by Peter C. Conrad
The Second World War was a time of change, with opportunities for everyone that did not exist before. Yvonne found employment in Regina as an engine lathe operator in a plant that produced anti-tank gun carriages, parts for the Oerlikon guns and other such equipment. She was asked to attend the activities at the Hostess Club in Regina, where she met her husband, Flight Sergeant Jones, and they were married on May 1, 1943. Jones was a Link Trainer Instructor at the Elementary Flying Training School near Caron, Saskatchewan.
Yvonne describes her many evictions from the station’s entertainment evening, as she on occasion wore too much lipstick, and hating the rayon stocking that would bunch up at her ankles, attempted to use leg paint. Finally, an entertainer informed her that she could use the leg paint, but use a black eyebrow pencil to draw on the stockings seams.
Before the war, Yvonne knew nothing about alcohol, as her family only had a small bottle of brandy that was only used in small amounts for the ill, in a Christmas cake and a little glass to bring in the New Year. But, her new husband, Flight Sergeant Jones was an alcoholic. She, like other young women lived in fear, and watched as their husbands were confined to barracks and faced continuous transfers to more remote stations. Her story is moving and reveals how all aspects of life continued through the war.
My former husband was one of the personnel at the Royal Air Force Elementary Training School, # 33 that was located near Caron, Saskatchewan. It is now a Bible college and known as Caronport.
My former husband, Flight Sergeant John Evan Jones R140520, was a Link Trainer Instructor. We first met at the Hostess Club in Regina. This club provided hospitality for men in uniform and became a meeting place for servicemen from all parts of the world.
I was employed at the Regina Industries Ltd. I was an engine lathe operator; the plant produced anti-tank gun carriages, parts for Oerlikon guns, etc. Female employees were “asked to attend the Hostess Club functions, though we girls were told, Ii we must not allow the young men to escort us to our homes.”
We were married in Regina, May 1, 1943. After a brief visit with his parents in Pelly Saskatchewan we were fortunate in finding accommodations, a light housekeeping room in a farmhouse within walking distance of the station.
There was a great deal of entertainment f or the service men on the station. Wives and girl friends were allowed to attend these functions. Though, from the moment I set foot on the station, I was in hot water.
Orders from the CO—I must not hold hands with my husband during the entertainment. Quote, “there are young men on the station far from their homes and loved ones.”
Then there was the eviction from a Saturday night movie on the station. “For the wearing of knee shorts.” Quote, “Flight Sergeant John E. Jones may remain if he so wishes”.
Followed by the reprimand, for wearing too much lipstick while on the station.
Lastly, the stocking dilemma, wartime, silk stockings rarity, nylons, unattainable; only the ghastly rayon stocking that sagged around one’s ankles. We girls thought we’d solved this problem by the wearing of leg paint, similar to the present day, liquid makeup. Eventually, that too was forbidden. Then came the day, the stocking dilemma solved. A tip from one of the entertainers, legs painted, a black eyebrow pencil, a steady hand and one had stockings with seams.
A sigh of relief when my husband was posted to another station, No. 33 was the most strait-laced station in the service I do believe.
There were so many postings, knocking on doors, “do you have a room to rent? Lastly, the station at Yorkton, Saskatchewan; war’s end, the excitement of the victory parade, my six months old son in my arms, the tears for those who wouldn’t be returning home.
The many-many kindnesses of the townspeople where ever we were stationed. They will always be remembered. Bless them all.
When ones former husband an alcoholic, one eventually avoids social activities. A case of, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I called my son in Calgary about photographs; he was in touch with his father. He tells me photographs, logbooks, and so on was discarded when his father moved into an apartment.
He to is looking forward to the publishing of your book. I have two grandsons who grew up with my father’s stories of World War 1, so your book will be of special interest to them. I will be grateful if you will contact me when your book is available as I wish to purchase a copy for both of them.
A tremendous amount of work and research but it is on record for the future generations to follow. Libraries and schools will be grateful for your dedication.
Under separate cover, am sending a copy of a little book on World War One. From the diaries of my father, Victor Swanston and his brother Ernest, we put the book together to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Swanston homestead in this district in 1883. Who Said War is Hell!: No. 12895, Private Victor N. Swanston, Fifth Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, World War I. Funds from book sales were donated to the Poppy fund.
My apologies for the following; my conscience will not let rest. Life in t he Air force was not all good fellowship, blue skies and s oaring t o the sun.
There were the problems of alcohol ism on the stations. My former husband, Flight Sergeant Jones, John Evan, was an alcoholic.
The “powers to be” on the station, solved as they thought, the problem by the posting of the airman concerned, to a remote station; it seemed a posting every three months.
Davidson, Saskatchewan, the briefest stay of all. A late evening arrival, bitter cold, our baby of six weeks in my arms; my husband, under the influence of alcohol, met us at the train, with the news, there was another posting, the promised accommodation was not available. He left us at the Chinese café, and did not return.
I had so little money, the Chinese folk so very kind. Bed and breakfast for me, the warming of baby’s bottles and payment refused. Some weeks later, baby’s soiled diapers followed me, snowy white.
Wives of alcoholics seldom had funds of their own. When husbands were confined to barracks, the shopkeepers would permit us to charge the few groceries we needed until their return.
We soon learned, when our men folk were drinking, later and sleeping soundly. To go through their pockets and take a few small bills, never a ten or twenty, they would remember them, and tuck them away for the difficult times.
We were so frightened when our husbands were drinking. So many of us had grown up in homes, where the only alcohol was a bottle of brandy, kept on hand for illness; a little brandy in the Christmas cake and pudding, the “toast t o the New Year” in a tiny glass.
I remember a three-story house in Deseronto, Ontario. The elderly lady rented rooms as light housekeeping; our meals were cooked on her kitchen stove; heated with wood and coal.
We baby-sat for each other. When a husband came home under t he influence of alcohol, babies were passed on, for fear they might cry and cause problems with our husbands.
I was in the kitchen one Saturday afternoon, making my baby’s formula and heard noise, someone weeping. I went to the foot of the stairs; it was the young girl from the room adjoining mine.
Her baby in her arms, franticly crying, “hide my baby.” There was a cat and 1.cittens in a box behind the stove. Without thinking, I dumped the cat out on the floor and thrust the baby under the edge of the blanket with the kittens; our landlady on guard, with the poker from the stove in her hand.
For some reason, our men folk were afraid of the landladies; perhaps, as they would call the military police in times of trouble. Her cure f or all our woes, a cup of tea and a loving hug. Bless her. She mothered us all. A dear kind person, she wrote to me for years after the war. Till the day, my letter was returned, marked, “deceased”.
I often wonder now, why did we accept this? We were so afraid most of the time; afraid for our babies and ourselves. Was there help available for us? We knew so little then.