GENERAL ARTICLES

Community War

Break down Canada’s war effort and you find it's done on a community basis. For example, take Georgetown — 2,500 people hard at it

RAYMOND ARTHUR DAVIES October 15 1941
GENERAL ARTICLES

Community War

Break down Canada’s war effort and you find it's done on a community basis. For example, take Georgetown — 2,500 people hard at it

RAYMOND ARTHUR DAVIES October 15 1941

Community War

RAYMOND ARTHUR DAVIES

YOU TRY to look at the picture of all in Canada that comes under the heading of “war effort,” but the reportorial eye has trouble with its focus. The panorama that stretches from Atlantic to Pacific is too filled with the maze of detail of ten thousand humming cities and towns, villages and hamlets and crossroad settlements. You see only the bold brush strokes which are billion-dollar victory loans, hundred million dollar contracts, and huge armament plants and nationwide recruiting drives, and tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors and airmen in training and on active service. If you look long enough at more limited scenes—at individual large cities, at Toronto or Montreal, Vancouver or Winnipeg, the picture becomes clearer, but the figures are still massed, the action still too big and blurred, and you cannot, even by squinting, find John Doe and his wife Mary and their son, young Steve, among all those bustling people.

So you stick a pin into the map of Canada and the pin point covers another pin point labelled “Georgetown.” Thus it is that to Georgetown, Ont., you go, all unexpected, in search of the story of Canada’s war effort. ,

From the C.N.R. station, after a thirty-five-mile ride westward from Toronto, Georgetown is a neat patch of green, through which penetrate the gables of big old houses, church steeples, and a little incongruously, factory chimneys. For Georgetown is an industrial town as well as a farming centre. Its ten factories employ a thousand working people. In appearance it differs little from the other small towns. Its main street is composed of two or three blocks of old brick buildings whose ancient vintage is set off against the newness of one of the two banks. Along a side street, as if modestly refusing to flaunt its modernistic front, stands a new structure, unusually large for so small a town, the class B post-office, presided over by the töwn’s military expert, Colonel Cousens. The winding streets are bordered on either side by shady trees, and lawns wander over hill and dale.

The larger factories are on the outskirts, the smaller ones near the centre.

Georgetown is an old settlement, one of the oldest in Ontario. Life here was peaceful and quiet indeed —before war came.

On this evening most of the “leading citizens” are hard to find. You seek them at their offices or at their homes, and get the same answer everywhere: “He’s over at Lawyer Dale’s.”

Lawyer Le Roy Dale’s office, just off Main Street, is crowded with men, some sitting, some standing against the walls. As you enter quietly a man is speaking:

“. . . honor and the privilegéio inform you that we have oversubscribed our Victory Loan quota by 162 per cent. Instead of. $1$0,000 we raised $227,000. We also obtained another $95,000 by canvassing special names.” JL

For a moment there is a surprised silence as the members of the Georgetown and district Victory Loan Committee consider the figures. Then there are cheers, hand clasping, back slapping. “We’ve done it !” one of themenintheroomexclaims. “Let’s go after more !” another enthusiast proposes. There is general elation. Georgetown has done the trick.

No small achievement had been this raising of $322,000 in Georgetown and vicinity, you learn after the meeting when you go into facts and figures. The town’s population is only 2,482 by the latest count, and the surrounding district has some 1,600 more. The locality is not rich. It is average. It is typical of a thousand other Canadian small towns whose composite endeavor in the long run determines the success or failure of Canada’s war

effort. But in some things Georgetown excels. The Loan is but one example. The average subscription was $600; the per capita subscription more than $80. Had all of Canada done as well, $880,000,000 would have been raised in the Victory Loan.

Few Recruits Left

FOR SOME reason in Georgetown you feel, more directly the contact of Canada with the overseas. Here the conflict is truly a community war. Everyone seems to be doing something about it. In this typical small town you can get close to the people who are winning the war at home; you can reduce Canada’s war effort to its essentials, to its leastcommon denominator. The war effort is humanized. It is translatable into the terms of individuals. You can get to know what Hunter, Maw, Gibbons, McMurchy do. In the large city all this is obscure. It is a pity, perhaps.

In terms of other fund raising for the war aside from the Victory Loan, Georgetown has also done well. The sale of War Savings Stamps and Certificates demonstrates this. Approximately $2,000 a month are being sold by the local post-office through arrangement with employers and employees. About $3,000 have been sold directly and in addition, $1,500 worth of savings certificates. The more than 300 pupils of the public school purchased $1,000 worth of stamps since they were first issued.

But Georgetown truly shines when it comes to recruiting. Paradoxically the town is a headache for the officials in charge of the four month compulsory training camps. When young men were last called up for examination only six were found who could join. This was no case of ill health, or pacifism, or even sabotage. Far from it. It was just that nearly everyone of the right age had already joined some branch of the armed forces. Up to the beginning of July more than 250 young men had enlisted. This is more than six per cent of the total population, and if the proportion for the whole of Canada were the same our armed forces would be composed of 660,000 men. Of the 250, seventy-four are on active service with the local regiment, the Lome Scots. Fifty, unwilling to wait until the Lome Scots had been mobilized, joined other regiments and are now overseas. Another fifty-five are still in Canada. Thirty joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Fifteen are members of the Veterans Guard. Three are in the Navy and one Georgetown girl is an Army nurse. In addition, eighty-three belong to Company C of the 2nd Battalion of the Lome Scots. Every day one or two new recruits enlist.

Most of Georgetown’s army men are privates. There are some corporals and a scattering of sergeants. There are also a few officers—two lieutenants, one captain, a major and a colonel. The majority of the recruits are farmers and working people, but among them are the sons of a manufacturer, the superintendent of one of the larger mills, a real-estate broker, a stock-exchange man, the owner of the main restaurant and bus station. Then there are the four Gillevets, father and three sons, the three Rayners and three Emersons, in each case father and two sons. Four Georgetown barbers, whose ancestors helped found the community, uncle and three nephews, are officers in the Lome Scots and four cousins of the Tost family are in uniform. The former Georgetown United Church organist and choir leader is an R.A.F. pilot officer in Egypt.

Letters from the town’s sons in the armed forces and from relatives and friends abroad keep the people keenly interested in the war, and aid in Continued on page 37

Break down Canada’s war effort and you find it's done on a community basis. For example, take Georgetown — 2,500 people hard at it

Continued on page 37

Continued from page 19

maintaining constant contact with the overseas. Every letter is read and re-read. Many are published in the local weekly paper. The people of Georgetown seem to know more, because of this correspondence, about conditions in London, the bombing of Lancashire, events in the Clydeside, than the inhabitants of our large cities, where such letters are dispersed and lost among the mass.

Most of Georgetown’s population is of British stock. There are few families of foreign origin: Five

Jewish, two Italian, one Norwegian, two Polish, three Chinese, one Belgian. These take as keen an interest in war work as do the others. The wife of the Belgian heads the Soldiers’ Comforts Committee. Two Jewish lads are in the Army. A Jewish manufacturer leads salvage work undertaken by the Lions Club. A foreign-born jeweller donates watches and runs draws for the benefit of the British War Victim’s Fund. The Norwegian occupies a leading position in a plant engaged in war work. There is little distinction in this intensely patriotic town. “We’re all in it,” is the general expression.

Wives Knit, Men Salvage

LIKE SO many other towns I Georgetown has a very active Red Cross Society which successfully engages the whole community in doing something for the war. The society has been highly praised by the central office as being one of Ontario’s best. It is presided over by the lawyer whose office we have already visited, the genial, universally-liked and respected and much overworked Le Roy Dale, K.C., who is one of the major “fixtures” of the town. Moving spirit among the ladies is Annie Ryan, ex-principal of the public school and worker extraordinary on behalf of the soldier and the refugee.

More than 250 women in Georgetown and district participate regularly in the work of the Red Cross. Through their efforts more than nine thousand dollars has been raised thus far, two thirds of it being spent in purchasing wool and other supplies which are turned into finished goods by the nimble fingers of the women-

folk. The balance was sent to the Red Cross in Toronto. How active these women are can be seen any afternoon or evening. When sitting on their front porches they can be observed knitting away, making sweaters, socks, mitts and scarfs. Shipments to the Red Cross warehouse in Toronto follow one another with swift regularity.

Money saved the Government by this work which is, of course, given gratis, runs into the thousands of dollars. One shipment alone, for example, that was sent during the week of July 9, included forty-one sets of articles for the merchant marine and 133 sets for the Air Force. The quota for seamen’s goods alone, for the slack summer season, includes 160 sets of sweaters, socks, gloves and helmets.

Other Red Cross activities encompass many more than the 250 members of the branch society. Carnivals, dances, parties go on throughout the year. The big affair of this summer’s season was the Garden Party held on the grounds of the beautiful Nixon estate, the most pretentious hereabouts. Everybody attended and more than $500 was raised. There was scarcely a soul in town who in some way or other was not involved. Eighty pretty girls canvassed the town and district for days selling tickets in almost every house. Local merchants donated goods for the raffles. Food was prepared by the housewives. The manufacturers paid for the entertainment. “We didn’t have to spend a cent of Red Cross money,” Mr. Dale said afterward. “Everything was net profit.”

Quaint was the slogan under which the whole affair seems to have been conducted. In a Main Street store window, where articles to be raffled were exhibited, stood a sign containing this slogan:

Will you help us Who help them Who help those Who help us?

What this rhetorical question lacked in clarity, it more than made up in honest homespun sentiment.

Also composed of women is Georgetown’s “war baby,” the St. John

Ambulance Corps, which was organized last spring. Its membership is only twenty but classes are being opened to train new applicants in the rudimentary arts of medical ambulance work. The leader is Mrs. Tom Grieve, an old hand in this type of activity. She was an Army nurse during the past war and a member of the Red Cross Society since 1909. “They used to laugh at us in the olden days,” she says. “They called us Saturday-afternoon nurses. But we showed them. We’ve got to be ready this time. I am just dying to go over, but I guess they won’t take me because of my age.” Mrs. Grieve is active too, in the establishment of the ARP organization which, it is hoped, will get under way this fall.

The busy ladies of Georgetown also find time for the Soldiers’ Comforts Committee of which Mrs. Roger Guyot, wife of a well-known Belgian-born interpreter and translator, is secretary. To April of this year 26,000 cigarettes were sent overseas on three different occasions to from seventeen to forty men. In June and November gift parcels were forwarded. Then again on June 17, 300 cigarettes were mailed to each of forty-nine local boys serving in England. Today the list has grown to over one hundred names and to raise more money tag days will be held, and other money raising schemes put into effect. So far the committee has collected and spent $178. This may not be “big money” in a metropolis, but for Georgetown’s women it meant many weeks of hard work. The boys are deeply grateful for the cigarettes and gifts. “Their letters indicate that they are flattered to be remembered by fellow townsmen,” Mrs. Guyot says. “It does something to their spirit, makes them feel more important, convinces them that the town is with them, that they represent the town at the front.”

The menfolk try not to lag behind the ladies. One day not so long ago the town was treated to an unusual spectacle. The town’s leading businessmen, members of the Lions Club, were observed whooping it along in trucks. They were covering the whole district door to door seeking salvage to be turned in as their part of the nationwide salvage drive. The slight Mr. Brill, proprietor of the town’s largest dry-goods store and owner of the Brill Hosiery Mills (employment 20) led the committee. On the truck, too, was the young and energetic Walter C. Biehn, editor and publisher of the Georgetown Herald (circulation 1,125) without which it would be difficult indeed to rally the community for concrete work. The results were most encouraging. Remarkable initiative was shown by the committee—to acquaint the citizens with the aims of the campaign, cards were printed to fit the necks of milk bottles recommending measures to accumulate salvage and prevent waste.

Their Life Has Changed

TN A VERY small way Georgetown is having a war boom. But this is not on the scale of “boom towns” like Parry Sound, Ont., or Sorel, P.Q., where newly-built plants give ; employment to thousands of em| ployees gathered from far corners ■

of the Dominion. Here business conditions have improved, but not too radically. Employment has risen from ten to twenty per cent. The extra money in circulation has helped the businessmen; real-estate transactions have multiplied; some of the back taxes have been paid up. Three plants are working on war orders. The Brill Hosiery makes socks for the Army. The Harley-Kay Knitting Machine Co. is engaged on something the townspeople, for want of information, refer to as a “highlysecret device.” It employs twenty hards. But the biggest plant turning out products for the Department of National Defense is the town’s wonder child, Smith and Stone Electrical Manufacturing Co. Ltd., which grew from a small workshop into a large modern enterprise in less than twenty years.

Smith and Stone manufacture electrical porcelains, plastic molding, wiring devices and specialties. Just now fifty per cent of production is devoted to Air Force orders. More than 300 workers, many of them women, are employed. Sales could be increased indefinitely according to the plant office manager, W. B. Ford, but new machinery cannot be obtained. Small changes wall enable the company to increase production by a further fifteen per cent in the near future. But this is the absolute limit.

The factory pays its employees a ten per cent cost of living bonus. Other plants in the district have also begun doing the same. This was not due to organized-labor pressure. There is no labor organization of any kind in existence in the whole district. Ninety-nine per cent of Smith and Stone employees have pledged to devote five per cent of their earnings to the purchase of War Savings Stamps, of which thus far more than $5,000 worth have been sold through the medium of the plant. The workers also subscribed $6,400 for the Victory Loan. Mr. Ford says that nearly a fifth of the staff has joined the armed services and that there is beginning to be felt a keen lack of skilled labor. It is hoped that exemptions will be granted to new

classes so as not to disrupt production.

The story of Georgetown’s war effort would be incomplete without a mention of its large and active Canadian Legion Branch 120, which in many ways is the fountain head of war-effort enthusiasm. In its hall, which is just up the street from lawyer Dale’s office, the warriors of the past get together. The Legion is in the forefront of all war work and its members furnish for this a kind of “stickum” which ties everyone together in a common effort. It’s too bad that battles can’t be won or lost in the Legion hall. Nearly every Legion member is certain—at least to hear them in the evening when the boys gather—that he knows how to win this war and defeat Hitler.

Nor could justice be done without bringing in the Georgetown Herald. One of the hundreds of its type of local newspapers throughout Canada, the Herald through publicity, announcements and advertising keeps the community aware of what is being done. The metropolitan press is read for news. There is not much outside news in the local paper. But for what’s up at home, the Herald is the thing to read. And after all it’s at home that war work has to be done. The Herald’s British War Victims’ Fund—the money is sent to the fund of the Toronto Telegram—has raised more than $1,500. Once a month the names and correct addresses of all the boys in the armed services are published. And rare is the issue which does not reproduce one or more letters from the lads overseas, or from some relatives of local residents in London, Birmingham or elsewhere in the old country.

War has not brought great prosperity to Georgetown. So far as is known it has not made any great fortunes for any of the citizens. But it does affect the ordinary everyday life of the people.

The unemployed problem has disappeared completely and unlamentedly. During the week of July 9 the following paragraph was included in the Herald report of the proceedings of the town council. “It was

deemed advisable to discontinue services of relief officer, Mr. F. Kersey, as at July 31.” The reason? Relief expenditures for June were $12.90. In May they were $39.00, in April $57.00, in March $35.00. It is an end of an era.

The people of Georgetown are certain of victory. There is no doubt anywhere that Hitler will be defeated. It is true, as Col. Cousens points out, that many do not understand why this victory will come. They trust in God, the King, the leadership of the Empire. They know that we must win. And they do, faithfully and well, all and more than they can to bring that victory about.

That, then, is the story of Georgetown. But you suspect, having studied it, that the story would have been little different no matter where that pinpoint had fallen in all the length and breadth of this land.