"Prime Minister Winston Churchill say on the air, “come on women, we need you”, you know his voice? And the next day, I joined the service."
Number one, my future planted a diamond ring on my finger, actually, he mailed it to me, when he got to his basic training in Calgary, he feared he was going to lose me. And so he asked permission to mail me a diamond ring, which I was thrilled to pieces. I had fallen in love with him at 17 years of age. As the months went by and I missed him terribly, I came home for lunch one day and heard Prime Minister Winston Churchill say on the air, “come on women, we need you”, you know his voice? And the next day, I joined the service. Those were the two reasons, I thought, why wait for my husband when I could do as Winston Churchill requested. So I joined the services as a stenographer - and nowadays I say steno and the young students do not know what steno means - but I wanted to type and shorthand and switchboard in office work for the RCAF.
The enlistment officer in our Royal Edward Hotel in the city of Fort William [Ontario] said to me, I wish you could drive a car. And oh, I was thrilled, twenty-one and driving a car. I was thrilled. And so I ended up as a military driver, drove ambulance, drove high-ranking officers and by the way, they treated me with one hundred percent respect and I spent close to three years being a military driver. The whole message was, and the motto was, “we women join so that men could fly”. Meaning so men could be released to go overseas and continue on with the orders from defeating what was going on during those war years. And so that was the message and that’s what they told me in the enlistment office, if I was capable of being a driver, I would release maybe one or two men and I saw it happen when I landed in Guelph, I saw two men go.
I just drove the ordinary four-door sedan and now and then I had to drive the ambulance to take messages and the padre or someone ill to the hospital. And I often by the way drove a padre -that was my main duty usually - to messages to families. Just had to wait outside for him and he came out with a drooped head, I knew then that he had taken sad news to a family. But under confidence, no, he never said boo to me. And it wasn’t too often. But that part touched me.
I think of that a lot today, taking news to a family that their son had been injured or even lost his life. There wasn’t a daily paper that we saw. Now that I’m sitting here thinking about it more, there wasn’t, like you and I go to our door and read the news of the day and so we just moved along with our orders and tried not to upset anyone and we did parades. And I by the way was in a precision squad, the overdress was a white belt and white gloves and we went down in the States now and then and demonstrated beautiful precision marching. And we didn’t get to upset about what was going on, war-wise. We just simply did our duties and tried not to be upset about anything. Not reading a daily paper perhaps was the reason why we just obeyed our orders and moved along to have the training on these various stations run smoothly.
My husband by the way was a wireless air gunner; that was his title. He was gone for a good four years or so and I didn’t worry about him meeting anyone but he sure did. He thought for sure he had lost me and was actually frightened to let me know he was on the way home when the war was over. They were brought home on the Queen Mary to Montreal, hopped on a CPR train, he landed in Fort William without calling me and - people didn’t used telegraph, there was no such thing as a cell phone or all these beautiful computers - and a neighbour saw him walking across the street with his kitbag over his shoulder. He lived in the neighbourhood of our CPR station and I had to phone and ask if he was home. When I got to him, his head was drooped and terrified that I was going to tell him I had found someone else. So that was a little bit of a romantic. And he perked up when he saw the diamond ring still on my finger.
I feel very guilty at saying I enjoyed it. And I don’t mean that I was happy. You know, it’s a confused expression to make because it’s hard to believe that you would enjoy being in the service while people were losing their lives overseas, etcetera. And what I mean when I say that is I enjoyed the discipline, I enjoyed how beautifully every station runs in an orderly fashion; I guess that’s what impressed me.