,500 of us on board. Right to England, where we did more training and then we took a boat to Italy. On our way to the front line, there was a guy sitting in the truck, shaking. I asked the officer, “What is he going to do in the front line? He’s going to be in the way.” The officer said, “He’s been to the front already. He’s going back a second time.”
I was on the front line for three or four months. Then, me, Edouard Laframboise and Harry Pope went to pick up one of our boys who was shot in the leg. But the Germans came around—that was how I was taken prisoner.
Every time the Allies advanced, we had to move the POW camp. We walked in the rain and lay down in the mud. Some of our men tried to run away. They hid in a house, but
the Germans had grenades. About five of them got killed. We had to pick them up. I still remember one poor guy, eyes open, his hands clenched. We took them, put them in the truck and brought them back to the camp. We buried them there.
They took us to Germany. We were locked in a boxcar, like animals. There were about 2,000 of us at Stalag 7A—Americans, Canadians, British, some Africans. We’d get
parcels once a month from the Red Cross. It was all powder—powdered eggs, powdered milk. There was also tea and cigarettes. Me, I didn’t smoke, so I’d give the cigarettes to the German guard and he’d bring me some black bread. I’ve got a picture of that guard. He was pretty nice.
We used to go to Munich after bombings to clean the place up. We’d pick up legs and arms. We also saw Jewish people with those striped uniforms. The Germans used to hit them with their rifles. There was no pity at all for them.
I’ll never forget that morning when we were 1 freed. It was Easter Sunday, April 29, 1945, i and someone yelled that our own planes were I coming. We went outside and there they were, I flying in a V. There were bullets flying every1 where because the German civilians wouldn’t u give up. But the guards eventually put their arms down. I remember walking outside and seeing this big Russian guy with a pig in one hand and a big knife in the other. The pig was moving, but he was eating the raw meat.
I wonder sometimes why we fought, why we lost so many on both sides just for one crazy person who wanted to run the world. But if someone were to ask me to go back again, I would. I belong to The Association of the Royal 22nd Regiment. The association’s motto is Je me souviens [I remember]. And I do.
They did wrong—we were Canadians, and we were deprived of our lives'
Connie Matsuo was one of21,000Japanese-Canadians who were uprooted during the war. She was forced to leave her B.C. home in 1942 and work as a farm laborer in Manitoba. By 1944, she was allowed to work at a garment factory in Winnipeg, where she stayed until she retired at 65 in 1984. Two years later, her husband died, and a few years after that she began working at the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Culture Centre in Winnipeg, where, at 75, she is still active. She has three children.
I was bom and raised in Vancouver. I married Hisashi in the spring of 1941, when I was 21 and he was 28. We had a five-acre fruit farm near Mount Lehman, east of Vancouver. The strawberries were doing well, and we were planning to build a new home on a hill. But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December,
1941, we were told we had to go away.
We came to Manitoba on the train in April, 1942. Our daughter had just been born, and we were travelling with my husband’s parents. That train wasn’t fit for cows. I was so anxious that my milk dried up. I had to feed my daughter cold bottled milk. I just sat there cuddling Janet and ciying.
At first, we went to a sugar beet farm near Lockport, north of Winnipeg. But we only lasted a month. We had to live in an 18-foot-by-20-foot beet shack with holes so big you didn’t need windows. Lots of the soldiers from the Winnipeg Grenadiers [the Canadian unit captured when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in December, 1941] were from that area. Their families used to drive out to see what Japanese faces looked like. They wanted us out of there.
Eventually, they let us live in the city where my husband and I both got jobs: he worked in a foundry, and I got a job in a garment factory. By then, I had another child. One day on the street car, a man said: “Hey, you Jap woman, get off the street car.”
I said: “I have to go to work.” He said: “You get off.” I just ig-
nored people like that, and didn’t talk to them.
We lost everything—our land, our house. The government sold it and we didn’t get anything. They did wrong, because we were Canadians and we were deprived of our lives. When our children got older, they wanted to know why we didn’t fight to keep our home. We figured what’s the sense of complaining when it’s all passed. But deep down, I feel bitter about the way we were treated. What I went through, nobody realizes how bad it was. What happened to us is an embarrassment to Canada.
There was pride and confidence
Gordon Robertson, 77, who lives in Ottawa with his wife, Bea, and has two children, retired in 1979 after a 38-year career in the public service. During the war, he joined the department of external affairs, where he served as assistant to the undersecretary of state.
Idid a lot of work on the really very difficult problem of the Japanese. And there’s been a good deal of contention about what was done. The issue created political pressure in British Columbia. We had to find a reasonably humane solution that would be politically defensible.
There may have been injustices done. But my God, the whole war was a host of injustices. Should we try to rake up all the cases of injustice for which the Canadian government might be considered
to be responsible? Sending people to Hong Kong? Conscripting people into the army late in the day? Should there be compensation for all of that? For the loss of life? I knew that the government had wrestled with the problem and tried to be humane in the face of a good deal of pressure to be less humane.
After the war, there was pride and confidence in Canada. The pride was based first of all on the Canadian contribution to the war and the three armed services. And there was a great sense of pride in the knowledge that we had become the strongest economy after the United States and Britain. The only time that one can compare to it is the first decade of the 20th century, when Sir Wilfrid Laurier made his prediction that the century belonged to Canada. It was that kind of feeling, that the second half of the century was going to belong to Canada, too. It was a great period.
Betty Staff was 20 when she enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1941. After the war, she held a variety of retail jobs; now 73, she has two grown children and lives in Toronto with her husband, Joe.
`The tears would. be coming down
Iwas up from Cape Breton, visiting my sister in Toronto. The day I arrived, we were walking by City Hall and I said: “I think I’ll join the Army,” and I went right in and enlisted. I worked for the quartermaster. I gave out the supplies, uniforms, things like that. I liked it because you got to meet all the girls. We got to be like sisters, and a lot of Staff: dodging the doodlebugs us are still close.
I went over in May, 1944. I was stationed in London. I wasn’t the ; bravest soldier, but I liked the life. You had to do what you were told, ■ which was good. And you met so many nice people. At Christmas, they : would pick up the kids who had been orphaned, and bring them over for j a party. There was a huge tree, and lots of presents. I’d be sitting there ; with them, and the tears would be coming down. !
Once, all the windows in the big old house in London we were staying in—it was a beautiful place, with mirrors and a circular staircase—were blown out by a V-l bomb. They were called doodlebugs, because they would circle and circle, and you would just be looking for a spot to go to, because you didn’t want to be where they were when they came down.
Our girls used to go to the airport and bring the men back who had been in France, as is—mud and blood. So I volunteered to. help. The first few days, I was throwing up all over the place, it was so gory. But I got used to it. I helped cut their clothes off, wash them and feed them. And one German—I’ll never forget him—he spit right in the nurse’s face.
We’ve had it pretty good, even though there have been ups and downs, but it’s different today. People go to work, they come home, they’re tired and they can’t be bothered with their kids. When you get on the subway, the young people are so sad looking. You have to wonder what it is that they’re so sad about.
A westerner and the only native guy there
Robert Berard was a corporal and a section leader in the Royal Canadian Engineers, serving in Sicily, Holland and Germany. Now 73, he is a retired steam and boiler engineer, has two grown children and lives in Edmonton with his wife, Dorothy.
I went to Sicily in a special unit, picking up mines, building bridges and doing demolition work. The Germans were laying lots of mines. There were times at night you had to crawl, using a bayonet to prod the ground. There were “shoe mines.” You couldn’t detect them with a mine detector because the mechanism was plastic and the explosives were in little wooden boxes—enough to blow a leg off. I was in Sicily for 22 months. I had 16 men when we started, and when we left we had eight—some guys got taken prisoner, some got blown up.
I was born in Tofield, Alta., and we moved to Edmonton when I was 11. I was with an eastern Canadian outfit—half of them French, the other half from Nova Scotia. You can imagine the time I had being a westerner and the only native guy there. We had a few misunderstandings. But I told them to put up or shut up. I didn’t back down from nobody. But that happens all over. And once you’re on the line, you’re all the same.
After the war, though, a lot of guys didn’t know what was coming to them. And when they did go for help, they got turned down for what they were entitled to, like land or help to get into business. We have an aboriginal veterans’ group going in Edmonton now, and I’m one of the board members. We go to funerals. And we try to make sure guys get what they’re entitled to. There are guys who
have died and never got a headstone. Everybody is sup posed to get a headstone. You’re entitled to that.
The site was a hive of activity
Chemical engineer Robert Adams was the first employee of Polymer Corp. Ltd., a Crown corporation created in 1942 that used the technical expertise of several major companies to produce synthetic rubber for the war. Adams stayed with Polymer, later called Polysar, until he retired in 1982. Now 75, he has two grown sons and lives in Sarnia, Ont., with his wife, Madeline.
I graduated from the University of Toronto in chemical engineering in 1942. When Imperial Oil offered me a job in their research division in Sarnia that year, along with three or four graduates, we didn’t know anything about the creation of Polymer Corp., although Imperial did. It was not until we had been in Sarnia for a few months that we heard about Polymer. It was known how to make small amounts of synthetic rubber, but the problem we were facing was how to scale the whole project up to full size. The construction site itself was a hive of activity—the whole place covered about 80 city blocks. The project was made more difficult because it was one of the most severe winters we had had in a long time—the place was a sea of mud. It took about 14 months of mas-
sive effort to get the plant running. One of my tasks, as a freshly graduated chemist, was to help move in some of the lab furniture.
Our job in the lab was to control the process in the plant: we would take samples from the plant and test them over and over, to make sure we had a product we could use. It was a tremendous team effort. We all knew it was wartime, and that the plant had to get up and operating in a big hurry, because the Japanese controlled all the natural rubber and we didn’t have much of a stockpile. Sometimes, if there was a problem at the end of one of the shifts, people would stay on to help those on the next shift, instead of just going home. They never even thought about asking for overtime.
We never had much doubt about producing enough rubber for the war, but afterward we were worried that we’d be able to continue, because our production of rubber was far more than Canada could consume. We had to export or perish. Luckily, there were no restrictions on our ability to sell the product abroad, whereas the American industry was confined to sales in the United States for a few years after the war. That allowed us to become pioneers in introducing synthetic rubber to the industrial world. By the end of the 1950s, we had over 60 distributors around the world. Without the spark that Polymer provided, the development of the industry would have been a lot slower, if it happened at all.
They could have taken in millions'
Robert Waisman, a Polish Jew, spent most of the war in concentration camps. Only 14 in 1945, he lived in France before immigrating to Canada in 1950. He worked as a retailer in Saskatoon and raised two children there. Now 64, he lives in Vancouver with his wife, Gloria.
Early in the war, my father, my brother and I were moved from the Jewish ghetto to the camp at Skarzysko near Warsaw. I worked 12-hour shifts in a munitions factory and I was delighted, because kids who couldn’t work and old people went to the gas chambers first. When we went into the showers, I remember waiting for the water to be turned on and wondering if this time we might be gassed.
My brother Abram was the first in our family to get typhoid. The first
day he was back at work, he got picked out by the guards. A truck pulled up and they put all these men in, including my brother. The truck moved into the woods and we heard machine-gun fire. About 15 minutes later, the truck came back, empty.
More of us would have come to Canada, but it was very difficult. You had to be extremely healthy—if you wore glasses, you couldn’t get a visa. But I got in, and as we took the train out west, I saw open space and farms and beauty for days and days. I thought, “My God, they could have taken in millions.”
Canada is a more just society today, by far. But I am concerned about the rise of white supremacy groups. They’re coming to the fore. It’s important to have freedom of speech, but there’s got to be some kind of balance.
Just days before the occupation of France in 1940, Peggy Taylor fled her native Bordeaux for England. While their mother was held in a German concentration camp, Taylor and her sister Patricia signed up with the Free French forces in 1942. Taylor went on 22 covert missions behind enemy lines. After the war, she immigrated to Canada. Now 74, she lives at the Rideau Veterans Home in Ottawa.
One day we were told to pack all of our belongings—we were going to go to England the next day. My mother stayed behind with my Granny. So my sister and I and my two brothers were to go. We had our father’s address—he was working for the British forestry ministry. The next day, my mother gave me 5,000 francs. I said, “Bye bye, mummy. See you in three months.” It took four years.
In England, Patricia and I went to join the Free French forces. There was a corporal there, and I told her we wanted to join. She asked me if we went out
with men or women. I told her we went out with men. She said, “Then you won’t like it here.” The commanding officer was a lesbian and most of the girls were lesbians. Well, we joined anyway.
À We were to work for the French M Underground. I was the first one to go. I fH would stay three months in Paris. I jumped out of an airplane in civvies, with my shoes around my neck because you can’t jump in heels.
My mother was in a concentration camp, tortured by the Gestapo. So I shot the first Gestapo colonel I met I had met him the night before and I shot him right in the street. He was surprised to see me and BANG! I shot him.
My shoes were around my neck— because you can t jump in heels
After I came back, I spent a week with my sister and then she went for three months. Then she came back, and after a week I would go for three months. It was our job to go and get money, papers, information— and try to help people escape.
In December, 1943, there was a meeting outside Fondon with Dwight Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill. I was the interpreter. De Gaulle was very nice with me. Eisenhower was the nicest because, later, in France, he got me my cigarettes every day.
After the war, I chose Canada because my father had been here and he had been in the Canadian Fight Infantry during the First World War. And boy, did I love Canada when I first came. And it is still a wonderful country.
We were frightened when we heard the sirens
Pamela Collins was 10 in 1939. The daughter of a Halifax-based officer in the Canadian Navy, she viewed the war through the eyes of a young person. Now 66, Collins is a former schoolteacher and the mother of three. She lives in Halifax with her husband, Lou.
Our father was responsible for all the torpedoes.
We didn’t get to see him much because he was up early and not home until late at night. He used to take his telephone calls in a closet so we wouldn’t know what they were about. He would not even let us count the ships in the harbor. Dad would say, “You’re not supposed to count the ships. Foose lips sink ships.”
We were frightened whenever we heard the
So, you've got that? OK, off you go!
Ken Forsythe served with the RAF from 1939 until 1944. After the war, he worked as a commercial pilot for 35 years, based for most of his career in his home town of Winnipeg. Now 74, Forsythe, who has three grown children, retired 14 years ago and lives in Langley, B.C., with his wife, Elizabeth.
To be honest, I didn’t go over to fight anybody. I was only 18.1 went over to learn to fly.
We did our serious training on open biplanes. They seem incredibly primitive now. You wore a flying suit, a helmet and goggles. They were two-seaters and the instructor, who was in the seat behind, would tell you what he wanted you to do through speaker tubes.
Our training progressed to the Lysander, a two-seater, low-flying plane. The training consisted of an instructor getting in behind you, telling you where the controls were and saying: “So, you’ve got that? OK, off you go!”
Once the war started, our role was to go up and down the coasts of England and Scotland observing for enemy activity. Then, I was sent to a different squadron to train on Blenheims. I was part of the daylight bombing command and, every now and then, they would detach one of the squadrons from England to Malta. There, our role was to intercept shipping coming across from Italy on its way to feed the German army in North Africa. You would fly as low as you could until you were almost on top of a ship. Then, you would fly right over top of it, dropping your bombs just before you went over the target. They were delayed-action bombs. You had nine seconds to drop them then get the hell out of there.
Tripoli harbor. I couldn’t even see him but my gunner could. I was completely in his hands. He was telling me what to do, when to turn: “Turn right, turn left, tighter, tighter.” The fighter never hit us. My gunner did very well. Or the other guy was a rotten shot. I’ll never know just which it was. He finally ran out of ammunition, so we were able to turn for home. That’s when I got the bad news about the others—four of the seven planes in our squadron were shot down. We’d hoped to meet in the mess and laugh about it afterwards. Well, there wasn’t much laughing at times.
I was over early but others came later, stayed longer and did more fighting. I don’t think the war changed me very much. I was a little more experi-
enced, and having been exposed to some danger, felt damn lucky to be alive. And I met my wife, Elizabeth—she’s called Bunty— my first Christmas in England.
There was justification for the Second World War. It was clearcut. Imagine what the world would have been like if the Germans had won. Vietnam changed many people’s attitude to war. It was a rotten war, for rotten reasons, and they did rotten things. There was nothing glorious about that war, except that I know people did very brave things—they did their duty.
One day, I was attacked by an Italian fighter in
sirens go off, but we took it in stride. Looking back, I wonder if the calm of my parents wasn’t transferred over to us. Draw the curtains and that’s it. And if the sirens went off, we knew to congregate in the front room.
We always had one schoolbag each packed with a change of underwear and an extra warm sweater. Mother kept that in the front cupboard.
Everybody was apprehensive if they saw a telegraph boy coming on a bicycle. That meant that someone had died. I guess we had charmed lives, because I don’t remember deaths of close people. But I do remember a great siphoning off in junior high school of boys joining the Forces from Grade 8 and Grade 9.
I was a Girl Guide and we were part of a special salvage day. We collected cardboard and newspaper in our wagons and then dropped them off at one central space. Like recycling now, they needed the paper. We used to scoot along with one knee on the wagon. There was a special matinee at the Empire Theatre and the Casino. If you had your soup tin of fat drippings and a tin pot, you got in free. We used to watch Our Gang comedies and Andy Hardy movies.
On VE-Day, we were in school and it was around 10 a.m. when we got the news. We were dismissed and we crowded onto the tram car to go home. I remember the driver looking over at the young boys and saying, “You’re lucky you won’t have to serve.”