"The talk of people wanting to enlist, are they going to enlist, should I enlist, will I enlist here; you were really in the middle of an awful lot of action."
I enlisted in the Corps of Military Staff Clerks on August the 30th, 1939. I was taken on as a clerk-stenographer. I graduated from Garbutt’s Business College [Calgary] and they were looking for recruits and I was looking for a job. And I went over and, of course, to get the job you had to enlist in the Army, which I did. I got my enlistment and they issued my uniform and got me started. And I went to work immediately, as the recruiting and threats of war were very strong. And so I was assigned to an office in Personnel Services and started my career in the Army.
Well, my personal duties at that time were working in Personnel Services and that is getting all the files out for the reserve units in our district and the names of the officers in those reserve units; writing letters and getting them started to make their applications to join or whether they were or not, but getting those files going. And there were lots of reserve units in the immediate district that contained a lot of officers, so that was our first job. And as the days wore on, we got closer, the [Royal Canadian] Signal Corps, which was understaffed, then you had to go and do time with the Signal Corps to help them dispatching messages and receiving messages and phoning those messages over to the responsible officers in charge of that. So we were on 24/7 and had to work, I think my turn working all night; they put a bed in there.
The typing, I had to type at least 90 words a minute and my shorthand I had to do 150 words a minute to qualify. So that was very important to have somebody able to take notes and record the business meetings. Because there were lots of, there was different secretaries but they weren’t trained as such, nor were they able to hear some of the data being discussed. So they had to have military people in there doing that.
I got my uniform right away, and my cap. I didn’t know how to wear it. They had a thing that came over your shoulder to wear and they gave it to me and I put it on and they told me it was wrong. Then I got promoted to corporal and I didn’t know what a corporal was. It was very interesting because it was so new and what was going on around you with the war and the talk of people wanting to enlist, are they going to enlist, should I enlist, will I enlist here; you were really in the middle of an awful lot of action. Because of, and of course, when I decided to, went for the job and decided to enlist, I thought, well, if war is coming, I’d rather be in the Corps of Military Staff Clerks than in the infantry.
So people with skills, I don’t know if they would seek their skills out but that’s what Personnel Services did. If you were in architectural drawing or had taken that training, then they wanted to get you in the [Royal Canadian] Engineer Corps. And those special, any mechanical training that someone had, they would be put into a motorized unit of some kind and all that organization in the early stages of the war was very important.