Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bio #35 - On Her Way to England 1944

The train left Medicine Hat on October 9th, 1944, and I headed for England and Ron. I didn't realize just how tired I was until we, fifty war brides, got to Winnipeg, nor did I really realize the dimension of what lay ahead, until then. I was sorry for Dad, and happy for Ron and me, life seemed so mixed up.
Medicine Hat Railway station as Letty would have known it
At Thunder Bay, Ron's auntie met the train and we visited for twenty minutes, until I had to board again. She loaded me up with fruit and candy, and a lovely card from all her four children. Her husband was away at the war too, and auntie had her hands full.

From there, the ride around the Great Lakes to Montreal was very interesting, and I thought we were to board our ship there. But no such luck. There are one or two things in Montreal that should interest you. First we were all taken to a bank, to have our money changed into British pounds, shillings, and pence, which took about two hours for fifty of us. I wore a money belt under my clothes, so I soon located a washroom, where I safely stored what I had. Just before I left home, Dad had given me a cheque to help us in our new home. We all assembled in a room at the bank, and the man helping us gave us a talk on British currency. He was rather nice, and when buses arrived to take us to "Stanley House," he wished us a happy life in Britain. "Stanley House" was a large old stately home that had been turned into a reception center for war brides to live in until they were sent to join certain ships from Halifax, or New York, USA, to go across the Atlantic Ocean.

Normal stay at Stanley House was two days; we were stuck there for four and a half days. This was no hardship for me, but Ron was worried, as it threw our supposed plans haywire. He and I made a plan so he would know when I left Canada, via Halifax or New York. We had family friends living in New York by the name of Bates. The cable I finally sent said "Not visiting Mrs. Bates." That way, he knew I was leaving from Halifax. (due to censorship she could not cable the departure date or location of the convoy lest the enemy find out.) I also had a school friend who was married and lived in Montreal, so I paid her two visits. She was so glad to see me, and she had a nice husband and two lovely tiny children.
War Brides in Halifax, 1940s
In Stanley House there was a housekeeper, two cooks, and a nurse. The doors were locked at 11 pm. There were six sets of bunk beds to each bedroom. Those without children slept on the top ed while those with little ones had lower bunks and a crib beside it for baby. Some mothers had two or three, and those without were asked to help the others, so I always had some little boy or girl to share. We went on walks to a playground nearby. Some of the less motherly took advantage, and got heck for it when they came in after 11 pm. There was one little boy who thought I was his Mom, Wally Hinson, he was cute, but his Mom was a drinker. I often wonder where all those people went.

Letty told me that some of the women went on wild shopping sprees, spending their husbands' pay cheques with abandon, prior to the voyage.

Research about Stanley House reveals it was owned by Lord Stanley, of Stanley Cup fame. It is currently an art and meeting center.