Insight into 1940-41

My Great Uncle Jimmy and I write back and forth several times each year.  He is the only person that send me a hand written letter any more and I cannot tell you how much I adore receiving his notes.  He has the classic, wicked-smart Brown sense of humour and his old sayings remind me so much of my grandpa. I want to share a section of a letter he wrote on August 12, 2012.

Jack left school when he was about 14 and went working on farms around Stouffville.  The first one I remember him saying he was getting 15 cents per day.  That included room and board.  The food wasn’t good.  As Mike would say, “She couldn’t boil shit for hobos.”

He kept working on farms around Stouffville, Clarement & Goodwood.  Eventually, he got a job working on a farm at Scarborough Junction owned by Archie & Ida Empringham.  This was on Danforth Road and had frontage on Kennedy Rd as well.  This was at the junction of Kennedy Rd., St Clair and Danforth Rd.  May was working in the jct at that time and that’s how & why they met.  

The Canadian govt at that time in their infinite wisdom decided to put every able-bodied man into the Army for one month (1940-41).  Jack was asked to pay his respects to Camp Borden for 30 days.  I went down and took his place on the farm.  The Empringhams were wonderful people.  Jack was not impressed with the Army to say the least.

I don’t know how things developed but I think they sold the farm.  Jack got a job in a boat yard in Brooklin or Pickering.  I think he saw the writing on the wall and knew the Air Force wouldn’t be worse than the Army.  He took his basic training in Toronto then was shipped off to Scoudouc, NB.  He was later sent to Gander, Nfld.  May & Jack married in Aug/45 (I think).  He said it was the hottest day of year, and him with a heavy Air Force uniform.

He had no relatives at his wedding as Bill & Mike were still overseas and I was still in Halifax.  The war in Japan was still on.  It was a confusing time because no one knew where they were going. 

It’s so hard to imagine that adult life for this generation started often around 13-14 years of age. No wonder by the time they were 18 they seemed wise beyond their age.  One thing that struck me as interesting is that there was no mention of my great grandfather James being at Jack and May’s wedding.  This seems odd to me.  As for Grandma Elizabeth, she had sadly passed away suddenly in May 1941.

What I love most about this note is just how frank it is… the comments about Jack’s dislike of the Army, a view which my Uncle Jimmy seems to share!, are very intriguing to me. And it of course makes Gpa Mike’s choice of the Army interesting… I am thinking that he selected the army because the thought of spending all that time on a boat or flying a plane seemed crazy to him – ha!

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