In my last post, I shared with you the importance of letters as windows on our history. I also shared some of the contents of letters written during the latter part of WWII to Pte Ernest (Ernie) Ivany. The letters, written by his friends and family members, give us a picture of life at that time. In this post, I’ll share the next grouping of letters.
The first set were written in February, 1945. Ernie was stationed in Camp Shilo , Manitoba at that time. Toward the beginning of the month, Ernie received a letter from Dot, who lived on a farm in White Rock, wanting to know what it was like in Alberta. He also received a Valentine card from Freda, who also wished him a “Happy Birthday for the 6th!”
However, the letter from his sister Frances, who lived in Vancouver, had some interesting weather information, along with a special request. “It rained so bloomin’ hard here for two days, that the low lands by New West was flooded with 18 inches of water. Even at the house here the basement was under water… Sid and I are planning to get married in June sometime. Don’t tell anyone else you write to cause I don’t want gossip to fly around yet. So, what do you think of it, Ernie? Do you think folks will like Sid enough, so that we can marry? Tell me your side of it, if you have any objections. His folks think it’s swell. So I am just waiting to see what folks are going to say as I wrote to them & told them my news.” In a later letter, she wrote, “So you are just about ready for advanced training, eh?”
Ernie’s brother, John, refers to him as “Butter-cup” in his letter. He updates Ernie on the family and includes news about his dad, “We are all fine, except for dad his back is still sore. One day mom put some salve on it & she happened to put too much on. Now his back is burn’t & hard as a board.”
Quitting school during that time wasn’t unusual, and Ernie’s pal Harry, from Camp Lister, shares his thoughts, “… haven’t been to school for a hell of a long time (2 weeks). I’m not going anymore either because I’m going to quit. I was getting so damn tired of school that it wasn’t even funny.”
In her letter, Ernie’s friend, Vera, shared addresses and names, and then expressed concern about the war, “…Ivan has run into one cousin in Holland already. I sure hope this old war is over soon and all the boys back safe and sound.” And John, who refers to his brother, Ernie, as ‘Screw-Balls’, shows his concern. “Well there is very little we can do, that you have joined the paratroops. Take care of yourself and if possible join into something else in about 2 months, so that you can stay in Canada a little longer.”
As April approached, letters from family and friends focused on rather general chit-chat. The first was from Dot (Dorothy), who calls Ernie ‘Peanuts’. “…glad to hear that you are over the mumps … you ask me what I think of the latest songs. I’m afraid I can’t say for I’ve only heard parts of them – about a couple of times. The one ‘My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time’ sounds alright. Especially the tune.” His friend Bernice shared that she had seen a ” … good movie this weekend. It was ‘Frenchman’s Creek’.”
And a letter from a brother, fills him in on the work at home, “… am working hard. the manure is still all around the barn, haven’t hauled a load out onto the field yet. So you’ll have something to build up your muscles upon or are you too high hatted to do such things? It’s going to be a late spring. Haven’t even ploughed the garden yet or worked on the Alfalfa… Haven’t heard from Frank (their brother who was serving overseas) for about 2 months & hope he’s still alive.”
The letters written in May indicated considerations about recruiting as well as “getting out”. The first was from Ernie’s friend, Bob, who was stationed in Petawawa. He writes, “Dearest Beloved Earny” … “Yes we still are fooling around doing nothing the same as ever. It sure is getting tiresome. For one thing I got a letter from my boss today saying that he has wrote in to get me out on loggers leave. He has offered me $6.00 per 8 hr. And board and lodgings also suitable clothing for my job. So that is pretty good I figure. Now if I can only get out of this Army somehow. We are filling out some forms this weekend. One is whether you want to go to the Pacific the other is if you want to stay in the permanent army. And last of all if you want to get out.” The second was from Bernice, who lived in Creston. She wrote that recruiting was happening there but that she had decided to stay with the bank.
In the next post, I’ll share the final sets of letters in which friends and family focused on the local scene as well as the War.