"She nearly had a fit because it said, why don’t you stay in England and not come to Canada. And so my mother and my sister, and her husband, they tried to get me off the boat in Ireland, but it was too late"
I was only 18 when I went in; and my girlfriend and I, you know, we weren’t doing anything, weren’t working at all. I was at home, helping my mother. We decided we were going to join up. So we went and all they had room for was cooks. So we both became cooks.
I was stationed in [RAF] Dalcross, it’s a few miles away from Inverness, for three years as a cook. And there was 26 of us in the billet, and seven of us were named Betty. So I got the name Johnny, and that’s what I was all the time I was in the air force [Women’s Auxiliary Air Force].
I was a cook in the airmen’s mess. We fed about 1,000 for breakfast, lunch and supper. When it was time for the breakfast people to come on the shift, they walked down in the dark at 4:00 in the morning to prepare the breakfast. We had porridge in giant boilers; we had to stand on a stool and serve the contents with a large paddle. The large stoves were then used for frying eggs by the dozen, toast on huge toasters, then we served the airmen. After that, we had to make soup also in giant boilers and whatever was on the menu for the day. After that, we were off duty for the day.
Our kitchen was like, had a big long curtain, on the other side of the curtain was where they held the dances and everything. Well, when we went to work at 4:00 in the morning, nobody was around. Everybody was in bed sleeping. We used to go and get the things that you sing in [microphones], and we used to have our own little party. We’d be singing and carrying on, in the middle of the night. It was funny things that happened.
When we met up with the forestry [Canadian Forestry Corps] boys, and they only lived about a block from where their farmhouse was to their camp, so the boys used to come down there and she used to see the, there was three of them, none of them married, and they used to cook scrambled eggs and tea, and it was just like a little family gathering. But it was only as big as a minute, the place. And you know, we used to go there on our days off, and then the one lady, she was the eldest, she really took a shine to me; and on my day off, she would pick me up outside the aerodrome [airfield] in their car and take me to town because they went to town on a market day, and all things like that. In fact, then I got married in their little house. The same person that really took to me, she was just like a mother to me, and we were getting ready to go to this dance at the sergeants’ mess, so we all went there, us girls, to get dressed. Here, they’d been to Nairn and bought me a beautiful blue and white polka [dot] dress. And I says, whatever. Well, we knew that you liked it when we were in Nairn; and they went and they bought it, and I went to the dance in it. The girls didn’t know who I was because I wasn’t in uniform.
And then, you see, I got married and I was out of it. I was only in there for three years. I mean, we were both so young. I mean, like I was 18, 19, going on 20, and he was a year younger than I was. And when they knew that we were going to get married, they had us both up there in front of three officers, and they talked and talked, and talked and talked. Oh, just that we were too young and that like he was going to go overseas any time at all, and then I’d be left there. I can’t really remember it all, but when I think about it, they talked and talked, and talked and talked, and it never registered with us. We were going to get married and that was it.
In the meantime, for me leaving home, my husband had sent a letter; and, of course, I wasn’t there and my mother opened it. She nearly had a fit because it said, why don’t you stay in England and not come to Canada. And so my mother and my sister, and her husband, they tried to get me off the boat in Ireland, but it was too late, so I arrived here and my husband and his mother, and her sister, they met me and everything was fine. They never said anything because I didn’t know about this letter until sometime after. But this girl from the [Royal Canadian] Legion, she said, you would have been on the boat because your mother got in touch with us and you would have been on the boat back again the next morning.
So it was kind of a funny situation for me and I kind of had to go along with it because I had a little girl to look after and it was kind of, you know, strange. It didn’t work out; so in the end, I got a divorce, then I got married again and I had six children that time. So I figure I’m pretty lucky.