"I was only 21 when I came back. So it’s a lark. It’s more of a lark than it is real serious business, you know."
Mary Jarvis, well, my single name was Buchan, my married name is Jarvis. My birthdate is February the 21st, 1924. I was born in Toronto but I lived part of my life out in Markham, Ontario, here. And we had a large orchard of 24 apple trees and we also had herds of goats. Which my father used to use in the summer to cut the grass of course. But in the winter, the farmers surrounding our area loved the goats because they kept the cows cleaner, for some reason or other. And so he would board them out to the farmers and so he wouldn’t have to pay to look after them. This is the Depression years too, which is a little bit harder to bring up four kids and feed the animals too. So that’s the way he worked it.
And of course, we had the milk and we also had the goat meat, that my father had butchered and we had. And lots of apples from the orchard. My grandfather, who was a fisherman from Scotland, sent us barrels of fish, so that we had fish, herring, to supplement the meat, so we done fairly well during the Depression and subsequent years.
When I got out of school from Markham, I came down and worked in the plant in John Inglis plant, which made the Bren guns. And I think maybe that triggered something, where are these guns going, maybe I’d like to go over and see the background of what these guns are going to do and if they’re going to kill people or what. I guess that’s where I got the first taste of it. And so I was in Ottawa until I was 21 and then I went over and then drove, drove, drove. It was very strange driving over there from here. I mean, here, we had the daylight and the lights on the vehicles would be going on and we’d be trained that way. But then when we got over there, we couldn’t because it was all blackout.
So when we went on convoy, we just had one little light on the left hand side of the vehicle and it was a little tiny red light and we followed that light with our life, because the head of the convoy would be the leader and then the rest of us would just follow through but we couldn’t use our headlights, so it was just this little tiny light. I used to have the run to go to the ocean. We would go down to the port where the soldiers came over from France and we would take them from there to whatever hospital they were assigned to. So I used to drive what they called the blitz buggy. And it had four stretchers in it. And then somebody else might have some other hospital to go to but I had certain hospitals that I went to, take them to the hospitals and then we would have something to eat and then we’d turn around and come back again and go back down and get more.
So it was a lot of, a lot of sad things but then there was a lot of happy things too. So you just balanced them. And of course, as I say, I was only 21 when I came back. So it’s a lark. It’s more of a lark than it is real serious business, you know. And we would get the Canadians, it was all Canadians that we transported and they were wounded, mentally and physically. So whatever hospital was designated to take them, we would drive them there from the port.
Southampton was one of them I know but there was a couple of others that we used to go down to pick up the soldiers from France, take them to the hospitals in England. There was always a nurse or somebody else on the blitz buggy, in case they needed help while I was driving. I couldn’t look after the four people and drive too. So there would be a male nurse and they would look after them but the saddest ones were when we had to take them to the mental hospitals. I don’t know how many of them would come out but you couldn’t get acquainted with them because they were either too sick, too ill or, or they wouldn’t be coming back from France. They would be staying there, you know, in Germany and they would come through that route.
After we delivered the patient, well then, they’d say, well, you go down and get something to eat and it was always something, something we didn’t get in our own barracks, you know, it was always nice. Because we lived in army quarters, they used to be barracks but they were all for the women. The men’s were over on another section. When we went to the hospitals, to get our food, whatever we wanted for dinner, they would quite often give us a tin of jam or a loaf of bread or some butter that we haven’t had, you know. So we could have that back in our barracks and I can remember that being a real special treat because, you know, the food of course was very bland. We used to use 1942 eggs. They were water glassed in Holland and they were sent over to us and you couldn’t have a hard boiled egg because you didn’t quite know what was inside. But we enjoyed them. They were certainly better than powdered eggs and that’s what we had, powdered eggs with powdered milk and it wasn’t that great.