There have been several occasions when a member of the younger generation has asked me about life in the Canadian Armed Forces in WW2 and why I enlisted. “I sure wouldn’t if there was another war.” they say. I find it hard to answer, and usually joke about it being the best war going on at that time and it seemed a shame to miss it. Thinking it over, there were a couple of reasons for it – neither of which could be construed as an overpowering surge of patriotism or anything like that, I’m afraid.
Firstly, there was the obvious problem we were to have with this fellow Adolf Hitler and his Nazi chaps – the way they were treating Poland and Czechoslovakia and the way they were treating their own people who were of Jewish descent. From what I could learn from the media, the situation was very serious and help was greatly needed. This feeling, of course, was helped along by the recruiting ads – the military music – the parades. (I love a good parade – I did then and still do now.)
Secondly, it was the latter part of the Depression Days of the so called “dirty thirties”. I was fortunate to have a job but it wasn’t very exciting. I was an office boy in an Insurance Company in downtown Toronto. I had to be at the Post Office shortly after eight o’clock – pick up a bag of mail – take it to the office – open and sort it and have it on the proper desks before the staff arrived at nine o’clock. Then I spent the rest of the day filing (numerically) copies of policies that the underwriters had used the day before. The filing cabinets were located in a couple of big vaults – no windows – no fresh air – just dusty files. About 4:15, the files were put away and the mail was started – piles of it – to be stuffed into envelopes and stamped. This was usually finished about 5:15. Then the mail was placed in a bag and I lugged it to the Adelaide Street Post Office. This was my daily routine from Monday to Friday – Saturday was the same except the office closed at 1:00 and I usually got away by 2:30 to 3:00.
I recall telling the Manager, Mr. Ballard, that I was joining up and he gave me quite a talk. He said I was doing a very important job at the company and it was a necessary one for the war effort, etc. I had trouble keeping a straight face. Then he promised to keep a job for me for after the war – which really wasn’t a big deal – the law required it. I didn’t say anything about it – just bid everyone a fond farewell and proceeded to the Recruiting Office — where I learned that the plans you make do not necessarily work out exactly as you expect.