LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY
Kath and Mike's Overseas Story
July 1943 - Chasher PictureOn Leave ~ Winnipeg ~ December 1941 ~ Newly Commissioned
 If I was asked to be other than who I am now, my answer would be:
 “Kath’s second husband!” ~ Mike Spack

LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY NOTES:

This is a personal story of Kath’s and Mike’s earlier times spent in England. Though written by Mike, it is a collaberation between the two of them. Her support in this writing was so great for the two relived so many wonderful memories.  This memoir ends with her arrival in Winnipeg but the sequel will follow.

Well to mention the  events held prior to Mike’s posting to RAF Station Calveley located about 2 miles from the lovely town Nantwich and about 15 miles from the historic city of Chester. Pilots and ground crew of Advanced Flying Unit (AFU), number 11 AFU in this case, left the peace time RAF Station , Shawbury . This station was near the very lovely and famous city of Shrewsbury. Our address was Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire - quite a twisty mouthful to be sure. This was Mike’s posting from Raf Station Upavon which was  #7 Flying Instructor’s School(FIS) in Wiltshire. A comfortable Station that was quite strict in its regulations as compared to Calveley for instance.

The move north from Shawbury to Calveley included the aircraft. Calveley was built during wartime. Mike’s diary indicates that more of his comrades favored Calveley; a more “homey” place. Reg Bray remained as roommate and this pleased both of them. Batwomen for officers were still provided and they were truly excellent but different ones in the new Station.

There is an original album for “Long Ago and Far Away” where many pictures are available. A few may be transferred to this copy as well.

A separate typing of this was necessary since the original typing was done on the Apple 11 C computer which utilizes a large floppy disk. This disk is not acceptable to some Associations such as the Canadian War Brides Association which insists on the more modern floppy disk. Hence the need for retyping not only this memoir but many others.

The original was typed in March 1996 while the date for this is in late 2002.


LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY PREAMBLE

Though her actual name is Kathleen with no middle name, she is best known by friends as Kathy, and by me, as “Liz”.  Her Uncle Les (Auntie Lil’s husband) used to pick her up after school and take her home, or to his home for a visit.  The motorcycle had a nickname which was “Dizzy Liz” so Uncle Les gave her a pet name “Liz”.  Her father and mother however, used Kathleen as well as Kath.

A standing joke with regard to names is her saying, “at least I was a Saint”, for indeed her maiden name is Saint.  Naturally, her husband Mike keeps telling the “boys” at golf or wherever that the wedding announcement title was SAINT SPACK.  The actual truth was the reverse.

And so the story begins......


A DIALOGUE: LIZ AND MIKE

It was a leisurely supper at our favourite Chinese Restaurant, Kam Lung, in Brandon.  This took place somewhere around mid March in 1993.  The owners, Sue and Sergio Lee, are fine friends of many years and we keep in touch with what is happening with their five lovely children whose first names as with Sue and Sergio all begin with “S”.  The restaurant was filled to more than capacity it seemed for whatever reason and the waitresses were shorthanded due to a sickness report from one of them.  They were absolutely amazing as they tried to cope with such a crowd - an estimated 150 persons.

There was no rush for us so we indicated this to our waitress.  Somehow the conversation turned to England which it does from time to time since Liz or Kathy or Kathleen is a war bride from the town of Nantwich in the county of Chesire in England (see Appendices).  This time however, it began with a discussion about her father who we called Pop and my mentioning what a wonderful person he was.  Freddy Saint, the Handyman he was called by his mates in England.  He had passed away in 1961 at the age of 66.  After which Mom lived with us until she passed away in 1991.  But that is another story.

“He was the most reliable person I have ever met”, I said to Liz.  “You have many of his characteristics, one of which is patience as well as reliability.”

“My Dad and I were very close” and there was a hint of a tear in her eye.  “When I was around ten years old, I used to walk about a mile from where we lived on Parkview in Nantwich (about 20 miles east from the famous beautiful city of Chester near the Welsh border) to his allotment, which is a rented piece of ground about 200 yards long (about a block long in England) and some fifty feet wide.

“Remember this is depression time, 1934, and my Dad was out of a job.  So revenue came from getting the allotment growing all kinds of vegetables and taking some to the market and getting orders which were delivered to the homes”.

“Who did the delivering and how?  Did your Dad own a small truck?”

“Heavens no!  I did not have even a bicycle which is what I wanted in the worst way, because I did much of the delivering by carrying orders little bits at a time.  The list was picked up at noon and the delivery began after school.”

“But you did have a bicycle when I met you in Nantwich and you used it when we went for picnics to Bickerton Hills and other places.”

“Yes, I finally did get a bicycle when I was 10 or 11 and it is easy to guess how I was able to do this.  Dad told me to keep whatever tips I would get through orders and save for a bike.  And I did this!  Was I ever proud of that bike!”

“It was a solid looking black framed bike, as I remember it, and you must have felt it to be your friend.  Getting back to the gardening, did you help with that too?”

“I certainly did and it was backbreaking work as I remember it still; the digging, the weeding, and whatever else was needed.  Dad and I worked together for days and weeks but of course I had to go to school during five days of the week.  You can understand now perhaps why my Dad and I were so close.   Really wonderful friends full of love for each other.”

“What about your girlfriends I met when I was courting you?”
 

“Well, I did not meet them until I started to work at Crewe Works ( a city of some 200,000, a major railway centre about 4 miles east from the pretty village of Nantwich with its population of an estimated 3500).  You know that I was conscripted to work for this was a few years after World War II had started (Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939 when Liz was 15 soon to be 16 and Canada declared itself on September 10, 1939).

“Didn’t you have friends before that time?”

“Not really except for one or two at school but then I really did not have the sort of regular childhood many others had.  Instead of playing with friends after school there I was helping my Dad most of the time as well as having to do some homework and later those piano lessons which I did not like.  I preferred being outside in the garden to sitting down in front of a sheet of music.  Mind you I did get some certificates with honours also!”

“Did your mother help with the gardening?”

“No.  She took care of the house and she was an excellent cook.”

“In some ways it must have been lonely for you when you were at that young age of 10, 11, 12, and so on.  You were the only child with few, if any, playmates and in fact little time for play”.
 

“Looking back, I guess that is true but then I had this special loving friendly relationship with my Dad and I suppose I felt I was helping out in many ways so as a family we could get by.  Probably my Dad spoke to me about his and it stuck with me.  Also, it must not be thought that my mother (Alice was her first name) and I were enemies.  We were all close to each other but Dad and I had that special relationship.”

“You once told me that you visited your grandmother and grandfather in Nantwich quite often.”

“Yes, and I enjoyed that so much.  I was the only girl you see, in the family as well as relatives altogether a large group.  My mother was one of eleven children and more of them lived in Crewe.  Many, if not most of Dad’s family lived in Crewe even though he was born in Flint, Wales.  Anyway, I remember my maternal grandmother so well since grandfather passed away earlier and my Dad’s mother and father had died when I was around 14 years of age.  She was wonderful and I remember sitting on her lap and her hugging me tightly holding me to her soft chest.”

“Did your Mom and Dad go to church?”

“No they didn’t, but I did.  I do not know how this happened, but I guess my parents felt this was a good thing for me to do.  The church is St. Mary’s in Nantwich (see Appendices), the same one we were married.  There was of course the fact that both my father previously had been divorced and mother’s first husband, an alcoholic had passed away.  Perhaps Dad was not allowed to join the church so mother didn’t but I really do not know if this was the case.

“Did you go also to Sunday School as we call it in our United Church?”

“I almost forgot that.  There was Church School ( a separate building behind the main church opposite side from the Parish Hall where we met) which I attended as a young girl as well as the Junior Choir all taking place on Sunday.  So Sunday was a rather long day but you know I feel that my belonging to the church and singing and going to church school laid a foundation for the faith in God I have today.”

“You had to finish school earlier.  Why?”

“Well, you know that when I turned 11 there were those tests (called eleven plus) to decide which school I might attend.  Nearly everyone wanted to pass the “11 plus” tests in order to qualify for the Grammar School, which led to university or college.”

“Did you pass these?”

“I did and it was a happy day for me.  But then came disappointment; at least I think I was disappointed because after talking it over with my parents it was felt that the cost of

going to grammar school was out of reach.  Remember this was still depression time, 1935, and the only money coming into the home was through the allotment and the dole which we call unemployment insurance (soon to be called employment insurance in Canada).  The dole then was not a welfare cheque.”

“So what happened?”

“After a couple of years of regular school, I went to work at age 14 at the Baronia clothing factory as a filing clerk in the office (where Nannie worked) and eventually became secretary to the boss Mr. J. Baxter.”

An amusing task not only to her but her fellow workers happened approximately every six months.  One of the bosses had a wooden leg, and a spare one as well, and Liz had to take one of the wooden legs and have it wrapped and posted so that used padding would be replaced.  Our conversation continued and I wrote down hastily some notes:

“Secretary to the boss?  A fast promotion?”

“Yes, but I think it was due to the fact that the older girls were conscripted because of the expected war.”


BARONIA

Later Liz added many details.  For war purposes when space was scarce, cheese was stored in the basement of the factory (and other places in town) and one of her tasks at Baronia was to distribute this cheese to the various stores in Nantwich collecting the ration coupons for which the factory was accountable.  Storage was a problem for food so all available space was utilized.  Actually work at the Baronia kept her sort of isolated from the war really until she was conscripted to the Crewe works in March, 1944.  The office there was in the “smithy” as a secretary and she remained at this wartime job until 1946 when she left for Canada.  see Appendix VII “The Crewe Works Gang”


HER PETS

Back to earlier days she recalled that she adored her playmates, a dog, cat, two rabbits, chickens, and goldfish.  No wonder that to this day she has such an empathy for nearly all animals.  Add to this her plants which are also dear to her heart - even talks to them from time to time!  Hunting for instance, is an abomination as far as she is concerned and no amount of reasoning will dissuade her even the usual appeal of the need for a balance in nature.  She remembers a sad occasion for her which was when she arrived home one day, her pet rabbits were given away to Auntie Ethel in Manchester, though not as pets, but for rabbit stew which Auntie loved!  My guess is Kath had little or no supper that day - her choice.  Also, her close friend the cat disappeared and she missed that cat very much.


EARLIER DAYS

She smiles in remembering that when she was eight years of age she was named “Queen of the May” which is the celebration for the National Holiday Mayday.  Early days in primary school are remembered especially for the knitting, very fine needlework she did for a teacher’s trousseau, caring for a “doll baby”, practice in homemaking such as cleaning in a home, cooking, etc.


ST. MARY’S CHURCH OF ENGLAND

At St. Mary’s, Church of England, where we were married, she joined the youth group.  This lovely church located downtown in Nantwich was built around 1200, with many renovations having taken place since that time.  We do have a fine book about St. Mary’s, and its history is so interesting (see appendices).


CREWE VISITS

Also after church each Sunday, Liz rode her bike to Crewe to visit each of her Dad’s brothers and sisters to see if they had anything from the “Black Market” - illegal but common practice, for food was quite scarce and availability of ration coupons were slim to say the least.


CANTEEN, DANCES, AND A SORE HEAD

During the war years there were the extra volunteer evenings at the canteen on Hospital street and the dances in the separate building called Parish Hall located in front of the church.  She laughs in recalling hitting one service person, an American, over the head with her tray after hearing from home that English girls were an easy mark.  Thank goodness I did not use such a line!  Mind you, the American did apologize by bringing flowers and chocolates to her home which was a credit to him.  The incident indicates clearly that there is a “no-nonsense” quality about Liz.  (Today her Escort car licence plate has the letters NNW which I remember by “no-nonsense woman”.)


SOME FAMILY HISTORY

The families were very close to Kath and her Mom and Dad, especially Auntie Lil and Uncle Les, as well as Auntie Doll and Uncle Joe.  Each Saturday there would be a family gathering at the home of the maternal grandmother and grandfather.  Grandfather was a well known shoemaker in Nantwich and area.  The family had been in Nantwich for some 200 years.  He was also a great horticulturist honoured with many prizes over the years.  As was noted earlier there were eleven children, including Nannie, and nearly all lived in the area of Nantwich and Crewe, so the gathering would be a crowded affair.

It was there on Saturday nights when Auntie Lil and Uncle Les taught Liz how to dance in front of all the families.  A routine for Liz was to go to the chip shop for fish and chips (wrapped in newspaper), and sloppy peas.  These were happy family times to include also various excursions such as picnicking, some of which I attended when courting Liz.

A listing of family members on both sides; Nannie’s and Pop’s is as follows:

MOTHER     FATHER
Tom      Amy
Arthur     Edie
Fred      Walter
Bertha     Ann
Jane      Mabel
Ethel      Alfred
Lillian     Fred (Pop)
Bill
Sophie
one died at young age
Alice (Nannie)
TOTAL 11     TOTAL 6


Naturally there were some children but surprisingly not many.


INTERESTING RECOLLECTIONS

An interesting couple of recollections firstly was the gathering on New Year’s Eve and a dark haired person had to go out the back door to let the old year out and come in the front to let it in where a nice drink awaited him or her.  Uncle Les was the one who did this.  Secondly was the house where grandmother lived including the outhouse outside near the garden.  Somehow within the house, there was sort of a rope pulley which could hoist in winter the clothes line up towards the ceiling where the warm air would be.  In winter outside, the air would be very damp and it did rain often in Cheshire in those months so clothes would not dry to easily.


BLACKPOOL

Liz remembers that in her very early years, age unknown, mother and dad, along with Kathleen, would holiday in Blackpool (just north of Liverpool on the Atlantic Ocean coastline not that far away - part of a days journey by train or bus).  Once this was around Christmas time.  She can picture the walk they took along the beach and bright lights three stories high, as far as the eye could see.  “What a long walk that was, and I remember it to this day.”  Indeed Blackpool was the “Coney Island” of England or locally in Winnipeg in the 30's, “Winnipeg Beach” where people flocked for holidays or even a day trip by train.


OUR FIRST MEETING - see appendix 1

Meeting Liz for the first time took place on Monday, March 6, 1944, so it will be 52 years ago next March 6, 1996 since that evening as described in limericks in a separate folder as well as an appendix in this writing.  This separate loose leaf to be found in my collection with a photo of St. Mary’s Parish Church on the cover includes corny doggerel verses but still the events as they happened are pretty well factual.  The “before” and “after” pictures are copied of course from the originals, which will be included in one copy of this writing.


ROMANTIC INTERLUDE - symbol ....

The first page has a coincidental item namely the note found in one of our fortune cookies around the time I was writing those verses.  It read, “His heart was yours from the first time you met.”  Perhaps not quite, but pretty close to the truth!   And the symbol above is what we have used when leaving notes for each other signifying the end of the note.  I suppose one may interpret it as something like “Your arrow forever in my heart”.  Wildly romantic!  Indeed our symbol for ending notes to each other reflects this which is her idea, but the words are mine.


COURTSHIP BEGINS - THE DIARY AND LETTERS

So began the courtship as with many other couples around the world.  You may wonder how one remembers events and dates, but in this case it was easy for me since my daily diary began on January 1, 1943, just before leaving for England from New York on the Queen Elizabeth, up to and including June 6, 1944.  Fortunately my letters home were kept by my mother and in my possession now.  These filled many gaps.


BEAM APPROACH TRAINING - LONDON

On this day, June 6, 1944, my last entry in the diary, I travelled by train from Calveley, the name of our RAF Station near Nantwich, to Watchfield in London, England or course.  This was for a wireless course of some kind including Morse code.  This was in preparation for being posted to another RAF Station, Cranage, located about 13 miles from Nantwich, as an B.A.T. instructor - beam approach training.  Interesting this would prove to learn how to take off and land an aircraft in rain, or foggy weather, when often the runway appears at the very last moment before the wheels touch.


OVERLORD - D DAY, JUNE 6, 1944

Interesting also is that this was D Day, the Overlord attack on beaches of Normandy and other places in France.  It had been kept secret naturally, and successfully so.  Therefore there is no mention of D Day in the diary with the last page sentence being, “I wonder how Kath is, began a letter to her.”.   A letter home to the family did mention the invasion on that day.  At this point in time we were not engaged for the courtship was only of a three months in duration.  As mentioned previously, I believe that the last of my three diary books was lost.


COURTSHIP CONTINUES - DIARY

Back to that period of time between meeting Liz and June 6 in 1944, I refer to some notes I made when writing my story about the friendship between Reg Bray and me and I quote:

“Monday March 6 - Reg and I cycled in for our birthday party (his March 10, and mine March 5) with the gang of course and held at the historical Crown Hotel in Nantwich.”

“We met Liz at the Parish Hall dance after leaving the party.”

“March 8 - saw Kath again and took her home.  Made a date to see her at the dance but did not show up.”

Appendix 1 relates in verse these experiences.

Then written were a series of dates with Kath: March 18; dance, March 24; movie, April 4; letter to her, April 7; movie, April 8; dance, and so on with even shopping on April 15.  The courtship was now in earnest and roommate Reg Bray’s early prediction to me made soon after Kath and I met was getting near the truth, which was: “Mike, you’re going to marry that girl!”  I forget my reply at the time, but marriage was not even considered.  Reg saw Kath the second time April 13th at a party and were friends very quickly.


JOHN

Meanwhile, best friend John was in the process of being posted to Burma on Beaufighters (as a pilot) and had recently received his commission, which was great.  He visited me on May 6 and met Kath for the first time at the dance.  He left May 9, and I did not see him again until late August, 1945.  Also in the notes was the statement, “Met Kath’s Mom and Dad for the first time” but the date needs a check.


RELATIONSHIP DEEPENS AND OBSTACLES

As with other courting couples, going steady as they say, Kath (I think my calling her Liz began in Canada rather than in England since I just followed the lead of her mother and father) and I enjoyed being with each other and “seriousness” was probably just evolving.  To be remembered also is our situation.  She is an only child living in a lovely family home environment, while I was in the Air Force expected soon to go on operations.  Admittedly many married under these same or similar conditions, but this becomes of course a personal matter and considered in varied ways.

For me also, there was I, some 4000 or so miles from home on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  The district I came from was an inner city one and my plans for the future were not exactly rosy, although teaching was definitely to be my chosen career.  Was I ready to take Kath away from her mother and father into what one may term as a questionable environment and future?

Remember also that I was really inexperienced and a somewhat immature 22 year old.  Back in my mind too, was the reaction my Ukrainian mother would have to my marrying in England to an English girl.  I do not think I chatted with Mom and Pop about this possibility until the time when Kath and I decided to be engaged.  My diary mentions some of this:

“May 19 - am I certain what I want to do when the war is over?”
“No date - thinking of Kath as a wife but my disenchantment (if that’s the right word) about marriage” (perhaps something to do with my family and problems/separation/divorce due to my father’s alcoholism ... and of course the war situation).

“Home atmosphere at 8 the Crescent (Kath’s home) was so wonderful and new to me.”

“At times my many differing moods when with Kath” (perhaps thinking of the above).

“Should I continue with the relationship?”

“June 5 - Kath telling me she is serious about our relationship but does not think that I will be” ( a rather sad occasion this was for both of us but looking back a necessary one).


LETTERS WRITTEN TO “MON AND KIDS”... to Winnipeg

I pause here to mention my research again of the letters I wrote when overseas kept for me by my mother, God Bless her, and she in turn passed them on to Liz.  What a mystery it is to me that I did not read these carefully, sorting them according to date, until much later in my marriage and then only very briefly.  It was in 1991 when my angina laid me up for some few months that I realized how very wonderful these letters were.  This was not so much that I wrote them, but because of the wealth of information in them.  Especially useful too, as I mentions earlier, because my diary ended June 6, 1944.

The letters dated from soon after leaving for overseas on Christmas Day 1942, up until mid May 1945, amounted to a total count of 105.  This resource provided the lost information from the time the diary ended to pretty well the end of my overseas posting.  One

exception - March 1945 to the end of July 1945 is almost devoid of letters other than one I wrote to Andy, more on this later.  I have reviewed them in order to fill in many gaps at the risk of providing far too much information and perhaps needing editing when this is written.  My choice now is merely to include pieces of letters, and if anyone of the family wish to read them in full, then please do feel free to do so.  They are filed under “letters”.  Repetitions though, are inevitable.


EMPATHY - OUR PARENTS

Something else comes to mind at this point, a truly poignant feeling.  This is to attempt to empathize, to place myself in the skin of my mother and also in those of Mom and Pop.  One can only guess the thoughts of my mother as she saw me leave by train for England, off to war.  Perhaps never return as so many mothers and fathers felt at that time and times over and over again in the past, over so many generations.

Then there were Kath’s Mom and Dad, with an only child falling in love with a Canadian who may be fortunate to survive the Germans, but may then be gone for the Japanese encounter.  Surviving that meant marriage and Kath leaving them for some strange destination.  Indeed these are stories of their own.


HAPPY TIMES - MARRIAGE?

What follows may be edited, but only time will tell.  Some duplication of dates is noted with the diary notes:

Sunday April 9, 1944 .... First picnic cycling to Bickerton Hills, some 12 miles from Nantwich.  We did this a number of times and the picture in my bedroom reminds me of the climb up the hills to the flat area where we placed the tablecloth and the food on top, near an edge overlooking the fields in England of course - a beautiful sight indeed!

May 7 .... during John’s visit, visited Kath’s parents.

May 10 .... had tea in her home and I wrote “what a lovely home” and later a picnic again and a remark about a happy home.

May 26 .... had my first dinner (supper) with the family.

June 5 .... by now we were getting serious in our relationship and I wrote that I was thinking of marriage but thought what a great number of obstacles there were as mentioned earlier.  Little doubt there was that we were going “steady”, but why not just let things go on as at present, while war is on and things will sort themselves out.  The long-awaited news reaches us on the invasion Overlord and perhaps the beginning of the end of the European conflict with Japan next on the list.


WELCOME PARCELS FROM WINNIPEG

June 14 .... received parcel 33 - so even then some organization learnings in my makeup in keeping track of the parcels - I guess this was to check if any were missed.  These parcels were so welcome, mostly from home of course, but also from various groups in Winnipeg, such as High School, church, individuals, and other organizations.


RAF STATION CRANAGE

The course at Watchfield in London (last entry in my diary June 6, 1944) meant a posting as instructor to RAF Station Cranage, some 13 miles north of Nantwich ( mentioned earlier).  One letter indicated what a swell time I was having with Kath and her family.  When leaving came, Mom and Pop invited me to stay over a couple of nights so acceptance of me was a wonderful feeling.   I remember well those 13 miles of biking one way in rain or fine weather, possible because of the kind of flying schedule I had at Cranage.


FAMILY NEWS - WINNIPEG

Getting back to how my mother must have felt at this time by reading her letters, I noted in my answering letters the explanation about how wonderful Kath was, how English girls are not so different from Canadian ones, that the family would love her in no time and so forth.  Well did I realize that Mom was having a difficult time.  Ru was not much help and father was, I believe, off to British Columbia somewhere, later in Vancouver, less trouble for mother actually, Andy was in high school 17 years old, and Nellie was three years younger.  Margaret was around 9 and they lived in a rather small house (picture of house included later).  One of my letters indicated that mother should divorce father most definitely.
 

My mother worked and I had been attempting to get a dependent’s allowance for her with no luck.  Part of my salary did go to her, but even then it must have been a tough squeeze financially.  So she was not very positive to put it bluntly, about her eldest son being serious about going steady with an English girl, and perhaps marrying her.


KATH’S FABULOUS WATCH

The watch is a cute story really, since it is mentioned in my letters quite often.  The first time was of course asking mother to buy a nice watch, for Kath and I would be sending some money for this.  Remember the year is 1944.  To make a long story short, the watch did arrive one day, and how pleased Kath was to get it.  Jewellery of any kind was scarce in those days.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The watch was not working properly and needed a new part not available locally.

So back it went to Winnipeg and eventually after some lengthy time, it came back.  It not only worked perfectly, Liz wore it until her 70th birthday, when we all chipped in to buy her a lovely new watch.  What a watch and still ticking even being lost one day and found by an older couple on the road and run over.  It still kept on ticking!  They should make hearts like that little old watch!


OUR ENGAGEMENT

July 9 letter mentions that “entanglement in a marriage what with operations here and then Japan made the future look rather bleak”.  However marriage was accepted probably in early fall the exact date unknown.  Receiving a promotion at this time may have helped making a decision - from pilot officer to flying officer with a little more pay.  An aside here is mention made of Grandma (my mother’s mother) was living with the family.  She had lived in the street next to my mother’s, a room on Barber Street - old age no doubt and needing help.


PROMOTION AND PAY

Also in a later letter, I wrote that my pay had increased - promotion to F/O- and that my mother should be getting now $123 a month from my paycheck, which in today’s amount might be around $1500 more or less.  An interesting comparison as read in on e of my letters, was what Kath was earning.  She worked six days a week off on Fridays from 8 in the morning to 5:30, cycling the 4 miles to Crewe and 4 miles back.  The pay was 8 pounds a week, which was something like $35 a week, or perhaps $140 a month today’s value.

At this time I was cycling the 13 miles to and from Cranage every second day and slept over in my room at Kath’s home treated indeed like a son.  Kath taught me piano which had a partial success.  In one letter, one phrase worth noting was “Tomorrow he may be no more”, the “he” being any body in a war and citizens were not excluded dependent upon where on lived.  Writing this was sad but was the result of an occurrence which happened July 26, 1944 when stationed in Calveley during courtship of Kath.


A VERY SAD DAY - REG

In a September letter to my mother, I wrote what happened to my very fine friend and roommate Reg Bray from Alexander, Manitoba.  Those words I wrote “Tomorrow he may be no more”, had been written in a letter sent to my mother soon after Reg had been killed in a flying accident.  Naturally losing Reg was shattering because of our close friendship and Kath, of course was saddened since she came to like Reg.

It took some time for me to accept that he was not with me.  Other friends had gone through accidents, but this was something different for me.  So instead of mentioning Reg, I wrote those words.  Thinking about it now makes me question my writing since it must have saddened my mother, those few words.  Also, this too had a bearing on whether I wanted to think of engagement and marriage while the war was over.

The story of “My Friendship with Reg” has been written and copies sent to members of the family.  He is buried in the Canadian cemetery in Chester, Blacon District and on the gravestone are the lovely words: “With a cheery smile, a wave of his had, he has wandered into an unknown land.”


BLACKOUTS

Actually a bomb did land early in the war in or near Nantwich, but not much later the enemy planes were non-existent since strategic targets were further south, especially London.  However, the blackouts remained which meant that it was against the law to have any light showing through from a house.  This ended September 17, 1944, as stated in one of my letters.


PLANS FOR MARRIAGE

My letters started always with “ Dear Mom and kids” with only a few separate letters to each of my brothers and sisters. Pictures came once in a while and what a treat this was for Kath and for me since the changes in my family were amazing naturally at their growing stages. I noted also that acceptance of our engagement had taken place by my mother and this pleased us greatly.

Finding an engagement ring (October 22) and later of course a wedding ring for Kath and for me was a challenge in England in war time conditions. Scarce they were indeed. Someone told us that a certain pawn shop in either Nantwich or Cheshire. Forgotten where this was located but successful we were in buying them. Liz wears her ring but I chose at first in Winnipeg to keep mine in a safe place. One reason may have been because I was  playing basketball and there was too great a risk in catching the finger with the ring on the net. Indeed this happened to one of our players and he lost his finger from the knuckle to the end. (At the moment, son Jamie had the ring given to him many years ago).
 

An early September decision was made to get married in England and I was eligible under usual arrangements for a seven day leave every two months.  Plans were discussed and next summer was tentatively indicated.  Kath and I were more serious about the future naturally, and she supported the advice given to me in one of Dr. Shaver’s letters to consider teaching as a career.  For me three or four years at a university seemed such a long time and then there was the thought of being sent East for the other war.  Eventually that was dropped, that is volunteering for duty in Asia.


MY MOTHER STILL CONCERNED

Gradually over a few weeks, Kath and I decided it was no use waiting too long to get married.  An October 8th letter I wrote was in answer to sad and somewhat bitter comments written by my mother, which Kath read.  I have no letters written by my mother, only my replies.  And I really laid it on the line this time since after reading the letter was really in tears.  One sentence I wrote back was “Now she says she will not marry me unless you (mother) truly believe you wish her to do so.”

Further on in my October letter: “Do not take this letter as my trying to argue with you.  You know I love you and the family very much and I appreciate very much also how you feel towards Kath and me - and your thinking of losing me.  Why look at it as losing me?  I’ll be near and always helping you.  And you will see that Kath is more of an asset for you.  I wouldn’t do this if I did not realize that I have found a treasure and have grown very fond of that treasure.”

A letter I wrote a few days later mentions the love Kath and I had for each other and how very much Kath wants to have a mother/daughter relationship when she arrives in Canada.  So though acceptance seemed to have taken place earlier, there were still some doubts by my mother but hopefully my letters eased the situation considerably.  Naturally, distance was the problem and meeting each other face to face was the key.


BITS AND PIECES

Bits and pieces while still posted at Cranage and cycling to Nantwich every second day from letters are:
“I pray for you all often”.
Letters often took two weeks to arrive to arrive from Winnipeg.

Joe Maday visit - flying Typhoons shooting down the silent, frightening pilotless buzz bombs sent over London from German - held land on the continent (probably Holland).  Once when in London, I was fairly close to where it landed.  One hears this buzzing noise and then it stops, which means the bomb now drops on its way to destruction.  Many citizens, and homes, were destroyed in this way.

Mrs. Saint’s Mom is on her death bed, which meant much nursing by the daughters.

Mr. Saint (first names Frederick Eli called Fred by his mates) always busy at his greenhouse at the back of the house.

“Marg, I am two and a half inches taller than Kath”.  Margaret, the youngest, was nine years old at this time and wondering if Kath was taller then me.

Teasing Kath at the risk of a spirited reaction was a favourite pastime for me.

Bing Crosby, a definite favourite in England.

Families had so many points for food per month.

By mid November, my family, including mother, had finally accepted our planned marriage - a Happy Birthday telegram sent to Kath for November 20th - 20 years old.  We had also sent one to my mother whose birthday was on November 21st.

In late November, and most of December, Kath was quite sick with flu and not at work.  Gives her time to think such as how she will like living in Canada and what kind of place it really is, and so forth.

Kath phones me when I am at Cranage instructing.

No actual date for marriage, but spring is considered best and since John is away in Burma, Bernie Maluta has been asked to be best man for me.


JOHN’S WEDDING PRESENT

An interesting occurrence was the wedding present John sent from Burma and it came in pieces.  This was an inlaid in ivory top of the Taj Mahal and the legs screwed on being in the shape of elephant heads with ivory tusks - a most beautiful present.  Also a Ghurkha knife was given.  One package arrived with two legs and then the next with two legs.  After some time the table top came and how pleased we were with the whole package.  The table in our home today with some inlaid top repair required.


NO FLYING - OPERATIONS POSTING - 163 SQUADRON

December 28 - all our students were taken away - no reason given.

Christmas Eve party at Officers Mess and what a great time we had - even dancing barefoot on a table.... WOW!

January 7, 1945 - now it is obvious a posting is coming soon which took place a few days later, arriving at Upper Heyford January 9, quite a distance away for England that is, from Nantwich.  This was an operational training (OTU) still on Oxford aircraft for three to four weeks of bombing practice with actual flying starting January 17.

After this is the changeover to the nearby satellite RAF STATION Barford St. John to fly the Mosquito aircraft still on operational training prior to being assigned to a squadron.  It was a great stroke of luck to crew up with Mel Boulton as my navigator at this station.  The date was Feb. 28, according to one of my letters.  Finally with 1192 hours of flying as a pilot, with a great navigator (only two of us in a Mosquito for operations), we are posted to 163 Squadron on March 13, located in Huntington, some 40 miles north of London.  First flight over Germany did not take long.  March 16, to be exact, over Berlin of five hours and ten minutes duration.  Our first trip, a comedy of errors (see Overseas story not written as yet except the written speech given at an annual meeting called “Suddenly It’s Autumn”).
An interesting aside here, is how Shire came about in England such as the County of Cheshire, Huntingdonshire, Buckinghamshire, and so on.  Shire means sheared and land areas were areas sheared off from the large territories long ago each shire given a name.


OPERATIONS THOUGHTS

A separate writing on my fourteen operation flights (Overseas is planned but the aforementioned information dovetails with this story of courtship with Liz) and leading to our wedding, April 10, 1945.  It must be said however, that these were exciting times for me since to be posted to fly the “wooden” fast Mosquito was a dream come true (the balsam wood with a light metal covering on the “Mossie” made it a light two engine aircraft providing for great speed for that time).  To be remembered is this dream to be in “operations” started back in the fall of 1941 when I joined the Air Force.  Mind you single engine was my choice then.  The combination of the wedding plans and eventual marriage naturally enhanced the excitement to no end.
 

Looking back again to January and our courtship with information gleaned from the letters, it seems best to highlight in summary from some of the highlights.  I had been away to Watchfield in London as noted before and soon after to Upper Heyford.  Though exciting for me, it was probably not so in every way for Kath.  She realized that the training would lead to operations and though my memory is faulty at this time, we must have chatted seriously about our feelings.  After all, there was no guarantee that I would survive.


MARRIAGE PLANS, REFLECTIONS, PROMOTION

The marriage date could not be set since this would depend upon a leave of at least ten days. Indeed, for all I knew at the time, even a short leave of a couple of days might well be an impossibility. Mind you, I was restless since I had not flown for about three weeks and missed this very much. The parting between the two of us even though temporary was sad but naturally we did correspond frequently and the phone was a godsend.One decision made was that our honeymoon would be in Devonshire on the west coast just south of the  city of Bristol.
One letter reflected my inward hopes that “ somehow I feel that I shall make it home by September (1945)”. University was planned agreeing with the advice of Dr. Shaver who had recommended this strongly by letter. I began some studying on my own; Grade 12 English. Expected soon also was the Flight Lieutenant rank which did happen January 26 ( 1945) the same day actually Kath received a lovely compact from my mother and family as an engagement present.


VISITS AND LETTERS

Visits to the famous university city of Oxford were enjoyable as was the lomg-awaited visit from Kath when I was stationed at Barford St. John.February 5th letter indicates that the marriage date had not been set as yet and mentioned also is a reaction to mother’s letter that brother Rudy had gone to join his father in Vancouver. I managed a short leave to Nantwich around February 13 at which time Kath and I bought my wedding ring. We visited Reg Bray’s grave in Chester. I assured Kath as best as I could that operations were not as dangerous as they used to be which was indeed true towards the end of the war which ended officially May 8th, 1945.
For some reason there were no letters from February 13 to April 11 and even beyond although I must have written a few. The reason may have been my being very busy with training and naturally the daily letters to Kath took some time as well. However one letter is notedsent to brother Andy February 28 and it appears that even the wedding date had not been set due to not being able to get a definite date for a week to ten day leave.


MARRIED - APRIL 10, 1945

According to my logbook record , April 7 to April 15 (1945) was arranged finally. The usual preparations had taken place by Kath, family , and friends (Nancy Palmer was the bridesmaid). We booked a room in Woolacombe, Devonshire, located on the Atlantic Ocean shore for four nights with a stopover first at Bristol the day of our wedding. The ‘boys” took me out the night before to the local  pub or was it pubs April 9th? Yours truly could not handle this kind (?)  hospitality with the result of christening ( upchucking) a tree near Kath’s home. As for the wedding, the letter sent to my mother and family dated April 11th tells the story.


LETTER TO MOM AND THE KIDS April 11, 1945

Worth repeating is the wedding notice in the local paper with heading SPACK SAINT but it would have been more interesting if the heading had been SAINT SPACK. Letter follows word for word except for brackets sent from Devonshire on the first day after our wedding. I am reminded just how did I find the time to write the letter! I did want Mom to feel as if she had been at the wedding but whether or not I succeeded in this I do not know:

Dear Mom and Kids,
Kath’s and my wedding went off wonderfully yesterday amidst a fairly large crowd of people and outside very welcome brilliant sunshine. The sun streamed through the church windows brightening the stained glass painting scenes ( St. Mary’s Church in Nantwich. Bernie Maluta was the best man since John (Potter) was in Burma at the time. Bennie Wilkonski and Billie Podwysocki (John’s brother but to be noted is that John had his surname changed to Potter) both could not be at the wedding which was unfortunate.

Anyway, to get to the wedding date, Bernie and I before 1.30 pm, cleaned up etc. and then having some time looked through my albums recalling the old days at home. Then the taxi came to take us to the church where we sat down in the front pew to await the bride. She was due to appear at 2 pm and did herself proud she did when she arrived. Before she came however, you know the nervous reaction a groom goes through as did the best man also.Our knees shook a bit I know whilst sitting there waiting to look as unconcerned as we could. As an aside, Bernie is fine and waiting anxiously to get posted back home as will we naturally particularly now that we are to be married.

Finally at five past two in the afternoon, the organ began playing the wedding march. The long walk for Kath and the others began. Soon she was close enough for me to note how lovely she looked all in white. Everyone later commented on this. The wedding dress you will see of course when we get home. The service did not take long at all and soon we were man and wife. (After thought: the fee was three pounds which is about fourteen dollars in Canadian money. I figured this was rather expensive but then how cheap can a guy get especially for his wedding!)

Coming out of church we had our photographs taken and hopefully they come out nicely. I for one squinted quite a bit since we faced the sun. Then the confetti came and what a mess! Everyone did enjoy throwing it everywhere even trying to get some down our necks!. Good old Bernie got a mouthful. Good thing he did not swallow at the same time but he got this when trying to slip handfuls down our necks.Our hall for the banquet was next door and we received quickly our guests and all were settled.

The wedding cake was beautiful - wish we had a picture of it.Everything went smoothly although someone told me that when I knelt down at the alter with Kath, the “someone” whispered that there was a hole in the sole of one of my shoes! The person might have been Nannie who sat with Pop in the front row.

There were many of our friends who gave to us a grand, really wonderful send-off at the railway  station. One of the trainmen locked us in our compartment to ourselves - it was  filled with confetti. Mel, my navigator, wrote “JUST MARRIED, DO NOT DISTURB” on our carriage window. That drew many smiles at every station where we stopped on the way  to Bristol first for an overnight. How did we get out of our carriage it being locked? The railman must have opened it.

Our honeymoon had begun and we were as happy as two kids.  How fortunate we were in the choice of the small town of Woolacombe located on the west shore of Devonshire; the Atlantic Ocean coast.  The folks and friends in Nantwich had been so very wonderful to us treating us so kindly. Presents galore as well as $200 which will go a long way towards expenses. We are very happy Mom. Indeed we thought of you so often during these days and wished so much that you could have been in attendance. However, I think it will not be too long before we shall see you with the coming end of this war. At least the expected end.

Our dearest love and our first letter as a married couple.
Kath and Mike ( Mr. and Mrs. Spack)


AN UNUSUAL HONEYMOON

Since arrival at Woolacombe was on April 12th and my leave ended April 15th, there was little time to explore the surroundings to be sure except for one visit to Ilfracombe, a city further north on the coast at a point at the Bristol Channel. Lo and behold this city was awash with WRENS, that is women in the Royal Navy. What a bachelor’s haven this was and the best-kept secret in the war probably. Naturally I only glanced briefly at one or more when Kath was looking in another direction.

Kath and I did have a short but wonderful few days. Then we caught a train for Huntingdon to 163 Squadron where Mel and I had up to this time completed seven operational trips over Germany . It had been decided by Kath and me that our honeymoon should last longer. So she settled in a nice hotel even though Mel and I would be continuing operational flights. Indeed on April 16, the day we arrived in Huntingdon, a trip was scheduled to Berlin ( six prior to this one). This took place that night since we were a bomber Squadron and all “ops” took place at night.

Believe me,these two youngsters newly married were blinded with love to have decided to do this since it must have been a constant worry for Kath. We did three operational trips while she was on her honeymoon in Huntingdon the town nearest to 163 Squadron. The last trip was to Berlin amd two other targets. Between these trips there was time to sunbathe and boat on the river remembering that these particular days were unusually warm. Liz ended up with a mass of freckles and a somewhat reddish nose. For some reason I do not think we visited the Station where I roomed with Mel. As an aside this station RAF Wyton was the newest built and the accomodations were marvellous. When Mel and I arrived we were absolutely astonished to put it mildly. We had even, a menu for our supper served by waitresses if memory serves me correctly.

My notes (probably letter home) read, “April 22 - saw Kath off at the train in London” and so this rather unusual honeymoon ended. Mother was asked not to send her wedding present from Canada since we were thinking positively that one of us would be home in Winnipeg soon. Financially we were more than a little pleased with the $112 a month Kath to be received from the Canadian government and my mother had $25 added.


MEL AND I - BOMBING TRIPS

Mel and I completed fourteen trips which was what we believed were half the tour(30) ( a tour meant the completion of operations and a rest period with other duties. Some did a second Tour and even a third). Lately information was received that the tour was actually 50 but that matters little of course at this point in time. In addition to the fourteen, we did a Cook’s Tour (Cook’s was actually a travel agency hence the name). A ground crew person came with us to take a look at the damage done in France and Germany by our Allies and Germany. This was a four hour ten minute trip and what an eyeful it was! My total hours as a pilot were 1279 with more after the war including Britain and Winnipeg ( joined the Reserve when home). The Cook’s tour? Amazing! Frightful! More details about this later.


VE (Victory in Europe) DAY

VE DAY arrived officially on May 8th, 1945 and naturally I wanted to be with Kath and family rather than stay for the celebrations at the Sose at first in Winnipeg to keep mine in a safe place. One reason may have been because I was
 playing basketball and there was too great a risk in catching the finger with the ring on the net. Indeed this happened to one of our players and he lost his finger from the knuckle to the end. (At the moment, son Jamie had the ring given to him many years ago).

An early September decision was made to get married in England and I was eligible under usual arrangements for a seven day leave every two months.  Plans were discussed and next summer was tentatively indicated.  Kath and I were more serious about the future naturally, and she supported the advice given to me in one of Dr. Shaver’s letters to consider teaching as a career.  For me three or four years at a university seemed such a long time and then there was the thought of being sent East for the other war.  Eventually that was dropped, that is volunteering for duty in Asia.


MY MOTHER STILL CONCERNED

Gradually over a few weeks, Kath and I decided it was no use waiting too long to get married.  An October 8th letter I wrote was in answer to sad and somewhat bitter comments written by my mother, which Kath read.  I have no letters written by my mother, only my replies.  And I really laid it on the line this time since after reading the letter was really in tears.  One sentence I wrote back was “Now she says she will not marry me unless you (mother) truly believe you wish her to do so.”

Further on in my October letter: “Do not take this letter as my trying to argue with you.  You know I love you and the family very much and I appreciate very much also how you feel towards Kath and me - and your thinking of losing me.  Why look at it as losing me?  I’ll be near and always helping you.  And you will see that Kath is more of an asset for you.  I wouldn’t do this if I did not realize that I have found a treasure and have grown very fond of that treasure.”

A letter I wrote a few days later mentions the love Kath and I had for each other and how very much Kath wants to have a mother/daughter relationship when she arrives in Canada.  So though acceptance seemed to have taken place earlier, there were still some doubts by my mother but hopefully my letters eased the situation considerably.  Naturally, distance was the problem and meeting each other face to face was the key.


BITS AND PIECES

Bits and pieces while still posted at Cranage and cycling to Nantwich every second day from letters are:
“I pray for you all often”.
Letters often took two weeks to arrive to arrive from Winnipeg.

Joe Maday visit - flying Typhoons shooting down the silent, frightening pilotless buzz bombs sent over London from German - held land on the continent (probably Holland).  Once when in London, I was fairly close to where it landed.  One hears this buzzing noise and then it stops, which means the bomb now drops on its way to destruction.  Many citizens, and homes, were destroyed in this way.

Mrs. Saint’s Mom is on her death bed, which meant much nursing by the daughters.

Mr. Saint (first names Frederick Eli called Fred by his mates) always busy at his greenhouse at the back of the house.

“Marg, I am two and a half inches taller than Kath”.  Margaret, the youngest, was nine years old at this time and wondering if Kath was taller then me.

Teasing Kath at the risk of a spirited reaction was a favourite pastime for me.

Bing Crosby, a definite favourite in England.

Families had so many points for food per month.

By mid November, my family, including mother, had finally accepted our planned marriage - a Happy Birthday telegram sent to Kath for November 20th - 20 years old.  We had also sent one to my mother whose birthday was on November 21st.

In late November, and most of December, Kath was quite sick with flu and not at work.  Gives her time to think such as how she will like living in Canada and what kind of place it really is, and so forth.

Kath phones me when I am at Cranage instructing.

No actual date for marriage, but spring is considered best and since John is away in Burma, Bernie Maluta has been asked to be best man for me.


JOHN’S WEDDING PRESENT

An interesting occurrence was the wedding present John sent from Burma and it came in pieces.  This was an inlaid in ivory top of the Taj Mahal and the legs screwed on being in the shape of elephant heads with ivory tusks - a most beautiful present.  Also a Ghurkha knife was given.  One package arrived with two legs and then the next with two legs.  After some time the table top came and how pleased we were with the whole package.  The table in our home today with some inlaid top repair required.


NO FLYING - OPERATIONS POSTING - 163 SQUADRON

December 28 - all our students were taken away - no reason given.

Christmas Eve party at Officers Mess and what a great time we had - even dancing barefoot on a table.... WOW!

January 7, 1945 - now it is obvious a posting is coming soon which took place a few days later, arriving at Upper Heyford January 9, quite a distance away for England that is, from Nantwich.  This was an operational training (OTU) still on Oxford aircraft for three to four weeks of bombing practice with actual flying starting January 17.

After this is the changeover to the nearby satellite RAF STATION Barford St. John to fly the Mosquito aircraft still on operational training prior to being assigned to a squadron.  It was a great stroke of luck to crew up with Mel Boulton as my navigator at this station.  The date was Feb. 28, according to one of my letters.  Finally with 1192 hours of flying as a pilot, with a great navigator (only two of us in a Mosquito for operations), we are posted to 163 Squadron on March 13, located in Huntington, some 40 miles north of London.  First flight over Germany did not take long.  March 16, to be exact, over Berlin of five hours and ten minutes duration.  Our first trip, a comedy of errors (see Overseas story not written as yet except the written speech given at an annual meeting called “Suddenly It’s Autumn”).
An interesting aside here, is how Shire came about in England such as the County of Cheshire, Huntingdonshire, Buckinghamshire, and so on.  Shire means sheared and land areas were areas sheared off from the large territories long ago each shire given a name.


OPERATIONS THOUGHTS

A separate writing on my fourteen operation flights (Overseas is planned but the aforementioned information dovetails with this story of courtship with Liz) and leading to our wedding, April 10, 1945.  It must be said however, that these were exciting times for me since to be posted to fly the “wooden” fast Mosquito was a dream come true (the balsam wood with a light metal covering on the “Mossie” made it a light two engine aircraft providing for great speed for that time).  To be remembered is this dream to be in “operations” started back in the fall of 1941 when I joined the Air Force.  Mind you single engine was my choice then.  The combination of the wedding plans and eventual marriage naturally enhanced the excitement to no end.

Looking back again to January and our courtship with information gleaned from the letters, it seems best to highlight in summary from some of the highlights.  I had been away to Watchfield in London as noted before and soon after to Upper Heyford.  Though exciting for me, it was probably not so in every way for Kath.  She realized that the training would lead to operations and though my memory is faulty at this time, we must have chatted seriously about our feelings.  After all, there was no guarantee that I would survive.


MARRIAGE PLANS, REFLECTIONS, PROMOTION

The marriage date could not be set since this would depend upon a leave of at least ten days. Indeed, for all I knew at the time, even a short leave of a couple of days might well be an impossibility. Mind you, I was restless since I had not flown for about three weeks and missed this very much. The parting between the two of us even though temporary was sad but naturally we did correspond frequently and the phone was a godsend.One decision made was that our honeymoon would be in Devonshire on the west coast just south of the  city of Bristol.

One letter reflected my inward hopes that “ somehow I feel that I shall make it home by September (1945)”. University was planned agreeing with the advice of Dr. Shaver who had recommended this strongly by letter. I began some studying on my own; Grade 12 English. Expected soon also was the Flight Lieutenant rank which did happen January 26 ( 1945) the same day actually Kath received a lovely compact from my mother and family as an engagement present.


VISITS AND LETTERS

Visits to the famous university city of Oxford were enjoyable as was the lomg-awaited visit from Kath when I was stationed at Barford St. John.February 5th letter indicates that the marriage date had not been set as yet and mentioned also is a reaction to mother’s letter that brother Rudy had gone to join his father in Vancouver. I managed a short leave to Nantwich around February 13 at which time Kath and I bought my wedding ring. We visited Reg Bray’s grave in Chester. I assured Kath as best as I could that operations were not as dangerous as they used to be which was indeed true towards the end of the war which ended officially May 8th, 1945.

For some reason there were no letters from February 13 to April 11 and even beyond although I must have written a few. The reason may have been my being very busy with training and naturally the daily letters to Kath took some time as well. However one letter is notedsent to brother Andy February 28 and it appears that even the wedding date had not been set due to not being able to get a definite date for a week to ten day leave.


MARRIED - APRIL 10, 1945

According to my logbook record , April 7 to April 15 (1945) was arranged finally. The usual preparations had taken place by Kath, family , and friends (Nancy Palmer was the bridesmaid). We booked a room in Woolacombe, Devonshire, located on the Atlantic Ocean shore for four nights with a stopover first at Bristol the day of our wedding. The ‘boys” took me out the night before to the local  pub or was it pubs April 9th? Yours truly could not handle this kind (?)  hospitality with the result of christening ( upchucking) a tree near Kath’s home. As for the wedding, the lette not easy amongst the large crown but finally it came even though in England some pictures arrived from time to time.


SETTLING IN

This did not take too long from the time I arrived July 31 or August 1. I knew that United College ( now University of Winnipeg) had to be phoned for my two make up courses to complete Grade 12 credits.  This would then make me eligible to enter second year university in the fall.  This was arranged even though I was still in uniform not having time to have purchased civilian clothes. An aside is that I had gained around 10 pounds since the time of joining in 1941. This was due perhaps to the lack of activity overseas. Mind you, there was squash, tennis, and soccer, but more of the time in recreation was spent in snooker and billiards.  At the time I registered in August a couple of days late, I registered also best friend John who had not as yet arrived from Burma.


WAITING FOR KATH OR CALLED BY HER NICKNAME LIZ?

Correspondence with Kath took place regularly and she was patiently waiting for news that she would be leaving England to join me. At the same time I knew how sad her parents would be when their only child would leave.

Classes were great and what a change to what I had been involved with in England! In the meanwhile word arrived that Johnwould be coming home especially since the atom bombs set off by the United States on Horishima and Nagasacki, Japan, ended that conflict in a hurry. John had volunteered for that war but now was free to ship for home (VJ Day - Victory in Japan). I forget the actual day in August . He also wanted to be a teacher and as statd previously I registered him for the Arts program. So we would be together but late he would be for the September classes. Our reunion took place finally and it was the same wonderful John that I had known for so many years.. A separate writing of my deep frindship with him is planned ( and was completed up to the date of his passing November 10, 1998).


UNIVERSITY AND APARTMENT SEARCHING

How marvellous it was ! University! Back in my boyhood inner city days I never thought that some day I would be taking university courses leading to a teaching degree. Being with John as well as with many old friends from our high school days at St. Johns Technical was indeed a joy. How fortunate we were and all because of a war sad to say!  John and I played for the University of Manitoba football team since United as a College at the time was affiliated to the U of M so granting of degrees was possible only at the U of M.  Of course we played for the basketball team as well so with classes and sports we were very busy.

At last ! The imortant news of Kath’s leaving England was pretty well settled early March, 1946. My search for an apartment was not as easy as I had anticipated.  One reason was that I hoped for a place not too far from my family and United.


AT LAST! AN APARTMENT!

The Red River forms the northern boundary of Point Douglas where I had lived with the family on Disraeli street ( a few houses in fact). Directly across the river was the district of Elmwood and beyond that East Kildonan. Amalgamation had not taken place as yet; many years to go for this (1971?). Finally two rooms were found in Elmwood on the top story. Not a large building and rather old . Also not as handy to Disraeli Street since the Disraeli bridge had not been built as yet. The top floor had only the two suites and a common toilet. The other person was an older English lady and she was so nice to Liz. This choice was not the best but it was that or live with the family where space was minimal. Alos this was to be a temporary arrangement.


SINATRA SINGS

Just a thought so back to before liz came. Correspondence between the two of us was often but on way sticks in my mind. Once walking with John on Main Street there was an opportunity for a reasonable price to make a record, the 78 speed variety. Since I felt I had a decent singing voice ( nobody else did) and one resembling Frank Sinatra, I chose to sing. Liz did get the tape and recalls that one side referred to the month we were married. The song was “April and You” for we were married April 10th. The other was “Long Ago and Far away” which was certainly appropriate. Indeed this writing has as its title “Long Ago and Far Away”.

Much later Liz wrote and explained the problem she and a friend had.  A record player was found but and a big but this was, there was no needle.  They finally arrived at a solution. Not buying one since this had been tried. A pin believe it or not! One had to place one’s ear as close as possible to the record player and indeed the song could be heard but only just. She did not keep the record since no doubt it would have cracked on the way overseas. I tried the pin idea and it worked but the volume was so low. However, and this was a positive fact, my voice sounded much better with the pin than with the louder volume! John and decided that the words to the songs were more important than the singing.


LIZ ARRIVES!!!

 Communication finally reached us as to the train’s arrival in Winnipeg. The date was the day after my birthday ( March 5 - 24 years of age) which was the 6th. I may have mentioned earlier that March 6th was the date when I first spotted Liz at the Parish Hall dance but was not able to meet her ( 1944). I remember clearly as if it were yesterday Liz walking up the stairs of the CPR Railway station in her fawn coat so pretty with her English complexion still looking girlish for her 21 years. Just who else came with me to meet her I do not remember. Certainly it is one of the many highlights of my life next to getting married to her.
Interesting to note taken from a book titled “War Brides”:  47,788 war brides and 21,950 children totalling 69,733 persons arrived in Canada up to December 31, 1946. This book written by Joyce Hibbert is in back of this album and worth reading.
Liz recounts her experiences in coming which will follow. Most importantly, we were together at last !!!!!


MEETING THE FAMILY

So the celebration of her arrival started firstly with hugs and kisses followed by proceeding to the family’s home on Disraeli Street. This area is residential and the oldest in Winnipeg. I had written to Liz about the two rooms and prepared her hopefully  for such a change from her home in Nantwich; her own room and other comforts there. Her letter confirmed my belief that the important thing was that we would be together to start our new life, a married one with the prospect of a family in the future.


OUR FIRST HOME

Finally the time came to go to McPail Street amd one resident there welcomed us warmly. She was an elderlu lady if memory serves correctly, from London in England originally. What a gret help she was for Liz in many ways in getting her settled into her new home. Of course a telegram was sent to Kath’s Mom and Dad to indicate she had arrived safely. Much more could be writtne about our reunion but the emotions felt are too difficult to print on paper.


LIZ TELLS US ABOUT LEAVING NANTWICH

One more set of notes indicates Kath’s experiences in leaving Nantwich for Canada from Liverpool. Her Mom and Dad said goodbye to her at the train station in Nantwich. How very sad a parting this was no doubt. Others were there also more of them crying for who knows when they or relatives might  visit. Many were elderly fearing this would be the last time they would see each other.
 Finally Kath was on her own  with tears in her eyes on the way to Liverpool from her home in Nantwich. In Liverpool she was met by committee members and other war brides some with crying babies . Then they there were taken to an auditorium, given sheets, pillows , etc. as well as assigned to a cot. “ This must have been similar to the Army” she related.


MURRAY

A very important occasion took place before Kath left England. This was the birth in 1945 of Murray Smith, son of Kath’s favorite Auntie Lil and uncle Les both mentioned earlier. Murray was born a spastic child with cerebral palsy and no child could be loved more by family and friends. Auntie was in her early forties when Murray came along and both Lil and Les felt God had answered their prayers with a very special child. Such a joy it was in later years with our own family to meet Murray and his friends. Please see Appendix 111 for writeups. Pictures are in the original album.

ON BOARD SHIP AT LAST

Many questions had to be answered to the war brides for the group were together in Liverpool for two days “cooped up like chickens”, Kath said. She was not able to phone home and this made her feel quite homesick and so early on the trip to feel this way.  Boarding the ship named Letitia took place at last! She found herself with 14 others in one room. Bunkbeds were one on top of each other three to a section. Only a small clearance between also so no doubt many bumped their heads from time to time when getting up from sleep or reading or whatever ( similar to my own quarters on the Queen Elizabeth boat leaving from New York). Believe me sleeping was not easy under those conditions.

The came the seasickness once the boat was on its way. This began very early on the trip and Kath was one of the sick one along with others including some of the babies who voiced their displeasure loudly. Kath remembers so well that this continued for most or all of the trip of five or six days. The for some reason there was a three day delay in Halifax, Nova Scotia due to looking for luggage found finally . Definitely a friend to everyone was the steward who went ashore and brought fruit for everyone - pineapple. To this day Kath states emphatically that she hates pineapples as well as pickles.  “ Getting on the train at Halifax took some time,” Kath told us later”, but finally we were on the way west. The train ride was not much better with feeling sick. Little did I realize that there was almost some 3000 miles still to go before reaching Winnipeg. From the time she left Nantwich to arrival at the CPR Station in Winnipeg , three weeks had gone by. What an ordeal this was due to sea and train sickness. Was I ever glad to see Mike, Baba( Mike’s mother), Nellie, and Margaret at the railway station!”


BITS AND PIECES FROM LETTERS

Bits and pieces while still posted at Cranage :
1. “Riding the bike from Cranage to Nantwich, some 13 miles, every  week....”
2.“I pray for you all often”.
3. Letters often took two weeks to arrive to arrive from Winnipeg.
4. Joe Maday visit - flying Typhoons shooting down the silent, frightening pilotless buzz bombs sent over London from German - held land on the continent (probably Holland).  Once when in London, I was fairly close to where it landed.  One hears this buzzing noise and then it stops, which means the bomb now drops on its way to destruction.  Many citizens, and homes, were destroyed in this way.
5.Mrs. Saint’s Mom is on her death bed, which meant much nursing by the daughters.
6. Mr. Saint (first names Frederick Eli called Fred by his mates) and called Pop by us probably thinking when Kath left England for Canada that emigrating to Canada might be a possibility.

Story almost ended and new adventure to begin!


NOVEMBER 4, 2003: LOOKING BACK BRIEFLY!

No promises about the length of  “Looking Back”! Friend Bill Hillman who so kindly has arranged a number of albums to be placed in our web site, is to include this one, Long Ago and Far away.This is great since it completes the time spent in England with the Air Force. After many years, approximately 60, some events perhaps missed in previous writings as well as recent ones, may be mentioned briefly.

Kath and I have kept in touch with fine friend Olive Williams but her sister passed away about a year ago.Olive is not too well but then the same holds true for most of us in later years. Kath will be 79 on November 2oth of this year and my 82nd takes place March 5th 2004 God willing for both of us. Molly Burch left us not too long ago after a lengthy illness. Kath’s Mom and Dad as well as mine are not with us but Nannie lived until she was in her mid-nineties. Quite an age and 31 years having lived in our home.

Still living ar Peg and George Nicholls; George is in his 90's now and Peg will be there soon. David lives with them and we chat with him often on the phone as well as more recently using the E mail. Wonderful friends they are . They took part in all the family outings we had in England. Those picnics and travels to Wales were part of our courtship. Lovely indeed were the countrysides of Cheshire and Wales.  George worked in a clothing factory and he gave me two suede jackets. I still have and often wear one of these. Jamie has the other I think.

Our family alongwith Nannie and Pop madea visit to Nantwich and what fond memories there are as a result. I initiated an exchange program whereby some of our students would   go to the College at Alsager near Crewe while some students from Alsager travelled to our faculty. This program continued for many years with different professors and students. I came to know Dean Kendricks and his wife Sylvia very well. Included also was their Director of Field Experiences Mike Culley and wife Elizabeth. Tremendous experience this was for our students and the professors.

So ends “Long Ago and Far Away”. At the time of dreaming up a title for this album, I never realized that the closing paragraphs would take place some sixty years later! I thank God with all my heart for being here to do this. The title is a popular song in the “old” days to be found at the beginning of the album and the words fit beautifully.
God Bless!


SECTION 3: KATH'S STORY
LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY
Kath and Mike's Overseas Story
Long Ago and Far Away
Appendices
Wedding Photo Album
Kath's Family Photo Album
Contact Daughter Cathy at:
cspack@mymts.net
 
 
 
 

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Bill and Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio