"And we started down Spring Garden Road and by then, hell broke loose. And the navy got the blame of everything."
Well, I was working over at New System Laundry at the time and my brother was getting ready to go overseas, and some other boys that I knew. I thought, well, gee whiz, they’re going away, they’re going overseas, why can’t I do something? So I left work and I went down to the [HMCS] Captor II and joined, went down, filled out papers and things and the naval officer down there asked me if I was really interested in joining up. And I said, yes, I am. And he said, well, how old are you? I said, well, 17 and a half, but I’ll be 18 in March. So in March, March or April, I got a letter from them and I went down. I got interviewed then and then they interviewed me again later on; and in August of 1942 I joined up.
There was a lot of navy around, ships and things were coming in. So I said, no, I’d like to join the navy. So that’s what it was.
It was a different outlook altogether to what I was used to. And you met all kinds of Wrens [Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service] from different parts of Canada. I really enjoyed it. We took our basic [training] in Galt, Ontario and I really enjoyed being mixed in with people. But the first, I went in in November, that Christmas, I was very sad because I was always used to being at home. And there was a family in Galt, Ontario; and she had boys and girls in the service and they were away from there. So she called the base and she had three of us Wrens go out and spend Christmas dinner with them, with her and her husband, which I found very nice. And I corresponded with that lady a good 15 or 20 years until she passed away.
I was a wardroom attendant. A wardroom attendant, we looked after the officers, served their meals, worked on the bar. And we, at times, we had to go and check their rooms and make sure they were neat and tidy, and everything. Once in a while, not too often, they used to have a little get together and they always invited us Wrens to go, if we wanted to have a drink with them, or just be friendly with them. And this was while we were in Halifax. But then when I was drafted to the West Coast, it was altogether different because they were all, mostly, not English, but they were mostly reserve officers and they didn’t mix too much with us.
And it was nice out there, but lonesome because you were away from, kind of far away from home to a certain extent. But I enjoyed it though and then I took my discharge from out there, but I couldn’t take it out there, I had to be sent back to the east coast.
I was in Halifax on V-E [Victory in Europe] Day and what a [schlimazel]. It’s in that book that the other chap has. And I’m telling you, it was a scary situation. We were stationed at [HMCS] Stadacona by this time. We were up to [HMCS] King’s to see if any of the old crowd was there and kind of visited with them; and we just started out when the word came that war was over. And we started down Spring Garden Road and by then, hell broke loose. And the navy got the blame of everything. And I’m still upset over that at times, but anyway, the navy fellows took over the streetcars and they did a lot of looting, but it wasn’t only them. It was civilians as well as anybody else that was around.
[Rear] Admiral [Leonard] Murray came out in his car and was asking all navy personnel. It was terrible. They had broken into the liquor stores and everything by then. There was liquor, beer, you name it, it was all afloat. There was four of us; and they said, oh, what are we going to do? They always called me Stevie. Stevie, what are we going to do? I said, let’s get back to Stadacona, never mind anything else.
So we headed back. We got stopped a couple of times, but we just said, look it, we’re going back to barracks, we’re not bothering with anybody. Oh, come on, have a drink. Uh-uh. We said, we want to get back to barracks. So we got back to Stadacona and it was a [schlimazel] as well because there were people drinking and everything else. But it settled down in a couple of days, I think everything got back to normal then.
Some of the restaurants barred the navy personnel; we weren’t allowed to go in. They, they kind of stopped us. They thought that it was the navy that was doing it all and it wasn’t, to me. I guess we have to put up with that when we’re in the service, whether we want to or not. But no, I enjoyed my time in the service.