Category Archives: Just Stories

Before The War…

In early 1940, I was working in a shoe store in Windsor. I was feeling there must be more to life than this, when I ran across and ad in the Windsor Star  asking for a person to go to Manitoba to train American field dogs from horseback. I knew nothing about training dogs, but applied anyway. I got the job and was soon on a bus traveling to Elkhorn, a small town close to the Saskatchewan border. He paid me $15.00/week plus room and board. I stayed there all summer.
In the fall, we packed everything up in a 33 Ford Panel truck, hauling a trailer with 48 dogs. The dogs were in cages-two to a cage. We were going to California for more training for the dogs. I remember I had no ID with me at all and don't even remember going through any customs at the border.
We drove through Minneapolis/ St. Paul and then clear across the states with virtually no brakes on the truck.
I will always remember driving through Nebraska and seeing 5 people hanging dead in a large tree near the road. Needless to say, we did not stop.
When we stopped to feed the dogs, we put out a long chain and attached them every two feet, so they could eat and relieve themselves. We did not want to lose any of them.
I remember going over the Rockies (21,000 ft I think) and all the time thinking about the lack of brakes on the truck.
We ended up in Sacramento where we stayed at a beautiful home with a grand piano. The man's wife let me play it occasionally.
While I was there, I read in the paper how all the Canadians were joining the army and I thought I should too. I was walking through town and a gypsy woman told me not to go. She even ripped up the $5.00 I had given her to tell my future.But I was not swayed. I got on a bus for Vancouver, which cost $37.00  and left me $3.00 in my wallet. I remember standing in front of the hotel for about an hour ,trying to decide,  before I finally went in to enlist.
When the army found out that I had taken a course in diesel engineering, they put me into the search light battery division. I had to do quite  a lot of schooling and had to pass 22 exams. We were sent to York Island, a small island off the coast of B.C. My friend and I designed a slide rule that enabled us to spot Japanese boats. We had searchlights that were 5 ft across with 500,000 candle power.Shortly after that, we were sent to Petawawa to be trained as sound rangers. We traveled back and forth between Montreal, Ottawa and Petawawa to get our training, which  enabled us  to locate enemy guns, almost like surveyors.
In November 1941, we left for oversees with fifteen thousand other soldiers on a huge boat. We landed in Scotland and trained there for quite a period of time. Then we were told to get on a ship, with no idea of where we were going. We ended up going through the Straits of Gibralter and landed in Northern Africa. We then traveled up through Sicily and into southern Italy where we fought the Germans for about 7 months. When we left, the only room left standing in the whole village was the one where we lived and fortified.We then pushed on through Rome, eventually through Paris, Brussels and ended up in Appledorn, Netherlands at the conclusion  of the war.
I will never forget the day of driving through the streets of Amsterdam with all the Dutch people celebrating and yelling "YA, YA"
I then went to London, England where I met my cousin Francis, who had been entertaining the troops by singing during the war. He told me to go to London, Ontario to meet this nice girl...... and the rest is history.

Related Blogs