While hundreds of thousands of Canadians fought overseas during the Second World War, we who lived in New Waterford had it pretty easy.
The war took place between 1939 and 1945 in Europe, Africa and the Pacific. Two of Mom’s brothers joined the service. Her brother Sinclair had lived in the USA and joined the Air force but really, we hardly ever heard a word about him. I saw a photo of him and his wife many years ago but I do not know if anyone ever saved it.
Mom’s brother, Charlie, joined the army in Sydney and served in Europe. Wounded in Belgium he came home a broken man. The horrors of that war played on his mind and he lived a life from then on tortured by his memories.
We were kids at the time.
Living in New Waterford was peaceful enough. One street over from our house at the top of St. Joseph St. there was a Canadian Army base. It was part of the coastal defense system. The system was set up to protect the towns and city of Sydney from attack from the sea.
An underground tunnel ran from the base about 2 or 3 miles out to Lingan where there were batteries of huge guns set up and aimed seaward.
This was Fort Petrie along the Sydney/New Waterford Highway. There were big guns here to protect the harbor from attack.
Every once in awhile the army would carry out gunnery practice either by firing their guns at huge targets that were towed behind tug boats, or small planes would tow a target a long distance behind the plane. The guns would make one huge bang when fired and it would make the dishes rattle and sometimes fall out of the kitchen cabinets. Mom would be wild when this happened. All of her neighbors would be equally ticked off and a few times they walked as a group up to the base on the hill to state their complaints.
The one thing we did experience during this time was rationing. The government had to ration the amount of food that was out there to make certain that there was enough for the war effort. Every family was given ration books. All of the different types of food were represented by slips in the book. For instance. There were clips for tea, flour, meat, sugar, salt, etc.
Were these the first trading stamps?
The women would get together in one of the houses as a group and each would have a shopping list of food items they would require in the next month or so. Then the trading began. Someone may not need tea so they would trade with someone who needed tea. For that coupon they may receive a coupon for butter or meat in exchange.
Quite often a lady would come by the house and want to trade for something she had forgotten to add to her list.
The first item to be put into the restricted category was sugar. Beginning late January 1942, each person was allowed 12 ounces per week. By May it was down to 8 ounces and tea and coffee were also on the shortage list. Consumers were asked to cut tea consumption by ½ and coffee by ¼. Shortly thereafter coupon rationing for the above foods was introduced. Not only households were obliged to comply – restaurants and other places serving food also had to abide by the new limits.
Apart from food rationing, anything made of steel was put on the sidelines. Cars and trucks were given the red light. Household appliances such as fridges and stoves were not manufactured as the steel was redirected to the manufacture of ships and guns.
Due to the high demand for food for the war effort, many kinds of foods were not available from the local grocers. So every household was asked to plant a Victory Garden. In a patch of ground in your backyard, you were expected to grow vegetables for your own table. Potatoes, lettuce, carrots, pumpkins etc. were planted. Some people also planted in the front of their houses where lawns would normally grow.
Dress making material was available in the stores and knitting yarn and wool as well because sweaters, socks and clothing of all types was needed overseas.
In many instances, shoes purchased from a shoe store would have soles made of pressed paper as leather was needed by the armed forces. This type of shoe didn’t last very long, especially when they would get wet.