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