War’s outbreak saw mother left to raise six in a one-room house

From our November 2016 issue

By Angele Dalby – Penticton, B.C.

When the Second World War began, the young men and women who were conscripted or volunteered went off to war. After a short training session they were shipped overseas to fight for their country.

Due to lack of work and need of money to raise a family of six children, aged six months to 10 years, my dad volunteered along with others.

Mother was left in a one-room house six miles from the nearest town, with absolutely no mode of transportation; neither vehicle nor horse. I can’t help but wonder how dad could even think of leaving a wife and family.

His brother lived about a half-mile away, but that also laid a burden on him. Mother had a clear-enough head to know she couldn’t stay there. Once the army cheques started coming she arranged with a Catholic priest, Father Desjardin, who was building houses for the war widows, to build her a house in the town of McCreary, Man.

Only two of us were going to school via horse-drawn school van and she knew the others would also need to be closer to school, stores, and other needs of a growing family. Our home was meager but was situated in mid-downtown.

Hauled wood for cook stove

Mother wasn’t raised Catholic, but she faithfully saw to her children attending church. Of course it was easy to attend church as we lived right across from the church.

Our home didn’t have all the luxuries of today, like oil or electric furnaces. This meant arranging for wood to be hauled for the cook stove, then getting it split. Coal was ordered for the heater in the living room for the winter months.

Mom would wrap parcels for overseas with things she felt dad would enjoy. Our big family gave us more ration coupons for sugar, butter, etc., but with that many mouths to feed, it was a trial making ends meet.

Mom always encouraged us to help in the war effort. We gathered scrap iron and anything that was being asked of us to turn in. She planted a big garden, canned fruit and vegetables, baked bread and other goodies when rations would allow, and sewed things by hand.

She even took a home nursing course through a women’s group, winning top of her class and believe me, she was nurse to every disease that made the rounds: measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, colds, mumps, tonsillitis – you name it, we got it!

Her second youngest son developed nephritis, a kidney disorder. This meant many trips to a hospital in Winnipeg over the years.

She was a child herself

I was only 10 when dad left, but I was my mom’s babysitter, errand person, and close friend. Mom was only 17 years older than me. She was a child herself when I came along. There were many more trials and tribulations to her life that I only guess at, being so young.

She bought me an etiquette book that I still have, so I could know proper social behavior. Mom entertained us with her ability to recite stories in prose form which were fascinating.

We would massage her tired feet or comb her hair as she rested if she would tell these exciting tales from Robert W. Service’s poems in Ballads of Cheechako and The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.

I have good reason to be proud of my mother.

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