Letters from the War: Part 2 of A Personal Post

Canadian Army

Canadian Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I posted a letter written by my uncle, who was fourteen at the time, to his brother, my father who was in the army.

My uncle was a pack rat and when he passed away his basement was crammed with all kinds of treasures, that my cousins had to sort through.  Amongst his belongings were three letters.

The other two letters I have are from my father to his mother, my grandma.

I have no idea where overseas he was when these were written.  The letters are on official Canadian Army stationary and are fully intact with the original envelopes.  The first letter was written April 16, 1943 and the second May 2, 1943.  Reading the lingo of the day they make me think of a scene from a black and white movie.  They also give me a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have of this boy who would become my father.  They touch my heart as a mother, as a grandmother and as a woman.  I don’t see this boy as my father.  He is a young man who enlisted too young and went to a war that left permanent marks.

He loyally signed up with my someday to be my Uncle Harry who when he returned from the war would marry my Aunt Elaine.  My aunt is the last aged member of that generation and she tells me to this day how awful the war was for these teenagers.  She says they were different people when they came back and I can see she mourns the loss of who they once were.  When I lived in the USA I dated a man who had been in the Vietnam war and while he was a wonderful accomplished man he still carried memories that invaded his dreams.

I have felt for a long time now that the only casualties were not those who died.  Living victims.  I think it is wonderful that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is recognized but I do not know if that recognition makes it any easier to deal on a day to day basis.

Whoa!  That was a surprise melancholy trip.  Now back to the letters that are not at all downers.  The second letter does show just how homesick this boy was.

Anyway:  April 16/43

Dear Mother

Hi Mom how are you doing?  Fine I hope.  Now here I am to make a request.  I need some more toilet soap and would be very greatful if you could get me some and send it to me.  The limey soap gives me a rash of something.

I found out where Bobby is so as soon as I can get a leave I am going to see him. O’ yes I haven’t had my leave as yet but am sure hoping.  I expect I will need it if I don’t go crazy waiting.  O’ yes haven’t received any cigs yet but am hoping for that too.  Well must go to bed now.

Tons of Love

Your son

Raymond

PS a X (hug) from me to you.

Love Raymond

********

May 2/43

Dear Mom

Hi Sweet Heart and how are you doing?  Fine I hope.  Say do you know something.  In 49 days Mrs. Gingerich’s dark haired warrior will be 19 and I have heard from some ot the fellows he is going to get drunk, really pie eyed for about 2 days.  Well mom I guess I didn’t need to remind you of that awful day.  But I guess you can remember it.

Well enough of that.  Well today is Sunday and like the good boy I am, I never wen t to church, and you know I was worried but I don’t know what happened I just didn’t get to church.  Well here I am beside a nice fire and having a swell time.  I was thinking what a swell time a fellow could have if he were home for awhile.  it would be swell.  I’d like to meet all the new friends we have now.  It would be swell.

Well Mom, I guess I will close for now.

Tons of Love Sweetheart

Love

Raymond

A Personal Post

World War II poster from Canada

World War II poster from Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure that anyone outside ‘the family’ would be interested in this particular post, so don’t feel bad if you pass it by.

Today when looking through some of my writings I came across copies of letters my father had sent to his mom in 1943, and one letter from his younger brother Dick to him.  My father enlisted in the army in 1941 when he was seventeen years old.  Not at all unusual for young fellas back then to enlist underage and to be accepted to go to war.   The Second World War was firmly entrenched and in its second year.  The government made enlisting sound exciting, patriotic and gosh darn it, the right thing to do.

A year later, August 6, 1942 my uncle Dick sent my Dad a letter to his training site in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario.  A few months later my Dad was sent overseas.  These letters are of interest to me of course, because they are a link to a time and people I never knew.  My uncle at the time was about fourteen years old.  It is a nice little look at the times. Spelling, grammar and stroke outs are as in the letter.

The envelope is addressed:  Pri Raymond Gingerich

Reg. No. A-76033 C. Comp

Scots Fusiliers of Canada

Niagara on the Lake M.P.O. 203

Dear Raymond,

I received your letter last night and I would have answered then but didn’t have time.  The scouts went swimming at the pool, and but I didn’t have much fun.  I passed my swimming test and now I just have a couple more tests to pass and I’ll be a second class scout.  I have quite lots of fun these days.  Ostell’s are back from Wo Wasaga beach and now I have someone to play with because I don’t pl;ay with Stan Flaherty anymore because of his “old man”.  One day Stan and I were behind Flaherty’s with some water in bottles and old man Flaherty said, “It is only babys that play with water,” and I said, “goo” and he sold told me to get home and I said it will take a hell of a lot more than him to make me, so I don’t play with Stan anymore.  I would like to be up tere if there is lots of fishing and especially swimming.

Last night when we were at the pool I met a nifty girl and when I was diving off of the board I was loo looking at her when I hit the water I almost killed myself.  I am enjoying my holidays but thery will soon be over and school will starts start again; although I think we will have more fun this year because I will  have more fun this years because I will have old lady Neu Neuman for my teacher.  Please excuse all thos those strokes up there but I wrote one line twice.

We, meaning Johnny Ostell and I are going to save our money to go on hikes this summer and we may get lost and wander down to the canal so if we do , (we will) come and see you.  We are going on a hike some time next week and we have everything cha planned to go to the other side of Preston and we  ,if we get tired we will thumb and if I get a ride with a guy thats going to you yu vicinity I’ll go with him and I not worrying (were about where to sleep or coming back.

Oh, well enough of fooling because I wouldn’t even start to get to Niagara because I likely wouldn’t be ablt to find you anyhow.  Well, I guess I will say So long because I want to try and write to Harry yet to-day sooo……..

So Long,

Your brother

Dick

P.S. I wish you the best with the farmer’s daughter **(drawing of fingers crossed here)

Adios

write soon

So – Long

 

Terramundi and Centennials and Birthdays

Friday June 8th was not only my birthday but also the city of my birth, Kitchener Ontario.  The city was 35 when I was born and I think that is about all I will say of that.  Its original name was Berlin and it was renamed when the first World War took place.  I guess our city fathers felt Berlin was a little Germanic considering so it was named after Lord Kitchener.  It did not change the fact that the largest population was German.  The city apparently boasted a spectacular bust of Kaiser Whilhelm 1 and a few days after war was declared three young Berlin men (Fred Bolton, Alan Smith and John Ferguson) toppled the bust and dumped it into the lake at Victoria Park.  Unfortunately in 1916 there was considerable animosity from the non-German residents.

It has been interesting reading the history pages on line as many of the names we have for parks and streets are linked to the actual people living at the time.

In 1920 Charles How’s Royal Cafe was raided by Kitchener police who seized a large amount of opium and smoking equipment so I guess drugs in the cities have a long history.

In 1922 we were visited by William Lyon Mackenzie King who was then Prime Minister and a native son of our wee town.  Not so wee since 10,000 people came out to meet him .

Canadians are known to be generally a polite tolerable people however 1925 saw a clandestine attempt to oraganize a Kitchener chapter fo the Ku klux Kan that ended through disinterest.  The organizers met in a private home but two Daily Record reporters ‘were able to glimpse a’crowd’ of three around a table.’

In 1927 it seemed there were bootleggers to be caught and in 1928 the city’s Health Department found two gypsy families living in an abandoned store and shooed them out.

The first of the famous Five and Dime stores opened in 1932 by Walter Zeller.  I remember my mom still calling them Five and Dimes.  In 1936 specific mention is made of a shoemaker William Thoms who road his bicycle from home to work every day for a distance of 12 miles.  It was estimated he cycled a total of 131,400 miles.  The distance would have been much greater but during the winters he had to walk and they did not tally up those miles.  He stopped, or retired I guess at the age of 82.

One hanging was detailed in 1940.  Reginal White who was the third and final person to ever be so disposed of for a crime in the city.

1942 mention of note was that the local library reported many strange things found in books used as markers, but none so strange as a slice of bacon.

It was not until 1946, on Devember 24th that Canadian women were given equal status under the new Citizenship Act.

There are many interesting facts listed at kitchener100.ca by decade.

So while my own history did not come close to the city of my birth it was an incredible event.  This was our first Terramundi party.  I had decided I did not want any gifts as I could not think of a single desire.  Terramundi is perfect.

According to the accompanying tag:   (In the picture below mine is the blue and pink). ‘This is an Etruscan Money Amphora. These money pots have been used in Italy for the last 2,000 years and their hand thrown design has remained the same.  Examples can be seen in the British Museum.  TRADITION:  ONce the first coin is dropped the money pot must be fed til full, then smashed whilst making a wish.  It is customary to replace pot and spend money on good things.  Pots bring fortune.  There is a fortune coin in each pot.

The whole idea was that instead of bringing a gift bring a Loonie or Toonie ($1.00 or 2.00 coin) and throw it in the pot and make a wish.  Everyone was way to generous with me but the idea remains pure.

So folks that was my start to an amazing weekend!

Terramundi Money Pots

Imperfect Memories

If you knew you only had a few days or a few months to live, what would you do with that time?  This thought has been on my mind lately and I can’t figure out if it is something to seriously consider or if it is an excuse to not do other things that wait for my attention.  But by devoting time for this one can only hope that one thing will lead to another and I do like to multitask so…

I am a few months short of my sixty-fifth birthday and realize that just having outlived my parents I am not sure of my own longevity.  It’s hard to beat your genes.  Who would I like to read this story?  Certainly my children and the rest of my family but there is a danger in sharing with my brothers and sisters as I have discovered each of us has a different memory of a past event which just goes to prove the old idea of the truth being completely subjective and perhaps nonexistent in its purest form.  I know I have posted on this blog memories of events and my brother and sister have pointed out a different or corrected version (very kindly of course).  This is probably a good thing as they are younger than I so perhaps their minds are a little fresher.

Distant memory in particular is colored by what we think happened and our ensuing experiences and emotions.  And of course we choose to believe or remember a specific thing or occurrence according to our own mind.  One of my brothers believes my grandparents did not own their home because he remembers seeing a box with rent receipts after they died.  He may have forgotten that at least one offspring and family lived in that house with them continually for many years and yes they all paid rent.  That included my parents, two aunts and several others for shorter periods of time.  So he, my brother, would swear on a stack of bibles that they never owned that house even though the family sold it after Grandpa’s death.  Fortunately my one living paternal aunt can verify this and explains that she was fourteen when she had to quit school to stay home and look after her younger brother and sister so my grandmother could get a job to make money to buy the house which they purchased when my dad was overseas.

This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid reading famous people’s autobiographies – just too subjective.  So if you are reading this little story and share memories of the past with me, please understand this is my recollection and while I will strive to be accurate it just can’t be more than my own mind and heart will let it be.

My dad joined the army when he was seventeen, and yes he was underage, but it was 1941 and the Second World War was raging so a lot of youngsters were allowed to enlist as age wasn’t questioned much.  We have a couple of letters  that he sent home when he was posted overseas and one letter from his younger brother who I think was only fourteen at the time.  I will dig them out and scan them for the record and will tell you more about that at a later time.

I think now and then about the sort of things I want my children to know about such as old wood stoves that baked pies and cakes and wonderful homemade stews and soups, old dial black telephones and numbers that began with words or initials.  Our phone number was Sherwood 2—2 and the Sherwood was dialed as SH so the number in fact was 742—-2.  (Naturally I have the exact number in the family version but it would not be a good idea to publish it in the event someone else now has that number).  Everyone in those days was on a party line, so if you wanted to make a call you first picked up the receiver to be sure the line was clear.  Mind you at any time a neighbor could pick up their phone and listen in and if they were skilled at making the click very quiet you would never know.  I suppose if you were of the paraniod persuasion clicks were heard when no one was there.  People did not use the phone unless it was necessary.  There was no idle chatter.  There was also no such thing as cordless, caller ID, or speaker.  Oh, and no such thing as colors.  It was black and very heavy as I remember.

The one below is exactly like ours and everyone else’s for that matter.

 

There were no phone jacks that lines plugged into so if the cord was snapped from the wall you had to call the phone company to come in and repair it.  Now I must qualify the not using the phone unless it was necessary part.  I do recall vaguely the odd Saturday when our parents were out making prank calls that generally went, “Hello, is your refrigerator running? Well you better run after it!”  We just dialed numbers randomly and have no idea who we contacted and they sure could not trace us.

It is my intention not to reveal any family skeletons as such; at least I think I will not, as many of those old bones are not mine to share.  Neither will I necessarily whitewash things but the memories are pretty happy nostalgic ones.  I guess we will just have to wait and see as layers of the dusty past are removed.  I have also decided that I will not try to stay on a chronological path as memories seem to pop up in a rather irregular fashion and that is how they will be recorded.  I’ve tried the chronological thing in the last couple of years and it drives me bonkers.

My folks were married in Scotland and she being a war bride followed him here to Kitchener Ontario a few months after his return.  I have spoken with my aunt who is my mom’s younger sister and the last of that family of siblings and my aunt who is the last remaining member of my dad’s siblings and have asked as many questions as I could about their youth and what they remember.  As both are well into their eighties the memories are very subjective but amazingly detailed.  Besides what are memories if they have to be objective?  The full flavor of life is in the personal bias of it all.  That’s where the fun comes in!

Well now that I have that all straightened out I shall ponder a little more and then get down to some real work.  I won’t share every record of history with you but when the little oddities such as telephones pop up I will keep you in mind.

 

Vaya Con Dios

Just a few days ago I was nestled down in sun and sand to enjoy a week of Cayo Largo.

This small island to the south of Cuba is only 28 km long and 3-4 km wide and hosts all natural beaches and warm Caribbean surf.  A thousand years ago the island was inhabited by a nomadic tribe, the Guayabo Blanco, who lived on wild root vegetables and fruits, as well as fishing and hunting.  Christopher Columbus visited the island on his second trip to Cuba.  Hmm now that is something he and I have in common as this was my second trip.  who knew?  Chris Columbus, Chris King….sort of has a nice ring doesn’t it?

The island was also a popular destination of pirates and privateers and included John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake (although he was not a Sir at the time), and Henry Morgan who apparently buried all his treasure somewhere in the key in 1666.

The island is inhabited by many large and small birds including parakeets and parrots and gulls cranes and pelicans, none of which I came across.  However there was one not so wee critter I crossed paths with that quite took me by surprise because of his camouflage which blended him right into the rocks I decided to lean against.  He didn’t seem to mind and stirred not a muscle but you can be sure I did and quickly.

The iguana is indigenous to the island and come in all sizes.  This fellow from nose to tail tip was about 3 feet.

Palm trees, palapas and warm Caribbean waters are all kept in as natural state as possible.  There are no permanent residents of this Cayo (Island).  The staff reside in temporary quarters for 20 days at a stretch and then are flown or boated home for a 10 day leave.  All employees work very long hours during their work term being on site in the wee hours of the morning and present til the late evening hours.  They do get a mid afternoon break but their time on the island is work and sleep.  There is an international airport on the island and it was quite pleasant to have only a ten minute commute from the airport to the hotel.

This is not a wild ‘let’s party hardy’ island and travel agents make it quite clear that if you are looking for night life and lots of varied activity you should look at another place.  There are some local trips to the marina and catamaran tours, swimming with the dolphins and turtles and huge starfish, but by and large the destination is designed for peace and quiet, something that meets my requirements.  It is interesting that the age groups ranged from small children to young adults to the uh more mature set.

When I travel I love those little airports where you embark and disembark from the ground itself.  Somehow it feels so adventurous.

Our destination on the island was Playa Blanco meaning white beach and it was the whitest sand I think I have encountered to date.

The Cuban people are amazing hosts and they consistently provide a safe hospitable environment.  Vacationers cannot purchase their currency prior to arriving in the country.  The CUC is a tourist peso which currently reflects the US dollar I think.  For one hundred dollars Canadian I got almost ninety-four pesos which isn’t too bad a deal.

It was a delightful week and it was with fond memories that I bade the island adios and Vaya Con Dios until next time.

11/22/63 The Book

 

11/22/63 The Book


Today most people are thinking about the approaching Thanksgiving thinking, planning, cooking and getting ready to celebrate with family and friends.  It is my experience that this holiday is primo, better than Christmas, or what ever your major day of the year is.  It’s a day where commercialism has no hold, no gifts except that of appreciation.

Unless you were born prior to 1960 you will not have a memory of the events of 11/22/63.  You know I did not appreciate this fully until a day long ago,when I made a comment about Jack Kennedy and my  sons asked, “Who is Jack Kennedy?”

That got me thinking about perception and the things that shape our world.  Now I don’t mean our world in the broad sense, I mean our personal internal world and all the things or events that help shape who we are, that touch us in some way.

For some of a more current generation it might be 9/11, or the assassination, or….?  For my parents generation who lived through the second world war it may have been an event for that, the Holocaust, the loss of friends, sons, fathers, mothers,…well you get the idea.  For my mother who served in the WRENS in Britain, it was the memory of working in a command center and when a submarine went down off the coast of Britain and while radio contact was maintained there was no way to rescue those men and all she and her people could do was listen to them die.

Stephen King, my greatest inspiration, although I cannot read some of his books, has published 11/22/63 and in that magnificent King way of his has given the events a twist – of course.  What if the assassination could be prevented?

I cannot comment on the story as I have just begun to read it, but it does make me wonder – if we could change the outcomes, would we or even should we?

Our growth as human beings depends on our ability to adapt and learn and move forward.  There comes a time when, I believe, most of reach a point of acceptance, liking who we have become and are comfortable in our own skins even though, by that point our skins seem to hang loosely on out bones.

Once Upon A Time..again..

Once Upon A Time

…..in a land separated by decades rather than geography where rivers and oceans ran clear and children romped in the sun for hours with no knowledge of sunscreen played outside until the glow of street lights or hunger drove them home there lived a princess.  At least in her mind and heart she was sure of her royal lineage convinced a mistaken baby switch at the local hospital.

She endured the hardship of every day life convinced that a magic carpet, or genie, or fairy from Walt Disney’s Magical Kingdom would someday arrive and transport her to her proper palace beloved by her prince.

Imagination is a wonderful thing, a wonderful place to live and I have wondered if modern technology has taken away this joy from today’s youth but everyday I see children’s dreams at work.  I visit a school yard and see them running and laughing joyfully.  I listen in on a three year old’s conversation at play with his toys.  The young I see have lost nothing.  Instead they have gained a wider scope of knowledge and understanding in technology but it is still nice to see imagination at play.

Oh and the princess?  Never did meet her prince unless he was well hidden in all the frogs she kissed but oh my she still dreams, imagines, and maybe someday..just maybe….

Oh and this is my post number 200 and very shortly, today will hit 10,000 hits, a modest record compared to some but not too shabby for this princess!

Big People

Big People

Almost every weekend I journey from Hamilton, where you may remember I am Queen and Granny Nanny privileged to be a daily part of G1 and G2′s life in a wonderful world of excitement, imagination and adventure filled with giggles, laughter and an occasional time out.  It is the most loving environment where I sometimes learn more than I teach….hmm truth be told more than sometimes.

I used to wonder if I had the energy and found I do and when tiredness sets in at the end of the day it us well earned and treasured.  My return to Kitchener for one or two nights is the chance to catch up with my best friends, otherwise known as Sister Act and SIL and other family and friends.

Friday night is typically dinner at our neighborhood fav eating spot Crabby Joe’s, where everyone knows your name or at least our names.  The gathering may be small or large depending on commitments and the next morning it is breakfast with more of the same congenial merry makers.

Kitchener and Waterloo are hot spots with lots of exciting things going on, great clubs, entertainment even dancing for those so inclined…at least that’s what I have heard. My days are usually spent puttering along and it occurred to me this evening as I looked around at Sister Act deep into a book, and me. curled up with my book that this is a pretty nice life.

Then I started to giggle, infectiously enough for my sis to start laughing although she had no idea what the joke was.  Finally she stopped and looked to me for an explanation.  “Well I said between chuckles, do you realize how tame our life is?  We joke, eat, drink and go to bed by nine most nights I visit?”

Yeah that’s what we enjoy.  Mind you we get all excited when an actual evening occurs.  When her staff Christmas Party comes up or some other evening event we are thrilled because, and are you ready for it?  We then comment on the fact that, “Tonight we actually get to stay up late, like big people!

My sister has noted that my shower singing songs that ring out each morning haves changed.  Without my realizing it my repertoire now imcludes the oldies but goodies; ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXY and Z, I’m picking up my baby bumblebee….and….I’m a little teapot….hmmmmmmmm.

On a Much Lighter Note..Mama Kat’s First Slow Dance With a Boy

Thank Goodness for Mama Kat and her Thursday blog challenge. This week’s prompts:

2.) Tell us about your song.
4.) Slow dancing with boys…talk about one of your first school dance experiences.

It’s a two for one kind of deal!

Once upon a time, long long ago, say around 1959, my public school, J. F. Carmichael held a dance every second Friday in the evening. It was called Club 87 as it was only open to these two grades. Our parents took turns chaperoning the event which from time to time could be embarrassing if they tried to actually dance because not one of us could imagine people that ancient actually dancing.

Not exactly how it was but...

Now the interesting thing about our age group is that many of the girls were taller than the boys who had not yet reached their growth spurt. If you ever saw the movie Grease (and I hope all have) there is a dance scene in the gym where the girls line up on one side and the boys on the other each group getting support from their peers, girls tapping their feet and boys shuffling theirs and doing their best to appear manly in dress slacks and ties. All being very shy and all shucks about it.

I don’t even remember his name but he was dashing in his slicked dark slicked back hair. As we danced in proper form he drew me closer and his head was at the level of my mouth. Turning his head I got a mouthful of Brylcreem as I was about to speak. Brlycreem..a little dab’l do ya…so the advert went but in his desire for the ultimate cool he had used way more than that little dab.

A small matter because the song they were playing was Paul Anka‘s ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulder‘. Well at least he could put his head on mine.  And it was perfect.

It doesn’t matter where I am, if I hear that song I am immediately transported back to that gym and my first slow dance with Mr. Brylcreem…..sigh.  It was wonderful.

hmmm I was taller he was shorter

PAUL ANKA
“Put Your Head On My Shoulder”
 

Put your head on my shoulder
Hold me in your arms, baby
Squeeze me oh so tight
Show me that you love me too

Put your lips next to mine, dear
Won’t you kiss me once, baby
Just a kiss goodnight, maybe
You and I will fall in love
(You and I will fall in love)

People say that love’s a game
A game you just can’t win
If there’s a way
I’ll find it someday
And then this fool with rush in

Put your head on my shoulder
Whisper in my ear, baby
Words I want to hear
Tell me, tell me that you love me too
(Tell me that you love me too)

Put your head on my shoulder
Whisper in my ear, baby
Words I want to hear, baby
Put your head on my shoulder

 

Thank you Photobucket.

Fishing ….. For Advice

Fishing..for Advice

I can’t think of a memorable fishing experience mostly because I haven’t done it however I am looking for some experts in the tried and true of three year old night fears.  I wondered that G2 had not gone through that stage yet, however this week it began.

Seems there are people coming out of his curtains and those wicked shadows once so nonthreatening have taken to scaring this little boy. Having read up on all kinds of advice, it occurred to me that I have a host of blogging buddies who are experienced and I would love to hear about what has worked what has not.

G2 is having a physical and imagination growth spurt, the imagination being delightful during daytime hours.

What has worked for you?

 Please help me reel in a winning solution cause there is nothing quite like a tired little boy!

Night Fears

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