Thursday, January 14, 2016

We arrive in Victoria

Berths made up for night in
the sleeping car
We were  leaving the farm behind and moving to Victoria where my father had been posted by the RCAF almost six months before.  I heard the conductor call "All aboard" as we retrieved our luggage from the car and quickly climbed up the steep step and into the train.  The porter was waiting and directed us to our lower berth in the sleeping car. It was still early in the morning so lots of time for a few hours of sleep.   Mother, two year old brother and I crawled into bed and the rhythmic clickity clack of the train as it glided over the rails soon put us to sleep.

A few hours later people started moving around in the sleeping car and the porter was folding up the berths so the seats would be available for daytime use. There was a bathroom at the end of the sleeping car and for a youngster, it was fascinating to push down on the flush lever and see the ground underneath as the train sped by.  We were warned not to flush the toilets while in the station.  The dining car was expensive so mother had brought along sandwiches and other food items for us.  Sandwiches were available from the newsagent who made his way down the aisle several times a day but because many items, sugar in particular, were now rationed his wares were limited. There was a wood burning pot belly stove at the end of the car which the porter would fire up with some wood and use to heat his meals, but it was also available to passengers who wanted to heat water for tea or warm some food.  We  stopped in Edmonton and had a brief walk along the platform before returning to the train.  Now, as we approached Jasper, my mother reminded me of an incident that had occurred on our previous train ride to Vancouver in 1939 and laughed as she warned me not to go wandering this time. 

I was three years old when we took that trip but remembered it well.  When we stopped in Jasper, I slipped past my parents and found my way to the end of the car,  I got off the train and walked along the platform past a couple of cars before reboarding some distance away from our sleeping car.  Once I was back on the train I slowly made my way back to my parents location, enlisting the help of adults to open the heavy doors between cars,  but in the meantime they had discovered that I was missing and the train was starting to pull out of the station.  Apparently panic ensued and the conductor was about to pull the emergency cord when I appeared back in our own car.  I remember being quite pleased about my adventure but my parents were not amused.

Vancouver tandem street cars 1940
The day quickly passed and soon we were out of the snow capped mountains and the berths were being made up for another night aboard the train before reaching Vancouver the next morning.  When we finally arrived a friend of my mother's met us at the station and helped mother with the luggage.  We accompanied her on the  streecar to her home where we spent the night.  The next day we again boarded the tandem streetcar and headed to the Vancouver dock where we boarded the ferry.   Mother's friend and her daughter Carole who was my age accompanied us on the ferry to Victoria and helped us with our luggage.

It was 1942 and in those days, the ferry docked in downtown Victoria.  A few hours later, we  had our first look at the city that would be our home for almost four years. Most notable were the number of military personnel walking around the city, something that was not the case in Saskatoon, but there had been a large military presence in Victoria since the attack on Pearl Harbour a few months before.   My father in his air force uniform was at the dock to meet us and soon we were on a bus that took us on the long winding road to Cordova Bay.