On May first, l937 we moved to another house at 227 Belanger street. This house was on the first floor and had six rooms. The owner, who lived upstairs on the second floor was Mr. Sam Berger. He was a fruit merchant. He would buy fruit from the large wholesalers, fill his big truck and called on a run of twenty or thirty retail stores and sell his merchandise. With him there was his wife, his daughter about 18 years of age and a son, Joseph, about twelve years of age. He did not drive his own truck but usually hired a driver, always a French-Canadian. They were a Jewish family and followed the Hebrew religion conscientiously.
The size of this house suited us very well and was the most we could afford. There was a large kitchen at the rear on left side with the master bedroom next to it on the right side and between them there was a bath room and toilet. There were two other rooms on the right side one of which served has the bedroom for the girls and the front one was a living room with the radio and sofa set. On left side there were two other rooms. The one further back was good sized and had a bed for Litio and smaller cot for me. Between the beds there was a walk space reaching to a door leading to the earthen basement which was reached by a stairway of six steps. Above this stairway was the long stairway with front door to the second floor. The other room on left side at the front was narrow and was used as a study and office. I used this room extensively to do my homework and to study or read books, magazines or papers. I had a desk, the same desk I am presently working on, a bookcase and four chairs.
At the previous house I had already started collecting stamps. We had letters from Italy and mother corresponded with an uncle in Brazil and some other relatives in Rhode Island. Litio would bring me envelopes with the stamps still on from the shoe factory office. The stamps attracted my attention because of the different scenes or faces they illustrated that had no meaning to me until I looked up the information somewhere. It was sometime before I learned that these were to be put in albums and properly separated by the country of origin. In the same manner I would collect coins, just because they were different. These hobbies continued throughout my life and still today there are a lot of loose stamps in boxes in addition to those in stamp albums.
My parents and the rest of the family were aware that I collect these things and if they ever found anything different from the ordinary they would show it to me before disposing of it. This is the way I got two or three twenty-five cent paper notes (referred to as shin plasters). Mother went to buy some pastry and she paid with paper money and change was given to her in coins and something on paper, thinking that she had been given a dollar. When she came home she said that she had been given back her change with a dollar in it that must have been too much. So I took the piece of paper, it was the first time I had seen this and told her that the bill said twenty-five cents and not one dollar. She said she thought it was a dollar and had received too much and did not know what to do, to return it or keep it. She did not have to decide and I kept it in my collection, she actually lost it, but it is still here.
We were now located closer to the church and we continued with our choir practice and singing at masses. There were two choirs, one for the adults, tenors baritones and basses to which Litio belonged, and one for the adolescents, sopranos, to which I belonged. I now found myself very busy with the school work, These are the years that I actually did a lot of studying and much reading. The English literature classes included a mandatory reading of one book per month followed by a short synopsis of the book and five questions and answers. At sometime later the teacher would take our summaries and ask some of the questions. We had a choice on the books to read, either taken from the school library or other choices.
Because of the events in Europe and the rise of Hitler and his Nazi party work started to pick up. Dad resumed his regular work, Litio was still at the shoe factory and Anna continued working in men`s clothing. As a result of this, I was allowed to go to High School, the first one to do so in the family. Demetria and Elsie were also in school at the Italian parish. This school was privileged. While still belonging to the Commission Scolaire Catholique de Montreal, that is the French school commission, the teaching was fully bilingual. It was the only such school at that time. Half a day was all English subjects, language, mathematics, geography, and the other half day was in French, language, history, religion, composition, and grammar.
One of the first things done was to install an antennae for the short wave radio to listen to what was being said in Italy on the turmoil now starting to take place. The antennae consisted of two ten-foot poles placed on top of the roof with a bare wire spanning between the poles and a wire from the antennae going down at the back of the house, through the undug basement to the front room, up through the floor and connected to the radio. On the wire there was a lightning arrestor and a groundwire attached to a steel rod that was driven into the ground. Salvino`s father Mr. Antonio Albanese procured all the parts and helped dad and me to put it up, after having obtained permission from the owner of the house Mr. Berger. The radio reception from Europe was better at night but also erratic depending on the weather. The thing that dad used to say was that he did not know who to believe. The local news and the foreign news were not always the same and at times actually opposite on the same event, especially after the war started.
My progress at school was good. I took two years of what they called then classical course and included Latin, physics, chemistry, mathematics, religion, etc.. When I reached the third grade I knew I would not be able to afford to go to university so I switched over the commercial course. Here we took up typing, bookkeeping, economic history, short-hand and other subjects to be able to work in and office. The course was two years and when I graduated in l940, I graduated from the commercial side hoping to be able to work in the day and be able to take other courses in the evening. The war had started in l939 and brought about other changes as to what I was to do next as a career in my future life awaiting me.
Before getting into the beginning of the war in September of l939 I can say that we lived in this house (since 1937) we all enjoyed good health. mom and dad were now 49 and 51 years old, still relatively young and none with serious illness and were able to enjoy normal life and live comfortably with improved income compared to the previous recent years.
On Monday nights we would usually listen to a radio program called "Lux Presents Hollywood" By Cecil B. DeMille. What the program would do was actually enact movies recently released. What they did was to read the lines of the story into microphones, by some of the better known actors of the day. Sound, as needed was added be it city noise, war action, trucks, music, gun shots, hearing the noises to our imagination it looked as real as your mind would allow. You could visualize battles during the American civil war, or Napoleon assaulting Moscow, or a tender love scene with Juliet on the balcony and Romeo at the bottom of the castle in Verona whispering sweet nothings to his beloved. There was magic in radio. We no longer use it because of the advent of the idiot box. The radio programs were really enjoyable. One could sit around and listen as best as he could understand because our parents could not follow the language either French or English but still could perceive what was going on by the talk amongst ourselves. Just sitting around together produced a good healthy and serene atmosphere for every one. Because you did not have to look at anything, everyone was also doing something else. Mother would always be repairing something, pants, socks, shirts and other clothes. Anna was always embroidering something for her trousseau, for her coming marriage. Generally I would be studying or reading something at the same time. It was a very cohesive attitude were everyone contributed something to fill a pleasant evening often resulting in discussion amongst ourselves or just relating some event of that day.
One constant visitor either on Saturday or Sunday night was one of dad's friends. His name was Mr. Salvatore Machera. He was older than dad, had no family and lived all by himself in the basement of small Protestant church on Alma street just above St Zotique street. Of course he was Protestant and always discussing things from the bible which he must have read with difficulty in view of his very thick eyeglasses. To me his reasoning was very good and his bible subjects could also be well discussed by mom and dad because they read the bible constantly and the discussions were well supported from both sides. Certain things in the Catholic church were not acceptable to him and I would find that most times the reason was the interpretation of what was written. I would always be present when he was home as I found the discussions interesting and would sometimes join in. At that time I was in high-school and we were studying religion, religious history, apologetics, and I was well versed on the catholic religion and the subjects he would talk about. I think I was diplomatic enough not to try to prove him wrong but suggest to look at that item in another way as done by Catholics, Jews, and other religions. When the evening was over and he would get up to leave he would always say to me "You know too much for your age." He was really a good kind man and being entirely on his own at that age made me feel sad to see him in those circumstances. He had no relatives but had a small group of families that he would visit to get a good meal without creating and imposition. These people would also give him a little money for he had no source of income. At one time I had friends in the living room with me, namely Carmine D`Ambrosio, Jos Masi, and Jos Lucciola. When Mr. Machera walked in we exchanged greetings and Jos Lucciola recognized him and started speaking to him in Italian "Signor Machera come si va..." and they went into the kitchen and kept on talking. Then Jos said "You know he comes to our house to get a meal" and I replied that he had no one to go to and we always welcomed him whenever he came because he had nobody else to depend on. Jos said to all of us "Before he goes let`s put a little money together and give it to him when he leaves." We put together maybe four or five dollars which I put in envelope and when he left I gave it to him saying it was on behalf of me and my friends. He looked at me and said "Thank you and your friends very much" and has he was walking out the door he had tears in his eyes and took out an handkerchief to wipe them. At some later date he was no longer able to look after himself living in the church basement and his health also started to fail and he had to be placed in a retirement home and he had to dispose of whatever little things he had. One day he came home with what he considered most precious in his life. It was a metal tool box with some tools in it, especially stuff to repair shoes as he would repair his own, and also a few pliers, screwdrivers, shoemaker`s ,hammer, a awl and needle and some loose screws. He gave the box to mom and dad and said that this was for Aurelio and that '...he was the only one he knew that was worthy to receive it." I can`t recall whether I saw him again personally to thank him but I would send him greeting cards at Easter and Christmas with a small donation. He still made a few visits to our house but at some point all contact stopped. Presumably he died and I don't know whether we were told officially that he had returned to his God of whom he always spoke off in discussing the bible. His visits lasted until we moved to our own house on Drolet street. That would bring the date to 1945 or later.
While still residing on Belanger street, Zio Antonio and Zia Agnesa had rented and lived in one room across the street directly in front of our home in the house of Mr. Cerullo. Zio was not yet working full time and could not afford an apartment of his own. It was very common at that time to rent only one room in the house of a relative or someone you knew. At this point they had to relocate because the owner needed the additional room for his family. One day he told us that he had found another room in a house on Papineau or Marquette street, eastward of where we lived and he asked me if I would help him the coming Saturday to load and unload the furniture. I agreed and on Saturday went across and waited until the truck arrived, at least so I thought. In stead a horse drawn wagon arrived and this was the means of transportation for the movement. I was so surprised because you hardly saw any horses any more. I did not comment, but probably the wagon was cheaper than a truck. We loaded all the furniture, there was not too much stuff in one room, and we put the mattress over the top and tied everything down with ropes and started our journey. Uncle sat next to the driver (?) and I stood in the rear on a long step. Our travel was slow, and I felt insecure amongst the automobiles passing on the right or left of the wagon. The whole trip was about one half hour but about fifteen minutes after we started our journey, rain started coming down, not heavily but enough to soak the three of us and the mattress. When we arrived at destination, mom and dad had preceded us and helped in unloading the furniture and prepare the bed quickly because Zia Agnesa was sick and had to get to bed. The bed was made at best they could without using the wet mattress which needed a good drying out before it could be used. Zio Antonio never spoke a word from the time I met him in the morning until I left sometime in the afternoon. Uncle was a person that would swear heavily at the least provocation, and I wondered what was going on in his head, but he never said a word. Probably that day he earned his place in paradise.
Now we return to the family members. As was the custom at time Salvino would visit Anna on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sunday nights. During the week they would stay home mostly, or go for a walk or visit some friends or relatives of the same age group. At home I would often join them and talk about his work at Lawson Lithographing and Folding Box Co. It fascinated me because he would describe these huge machines extending a city block where you put in cardboard at one end and going through the machine the cardboard was printed with different colors, cut, folded, glued and spit-out at the other end in quantities of hundreds per minute. When one type of box was finished the machine had to be cleaned, oiled and recalibrated for the next type of box. He loved his work and we will come back to that later.
On Saturday nights they would go to the movies. The Rivoli and the Chateau were very close by at the corner of St Denis and Belanger. After the movies they would come home for a coffee and a snack which mother prepared. This particular Saturday night they wanted hot chocolate and mom prepared it. I said I would have some to and mother and dad also joined in. Salvino had bought a brand new suit and it was the first time he wore it and he looked very handsome. Mother had put all the cups on the table and some food and sweets. While we were preparing to drink, there was a house fly flying around. I was sitting at the corner of the table and Salvino was sitting at the same corner on my left. This fly was so bothersome and I lifted my right hand and swung toward the left to catch it. Instead whether with my finger or my sleeve I caught the top of my cup of hot cocoa and spilled it all over his brand new suit. This is the event that embarrassed me the most in life up to that time. I apologized all I could and Salvino was very diplomatic and said that the stains would disappear after regular cleaning. I am sure he must have felt highly disappointed but tried not to show it. As for me if I had found a rat hole to crawl into I would have disappeared forever, at least for the rest of the evening. He had the suit cleaned and the next time I saw him we checked the suit and no stain was visible and I was somewhat relieved.
June 10. 1939, was great day at our house because Salvino and Anna got married. On the evening preceding the wedding Salvino brought to his bride to be a Serenade. An Italian custom at the time and also practiced by many other peoples. In the early evening just before it got dark Salvino arrived at the door with three musicians. An accordionist, and two guitarists, and started playing love songs. This aroused the curiosity of all the neighbors who came around to see what was going on. After playing a few songs Anna went to the door and let them in. They came in played a few more songs, had one drink and then departed leaving everybody very satisfied. The wedding took place at our parish church, Notre Dame de la Defense, and the reception took place at the Peter Hall situated at St Denis just north of Belanger street. They had rented and furnished an apartment on Drolet street where they lived for many years.
Litio was very sociable, he could talk with anyone regardless of age or gender and feel completely at ease. (Something that was very difficult for me at that time. I was very shy.) He was very active with the church choir and others of his own age male or female. Dad was always telling him to get home by a certain time especially on Saturday nights. Dad would actually come in the room to see if he was in. One evening unintentionally I had left a doll with hair on his pillow, and when dad came around and just extend his hand he felt the hair and assumed he was already in bed. Sometime later he heard the door open so he got up to see what was going on and Litio was just coming in. Surprise, they went to the bed and saw the doll on the pillow. Litio said this is a good idea, we will have to do it again. Dad did no think it was funny and told him so. Litio had a good way of talking to anyone and you could not just get sore at him.
Demetria and Elsie were in school. The school was within walking distance of our house and at that time we were all in good health and life was enjoyable.
Come September 1939 and the war in Europe started. France and England declared war on Germany because it had invaded Poland and refused to withdraw. Canada declared war on Germany on September 10 and we all wondered what would happen next. Mom and dad were terribly troubled as they still remembered the 1914 war and could also visualize that their two boys would have to participate. I will not go into detail about the war but only relate what affected our family. I must bring out that all of Canada was not unanimous about what role our country should play in the war. As usual and as much as still exists, Quebec was not willing to send its boys to Europe to fight someone else's problems. Quebecquers and the Catholic church still idolized Mussolini who had finally reached and agreement with the Vatican to separate part of Rome, called Vatican City, and put it entirely under the Authority of the Pope and no longer under the Italian Government in Rome. This agreement was concluded in 1929 and is called the Lateran Treaty. When the time came that Canada would supply soldiers to the war effort the Canadian Government passed a law that would allow only volunteers to be sent to Europe. So the Canadian army had two types of soldiers, those who would go to Europe and the others that would be retained to guard the east and the west coast in the event of an invasion from the enemy.
So, drafting of soldiers for military service started under a law called the Non Permanent Active Militia (NPAM). Litio was drafted in the early beginning of this service, along with other friends of the same age and they were sent to a military camp located at Sorel, Que. for a one month training session and were afterwards sent back to civilian life. Those who wanted to could volunteer at any time. (Prior to this in the summer of 1939 Litio had already received a draft order from Italy to report for military service. He went to the Italian Consulate and said that he would report only if he returned to Italy.) This system did not provide sufficient soldiers for Canada. So, another law was passed called the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA) and drafting of young men for the military started in a serious way. The NRMA act also registered all the population of Canada and this registration also served to establish the rationing system to come later.
Litio was drafted again and this time it was for a long time, the duration of the war, five years. First he went to Petawawa, Ont. for training purposes and then he was assigned to the 25th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery that was stationed on the west coast of Canada. We shall return to this later.
I would like to get back to the years just before the war started. We were still on Belanger street and the troubles in Europe with Hitler coming to power started to surface. Dad did not like Mussolini to start with because of things that were going on Italy dad opposed certain things that Mussolini did especially on personal freedoms and how he got rid of some politician that opposed him. Before taking power Mussolini was very much in favor of social changes which appealed to the people. When he took power he became a dictator and he reserved all power for himself alone and abolished the representative government that had been elected. Matteoti, an opponent in the government criticized him for taking absolute power, was assassinated three days after his pronouncement. The culprits were never punished Dad could see what was ahead and feared very much what the new war would mean. Now that things were going well at home, here comes a war that might shatter every thing. Nobody knowing exactly what would happen. Though there had been two previous incidents in which Italy was involved, the Revolution in Spain where Italian soldiers and planes had been used to assist Franco, and Italy taking over Ethiopia, that, could have started a new war. But Hitler was more aggressive and started by occupying Austria on the basis that the Austrians were "kin" because they also spoke German. Another incident that helped Germany in taking Austria is that another dictator came to power in Austria . His name was Dolfuss and he was assassinated within one year of taking power. This gave Germany an excuse to overtake Austria to avoid a possible revolution. A short time later taking over part of Czechoslovakia. This led to a pact in Munich between Germany, Italy, France and England. Hitler stated that he had "No more demands in Europe." Mr. Chamberlain in England stated that he had achieved "Peace in our time". The peace was short lived. Hitler invaded Poland. France and Britain advised Germany to recede from Poland in a stated number of days or there would be a declaration of war. So the war came on September 3, 1939, and Canada joined in on September 10, 1939 by and Act of Parliament.
The first six months of the war were called the phony war because there was not much activity, but come spring the Germans launched what they called their `blitzkrieg'. Their attack launched on Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands bypassing the reinforced French Maginot line as they had done in 1914 and occupied the north of France including Paris. France had to capitulate and the allies England and all the others with them had to implement a strategic retreat from Dunkirk. The war was really on. An event made me realize that this was serious business. In school I had a friend whose name was Thomas Kirkwood, and we would tease each other, he would say he was going to join the navy and I would say that I would join the Italian air force and sink his ship. He actually joined the Canadian navy before school was over. We had no more news from him until the papers reported that a navy ship had collided a with merchant ship and many navy sailors were lost at sea in the frigid North Atlantic, the regular lane for ships going to Britain. Pictures of the sailors were included and there I saw my friend's picture. It was terrifying, a few months before we were pushing and pulling each other in jest and now he was gone forever never to be seen again. To me he was a good friend but to his family it must have been a terrible shock. I realized now that this incident would reproduce itself in millions of families in all the countries involved in the war.
Returning to my activities, our landlord Mr. Berger had his business of selling fruit and vegetables to regular grocery or fruit stores and at the end of the week his daughter would prepare bills that he would deliver the following week. His daughter was now to be married and he asked me if I could do that work for him. I was now 15 years old, his daughter showed me what had to be done and I undertook that work. Every evening after dinner, say around seven I would go upstairs and fill in his ledger the sales he had made that day. This would take about one half hour or a little more. On Saturdays I would go up in the afternoon and make out a bill for each client indicating the date of purchase, the produce purchased, the cost of each item and the total cost for the week. This would take me from three to four hours depending on whether his sales were big or small. For this he paid me six dollars a month but after two months he increased the pay to eight dollars. This allowed me to pay for the car tickets, the one dollar a month school fee and the occasional movie on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, and the purchase of a magazine, Popular Science, that came out once a month. I felt completely self-sufficient and I did not have to ask mom for money unless something special came up.
My friends at that time were Carmine D`Ambrosio with whom I would do photography including developing and printing photos. We built an enlarger with an old bellows camera. Also we were very interested in radio and phono amplifiers and built a few of those for our own use. One good friend at school was Laurent Giroux whose family lived in St. Andre d'Argenteuil but was boarding in Montreal in his high school years. He would often come to our house and we would to go the movies or play Ping-Pong at the Juventus hall. Jos Masi who was still in school but later became a school principal was also a frequent companion together with Jos Lucciola. We would get together in the afternoons or evening and discuss the events of the day or some school subjects that we found interesting. At this time none of us was involved with girls yet. A little later some of the church or school activities brought us in contact with females and it took some time before any of us really had a girl friend. Looking back I now think that we were too naive when it came to girls. Let's say the time we did not spent with girls was time spent on other things that had more interest for us. Eventually we all got married and raised a family. During this time I was also active in stamp and coin collecting and much reading.
At this period I was busy with my school work I was learning things that I had never learned before and was being exposed to a new culture because while the school was mostly English the students were of many different nationalities. The school was on Pine Avenue near Park Avenue. Like myself of foreign origin there were also Germans, Czecho-Slovaks, Hungarians, Polish, etc. irrespective of our original background we all took the same instructions and therefore all became British oriented which to this day I take no objection because in our culture and the western world all our freedoms stem from the Magna Carta which was signed at Runymeed in 1215. This is actually the freedom enjoyed by what we call the western civilization and is now taking hold in the entire world. (I will not get lost in a history lesson at this time.
The high school was of course good for me and I enjoyed it. The first year was somewhat hard probably because of my lack of English but also because schools were different than the ones in French were I had been before. I became accustomed to my environment early and was able to hold first class honors in my classes at D'Arcy McGee. As the name implies it was very much pro-Irish, Catholic of course. The school population was perhaps fifty per-cent English-Irish and the remaining part from every country in Europe. At that time there were no Asiatics, Blacks or Latinos. It exposed all of us to a system that made us learn to get together with each other and this helped me later on in life in which I have never had prejudices against people regardless of their ethnic origins.
When I graduated in 1940 I was the second in my class and some prizes donated by the Royal Bank ($5.00 bills) were handed out to the ones who had the highest marks. I knew I had had the highest mark in bookkeeping the entire year and even in the final exam, but the prize was not given to me. This is actually the only time in my life that I felt I was left behind because of my ethnic origin. I have never mentioned this to any one, because I still believe that my Italian background never held me back for anything. (Maybe it prevented me from being a bookkeeper.) In the succeeding years it never mattered except when I applied for my first job, and we will cover that later.
I graduated from Thomas D`Arcy Mc Gee High High School in June 1940. By now my personal general culture was more English than French or Italian. The Italian was used at home and with the few relatives we had, the French was used mostly with friends, and the English produced my livelihood for the rest of my life. I earned my daily bread in English and the other languages afforded me some privileges many times.
The date is September 11, l997. (Dictated)
Typed May 6, 1998
Everything that was dictated previously has now been typed. We are still residing at 227 Belanger, the second world war has started, I have completed my four years of high school in 1940.
Before starting on our family history I want to thank God for still being here, at age 75, and being able to do what I am doing after seeing many other friends and relatives even younger than myself pass away. You get to a point in life where you must be thankful for everything that comes your way and take advantage and enjoy the most you can of the good things and be able to accept the not so good ones and still get through and keep on living. At this age a person has seen so many ups and downs that a feeling is developed that somehow you will come through the tough ones and if not it doesn't really matter.
Going back to our family history, when I finished my last year of school in May 1940 I did not started looking for a job immediately. I thought I would look around, take a little time as a vacation before looking for a job as a priority. This was not wise of me in that it took some time before I found some work. While the event of war was now opening many industries I still did not find it easy to find a job. I also went back to the school principal who was able to arrange a few interviews to some people but I did not find what I wanted. I was looking for a bookkeeping work as I was not satisfied with my typing speed. Another event that took place was that Italy enter the war on the side of the Germans on May 10, 1940, and that made it more difficult to find a job, because I was Italian born. Eventually this was resolved.
In the fall of that year, 1940, it became necessary that more war industries be opened. One major war industry for the Montreal area was the building of aircraft. The Federal government opened a school to train aircraft workers for a three month period. I applied for that course, was accepted, and the course ended about the end on January 1941. Then I went looking for work in this new career. There were three firms that started aircraft work in the Montreal area, and the one that I favored the most was Canadian Vickers, Aircraft Division. They were building aircraft even before the war started. They also had an industrial division and their main product was shipbuilding. The aircraft division consisted of three separate shops all on the same ground at the corner of Viau and Notre Dame streets. I concentrate my efforts to join that firm and went to their offices. I was directed to the employment office and was given forms to fill out. The clerk looked them over and on seeing my place of birth said that that I could not be employed because I was classed as an enemy alien and he called the guard at the gate to show me out of the company grounds. In reply I said that I was a naturalized British Subject and that I could bring in my papers to prove it. Also if I was not eligible to work in a war industry why would the government allow me to be trained for this work. He said there was nothing he could do. The guard was a heavy set tall and haughty Scotsman speaking in a heavy brogue. I suppose he thought He was defending the British Empire all by himself against a very dangerous enemy. I just could not accept what I had been told and I insisted that there were others there who had been in the same trade course with me and they were being employed and I was being refused to even speak to someone. He said that maybe I should go to Ottawa to obtain a permit, but he did not know where in Ottawa. I still insisted that there must be someone that could be able to set me in the right direction on what direction to take. He replied that I could write to Captain Campbell. I asked Who is Captain Campbell? and he said Don't you Know?, and I said No I don't know. He replied "He is the President of Canadian Vickers". In turn I replied "That's fine, now I know what to do." I went home and that same afternoon I wrote a letter to the said Captain Campbell explaining what had happened and the suggestion that I write to him. (I have the draft of that letter and will include it in here somewhere.) Having written the letter and mailed it, I waited and on the second day I got a call from Canadian Vickers to report to their employment office. (We did not have a phone yet but I sent the number of our neighbor.)
Having had this phone message, the next morning I went to the Vickers plant. The same guard was there and I told him that I had had a phone call to report to the employment office. He looked at me and said "Oh! You are the lad who wrote to Captain Campbell." I said "I certainly am and I am a Canadian just like everyone else I might even have to go to war for Canada so why can't I work here." He said "Everything has been resolved. Just go in and fill your application". So I went in filled out the papers and was told to report to Shop 3, at the end of the same week on Friday night at seven in the evening as I was to start to work on the night shift.
I went home and told my parents that I had a Job with Canadian Vickers and starting on the night shift on the coming Friday night. Dad said that he would have preferred that I work on day shift, but I pointed out that because of the war effort most places had to work night and day and I was willing to work nights and we would alternate every two weeks. For the rest of the week I went and bought a tool box, a ballpeen hammer, a sheet metal hammer, scroll pivoter shears, a Starret set square, a one foot steel ruler graduated in one-hundredths of an inch, pliers, a tape, screwdrivers, and a steel scriber. So, come Friday evening I reported for work at seven and worked till seven in the morning. A full twelve hour day, ten hours work and two hours of overtime less one hour for eating and resting. When I finished my shift I was completely exhausted and probably slept all the way home on the street car. At the end of the shift we were told to return to work at seven thirty in the morning because now we were going on day shift. That sounded good. The work day was from seven thirty in the morning to four thirty in the afternoon less one hour for lunch making and eight hour day. The pay was forty cents an hour plus five cents on night shift and on overtime.
The type of work at the beginning was sheet metal, actually aluminum sheets that had to be cut into different shapes, involving cutting filing, drilling and forming into different shapes. These were used for the interior structure or exterior finish and subsequently joined together mostly by riveting to form the complete plane. The ongoing production was on an older model plane, but the needs for war were now changing and Vickers was chosen to build the PBY5 Catalina model to serve to escort ship convoys from North America to Europe. At the same time the facilities at this plant were restrictive and more space was required and a new aircraft plant was being built in Ville St Laurent. The new model plane required a change in tooling and most of the work shifted to making the new tools.
The work continued at the Vickers plant and we alternated between day and night shifts every two weeks. Most of the work now shifted to making tools for the PBY model. To make up all the components contained in the structure of the air craft body (fuselage) and wings, the starting point was to get the mechanical drawings for each component and develop a pattern of what the piece looks like before it is formed and otherwise shaped to fit the structure. This is called making a template. The workers at the plant, before arrival of the younger groups like myself were European tradesmen, Polish, Czechs, Romanians, Germans, Hungarians mostly from eastern Europe, they spoke some English learned at their work place but not from school. They were exceptionally good tradesmen who could produce everything given to them as long as they had the tools and a drawing of what a part looked like. They could read a blue print but were not able to calculate the sizes of materials needed. They had their own way of surmounting this problem. If a tube had to be made, let's say four inch diameter, they could not calculate the width of material needed. Their solution was to walk around, with a ruler and a piece of string in their hand, and measure any shaft or pipe that seemed to be the correct size and when found measure the circumference with the string and add whatever was needed for overlap or welded joint. They knew many tricks that really surprised me.
As the drawings arrived for the new plane I had no trouble figuring out and drawing the templates on metal, allowing for bend allowance, bend set back depending on angularity and other coordinates. This somewhat surprised the other workers and showed to some of them who had enough arithmetic knowledge how to proceed. Others would come to ask for information which I gladly gave. Soon it developed that I was making all the templates on metal but the others would do the cutting and filing and checking after the template was finished. After, the template would be traced on a piece of aluminum of the correct thickness and shaped as needed thereby producing the first part before commencing production of hundreds of parts.
The new plant in Ville St Laurent was completed and opened in l942. We packed all our individual work in boxes and one weekend every thing was moved to the new plant. This plant was still named Canadian Vickers Aircraft Division, but later the name was changed to Canadair which is still the name it bears after a few changes of ownership such as the Government of Canada, Electric Power Boat of the U.S. and eventually Bombardier Ltd, the present owner. Now everything was produced at accelerated pace. Tooling was completed and production started with a big push. More people were hired and the older ones like myself were promoted to Lead Hand with a small group of workers from six to ten person including many young women who had to be trained to do this type of work. The war industries attracted a lot of women and they were good workers. So much so that now it is very hard to get them out of the work force. Wartime need showed women that they could earn their own living and thereby became more independent.
Back tracking to 1941, Litio was now drafted again and remained in the army till the end of the war. I remember one morning Dad woke me up, Litio was already up and dressed to go and take a train from the Moreau Station, which was a CN freight station, but that morning there was a special troop train to take the inductees to the military camp at Petawawa, Ontario. I said goodbye to Litio and wished him good luck. Dad went all the way to the station with him, mom cried all day and the rest of us were very sad, not being aware of the outcome of this horrible situation. This camp was for basic training and later he was moved around to other postings until he eventually was assigned to the 25th Regiment, Field Artillery, Royal Canadian Artillery. He was in the Signals Corps and through his stay he obtained the rank of Quarter Master Sergeant, Signals. In the earlier days they were stationed at Tracadie, New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. The threat at that time was still from the Germans because Japan had not yet joined the war. Later when Japan entered the war most of the armed forces were moved to the west coast were he was stationed at Prince Rupert, Prince George, Port Alberni and later still at Nanaimo, B.C.
We were all upset to see him, and many others go to the army but there was nothing we could do. No one knew for how long this would last. At first the draft was covered by a law called the Non Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) and later a new law was passed called the Natural Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA). Under the NPAM draftees were supposed to be trained for three months and then released but this never came about. Then with the new law NRMA soldiers were held until the end of the war. When the war stated army service was not mandatory and for a short time only volunteers were taken in the army and they were designated as General Service and on their right hand sleeve of the uniform was applied a black round patch about one inch in diameter with the letters GS inscribed on it. So there were two classes of soldiers, the volunteers who had agreed to general service anywhere that the war was going on and the inductees who were to serve in Canada only. The Airforce and the Navy used only volunteers. Things would change later on.
So, covering the period that Litio was drafted and my being drafted, that is , l941 and 1944, dad was working, Anna had already married and children were coming along, Demetria was working and so was I, Elsie also started working but I don't know what year. Because Italy had entered the war the Canadian Government came out with an edict that all people in Canada that has been born in countries that were fighting against the allies, (Britain, Canada and all the good guys) regardless of whether they were naturalized or not, eighteen years of age and over were to register with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Craig Street. Dad and Mom and myself had to register and were finger printed and were given a Certificate of Parole and had to report once a month to the RCMP. I still have my certificate and will be included in these papers. I don't know if this certificate was ever rescinded, but I stopped reporting when I was drafted.
This registration also served to estimate the resources of the country such as manpower, ability of people to do certain works as the war would demand as well as resources for food, what would be needed and what could be exported. This brought about rationing of all things edible as well as gasoline, production of automobiles, alcohol used as fuel or drinking and many other things production of everything would be diverted to the needs of the war. The personal rationing did not deprive us of any food because if anything was needed coupons could be exchanged with other families, for instance we did not use much tea where as some people we knew were always running short and we would buy for the other persons. The same would apply for butter, sugar and other things.
At the church the RCMP would look at all records and religious groups in that parish. These lists of people had no political connotations and were mostly mutual groups who would go together for processions or visit each other when sick and attend the funeral of members. There were at the Casa d'Italia on the corner of Jean Talon and Lajeunesse associations mostly for mutual assistance such has la Loggia Piave to which dad belonged because of the great battle in the l914 war. These were mutual assistance associations where you paid a monthly fee and provided for a doctor when a member was sick and also an amount of money if you could not work because illness. When the RCMP got these lists they did not know what they were and many of the people on the lists were arrested , my guess now is about three thousands. Many people are now asking the government for reparations, claiming that they were arrested with out cause, I agree that in most instances there was no cause. But the Government did not know that these people had no political connections with the Italian war enemies or sympathizers. Some say that the families of these detainees suffered. They did suffer in the sense that the man of the house or one of the family was missing but the Government paid a stipend to those families. I don't know the amount they would receive regularly, but the families that we knew were able to carry on the same lifestyle that we did. They did not lack food or clothing but these people were in constant knowledge of the missing members and wondered about their treatment or their eventual fate. I do not condemn the action taken by the Government because of previous event that when Germany invaded some of the European countries there were organizations in place to receive and aid the Germans in taking over the countries. These organizations were known as the Fifth Column and were wide spread through Europe. These groups would sabotage military installations and other structures, kill prominent people to help the Germans in taking control of the country.
While I was working at that time I also took evening courses at Sir George Williams College because I always had in mind that at some point I would get enough credits for a bachelor's degree in science. My favorite subjects were physics and mathematics, especially the latter, I found mathematics easy and fascinating and I wanted to reach calculus because it looked so enticing with all the Greek letters and different signs. (I never mastered calculus to the point that I would have liked.) The evening courses would end about ten o'clock and I would take a Ste Catherine Street car up to St Lawrence and then take a number 55 street car up to Belanger street and walk the rest home. On evening while waiting for a street car on Ste Catherine street four sailors in uniform approached me and asked why I was not in the army. I said I would go when the army called me but in the meantime I was working in essential war industry and was temporarily exempted and I had certificate to prove it. There was no point arguing and four against one was not very good odds. So I started running in the street near the tracks. A street car was coming and the conductor reduced the car speed to coincide with mine and opened the doors and I was able to get in before they could catch me. When I was in the conductor said that the boys in uniform would often cause problems downtown especially after having had a few drinks.
I believe it was in the spring of 1941 that I bought the only bicycle I ever owned. I could hardly ride, but Elsie got on it without trouble and probably used it more that I did. On weekends we would go for rides with my friends, those who did not have a bike would rent one, by the hour. There were no girls yet in our lives. (We were too na´ve).
I was drafted in the army in August 1944. Up that time working in aircraft production was considered essential to the war effort and the Company would give to the Department of Labor the names of those employees considered essential to their plant operation. When approved the Department of Labor would send a Postponement Order to the employee advising him of his status. A copy of Postponement Order is included in this text.
Qualified workers were very much in demand. Salvino was working at Lawson Litho on his big machine producing boxes, He liked his job and especially the big machine he operated. His father, Antonio, was working at CPR at Glen Yards, he told his son he could get him in the CPR at probably a better paying job. Salvino thought about it and has his family was increasing he could use more money. He joined the CPR and got a greater pay. He was working on the locomotives. When the trains went in to Windsor Station he would ride on the locomotive and while passengers were going in the cars he would give the last inspection and lubrication or other attention to the locomotive and then release it for its trip. This job also included shift work which did not suit him very well but it was the sacrifice your had to make to sustain your family. He worked there a little over one year and one day his boss from Lawson approached him and asked him if he would like to go back to his previous job. In reply he told him that he liked his job at Lawson and he would go back but he needed the extra money he was making because his family was increasing in number and they would have to pay him more than he was getting before he left. After more discussion and amount was arrived at and Salvino agreed to go back. Now because he was working with the railway which was an essential wartime industry he could not quit and go elsewhere and his new boss told him that he would arrange for the transfer and not to mention anything until all had been arranged. And, at some point Salvino went back to that big monster of a machine and after calibrating it properly it resume production and everybody was happy. In another incident, later, Salvino would be called again to get the big monster in operation.
After the raids by the RCMP dad was always scared that some day they might come over and also take him to and internment camp. He did not belong to any Italian political group, as I said in the previous text, he did not like Mussolini and his system. But it was always a fear because there was no reason given for any of these interments. It was war time and the War Times Act prevailed giving the police more powers than usual. He made sure that there was nothing in the house that could be construed as favoring the fascists. I had some collection of papers taken from newspapers or magazines, especially maps that I had collected for the last five years or so, and also a scrap book on the occupation of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) by Italy. I looked for these papers for about a week and could not find them. Finally one day I asked mother if she had seen these papers that I could not find. She hesitated for a while and finally said that dad had burned them. In the evening I asked dad and told him that there was nothing political in them. He agreed that there was nothing that could hurt us in them, but he added the people we knew that had been interned were no way security risks, and yet they had been taken away. If the RCMP should come in we don't know what excuse they could use just to take the head of the family away. I agreed with what he said and told him that I did not want to see him in a concentration camp.
My friends at the time were mostly Carmine, the two Jos, Laurent Giroux, who had been in high school with me and we would go to the movies about once a week, during the week. In the summer, on occasions , I would go with Jos Masi at a chalet that his brother Guido, who knew Litio very well because they worked at the same shoe factory, used to rent at St Andre D'Argentueil, and we would spend the weekend there and go swimming in the Lake of Two Mountains, or boating, walking in the bush, laying on the sand, generally a good restful weekend. In those day we did not have established vacation periods as is done today. If you wanted time off you asked your boss and if he agreed it was granted, Without pay of course. Quite different from to day with established vacation time. (In my last ten years of work I was allowed six weeks per year but somehow I never took all the time allowed.)
It was a time we listened to the news very often and with great attention. There was so much going on , The Germans invading all the countries in Europe including Russia with whom they had signed a non-aggression pact just a year before, the Scandinavian countries, North Africa, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya (Libya was an Italian Colony) and part of Egypt until they were stopped at El Alamein, quite close to the Suez Canal. It was important to reach the canal so they could stop the incoming boats from the parts of the British Empire in Asia. If the canal was seized the boats would have to go around Africa, down to the Cape of Good Hope thereby lengthening the travel by many days. The German General in North Africa was General Erwin Rommel. His North African campaign, commanding the Afrika Corp, was so well executed that even the Allies marveled at his efficiency. He was a real military general and not a Nazi party member. At one point the Allies were able to prepare a massive attack, at El Alamein, commanded by British General Montgomery. He was able to obtain sufficient cannon and army tanks to prepare a counter attack and push Rommel out of Africa. The main component of his attack at El Alamein consisted of twenty-five pounder field artillery, cannon spaced every one hundred feet for five miles that maintained a two day shelling followed by army tank attack on the entire front. I mention this because the field artillery cannon were produced mostly by Marine Industries at Sorel . When the Germans were pushed out of North Africa Rommel was moved to Europe to command the German forces to counter the expected allied invasion that was being prepared. Unfortunately he would not live long enough to see this happen. It is mostly accepted now that he was killed by the Nazis. This will come later.
I mentioned before that Germany also invaded Russia in spite of a non aggression pact they had signed about a year before. The Russians also were not prepared for the war and their main defense was to retreat slowly and also to destroy all food crops or other things that would be useful to the Germans. This war started during the summer and the Russians retreated up to Moscow in late fall. By now Russia had received much war material from the Allies and was able to mount a counter attack. The Germans had badly overextended their lines that they could not be supplied properly and as winter was beginning to set in and they were not dressed for this climate they had to retreat all the way to Berlin. What happened to the Germans was exactly a repetition of the fate of Napoleon in 1812. Russia claims that it lost twenty million of its population during this war.
The war news seen in theaters showing the bombing of great cities like London, Canterbury, and others, where habitations of the civilian population would burn for days on end was really atrocious.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and this drew the United States into the war both in the Pacific and Europe. The Japanese gave no warning whatever, in fact they had sent two envoys to Washington to discus U.S.-Japan relations and two days after their arrival the bombing took place. At Pearl Harbor about three-quarters of the US fleet in the Pacific was badly damaged or destroyed. The attack was a complete surprise, on a weekend, actually a Sunday morning, when most of the personnel was on leave and General Mc Arthur who was in Command in the Pacific could not react to repulse the attack. The General was at the naval base at Corregidor in the Philippines and the next day the Japanese also bombed Corregidor and again no preventive action had been taken and the remainder of the US fleet got hit like sitting ducks. It took sometime for the General to regain his celebrity.
Many of the Canadian forces that were being held on the east coast were now transferred to the west coast and this is when Litio and the entire 25th Regiment went west. The Japanese now started spreading all over the Pacific and initiating some action against the west coast of North America. Some planes came to the west coast and also they started sending air balloons loaded with bombs. The balloons were pushed by the trade winds which blow from west to east in the Pacific and would deflate after reaching the coast and would fall anywhere, such as cities, or forests. They did cause some damage but both Canada and US reported that they were ineffective and the Japanese ceased this type of attack. Japanese submarine would also patrol the coast and I want to relate on a semi comic event that the Japanese may still be wondering about. When the US entered the war soldiers from US and Canada were sent to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. There were not enough adequate accommodations and for the first winter the soldiers had to be housed in tents which were not comfortable because of the severe cold. Building materials had to be brought in to build suitable quarters. A ship loaded with lumber left Vancouver on its way to the Aleutians and a Japanese submarine intercepted it and fired a torpedo and hit the ship, the torpedo exploded but the ship did not sink. A second torpedo was fired and the a third and still the ship did not sink. By now airplanes were coming to the rescue and the submarine had to run away. The reason the ship did not sink was that it was loaded with lumber which kept it afloat. There was no war action in Alaska or its islands that extend southward toward Japan.
I read later that when Japan entered the war Admiral Yamamoto had to inform the Emperor of their proposed action. The Emperor asked if they thought they could win such a war and the Admiral replied that if the war could be ended within one year it would be a certainty but if it lasted longer he could not tell. This explains the motive for the massive surprise attacks that Japan launched.
Dictated August 19, 1998.
Typed October 2, 1998.
It is quite a while since I dictated the last part of this saga and I find it somewhat difficult to get back into the groove. I really have to take some time to think of what I am going to talk about and take the time to do it.
So my narrative is at the point where the war is going on in Europe, Japan has bombed the U. S. bases in the Pacific and the US is now in the war. It is the biggest conflict in the recorded history of the world and affects the population of all the advanced countries in the five continents. The battles at sea are also very vicious and nothing is spared. It is war at the greatest possible degree that humanity can devise. Any country that can produce anything for war is doing so. Whether at war or not what ever a country can produce will be bought by one side or the other. The limit of their resources is the manpower that is available. The airplane has now become the most significant weapon of the war, and size of bombs used is up two tons, until the buzz-bombs become available later and also other unknown weapons show up at the end, The more advanced countries in the world are participating except a few countries like Spain, Ireland, Switzerland and those in south America and central American and lesser ones in Asia. At ;home dad and I are working, Demetria is working in men's clothing and Elsie also starts working at some point during the war. Anna is married and Litio is in the army and we receive frequent letters. Every time mom and dad cry as they read them. Litio never complains in his letters but rather narrates funny anecdotes to add levity and describes new places that he visits as interesting or comical situations he gets into. In the Artillery Division his role is communication, by radio, telegraph, signals and eventually rises up to the rank of Sergeant Major. All the communications within the 25th Field Regiment or from outside go through his post.
As for me, my work at the aircraft plan goes well. I get promotions and pay increases as time goes on. In addition to the regular shop work I also was involved in the sale of War Bonds. Their was a campaign throughout Canada to sell war savings bonds to contribute to the war effort.. The annual campaign took place on the first of November and the month preceding that a committee was formed to canvass the employees. The bonds were sold for cash or on the payroll deduction plan which made it easy for all employees to participate. The committee consisted of staff employees for those working in the offices and shop employees for those working the shop. The committee chairman was the Union Representative. The time I was there it was always the same person a Mr. Jack Vaillancourt. I had worked with him from the beginning of my employment. He knew that I could type and had schooling in office work and also would do income tax for many employees in our department. So I ended up in the office of this committee, the war bond campaign. We had a special office to instructed the canvassers and receive their daily sales forms and money for the cash sales. I was in charge of this office and had to make a daily report to the Comptroller of the Company to apprise him of the daily sales and the total sales with respect to the Objective amount set for our plant for that particular year. Any cash brought in would come to me and I would bring it to the company treasurer, and all subscription forms to the payroll department. The overall campaign lasted about five weeks of work in the office and after that I would return to my shop work. Another activity we had at Christmas time was a campaign to raise money for the Children's Memorial Hospital. This would take about two weeks and at the end of the campaign we would go the hospital an put on an entertainment show for the children followed by cake and ice cream at the end of the afternoon. For these campaigns I would again do all the office work and participate in the final presentation. This kept me in practice for office work which I appreciated today because I can still type in a fair manner. At income tax time I was kept quite busy. These people , the older employees that is, could hardly read French or English and much less fill out an income tax form. A few employees asked if I could help them out and as I agreed the number of people kept increasing. I did not mind doing it, but as the number increased I told my boss that I was doing this during the lunch hour or even during working hours. He told me to keep helping them as much as I could because these employees were very conscientious and were reliable when he needed them. The income tax reports kept me very busy even in the evenings because there were a lot of friends of the family and relatives who asked for my assistance. All this type of office work made me practice my typing, my writing in English and kept me in practice with figures, things that I like doing even today aside from my other activities more or less engineering type work, repairs, or general interests.
The friends at that time were still the ones I mentioned previously On weekends we would get together and spend a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon talking about our activities or the latest news about the war or other events of the day. Another friend that came around was Laurent Giroux who in school with me at D'Arcy McGee and we would either go to a movie or go to the Juventus hall and play Ping-Pong. None of these friends that I mentioned had qualified for military service and I never knew why. The same applied to Litio. All his friends and those who sang in the church choire, all of about the same age, only two or three qualified for military service. But, in the Verdone house two boys and both served in the army. Eventually my turn came. I cannot put dates to all of this but my Canadian Army Service and Paybook show that I was enlisted August 10, 1944. Without getting into the history of the war again, by now the allies had advanced very much on the war fronts in Europe and even in Asia. The plane production we were working on started to be reduced and it was expected that the war might not last much further. The Postponement Certificates from the Labor Department stopped coming and at some point I received a letter to report for military service. A letter arrived home one day while I was at work and mom asked Anna to see what the letter was about. When she read the letter she found that it instructed me to report for military service at the manning depot in Longueil on the following morning. Anna phoned at Canadair was able to reach me after transfers from one office to another. The phone call reached the inspection station nearest to my work place. I finally got on the phone and had much difficulty in understanding what the message was. I understood enough that it was about military service I should go home immediately. I asked my boss that I wanted to see what this letter was about and asked for permission to leave and I left the shop sometime in the afternoon. When I got home and saw the letter I realized that I was instructed to report the following morning. I had to settle a few things before reporting, such as my job, take home my tools, settle my last pay period. Mom and dad were terribly upset and also said that I could not report the following morning. I said the following day I would go to work and see what had happened to the postponements that I had been receiving and if necessary report a day later. Dad said to do that the following day and he had something to do before I reported. I did not know what he meant but did not say anything. The next day I when to work and found that there were four or five other employees who had also been called and after checking the company was told the the postponement orders had now been rescinded and to report as instructed. We terminated all the paper work needed at Canadair but that day I did not pick up my last pay. I went home and when dad came home from work he said that the following day he wanted me to go with him to see a lawyer because he had heard that some people were exempted for having been born in Italy and also since one child was already in army I had to stay to support the family and a few other reasons. I said I did not believe it would do anything to see a lawyer but I would go with him as he suggested. The next day mom dad and I went to this lawyer somewhere on St James street, I did not know who he was, who had recommended him or what power he had with the military. Dad started explaining the situation to him but dad did not speak sufficient French for the lawyer to understand him and he tried in English which was a little better but the lawyer did not speak English. I took over the conversation and told the lawyer what dad wanted, and that someone had recommended him to have a letter sent to the Department of Defense requesting a postponement or cancellation of the draft letter sent to me stating the reasons mentioned previously. The lawyer said he could write such a letter but did not know if it would in any way have any effect. Dad said he wanted the letter written which the lawyer did and I think he charged twenty-five dollars. The letter was sent and we waited. I was out of work for a bout five or six weeks, nothing to do except a few chores around the house, not much money in my pockets, because I was giving my salary at home and keeping only pocket money. Then an event happened that everything was precipitated at once.
I had a life insurance policy on which premiums became due every six months for the amount of fifty-three dollars and seven cents. I approached mother and told her that I had this insurance policy and the payment was due, hoping that she would offer to pay it. Instead she said she did not have the money and that I would have to find a way to pay it. I was really let down. I had been working up to then and I had always brought the pay home to her and I would keep enough money for by bus tickets, for a movie on the weekend and the odd magazine or book that I would buy when I had amassed enough money. The weeks I had no pay I was not receiving an allowance. I found myself in a dilemma. The next day I decided that I would go back to Canadair and collect my last pay as I had not received it by mail. I told mother what I was about to do and she said the busses and street cars are on strike and how would I get there. I said I would go with my bicycle and I would go the next day because it was to late now as the shop closed early. The next day I took my bike and went to the office supervisor whom I had met during the different campaigns and said that I had come in to get my last pay. He looked up the pay book and found that I had one more pay coming. He asked what happened since I left and if I had been in the army. I told him about the letter we had sent to the Department of National Defense and that we were waiting for a reply. I asked to go in the shop to see my buddies and my boss and he said to go ahead and pick up my pay on the way out. After I toured the shop I returned to the pay office, collected my money and there were two men waiting for me. I took my pay and one of the men said you have to come with us. I said, "Who are you and why do I have to go with you?" and he replied that he could not tell me until we got to their office. I had my bicycle there and made arrangements to have it identified and stored at the shop so I could pick it up later. We got out and there was a car waiting for us with another person, the driver. I sat in the back with one of the men, the two other sat in the front and I noticed that there were no handles to open the doors at the rear seat. I surmised that they were some sort of police force. Again I asked what this was all about and the reply was that I would know everything once we got to the office. We got to their office which was on the south side of Craig street and I recognized it as the office of the RCMP where I reported monthly with my "enemy alien" paper. I was taken to a hall on the second or third floor and told to wait while this person went down a corridor to an office. In a little while he came back and said to me that I had been sent an army draft notice and I has not reported as specified. I said that was true but that I had sent in a letter written by a lawyer stating reasons why I should not be inducted in the military service. He asked if I knew the number shown on the draft call and I said yes and that the number was E-134342. He went back to his office and after half an hour or so returned to tell me that they could not locate the letter but now they would have to take me to the army manning depot at Longueil and that they would not press any charges against me and that it was up to army to deal with me. Before leaving the office I asked for permission to make a phone call which was granted. We had no phone then and I phoned the neighbor to tell mother that I would be late returning home. We went downstairs to a van and before getting in the man said that he was obliged to put hand cuffs on me but if I agreed not to try to run away he would accept my word and not cuff me. I agreed and sat in the rear of the van the end doors were closed and locked and left for Longueil. I was all alone in the van. On arrival at Longueil I was turned over to the military police who brought me to another office where I was registered, fingerprinted and filled out other papers and was assigned regimental Number D-654816 and was told that I was now in the army and that I was now under army rules in anything I did. I was told to go home and return the next morning.
Because there was a bus strike I asked how I was to go home and then return in the morning. He looked at my address and said that in the morning there would be an army truck passing at the corner of St Denis and Belanger at about seven in the morning that would take me to the army post, as to getting home that afternoon I had to find my own way. I walked across the Jacques Cartier bridge and partly walking and partly hitch-hiking I managed to get home a few minutes before dad arrived from work. I started telling mom what had happened but it did not take long for her to understand that I was now in the hands of the army and she started crying and getting hysterical, going in one room and then another one as though trying to run away from this situation and all I could say was that there was nothing I could do and that it was bound to happen sooner or later and that anyway the war was about to end and I felt no danger in getting into the actual fighting in Europe. The crying kept on and when dad arrived from work and found the two of us very excited I told him what had happened and that I was taken by the RCMP to the army and had to return in the morning. He was now completely shocked and was so upset that he started swearing calling on all the saints in heaven, something he had not done in a very long time. The rest of the evening as Demetria and Elsie came home they were also told of the events of the day. I tried to tell them all that the war was ending as seen by the slowdown on production of war equipment, the great advances of the allies in Europe and probably the war would be over before completing my training. The evening was very stressed for all concerned But, it was inevitable. For a few days I was traveling back and forth and at some point I was issued a uniform and on the weekend were told to report only on the Monday morning but we would sleep at the camp and soon we would be taken to a regular training camp. On the Monday we were issued more equipment and instructed on how to fix this equipment for travel. (No rifle had been issued yet.) The next day we were taken to the train station and shipped out to different army camps throughout Canada without being told where. Our group of probably two or three hundred soldiers were taken to Windsor Station in the late afternoon and were placed on a train, again not knowing our destination. Late in the evening maybe around ten o'clock the train reached Ottawa and we were told that there would be a one hour stop and the train would proceed to Petawawa, Ontario. I went into the station and was able to find a postcard with the picture of a soldier on it. I addressed it to my parents and told them were I would be stationed and would write to them as soon as I was able to do so. We arrived at camp Petawawa about four or five the next morning. It was dark, it was cold and it was raining, we had not slept well in the regular coach seats, we had not been fed well except for a sandwich and a soft drink and everyone was in a bad mood. Army trucks were waiting for us and we climbed aboard as best we could without being soaked as the tarpaulins on the trucks were already soaked and we were taken to camp PETAWAWA, our residence for many months to come. On arrival at camp our designated hut was not ready and we were taken to an indoor rifle range where there was gravel from the firing line to the targets. We were told to wait there for a while. We were so tired and cold that we threw down our equipment and laid down next to it and fell asleep.