Thursday, March 10, 2016

Saskatoon in 1946

By the end of April, 1946 we finally moved to Saskatoon.  It had been a long winter with mother and children staying with the grandparents on the farm and Dad staying with his father in the city.  

When we returned to Saskatoon after the war, Dad thought he would be able to get some sort of Veteran's housing since he had a family, but because he had only been to Alaska and not overseas, he was not high on the priority list.  Available houses were almost non existent in Saskatoon and when he did find a house, his hope of moving in soon fell through.  He purchased a tenant occupied house, but when he tried to get them to move out they flatly refused. They had no place to go, so it looked like a lengthy battle with an elderly couple was about to ensue.  Finally my father said they could stay if they bought the house from him and they agreed.  Back to house hunting again.  In April he put an offer in on a house on Main Street, a few blocks from Broadway Avenue and soon we moved into our new home.

My Great Grandma Atkinson in 1946
with Dad, Bill and me

It was a small two storey older house with three bedrooms and bathroom upstairs.  The main floor had a small kitchen with an old fashioned wood burning kitchen range and a refrigerator which my parents had just purchased, a dining room and a living room which had been given many layers of wall paper over the years.  In the basement there was a big coal burning furnace and in the corner, a coal room with a chute leading from the outside for incoming coal. There were two heat vents on the main floor, but only one on the second floor and it was on the floor in the middle of the hall.  Once my father had stoked the furnace and added coal in the morning, there was an ongoing competition by the children  to see who would get to stand on the hot air vent as the warm air rose to the second floor.  We would shove each other around as we tried to gain possession of the valuable territory on the vent and bask in the comfort of the warm air making its way upstairs. 

About a year after we moved in, my parents got rid of the wood burning range and purchased a propane stove.  It was before the days of natural gas so the stove was connected to a large propane tank outside the house.  

For my parents, owning a home was something new, and having delivery of milk and bread to the door was a great convenience.   When he saw us moving in, the milkman from Co-op Dairy stopped by the house, welcomed mother to the neighbourhood and offered her daily milk delivery.  My mother enthusiastically agreed and all was fine.  That is, until a few hours later the nice milkman from Purity Dairies showed up at the door to welcome her and  convinced her that he too would provide great service.  She couldn't resist and said yes to him as well.  Fortunately, when the milkman from Palm Dairy arrived at the house, my father happened to be home and he was able to prevent her agreeing to have three milkmen.  However, we had two milkmen for as long as we lived in the house, they delivered on alternate days and my mother just didn't have the heart to discontinue either one.  I might add that milk in those days was being delivered by horse and wagon so it probably confused the horses who usually knew the route quite well but would stop at our house every day, not realizing it was supposed to be every other day.   In addition to  daily milk deliveries, we also had  bread delivery, also by horse and wagon.  As you can well imagine, the amount of time spent by horses in front of our house was evident by the manure that was accumulating. 

My Great Grandma Atkinson, my father's grandmother lived about two blocks away from us and in those days, kept a few chickens in her backyard. She was a lovely lady and I used to enjoy visiting her.

I noticed by 2015 our old house had been demolished and a new house built in its place.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Communication now and then

I was sitting in a busy waiting room recently and as I looked around,  it seemed everyone was connected to a phone with a screen and were typing or receiving messages, totally oblivious to anyone else in the room.   The receivers of the messages might be someone nearby or maybe they were across the world, because,  with the easy spread of thought and ideas, no one is ever out of touch. When you think about it, what is happening is absolutely amazing. This type of communication might seem ordinary, common place, whatever you want to call it in our modern world, but for me as a senior, it is mind boggling,  something  we never could have imagined.  In my childhood there was a Dick Tracy comic strip and the main characters had wrist radios, walkie talkies I suspect, that they used to communicate.  That was considered quite futuristic, certainly not something that would happen in our lifetime.
My grandparents worked together on the farm

As I watched the instant communication going on around me, I thought back to my grandparents' farm where we had spent a few months after the Second World War.  At that time, the only lifeline to the outside world was a party line telephone. You would lift up the receiver and turn a crank on the side to get the central operator or a specific number of crank turns to get a neighbour. There was no privacy, everyone listened in on each other's calls. That party line really was the lifeline for the early farmers, "Quick, we need a midwife," "Send help, there's been an accident," "Sad news, our son is missing in action," "Good news, our daughter is getting married."

When my grandparents got married on August 28, 1901 in Mascouche Rapids, Quebec, it was their intention to homestead in Saskatchewan.  That dream was finally fulfilled in May, 1905 when my grandfather first set foot on his own homestead land eight miles from the present town of Rosetown, Sask.  Grandpa had shipped his household effects, equipment and lumber for his house to Saskatoon as there was no railway to Rosetown at that time. Everything then had to be hauled about a hundred miles by horse and wagon to the future farm.

  His father also staked a homestead claim as did a cousin who settled nearby.  On June 30, 1905 my grandmother and young son  Norman reached Saskatoon by train and two days later arrived by horse and buggy at the homestead land where a tent awaited them as their temporary residence.

Communication, there was none.  No phones, letter writing meant dropping letters off at the post office when you went to town.  It was isolation.  Although my grandparents were not yet thirty, they only saw their family members twice more in their lifetimes when they took train trips east many years later.  My grandfather's father, who had accompanied them west, passed away less than a year later. Phone lines eventually went in but luxuries like running water and inside plumbing and electricity were not available until the 1950s.

No wonder I look at communication today with such astonishment.

My grandparents with nine grandchildren in 1946
Three more  Mary, Donna and Bob were born later
Back row: Eunice, Judy, Grandma, Alan, Grandpa, Earl
Front row: Diane, Shirley, Norma, Bill (standing), Jim (in front)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Another winter on the farm

The old farm house had two small upstairs bedrooms with steep, sloped ceilings while  downstairs there was  a small  bedroom just large enough for a double bed. Also on the main floor was a dry bathroom with a chemical toilet and a sitting room which was used as a kitchen in the winter.
Mother and family in front of Grandpa's Willis car
We had no electricity or running water and relied on the Aladdin lamp and coal oil lamps for light.  My grandparents, who were now in their late sixties, had us underfoot once again, only this time there were three children. When I think back to those days, it must have been hard on everyone.

During our time on the farm in 1942 my brother who was two at the time and I shared the chesterfield bed in the sitting room with mother.  However in 1945, as the chesterfield bed was not big enough to handle mother and three children, in desperation, they shifted me to an upstairs bedroom.  

In the sitting room, the kitchen range and a wood burning space heater generated the heat for the small farm house.  There was a door off the sitting room leading  to a steep staircase to the upstairs. Heating this small house was difficult so in an effort to keep the main floor warm, this door was only opened late in the day when heat was needed for the upstairs bedroom. Unfortunately, when you have a  cold winter, not much heat drifted up when the door was opened.

The combination of a cold January, an unheated upstairs bedroom and freezing cold bedding that was beyond the ability of a mere hot water bottle to warm up, made for a terrible sleeping setup for me.  Whenever I think back to that upstairs room on the farm, I can't help but think that if there was a gold medal for  the  coldest place I've ever slept, this would have been the winner by far. I have never been so cold in all my life.  I had lots of blankets piled on top of me, but as a skinny nine year old, I wasn't able to generate enough body heat to warm the bed so would stay in one place and not move a muscle all night, the sheets around me were like ice cubes.  If I unfortunately had to get up during the night and use the chamber pot, it and the hot water bottle which I had finally shoved aside, would be frozen in the morning.

The extreme cold persisted through much of January but finally, as we got through February and into March the weather started to moderate and I was able to give up the rides to school on the stone boat, and walk the half mile on my own.  It had been so cold and there had been so much drifting snow that the caragana shelter belt surrounding the farm was covered in snow and a very hard crust had formed on top.  It seemed quite odd that I was able to walk over the tall hedge on this crust of hard snow without sinking, but it was  probably similar to the crust of snow that forms on ski slopes.

Meanwhile, my father had returned to work in Saskatoon.  He  was staying with his father in a small one bedroom apartment over a store on Broadway Avenue  while trying to find a place for our family to live.  His two younger siblings had also returned from Victoria so all  four of them were in the tiny apartment.  

Getting back to our pre-war lives was proving to be quite challenging.
My grandparent's farm

Picture of the farm house

Monday, February 29, 2016

Country School

After the war my father went house hunting in Saskatoon, but soon found it was more difficult than he expected.  It looked like we would be at the farm for a while, so my mother enrolled me in a small country school until we got settled.  Cleland School, located about nine miles from Rosetown, was the same school my mother had attended as a child, and was located a half mile from my grandparents' farm.  In mid December 1945 I started my new school.
My mother attended Cleland School in 1924
She was third from the left, second row

Cleland School was the type of turn of the century schoolhouse you would see today if you were to visit any of the heritage villages located across Canada, but in 1945 small rural schools such as this were still in use in many places including Saskatchewan.  To describe the school, I would say there were about twenty desks in the classroom, but only nine students and they were seated in rows by grade; three first graders, two second graders including my cousin Diane, then I think there were two in grade six.  I was the only one in grade four and a boy named Russ was in grade nine taking his classes by correspondence with the teacher overseeing his work.  The map of the Dominion of Canada hung on the wall along with a picture of King George VI, and the alphabet was carefully written in chalk across the top of the blackboard in upper and lower case.

Russ helped out by arriving early in the morning to start the fire in the pot bellied stove and would make sure there was a supply of wood to keep the classroom warm during the day.  Outside there was a small barn and many students rode their horses to school, while others, including me relied on other means of transportation, including a horse drawn stone boat.  A nearby farmer, Mr. Black would take his son to school each day on a stone boat, which had a wooden frame about six feet square and looked like a small raft.  It was a cold winter with a lot of snow, so my grandparents asked if he would swing by and provide transportation for me as well.  Riding the half mile to school on a stone boat was quite a unique experience.

Each morning the teacher, Miss Purse would make sure all the students had work on hand, then would start teaching the grade ones and gradually make her way across the room, one grade at a time.  At lunchtime we would all sit around a big table with the teacher and chat as we ate our sandwiches, sometimes playing games like "I spy with my little eye" or just discussing events on the farm.

Soon after I enrolled, it was Christmas and a community supper at the school was a big occasion for the local farm families.  The tables were set up in the school basement and people crowded into the room, loaded down with roasted turkeys, home baking and all the goodies that make up a marvellous holiday feast.  I can't think of any  celebration at school that could ever surpass Christmas at Cleland that winter.  Everyone was so happy that the war was over and families were back together again.  Even Santa Claus made an appearance.

I attended Cleland for five months before we moved to Saskatoon where I went   to my third school in Grade Four.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Travel in 1945

Remembering our train trip to Saskatoon in December 1945,  there were no other travel options open to us.  Now, you can also fly, drive or go by bus from Vancouver to Saskatoon and can reach  your destination in a few hours,  not a couple of days.  Train travel is a great holiday adventure and the Canadian Rockies are spectacular,  but it was a long trip for a family anxious to get back home. As far as driving  a car from Vancouver to Saskatoon, not possible, the road was not even open in the winter.

There was a gravel road through the mountains which  had been completed in 1940 at great expense and connected Golden and Revelstoke.   It was called  the Big Bend Highway and was said to be drivable if you had nerves of steel.  Everyone had heard the horror stories about this highway, and even the thought of  having to back up on a switchback to allow another vehicle to  pass would send shivers up your spine.  One story I recall was from a family member who took the bus  to Vancouver in the early 1950s.   They were on a narrow, hairpin curve on the Big Bend, and the bus driver and  a woman driving a car coming toward him had both stopped and were arguing. The driver wanted the woman to back up so he could get the bus through but she was scared and refused.  Finally,  the bus driver had no choice but to back up.  For the passengers seeing the rear of the bus hanging over the steep mountain cliff as it slowly edged back, allowing the woman to pass was as frightening as it gets.  Everyone  breathed again when she was clear and the bus proceeded.

Sometimes, if people wanted their car on the other side of the mountains, they just shipped the vehicle by train and picked it up when they reached their destination.  Flying was not an option as the first commercial airline, Trans Canada Airlines, or TCA as it was known was just getting established at that time.

Oh well, you might say, at least people could keep in touch by phone.  Sorry, it was not so easy.  Long distance was expensive so calls  were a luxury and only placed when absolutely necessary.  We would write a list of subjects to be discussed, then rush through them to get off the phone in five minutes or less.  Christmas was the busiest time for calls and often you would try for hours to get a call through to someone in another city.  Unfortunately, many of these calls would start out with, "What's your weather like?" 

As for our trip to Saskatoon, my mother and children got off in the  Biggar, SK train station where we were picked up by my grandfather and once again taken to the farm.   My father continued on to Saskatoon to  check out his old job and find a house for the family.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Major Sou'wester

The Major Sou'wester, December 4, 1945

Steam engine similar to one on our  December 4, 1945 trip
I was looking forward to our train trip  through the Canadian Rockies
 as we returned to Saskatoon, but the first part of our trip, crossing over to Vancouver on the ferry,  played out in a way we could never have anticipated.  

On November 30, 1945  my father received his discharge from the RCAF and I had my last day at Keating School. My school friends had laughed at me when I said I was moving to  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and suggested I would soon  become a "prairie chicken."   Our final weekend at Cordova Bay was spent with last minute packing and saying  goodbye, an often repeated word during those post war days as soldiers were demobilized and returned home. There were sad farewells to those who had been part of our lives for so long, and many bittersweet moments as we left good friends behind.  They were the ones who had been with us during the dark days of the war, yet we knew we would never see them again.  Many tears  flowed with the goodbyes.  My mother always cried when someone departed, and these  days were no exception, except she and our family were the ones departing.

For almost fifty years,  the  British Columbia ferries, the Princess Joan and Princess Elizabeth had regular daily crossings  between  Vancouver and Victoria,  We took a "Princess " ferry when we first went to Victoria in 1942 and now, in 1945 we were taking the ferry back to the mainland.  Both ferries had staterooms and offered quite a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere as people would  go onboard several  hours before the midnight sailings,  then  remain on board in the morning long enough to enjoy  breakfast.  

On  December 4, 1945 our family of five boarded the ferry to Vancouver early  in the evening.  It was becoming a little  blustery  outside,  but when I,  a nine year old at the time,  mentioned this to the steward, he replied something to the effect,  "Nothing to worry about," and directed us to  our stateroom where we prepared to settle in for the night "just a bit of a sou'wester." he said as  he departed down the hall. There were  bunk beds in the small stateroom, much smaller than  you would find on a modern  cruise ship, and the washroom facilities were located down the hallway, although I recall chamber pots were in the cabin.  The interior of the ferry was clean and well maintained,  and there was a restaurant on board.  It had been a busy day but in spite of being tired, we  couldn't resist spending some time exploring the ship before climbing into the bunks and going to sleep.  The rhythmic  rocking of the boat and the sound of the wind soon put me to sleep and I didn't wake up until we were docked in Vancouver the next morning.  

When I got up, I was surprised to learn that it had been  a  frightening night  on the ferry .  Many passengers,  including my parents, were concerned about the weather, and said they had been unable to sleep.  Sometime after the ferry left the protection of the harbour and was out on the open sea,  it  got its first  taste of the  approaching storm. The early winds had rapidly gained strength and eventually morphed into a strong cyclone.  A major sou'wester they said, had blown through the strait and the ferry had been buffeted up and down by the towering waves for hours, as it made its way to Vancouver.  As we left the ship and passed the newspaper stands, it was a shock to see the headlines on the front pages and read about almost two dozen  telephone poles blown down in Vancouver during the night, I could hardly believe that I had been asleep through the whole thing.  One  comment I remember my mother making was that the waves were fortunately hitting the ferry head on, rather than from side to side, otherwise they had feared the ferry might have flipped over. 

Somewhat shaken, after we disembarked from the ferry we spent the day with mother's friend Ruby in North Vancouver, then off to the train station in the evening where we saw the big steam engine firing up as the conductor helped us board.  We found our sleeping berths and soon heard the "All aboard" for our departure  to Saskatoon.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

1945 The War Ends

VJ Day, Victory over Japan Day.    

The war was over, after six very long years, it was finally over.  On August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered and the official agreement was signed on  September 2, 1945.  As a nine year old,  it was exciting, but I didn't know what would happen next, what it would be like to live in a country no longer at war.  In 1939 I was only three years old when I saw the soldiers march to the train station in Saskatoon.  

There were celebrations and everyone wanted  to get on with their lives, but getting Canada back to the normalcy of  peacetime was a big undertaking.   Soldiers were being discharged, but found housing shortages when they returned to their old communities. The federal government arranged for the construction of wartime houses in an attempt to meet the demand, and houses sprang up at a rapid pace in cities across the country. After six years at war, the soldiers,  now in their mid-twenties and older were ready to  get married and start a family.

Many returned home with wives, war brides, who faced the challenge of integration in a new country.  Education had been interrupted, those  who  planned to continue with their education received government financial assistance.  Post secondary enrolment sky rocketed and there was overcrowding in the schools. 

Wartime house

My father, as part of the Paymaster Division, remained in the RCAF for another three months.  For many of my school classmates, their fathers were now arriving home, but for some, their fathers had not survived the war.

I returned to Keating School in September for grade four and listened as my parents made their post war plans.  I saw some  big changes, others were small,  like the day my father arrived home with a case of 24 chocolate bars,  Cadbury I think, and I just couldn't believe it.  Chocolate bars!  The canteen was shutting down at the base and they were selling off their stock. For us, this  was an unheard of treat, something impossible to understand in today's world.

In Victoria, uniforms were quickly disappearing from the streets, and being replaced by civilian suits.  Men proudly displayed their new fedoras after years of military headgear, and army boots were being replaced with flashy new shoes.

Each discharged soldier received a small general service badge that could be worn on the lapel of a suit, and these were worn with pride by veterans, some for many years after the war.

My parents  considered the possibility of remaining in Victoria, and even looked at some properties.  I remember a small,  blue house on an acre of land that we went to see, but the ties to family in Saskatchewan were strong, and the decision was made to return to Saskatoon.

General Service Badge

Monday, February 15, 2016

VE Day

After what had been an unusually cold, snowy winter on Vancouver Island, we were finally having nice spring weather.   I remember one winter day having heavy, moist snow that was perfect for making a snowman.  All the kids started rolling a ball of snow, and it kept getting bigger and bigger and blocked Walema Drive.  It was so big my father couldn't drive past it,  so had to get out of the car and help us roll it to the side of the road.

One day, there was a big announcement at Keating School.  We were told there would be a special event for our families and we could bring a younger sibling to school.  Much like the popular "Take your child to work with you day," of more modern times, this was quite a unique idea.  When I went home and told my family about the
Walking along Walema Dr. to Cordova Bay Rd.
to catch the school bus, 1945
announcement,  Bill, who was almost five,  was excited and could hardly wait.   He would get to go to school with his big sister.  When the big  day arrived, Bill and I headed up Walema Drive to catch the school bus on Cordova Bay Road.  Bill thought this was great, to be going on the school bus just like the older kids.  We both waved goodbye to Mother, who stood holding one year old Alan, and off we went.  At school, Bill sat at the desk beside  me, but the seats were not very wide and he remembers that he kept falling off the side.   At recess we both went out to play and joined up with the other children who had also brought siblings. It must have been a hectic day for the teachers, but for the students, it was a wonderful day and we returned home with lots of stories to share and memories that have lasted a lifetime.   It seems to have been one of those once only events though, as I have never heard of it happening again.

Major changes were happening in the world.  In April 1945 the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died and Vice President Harry S. Truman took office.  We listened to the broadcast of Roosevelt's funeral on the radio.

A month later on May 8, 1945, VE Day, victory in Europe and  Adolph Hitler was dead.  What had started in 1939 had finally ended.   We heard the celebrations and jubilation on the radio, but for us there was still a war in the Pacific as Japan continued its aggression.  Nightmares about the war were often a problem for children, and I was no exception. Someone had taken me to a war movie a year or two earlier and this movie contributed to my anxiety for a long time.

From the archives of the Royal BC Museum, :  Victoria celebrates the Victory in Europe (May 8, 1945) | Staff Profiles

In June 1945 my father received the military  honour of being "Mentioned in Despatches" and received the distinctive oak leaf pin to wear on his uniform.  The award was accompanied by this statement:

This non-commissioned officer has at all times carried out his difficult tasks in a highly efficient and exemplary manner. There were periods when very difficult situations arose and he has always surmounted these difficulties in a very commendable manner.  Arduous tasks and long hours have never dampened this non-commissioned officer's enthusiasm and he has been a great credit to his station.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Christmas during the War

It was the winter of 1944 and the Christmas season had arrived.  Instead of the usual spruce Christmas tree, for some reason my parents had selected a cedar tree and it just didn't look right to me. Maybe, because of the war, there was so much going on in my life, I thought something constant like the traditional Christmas tree was important.   On Christmas Eve my father was putting tacks into the fireplace mantle to hang our stockings, when he noticed my four year old brother Bill had taken the hammer and was pounding tacks into the arm of the big wooden chair.  That certainly brought about a quick reaction from Dad.  Uncle Don and Aunt Pat spent Christmas with us that year, and with a bit of mischief in mind, Don sneaked into the living room during the night and put a lump of coal in each of our stockings.  Christmas morning we pretended to be shocked but thought it was quite funny.  Our gifts were small and modestly priced.  An orange and a candy cane in our stocking was a treat and we usually received a home knitted sweater or mitts or an inexpensive board game as well.  Sometimes the Christmas or birthday gift a child received was a 25 cent war savings stamp.  At the end of the war the book with sixteen 25 cent stamps, which had  cost $4.00 could be redeemed for $5.00.  Although stamps might seem an unlikely gift for a child, there was not much we could buy if we did have the money.  Sugar was rationed so candy was limited, and the only games that were available were ones like Snakes and Ladders or card games such as Fish or Old Maid, so the promise of $5.00 after the war was a great incentive.

In December there had been some sewer excavations going on in front of our neighbour's house, so on Christmas day some of the adults were telling us how Santa had become stuck in the excavation ditch the night before, and they had to help him get out in order to save Christmas.  Brian, who was a little older than me  confirmed the story, so naturally, this made true believers of all of us.

Shortly after Christmas my father arrived home from the base one day looking somewhat disgusted.  He had been given an assignment and was not happy about it.  When my mother pressed him about what was going on, he finally said, "I've got to look after a dog."  

A statement like that immediately got not only
mother's attention, but perked up my ears as  well.  "What do you mean, looking after a dog?" she asked.  Well, it turned out that a movie was being made and part of it, the war scenes, were being filmed at Pat Bay.  Since they couldn't have unauthorized dog handlers wandering around exercising a dog on a military base, especially during a time of war, the duty had to be assigned to a soldier and my father, who  was working in the Paymaster Division, was selected.  He would be the one to walk Lassie.  The movie was "Son of Lassie" and it was released in the spring of 1945.  I thought it was great that my father was involved in a movie, but he did not share my enthusiasm.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Keating School

September 1944 arrived, and with it another new school, my third in three years.   This time the children from Cordova Bay were sent to Keating School, closer to home so we no longer had the long bus ride to Craigflower School.  One of my memories of Keating was the long hill up to the school from the road where the bus stopped.  I have alway tended to run faster than I should without considering the terrain underfoot, and as a result, trip over my own feet when I hit unexpected bumps along the way.  This hill contributed to many of my skinned  knees and running on Walema Drive to catch the school bus contributed to more.  I am sure I spent my childhood with bandaged  knees, and even as an adult, I can see the scars remaining from those days.

My father with soldiers at Pat Bay during WW2
I was too young to understand the progress of the war, but there was a lot of concern for our  safety.  We had our gas masks, and now there were excavations,  ditches, or  foxholes as we called them, around part of the perimeter of Keating School.  During air raid drills, we ran out of the school and down into the ditches, nervously waiting for the "All clear."   I have never seen anything written about them, but I distinctly remember our fear during these drills.  They were conducted in the same way that a fire drill might be conducted today.  Of course, at home blackouts were still strictly enforced and had just become a way of life.

Grandpa and  Lyle just before Lyle headed
overseas.  He had a sad last visit
 with his mother before her death.

My mother started teaching me to knit after my terrible attempt at knitting in grade one at Royal Oak School.  On that occasion, the teacher sent home a ball of wool with each student, with instructions for a knitted washcloth for the soldiers.  My mother finally had to make the washcloth for me, but now she was teaching me to do some simple knitting on my own.  Women all knitted and always had their knitting project close at hand, ready to pick up whenever they had a free moment. 

In 1943 my father's mother passed away in Saskatoon  and in 1944 his two younger siblings moved to Victoria. Don joined the navy and Pat trained to be a hairdresser. Dad's  brother Lyle was with the RCAF in Italy and had left Saskatoon knowing his mother was ill and he would probably never see her again.

After she graduated, Pat and my mother discussed getting rid of my pigtails and wondered if I would like to have a perm.  Of course I was excited about the idea of curly hair (think Shirley Temple) so eagerly agreed.  A few days later with great anticipation,  I was off on my first trip to a  beauty parlour.   The procedure began with a wash and  haircut, then my hair was wound onto very heavy metal rollers which were attached to long cords hanging down from a big stand, looking like something out of a horror movie.  It probably looked more like I was being tortured than having a beauty treatment.   All this was plugged into electricity which heated the rollers.  It was so heavy, hot and uncomfortable,  I felt like my neck would break.  

When I look back on it, I think, "What price beauty?"  I can't believe what I agreed to go through to have curls.  Finally, it was complete and I thought I looked great, (I repeat, think Shirley Temple) but a year later it had grown out and I was back to pigtails. 

A life lesson:  a perm isn't permanent.

Monday, February 8, 2016

1944 in Victoria

The summer of 1944 was coming to an end and the war continued.  One day I was in the house and the radio was on.  A man came on the air and announced loudly, "The war is over!"  I couldn't believe it, I was so excited that I ran outside where the neighbour kids were playing and shouted, "The war is over, the war is over,  they just announced it on the radio!"  Everyone rushed inside to listen to the news on their own radios, but a few minutes later emerged outside again.  A man had broken into the newsroom and made the announcement.  It was a false alarm and the man was arrested.   I did get teased quite often after that as the neighbourhood boys would ask me if the war was over yet and then laugh.  Sometimes being the only girl on the street had its challenges.

Standing in front of our 1940 DeSoto
My Dad finally sold the Model A  even though he had fond memories of that model from his youth and he bought a newer car.  One day he loaded my brother and me along with two of the neighbours Bruce and Brian into the car and we headed into Victoria for the day,  The only activity I remember during that excursion was a trip to an ice-cream store.  Because of rationing, it had been a long time since I had tasted ice-cream, and this store was selling it.  The store was actually in a large  warehouse room with a counter along one side and clerks taking orders.  I can't imagine anyone today getting as excited as we were that day when we received the frosty treat.  Everyone chatted all the way home about the great day.

As a child, gardens and plants always fascinated me and Victoria was certainly the place to live for someone with  this interest.  One of the fields near Cordova Bay where  I used to walk from time to time had a variety of plants growing wild, but there was one that particularly caught my attention.  It was a single small white lady slipper with a nodding flower on a slender stem about four or five inches in height.  I asked someone about this plant and was told it  was rare and should not be picked.  I was intrigued and over a number of spring/summer seasons would watch out for it,  but never saw it more than one or two times in any one year. Looking online now for the lady slipper that I remember, I found one that looks  similar,  and apparently is quite rare.  Cypripedium passerinum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Friday, February 5, 2016

A New Old Car

Spring 1944  arrived and my father returned home from Alaska. The Canadian base at Ketchican was closed and Dad was posted to the Paymaster Division at Pat Bay.   With this news, we hoped he would remain at Pat Bay for the duration.  Soon after, he bought a car from a soldier who was being shipped overseas.  It was old, very old,  in fact as an eight year old child, I couldn't believe this was the car we were going to be riding in and hoped none of my friends would see us.  Dad had been a car salesman before the war and drove around in the latest car  models, so a 1929 Model A was a shock.  However, with the car we were able to see a lot of the area around Victoria which we had not previously visited, so the car was appreciated. Because gas was rationed, Dad continued to take the bus to Pat Bay.

Colourized picture
My Grandmother when she visited
Victoria in 1943
With our car, we would go to Elk Lake and Beaver Lake to swim and that was a big treat.  Although we lived beside the ocean,  I found learning to swim in salt water was difficult.  At Elk Lake I quickly learned to do the dog paddle and was eager to show off my new skill when I got home.   Soon I was swimming in the ocean as well and spent many hours enjoying the Cordova Bay beach.  

During our days in Cordova Bay my mother would  often take me into Victoria on the bus when she went shopping.  In the bus depot there was a rack of magazines and I spotted a magazine which had black and white funnies as they were called.  I picked it up and looked through it, then pointed it out to my mother.  She didn't buy it,  but I think I saw one of the very early comic books on the market that day. To have an entire magazine of comics was a new idea.  

On leaving the bus depot we walked through the passage which had a kiosk with a curtained booth for taking pictures.  It was cheap and remained a popular concept for quick photos for years afterwards.  The photo shop would also colourize pictures for the customers, they had a clerk who would hand paint the colours as requested.  Beyond the passage way was Spencers Department Store which was later bought by Woodwards.

We had heard of Butchart's Gardens but had not been there,  so one day as we were out driving, we noticed the garden entrance.  My father got out and looked at  the sign, but since there was a 35 cent admission,  we didn't go in.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Craigflower School

Years after attending Craigflower School,  I have been fascinated by the history of the area.  Even a few hauntings in the original schoolhouse to add to the mystery.

My year at Craigflower, 1943-44  (the students from Cordova Bay were moved again the following year) was good, in fact academically it was quite successful as I received an award of merit at the end of the school year.  It was the book Bambi which has remained one of my treasures to this day.

1943 - 1944  Craigflower School Grade 2 and 3 class   

Although much of the school year remains shadowed in the fog of age,  I do recall that two grades, two and three were together in the class.  I also recall that we were at tables rather than desks and that there were two class rooms on the second floor of the school  There was a large playground and games of skipping and hopscotch kept us moving at recess.  Because it was wartime, many of our skipping songs were based on the war, in fact I often wondered who wrote those rhymes.

There was an occasion when we were invited to a farm owned by the parents of a student for an Easter egg hunt.  The family raised chickens on their farm and had hidden hard boiled eggs around the property for us to find.  It was a wonderful day and someone made sure each of us got to take home one or two eggs, it was the first time I had ever heard of an Easter Egg hunt.

 At Cordova Bay, a new family took over the grocery store across from McMorran's and they had a daughter my age so at last, a nearby girl as a friend.  She had a white persian cat which one day produced a litter of beautiful white kittens, I remember seeing those little balls of white fur curled up on the sofa. 

 Walking through her family's grocery store and into the residence I noticed some of the products displayed on the store shelves, Rinso (as in the commercial of the time Rinso white, Rinso white) Duz (Duz does everything) and so on.  Oxydol was a leader in sponsoring the daytime radio shows or soap operas as they became known with their long lasting program, Ma Perkins

Monday, February 1, 2016

Uncertain Times

It was the summer of 1943.   On CBC Radio we heard Lorne Green (later of Bonanza fame) who was nicknamed the "Voice of Doom" as he read the depressing war news in his deep baritone voice.  We also heard how fear of an invasion on the Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast was growing.  The war in Europe continued but since the bombing of  Pearl Harbour,  a Japanese attack on the west coast of North America was a distinct possibility.   Rumours of enemy sightings were rampant and stories of submarines off the Vancouver Island coast emerged but were never verified   It was the kind of thing that created nightmares for adults and  children alike.  We had many restless nights as we wondered if  the enemy would sneak up on our beaches.  

As the Americans built up their defences after Pearl Harbour,  Canadian soldiers from Pat Bay were sent to Ketchican, Alaska and my father received his orders that he too, was being shipped out.  It was August and my mother was expecting shortly so Dad's departure was delayed on compassionate grounds until my brother's birth.  My  grandmother made the two day train trip from Saskatchewan to assist my mother when she arrived home from the hospital and remained for several weeks, but  September arrived and she was needed at home on the farm to cook for the harvest crew.  For my mother, being on her own for close to a year with three young children had to be a big challenge. 

Troops at Aleutian Islands
With the situation in the Aleutians escalating, safety on Vancouver Island  became a concern.  We  had blackouts  but gas attacks were a possibility, so all residents were to be issued with gas masks.  When the distribution day arrived my mother took her young family down to McMorran's hall and along with everyone else in Cordova Bay, we received our gas masks.  My baby brother was only a couple of months old and masks were not available in a small  enough size for a young baby.
Children wearing gas masks

While my
grandmother was still visiting,  mother took me to a movie in Victoria as a treat.  It was actually quite a lively show and had lots of rousing patriotic music  performed by members of all branches of the American military. It was designed to encourage enlistment by Americans and was called   This is the Army  starring Ronald Reagan.    Cameo appearances were made by Irving Berlin and Kate Smith. Irving Berlin sang This is the Army and Kate Smith sang God Bless America.

There were other changes in the fall of 1943 as well.  Royal Oak School was filled to capacity and could no longer handle students from Cordova Bay so I was sent  to Craigflower School for Grade Two.  The neighbour boys who had attended Strawberry Vale were also sent to Craigflower.  To get to our new school, the bus followed  quite a roundabout route and I remember being told it was a thirteen mile trip with stops along the way. 

 As you can well imagine, the trip quickly became a boring excursion of over half an hour each way morning and afternoon.  There were just over a dozen students on the bus and the boys all crowded into the seats at the front to talk to the driver, leaving the rest of the bus to the girls.  Buses in those days had removable cushions so it soon became a game to grab the loose cushions and pile them up on the seats in the back row.  Then the girls would sit on these elevated seats, often four or five cushions high,  and belt out the popular songs of the day.  It was a boisterous daily event and a great way to pass the time on a long and tiring ride.  One of the crazier songs I remember from those bus rides was Mairzy Doats.  Another that came out not long after was Chickery Chick.

Kate Smith, God Bless America - YouTube
(with scenes from This is the Army)