Born May 23, 1931
My story begins in 1941, when I was 10. I, along with my two baby sisters, lived in a large, two-story house in Fonthill. My mother was a stay-at-home mom as most mothers were at that time. My father worked in a factory in Welland. We had a big yard, flower and vegetable gardens, and a few chickens. There was also a dog and a cat.
In 1941 the Second World War raged in Europe, and everyone’s life was affected in some way. Some things were rationed and there were coupons and tokens to be exchanged for goods. Every month, a family received from the government the appropriate number of coupons and tokens as figured out per household. Things rationed were tea/coffee, meat, butter and gas, to name a few. Some items like bananas we never saw during the war years, which ran from 1939 to 1945.
When I was 10, meals were simple. For breakfast I might have some porridge or Cream of Wheat during cold weather months; corn flakes or Shredded Wheat in warmer months. I might have some toast with butter and jam, possibly some juice and milk. There was no processed food to speak of in those days. Fruits and vegetables were provided by the garden. Our mother made jam and canned fruit. A root cellar kept fruit and vegetables fresh and crisp for a long time.
Some mothers baked bread, though mine did not. Daily, the milkman would come early in the morning to deliver milk in pint or quart glass bottles. The empty bottles would be put out for the next delivery. Later, the baker would come with his basket of bread, rolls and cake. We loved to see the baker! As we did not have a refrigerator but an icebox, the ice man would come delivering 25 lb. or 50 lb. or 75 lb blocks of ice. This ice would be placed in the upper compartment of the ice box. Ice boxes were usually a wooden-style cabinet. They kept things cold as long as the ice lasted. The ice would eventually melt into a big tray in the bottom section of the ice box. Ice men were usually strong macho types.
Besides not having refrigeration, we also did not have hot running water. We did have a sink with a pump, which brought cold water up from a well. Water would have to be heated in various containers on the stove. The stove was either a wood or coal stove upon which our mother cooked all meals and warmed water for baths, etc. Large boilers of water were also heated upon the stove for the washing of clothes. The washing machine was a wooden tub affair on four legs with a wringer attached. Clothes were soaked and stirred with a stick. Sunlight soap was cut in thin strips to provide cleaning action. Clothes were then line dried or arranged on a “clothes horse” around the stove for drying. Summer and winter the wood/coal stove was always in operation.
As we did not have central heating, the wood/coal stove provided heat. There was usually a small pot-bellied stove in the living room. Bedrooms were unheated—brr!
With no indoor plumbing, one had to make trips to the “outhouse” at the back of the yard. Back houses were cold, drafty places in the winter time and hot smelly places in the summer. Old Eaton’s catalogues were used for toilet paper! Scratchy! Some back houses were more elaborate than others. When one could not get to the back house, a chamber pot was kept under the bed for use. Some of them were made of good china and decorated. There were different sizes as well.
So, there we were in 1941—no central heating, no running water, no indoor plumbing, but we did have electricity!
In 1941, when I was 10, I was in Grade 5 at Fonthill Public School. It was a split class along with Grade 6. Miss Marjorie Stirtzinger was my teacher. She was a great teacher! There was no gym or library at the school. In good weather we had games and exercises outside. There was a collection of library books at the back of the room. I read all of them several times! I also went to the Fonthill Public Library as I loved to read.
At recess we might have played ball, skipped rope, played marbles or used the swings or teeter-totters.
Most of us walked to and from school and went home for lunch. There were no buses then.
School was formal. We stood to give our answers in a complete sentence. We recited our times tables (no calculators in those days). We wrote with a straight pen (no ball points). Each desk had its own ink well, which the teacher kept filled for us. What an honour it was to help the teacher fill the ink wells! We usually sat in desks in a straight row—boy, girl, one behind the other. In 1941 when I was 10, you didn’t want to talk to any boy and vice versa! As well we were required to learn 299 lines of memory work plus read a given number of books, both fiction and non-fiction.
After school, I would likely play with my little sisters, read a book, play with my paper dolls or perhaps roller skate on the sidewalk. Roller skates were quite different to the in- line skates of today. They had four wheels and attached to your shoes by four clamps—two in the back and two in the front. There was a key to tighten the clamps on your shoe. We wore the key around our necks.
There was also the radio for entertainment. They had soap operas in those days. There were comedy shows such as Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Amos and Andy. There was the scary show, The Shadow, and adventure shows like the Green Hornet, Jack Armstrong, and Buck Rogers. On Saturday nights we all listened to Hockey Night in Canada with Foster Hewitt calling the shots. Back then there were only six NHL teams to cheer for: the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadians, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. We could also listen to the baseball games on the radio. I would be 19 years old before I would see a hockey or baseball game on TV.
In 1941, when I was 10, I had my first train ride— going to Ottawa to see my aunt and uncle in the company of my grandmother. It was a long way to go and I spent a month there. From the age of 10 I have many fond memories of our nation’s capital. Ottawa continues to be one of my favourite cities. The rest of the summer would be lazily spent at home. Sometimes I would go with my mother on the trolley to a show in Welland. Other than that my summers were quiet affairs with my dolls, books and roller skating.
Winter did not appeal to me at all. I did have ice skates, a sleigh, a toboggan and skis, but preferred to stay indoors. To this day I dislike winter! Of course there was no arena, so kids would skate on ponds or some fathers would make a back yard rink.
Thus was my life back in 1941 when I was 10. I dare say some of you young people reading this account would find my childhood deprived and terrible. Not so! My memories of 1941, when I was 10, are for the most part pleasant. May your memories be the same. ♦