November reflections: “They do not answer”

 In Opinion

When November comes it is time to reflect on World War I and World War II and what our lives were like when our country was at war. I was only three when the Second World War was declared in September of 1939 and didn’t understand what was going on. But in the five and a half years that followed I understood the seriousness of the war. I knew that we must all do our part to “win the war.”

Many efforts to do our part were voluntary. Some were not. Rationing meant that each one of us had a booklet containing coupons. This limited the amount of rationed goods each one of us could have. Gas rationing began on April 1, 1942. Each coupon had the licence plate number of the owner’s car and no one else could buy gas for that car. The rationing of meat began on May 27, 1943. Meat could not be sold without the buyer turning in a coupon. As you can imagine there were ways to circumvent this regulation in the farming community. There was no saving up for a celebration. Each month’s coupon became invalid at the end of the month. Other commodities rationed were coffee, tea, sugar and butter.

Volunteer efforts were many and as plentiful as the imagination could supply. Knitting was something most people could do. Yarn in military colours was available. Socks were most frequently knit but also gloves, sweaters and caps. These were turned over to the Red Cross but also packed in care packages and sent to individuals.

School children were sent out collecting milkweed pods. The fuzz was used for flotation devices. In Creemore, the children were thanked by being shown a movie in the Town Hall one afternoon. It was my first movie.

The Women’s Institutes and church groups packed boxes for each local enlisted man, and also for the women who had signed up. Included were knit goods, cigarettes and candy, and encouraging messages. St. Luke’s in Creemore sent clothing parcels to bombed out communities in England.

The Women’s Institute had regular dances in Creemore’s Town hall to entertain the soldiers from Camp Borden, as Base Borden was called then. The men were brought in by bus. Young women and older married women came to dance with the soldiers. Orchestras were usually volunteered. A light lunch was also served.

Music played a crucial role in boosting morale during World War II. It got people on the dance floor and rallied spirits through many dark days and nights. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, White Cliffs of Dover, We’ll Meet Again sung by Vera Lynn, and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree were some of the most popular songs.

Dark days often came with the arrival of The Creemore Star each week. The names of the local men who had lost their lives were written on the front page. The names of these men are engraved on Creemore’s cenotaph. These names, the Last Roll Call, are read at the Legion’s Nov. 11 service: Jack Allen, John Baker, Harry Brown, Earl Cherry, William Dunstan, Thomas Eggleton, Frederick Hamilton, Gerald Machesney, Gordon Middlebrook, Stanley Moon, Donald Morby, Robert Mumberson, Ernest Steele, Donald Thurston, Kenneth Weatherup, Fraser Weatherup, Charles Weatherall, James Dodd.

“They do not answer, Sir.”

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to the Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

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