Saturday, January 9, 2016

Memories of 1941

Memories of 1941
In late August 1940 my mother and baby brother arrived at my grandparents farm near Rosetown.   My two month separation from my family ended and I was beyond excited at the thought of seeing my mother again, this reunion was so overwhelming that I couldn't stop crying.  I was four years old and really thought I would never see her again. But she was alone,  my father was not with her.  In spite of being a married family man and almost 30 years of age, which was beyond the age of mandatory conscription, he had volunteered for the RCAF and shipped off to Trenton, ON.
We remained on the farm for the winter of 1940-1941 while my father underwent basic training followed by a posting to the Wireless School in Brandon, Manitoba. In the spring he and mother decided she should move closer to the base and he found a small apartment in Winnipeg which was a two hour drive from Brandon.  Mother with her two young children in tow was on the move, off to catch the train in Biggar en route  to Winnipeg.   It had been almost a year since I had seen my father so hardly recognized him as he greeted us in his airforce uniform at the train station.  He got us settled in the small apartment, then headed back to the military base in Brandon the next day.  Because of the distance, he continued to live on base and would travel into Winnipeg when he was on leave.
All went smoothly as my mother took us for walks in the nearby park and she met other young mothers who were also military wives.  She cared for her young family, saw her husband when his schedule would allow and did some decorating in the small apartment.  After living with her parents on the farm for the winter, she was pleased to have her own home again even though it was just a tiny apartment.  She had some red accessories for use in the kitchen and mentioned to the landlord that she would be happy to paint the kitchen if he would pick up some paint for her.  He was most obliging and said he would pick up the red paint she requested.  When mother opened the paint can to start her decorating project, she was shocked to find orange paint - turned out the landlord was colour blind.  
Dad would be with us on his days off and in spite of shortages in the stores, the war seemed to be a long distance away.  As the CBC war news spilled out of the small radio, people wondered how long it would go on.  
Finally it was November and Christmas was only a few weeks away.  Eaton's had a  Toyland set up for the holidays and the visit to see Santa was something children looked forward to with great anticipation.  When the big  day arrived not only did I see Santa but he gave me a colouring book and a candy cane.  For an almost five year old, what could be better.  The month of November quickly led into December and we had a few decorations in the apartment and some modest gifts awaiting Christmas Day.  I do remember one gift with some amusement.  Mother and Dad were looking at the gifts under the small tree and realized their gifts for each other bore a striking similarity in size and shape.  Finally, after a few hints about the contents, it was revealed that they were each giving the other a world globe!  It was definitely a funny situation and my mother said she would return one of the globes the next day.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941 we were enjoying a leisurely day before Dad had to return to the base.  The small radio on the table by the window was playing music and all seemed  well that morning.  Suddenly, the music stopped.  The announcer cut in with the words, "We interrupt this broadcast!"  It caught my parents' attention and they turned up the volume on the radio.  Something about an attack on  Pearl Harbor, but the only Pearl I knew was Bert Pearl from the Happy Gang.  What was this all about?  My parents were alarmed and my father said he had to get back to the Air Force base at once. As a child, I did not understand what was happening.
Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor
My father received his orders to move out the next day and he was posted to Patricia Bay (commonly known as Pat Bay) on the outskirts of Victoria, BC (now the location of the Victoria International Airport).  My mother quickly packed up the household belongings and prepared to move back to the farm.  There was too much to take in such a rushed departure so many of their possessions were stored in a locker room in the apartment building.  Unfortunately most of those items which included many family pictures, were  destroyed during one of Winnipeg's Red River floods.
Mother and her two children boarded the train and headed back to Biggar where her father with his Willys car (fondly known as the Little Willy) was waiting.  As I left the train and climbed into the car, I suddenly realized I had left my cherished Santa Claus colouring book behind on the train.  I was in tears once again but my Mother had other concerns on her mind that day.