You might recall the posts I wrote about a set of letters donated to the Museum; these were written to Pte Ernest Ivany toward the end of WWII. I talked about the importance of letter writing as a window into our history. It’s important, not only to write, but also to hold on to those letters that might have some historical significance. What I didn’t share with you is that this set of letters wasn’t donated by Pte Ernest Ivany, but by someone who saw them at an antique table and knew that they needed to be in a Museum setting. By donating them to our Museum, this person gave us all a gift, a gift of another way of looking at that time in history. By reading these particular letters, we learned of life here on the coast, as experienced by his family and friends as well as something about his brother, Frank, as he served overseas.
When I finished reading and recording information from the letters, I wondered if I had correctly understood the family and friend relationships. I wondered if Ernest actually returned to the farm as his family requested. And I wondered if Ernest was still alive. I knew the family farmed in the Creston area and so I checked to see if any members of the Ivany family still lived there. And? I found an Ernest Ivany! I decided to write a letter, explaining the work I’d been doing and asking if he was the Ernest Ivany of the letters. Imagine my excitement when I heard back from him, telling me I’d found him! He’s in his 90s; I’ve received two letters from him now and have been able to learn more.
Ernest confirmed that the family members I had tried to sort out were indeed correct: Frances (sister), Sid (Frances’ husband), Frank (older brother), John (brother), and Mary (sister). He told me that his friend, Dot, was a girl friend of his brother Frank. And yes, she would call him ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Screw Balls’. Freda, Harry, Vera and Bob were other friends.
Ernie explained that his brother Frank (enlisted 1939 and served till 1946) was in the Search-Light Division on the BC coast for 5 years, and then went to Holland and France, driving an ambulance. After the war, he went logging, then fishing off the BC coast. From there, on to Salem, Oregon where he worked as a general labourer. Next was time in Los Angeles as a tool and die maker for several years. Frank returned home to Creston from there and farmed until his retirement.
As for Ernie, he enlisted in the fall of 1944. He trained at Wetaskawin, Alberta (Basic Training). Then he transferred into the Airborne Division in Shiloh, Manitoba. He was home on embarkation in the spring of 1945 and said it was VE Day; at that time he was asked to stay home for farming in Lister, BC. He never returned to the military.
Our Museum exists because people honour the past. Donations are made, our past is investigated and shared. I am so thankful for the kindness of the person who purchased and donated Pte. Ernest Ivany’s letters to our Museum; he knew that they needed to be in the right place. I am so thankful for the opportunity to not only read the letters, but also for the opportunity to “meet” Ernie, to correspond with him, to get to know him better!