Margie Bakemeyer pictured in front of the ambulance she drove during the war.Margie Bakemeyer
Newspaper Clipping honouring Margie Bakemeyer's Volunteer work for the Canadian Red Cross.Margie Bakemeyer
Canadian Red Cross Service Medal, 1952.Margie Bakemeyer
"I applied for the transport and I almost died when I arrived and they showed me a big truck that I had to take out. And I had never shifted gears before."
I was working with the Bell Telephone [Company] and I became interested at the beginning of the war of doing my bit. And as I loved driving, I applied for the transport and I almost died when I arrived and they showed me a big truck that I had to take out. And I had never shifted gears before. However, dear Stoney taught me how to do it, the Lieutenant.
By the time I climbed up and in and shifted gears, it came easy. But that’s when three of us were picked to train the young men coming back from overseas with maybe a limb off or both legs off and they wanted to learn how to drive a standard gearshift, so that they could get a job or get their own business, which they did. And we’d take them down to the [Canadian National] Exhibition grounds, which was safe to do in those days and make sure that they didn’t run into anybody while they shifted gears and so on. But I had to teach myself how to shift gears on a standard gearshift without using the brake or clutch or gearshift, which I did because I had to teach them.
I loved cars, I loved transport. I thought it was cute one day, I was going along St. Clair [Avenue, in Toronto] with this young soldier and he was driving and there was quite a lot of traffic on St. Clair. And he turned to me and he said, you know, Sister, I don’t know how you sit there so calmly, I think it’s wonderful. He didn’t know my stomach was churning. But we never had an accident with them. Never. And they were so grateful.
They used to love entertainment, particularly sports. So I would pick up an ambulance and I’m strong, you know, and I’d take the ambulance up to Sunnybrook [hospital, Toronto], park it outside, open the back doors, pull out ramps on an angle and wheel the wheelchair up into the ambulance, prop it and I never had anybody fall. I never dumped anybody in the ambulance. It was a big one, you know. And take them down where they loved to go, the Maple Leaf Gardens [arena]. And I could get them in for nothing you see. And I could see the game too. So a lot was to do with sporting events to take them, as well as the drills and all that we had to do and so on.
They called me one day and asked me, would I give training to the volunteers who really weren’t that good at dealing with people over the telephone, particularly when they were calling in to give blood. So then I was written up in the paper, that I had done this for the Red Cross. And the number I had trained. Because that was easy, to come by telephone procedures when I worked with the telephone company. It wasn’t really my forte because I was chief of 200 operators. So I really didn’t teach telephone procedures per se, I taught my people. And they were my family. I really did love them.