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Oh Mother...! The Father Chronicles

65 Years Ago Today, My Dad Wrote This:

A Letter from Overseas-1944
A Letter from Overseas-1944
Taken June 18, 2009 with Canon PowerShot A550

In three days’ time, my father will have been dead for a year. I have a hard time believing that.

Sometimes, it feels as if he’s been gone forever. Other times, I hang up the phone mid-dial, when I remember that he won’t be there to answer whatever question I wanted to ask him – usually about World War II.

I didn’t ask him enough questions…

A while ago, I wrote here that I was going to publish all the letters Dad wrote home to my mom. I’ve since had the chance to read them, and truthfully (surprisingly), they don’t make great blog-fodder.

Instead, I will publish just this one – which my mother has given to me to keep, as it seems to have just a little bit of everything in it. It’s very strange to read my father’s words while he was courting my mother (while my mother was courting somebody else – gasp…!); he sure was a tease – I can just hear his voice when I read this.

Anyhoo… I’ve kept the syntax the way he wrote it – some sentences may need to be read twice to get the proper gist – but I’ve taken the liberty of breaking things up into paragraphs. I guess paper was at a premium, and he didn’t want to waste it.

He was training in England when he wrote this.

 

July 19, 1944
#1 C.O.R.V. C.A.O.S.

Dear Teacher –

I received your letter and pictures to-night so here goes for a start at least. I don’t know when I’ll finish this.

Say how do you manage those pictures anyway? That ‘close up’ of you alone looks like Dorothy Lamour. They were all very good and Thanks a million for sending them. Now I’ll have something to spend my spare moments at gazing.

There was a buzz bomb went over a few minutes ago and of all the jobs I had to doing. By the time I realized what it was and got outside it had gone past.

I thought it was a squadron of our own planes until it was right above us – one of the fellows here has had his camera ready for a couple of weeks intending to get a picture of one but they seem to be too fast.

They make a terrific noise and fly very low and fast. It is only a few seconds from the time you first hear them until they are gone out of hearing and at night look like a ball of fire in the sky.

This place seems to be charmed or something. There has been any number of them went over but none have taken a notion to stop here yet. The closest were a mile or so away and just shake the windows and doors.

Well I wouldn’t mind if I could get a couple of weeks leave on the Island now. I can imagine the nice weather you would be having there. I am kind of disgusted with the weather over here. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in the winter and summer.

We had a few weeks nice weather the last of March and since it has been raining about three parts of the time. The fogs are beginning to start now & also the blackouts again.

I wouldn’t mind so much but through what nice weather there was we weren’t allowed any leave and by the time this course is over the fog will be so thick we’ll have to carry a shovel with us to make a way for us. Of course that shovel would be handy to have along for the B.S. too wouldn’t it?

This is a sort of gloomy letter I guess it’s the army blues.

I hear they are going to give the 7 day leaves soon (I hope. I have 16 days coming now). They have already lifted the ban on train travel & the 20 mile limit. Before we had to ride on the buses or hitchhike as the trains were supposed to be reserved for the evacuees. I guess all the small towns are filled with them now.

Bill (Ahem…* Sorry to interrupt: Bill is my mother’s brother) thinks England is O’K. eh? To tell the truth I like it a lot better than Canada too as far as army life goes. I’d sooner be in Canada just for the sake of being in my own country though.

The stuff isn’t rationed as much now as it was. We can get most of the things you can in Canada but only in small amounts and they use you more like a human than an animal.

With the odd bomb around and France not far away you’d be surprised the difference it makes to the N.C.O.’s & officers. There are very few A.W.L’s here. Fellows that were always away in Canada never think of going loose here.

For one thing there really isn’t anything to go on the loose for like Canada. No means of travel and no place to go or stay or eat if you did go.

Say I hope you don’t get tired of reading this monotonous thing supposed to be a letter and throw it away before you finish.

I had a letter from Edith, my sister-in-law last week. You should see some of the queer English expressions but I’m getting used to them. I suppose if I’m over here another year I’ll be completely “Limetized”. There is a Limey camp right near us and we see quite a few of them often.

Did you know Jack MacMillan from Cockburn Island? I met him in the canteen last week. He is here on an A.F.V. course. I had quite a chat with him. It almost seemed like going home.

Well I haven’t been out of camp for a month now. I think I’ll go on a “bender” at the wet canteen and then settle down for the duration of the course and get ready for trade test Bay. It is only 4 weeks away now. It’s nearly three months since I came here and it only seems about three weeks.

By the way don’t let Eiro tickle you too much (I HOPE). It makes me nervous and I’d hate to have to tell the instructor some day what is wrong with me. ha. ha.

Let me know how your pictures of you and Helen and you and Helen and you and you and Helen, turned out eh? If I were you I would move my shorts around and get all sunburned the same. That would feel too much like shaving only one side of your face (Of course I’m not you though).

How are you and the cows getting along in the mornings?

Well I guess I’ll close as there isn’t anything else I can think of. In fact there was nothing to write about in the first place: Write soon & long.

Love Matt.
XXXXXX
XXXXX

(over)

I’m getting so I can almost start an argument with myself eh?

A Doctor in Sequatchie Valley in Tennessee was called to examine the young wife of an elderly, deaf mountaineer. “Your wife is pregnant” he told her husband.

Mountaineer, hand behind his ear, queried, “eh”?

The doctor shouted, “I said your wife is pregnant.”

“Eh?”

Finally the doctor screamed, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”

The man walked to the edge of the porch, spat out a mouthful of tobacco juice, and drawled, “I ain’t a bit surprised. She’s had every opportunity.”

Excuse the writing. It is slightly worse than usual as there is a poker game going on, on the next bunk & every once in awhile somebody just has to step back & shake my bunk.

I would dearly love to know what “job” it was that my dad was doing when that buzz bomb went over. I don’t know if he started writing the next sentence without realizing he hadn’t finished the last, or if it was something a little embarrassing and he didn’t want to say. Perhaps, he was in the latrine…?

My mother still remembers writing to him about that sunburn she got, from laying for too long in one position. And how her father used to give the girls holy hell for going out in public wearing shorts. He thought it was shameful.

And I guess one might have to be a man to figure out how shaving one side of your face might feel the same… does shaving hurt like sunburn?! I wanna know.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – Meatloaf

Categories
It Helps If the Whole Family Is Crazy Oh Mother...!

The Chamber Pot

Kyla Nora Maude Becker - 1998 - JK - photo
The 1998 Version of My Aunt Blanche…

No, really, let’s compare, shall we? If only to piss off my daughter – who tells me she’ll kill me if I post this, but then laughs out loud when she looks at this photo of herself, so I think I’m all good…

Blanche Van Every - 1920-something - photo
Tell me that’s not eerie…

Yes, kids, it’s time for another Aunt Blanche story…

Categories
Oh Mother...!

Jimmy Prentice & the Radio

Philco_Radio_1941
Philco Radio, 1941

Jimmy Prentice was somewhat of a local oddball, to hear my parents talk. I don’t know if he actually had a home, or not. My mother talks about how sometimes, just before dinner was set to be “lifted”, Gramma would be looking out the kitchen window, and say, “Better put another plate on,” and they knew Jimmy was walking across the field.

He’d come in and have dinner with the family, and afterward, off he’d go with the men to do the afternoon chores. They had a farm of dairy cows – help with the chores was welcomed, and well worth a meal or two, even during the Depression. More than likely, Jimmy would be in for supper that night, too. And then for breakfast in the morning…

He’d stay on a few days (or weeks), help with the farm, eat with the family, sleep wherever there was room. Then he’d mosey off across the field; to the next farm, maybe, or into town.

One winter evening, during the War, Grampa opened the door to a very, very sick Jimmy Prentice. Flu was a pretty serious thing to come down with back then, and Grampa put him right to bed. He was sick for a long time.

Gramma and Grampa fed him up, cleaned him up, generally took care of him for the duration. No way would Grampa turn Jimmy out. Not because it was winter on the Manitoulin. Not because Jimmy had the flu. Nope. Jimmy Prentice had a radio.

Now, Grampa wasn’t necessarily against technology, but in the early ’40s, with farmhands and livestock to feed, not to mention 8 kids (minus Bill, who was overseas fighting a War), purchasing a radio was not high up on his list of priorities, to say the least. They got “The Family Herald” once a week for the War news; what did they need a radio for?

Family_Herald
The Family Herald

The Family Herald would be read cover-to-cover by Grampa, the day it came. Then Gramma got her turn, and then it was passed around the household until everyone had had a chance to read it through. Sometimes, clippings would be mailed out to a sister or an Aunt. By the time the next issue came to the farm, the last would be in tatters, most likely relegated to the outhouse, where it was read again, and reread, and then “recycled”.

Letters from Bill (and he wrote to everybody from overseas) would also be passed around. Sometimes the letters were delayed, or lost altogether. News was shared. As worried as they were, the family knew that last month, at least, Bill was alive.

And then… Grampa discovered that the War News could come every supper-time, if somebody turned Jimmy Prentice’s radio on. Meals became sombre affairs, quiet, other than the static-y voice coming out of that little box on the sideboard. No one dared make a peep, for fear Grampa would shout them back to silence. World War II got closer to home.

Of course, over the next several weeks, Jimmy Prentice got better. Pretty soon, he was taking supper at the table, listening to the radio, and then, slowly, out helping with the chores again. Eventually, he decided it was time to mosey over the field to wherever it was he would go; the next farm, maybe, or into town. And, of course, he took his radio with him when he went.

Supper was eerily silent for the next few days. Grampa was out of sorts without the static-y voice on the sideboard. Withdrawal. They all missed Jimmy Prentice’s radio. The Family Herald was days away yet, and the news in it would be “old” news. Bill seemed farther away than ever, and World War II might never end…

And so, one day, Grampa came home with a radio of his own, and everything seemed that much better. The world was smaller again, and if it – the world or the War – should finally come to an end, he would be among the first to know.
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“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.

There’ll be joy and laughter
And peace ever after,
Tomorrow
When the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again,
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.”

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “The White Cliffs of Dover” – Vera Lynn