By August 1942 the Second World War was in full stride. The Americans had not yet officially joined the fight but Canada had continuous training programs, turning out young men. One young man who had enlisted at the age of seventeen on Friday, March 13, 1942 found himself at the Niagara training camp in August awaiting deployment. While thoughts of preparation and defense were put into action, back home in Kitchener, Ontario, a young mid teen boy sends a letter to his older brother detailing the concerns of his life.
This is a glimpse, the vernacular of yesteryear is as heartwarming as today’s seems cold. It smacks of Andy Hardy, but alas most of you will not know who that is. That’s okay. For some of us, ‘old lady..’ and ‘swell’ just bring back a wash of simpler times.
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
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
PS a X (hug) from me to you.
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.
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.
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……..
P.S. I wish you the best with the farmer’s daughter **(drawing of fingers crossed here)