Home from the War - Stories from St.Catharines Wartime Neighbourhoods


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On May 8, 2010, we will celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day and on August 15, 2010, we will celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day.

There are fewer and fewer of the Greatest Generation left, yet their impact can still be seen and felt today. Wartime houses are a constant reminder of this generation and all that they accomplished. With this project we hope to remind people of not only their sacrifice but also their incredible success and accomplishments.

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  • This year we will mark the end of World War Two.  On May 8, 2010, we will celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day and on August 15, 2010, we will celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day.
  • The men and women who served overseas and on the home front are considered by many to be the Greatest Generation.  They came of age during the Great Depression, when many families lost their homes and businesses and just as the economy was improving, a world war broke out.  They were called upon to serve and Canadians did in huge numbers.  In fact, 1.1 million served.  Thousands more worked tirelessly in factories to provide the much needed war supplies and made sacrifices at home to ensure that those overseas were cared for. When the war was over, they celebrated, were thankful and immediately went about rebuilding their lives.
  • These men and women made up for lost time and became the most successful generation of all time.  They made incredible breakthroughs in medicine and technology, created new art and literature and gave us the baby boom.
  • There are fewer and fewer of the Greatest Generation left, yet their impact can still be seen and felt today.  Wartime houses are a constant reminder of this generation and all that they accomplished.  With this project we hope to remind people of not only their sacrifice but also their incredible success and accomplishments.
  • St. Catharines, like most cities across the country, had thousands of men sign up for duty and who served at home and overseas.
  • More than 4,000 men and 150 women from St. Catharines,  joined the Army, Navy and Air Force.  Many joined the local Lincoln and Welland Regiment, as well as the 10th St.Catharines Field Battery.  Of the men from the city, who joined the fighting, 215 were killed in action and hundreds more were injured. 
  • The Lincoln and Welland RegimentOnce the regiment arrived overseas in July of 1943, they helped form part of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.  While they did not participate in the D-Day Invasion, they arrived in Normandy, France in July, 1944.  Their first battle took place at  Tilly-La-Campagne fighting its way through Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany. It was in the city of Werlte, Germany on 11 April 1945 that the regiment had one of its most difficult days, losing 46 men.  Between June 1944 and May 5, 1945, the regiment suffered 1,548 casualties with 348 being fatal.Of  the original men who enlisted in 1940, only 3 officers and 22 men were on parade in St. Catharines in 1946 when the 1st Battalion was dismissed.The 10th St.Catharines Field BatteryThe 10th St.Catharines Field Battery landed in Sicily as part of the 2nd Field Regiment in the First Division.  They served in Italy from July 1943 to January 1945, when they were transferred to Holland, along with I Canadian Corps.The 10th returned home in late September 1945 via train.  From the train station, they marched along St. Paul Street to City Hall, where they were welcomed home by the city.  They then marched to the armoury for formal dismissal.
  • On the Home Front, to feed and entertain the troops, there was an Army service canteen set up on St. Paul St. and the Air Force, who were training at the No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School at the airport on Niagara Stone Rd., enjoyed their off time at the renovated stable at the back of Mrs. Jory’s house on King near Carlyle.The St. Catharines Flying Training School and the airport, like so many other companies during the war,  joined the war effort and became the No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School which was part of the Commonwealth Air Training Programme.  The school started to train flyboys in October 1940 and soon became a hub of activity with thousands of men training to become pilots.The students, 180 at a time were trained, started with Fleet Finch biplanes which were replaced in 1942 with DeHaviland Tiger Moths.  Upon graduation, students were sent for more intensive training in Dunville.Community relations became an issue with so many planes in the air over local farms and cities.  It was reported that cows gave less milk, horses were nervous,  foxes devoured their young , chickens gave less eggs and humans couldn’t sleep.  Two pilots were court-marshalled for flying under the Rainbow Bridge and 3 pilots were killed in training accidents.The school had great successes.  From the first graduating class of 26, 6 were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 2 had a Bar added to the medal, one was mentioned in a dispatch, 8 were listed as missing, presumed dead or killed in action and 1 became a prisoner of war.Training at the school continued until 1944, by the war end over 2,500 students had attended and 1,848 graduated.One notable graduate was John Magee (American) who after graduation, became a pilot with the RAF.  In 1941, he wrote the poem High Flight, which has become a mantra to pilots.  He was killed in action the same year.High FlightOh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earthAnd danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirthOf sun-split clouds – and done a hundred thingsYou have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swungHigh in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring thereI’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flungMy eager craft through footless halls of air.Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy graceWhere never lark, or even eagle flew -And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trodThe high untresspassed sanctity of space,Put out my hand and touched the face of God.Pilot Officer Gillespie MageeNo 412 squadron, RCAFKilled 11 December 1941
  • HMCS St.CatharinesThe HMCS St.Catharines was aRiver Class frigate that was launched in 1924 and commissioned in 1943.  The HMCS St. Catharines did convoy duty in the North Atlantic and was part of the group that sank German Uboat 744.HMCS MerrittoniaThe HMCS Merrittonia was a Flower class corvette that was commissioned in 1944 and like the HMCS  St. Catharines, did convoy duty in the North Atlantic.
  • St.Catharines had its share of remarkable individuals, who displayed both daring and bravery during battles on land, sea and in the air, including Air Commodore Leonard Birchall – The Saviour of Ceylon
  • and Japanese P.O.W., Flight Lieutenant Gordon Kidder – executed member of ‘The Great Escape’  from Stalag III
  • St. Catharines, like much of the country, underwent great changes during the war.  Partly due to the manufacturing boom, the population increase from approximately 28,500 in 1940 to more than 35,000 by 1946.The city’s labour force doubled during the war years and, as in most Canadian cities, housing was needed for the influx of new workers. Once the war was over, the city slowly returned to a new normal with its many new residents, including many war brides, expanded housing and booming manufacturing industry.
  • Thompson Products was know for its ability to produce forged and cast parts.  During the war they produced brass fuses, six pound anti-tank shells and parts for the trainer planes of the British Command Air Training Plane.  At the height of production the shell output per day reached 10,000.  Thompson Products employees went from 200 to over 1,400, with over half being women.  Despite the war and the difficult times at home, Thompson Products didn’t stop its company-wide social activities.  The Santa Claus party, the annual picnic, bowling, basketball and softball leagues continued throughout the war years, as well, the park between the plant and St. Paul Street was built to provide green space for its employees to enjoy.In peacetime Grout’s made high quality fabrics for lingerie and coat linings, for the war effort it produced parachutes with its almost all skilled women workers.Foster Wheeler - In its plant on Eastchester, FW produced boilers for corvettes and, once peace was declared, it converted back to producing and developing power-generating units.
  • With so many men going overseas, the role of women at home changed dramatically.  Thousands of women went to work in factories making everything from munitions to parachutes.  Thousands more volunteered for the Red Cross Transport Corps, the Canadian Women’s Voluntary Services, the Farmettes and Canadian Women’s Army Corps.   St. Catharines experienced a boom in manufacturing during the war years and to fill the many needed positions, women donned overalls, covered up their hair with the required bandanas and got to work.  Across the city in factories, both large and small, women helped ensure the needed munitions supply orders were completed and that all the needed war supplies reached the troops.  At Thompson Products, employee numbers jumped from 200 pre-war to almost 1,400, with over half being women.  Its peak munitions output reached over 10,000 shells per day.  At McKinnon Industries, employee numbers jumped from 1,800 to 4,200 by 1942, with women making up 25% of the workforce.  Hayes Dana produced parts for trucks, tanks, guns and aircraft with mostly female employees.  At Canadian Brass Works, Esther Riffer became one of the first female company presidents in the country when her father died.  St. Catharines even got its first woman bus driver in 1943 and then, in 1944,  the first woman “motorman” was hired for the city street cars.   
  • Women took on the more traditional roles, but here too, broke ground and pushed the boundaries to serve and help the war effort.  As volunteers, they drove ambulances both at home and overseas, raised money, ran blood clinics and worked at agricultural camps.   Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC)   Of the St.Catharines members, 20 went overseas as ambulance drivers and 20 left to join the CWACs.  Red Cross Corps    Canadian Women’s Voluntary Services  Farmettes  
  • Most of the over 1700 Wartime Homes in the city, can be found in 12 neighbourhoods. But the houses can be seen all over the city.The building of these new sub-divisions was a controversial subject in the city in 1941, with the biggest concerns coming from private home builders who were concerned that government involvement with building houses would interfere with the private home sales.  The 12 main neighbourhoods are:Dieppe Grantham Facer | Sandown Doncaster | Plymouth Lancaster | Vale Grass Shakespeare Longfellow | Permilla Ambrose | Chetwood Lloyd Merigold | Argyle Blain Collier | Willow Hayes | Barton Bridge | Greenwood Rosedale | Lorne Cameron | Valley Kinsey | Arthur Grandview NorthglenThe roots of our city’s multiculturalism can be found in these neighbourhoods - Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and many others.
  • The HousesThe Houses were originally rental units for munitions workers. The soon filled the urgent need to house the families of those serving overseas and those returning veterans.Wartime Houses were originally rental units.  According to a story that appeared in the St.Catharines Standard on Saturday October 18, 1941, the rental rates were “$22 per month for five rooms, including bath, and $25 for a slightly larger five-room house, and $30 for a 1 1/2 storey, seven room house.”   In addition to the rent, tenants paid for water and light services. Taxes were paid by Wartime Housing Ltd.
  • These homes were considered by many to be state of the art and included window blinds and a large coal or wood burning stove for heating the entire house.The lots were also something to be appreciated.  At the time the average city lot was only 35 feet wide, the wartime house lots averaged 40 feet and 100 feet deep.  The streets were also wider than the average city street with unsightly electric service poles erected at the back of the homes.Munitions and veterans would have to wait until the early 50’s to purchase their homes.  The sale price of the homes varied ranging from $2500.00 to $4500.00.
  • The majority of wartime homes across the city look very similar to when they were first built.  Most of the slate siding has been replaced with vinyl, aluminum, pebble dash or stucco.   In the early 1950’s home owners were offered a one time cash offer of $500.00 to put in basements.
  • The most important part of this project was and is the families that called these neighbourhoods home. We are very thankful to the many families who have shared their stories with us. If you would like to read some of the stories visit www.wartimehouses.com or if you would like to share your story, please email us at contact@wartimehouses.comEach has a wonderful story to tell and it was frankly difficult to choose which ones I would share with you tonight.
  • The three I’ve chosen all lived in the Sandown Doncaster neighbourhood. Their stories provide a window into the time, the people and this neighbourhood. Similar stories can be found in all of these neighbourhoods and across the city.The Fricks  The Masons (current owners)The McArthursThe Faulds
  • The story of the Frick family comes from Beth (Frick) Vanderloos.I was 3 years old in 1943 when my mom and dad moved into that house and I remained there until I was 28 and my Mom and Dad were there until 1982.  My parents raised 7 children in that 4 bedroom house and all the boys were upstairs in the two bedrooms and 3 girls were in the small room at the back of the house.  I remember the wooden sidewalks the cinder driveways.  Carlton St. was just a dirt road and no sign of Lancaster Park or Fairview Mall.  We knew everyone on the street and you never had to lock your doors.  There was a creek running behind the houses on the south side of Doncaster and that is were we played with no fear of falling in and drowning.  We even swung from a rope across the creek. My oldest brother went to war when he was 18 and when he came home my mom and dad had a big “welcome home” sign across the front of the house.
  • Back in 1997 one of the ladies from Doncaster St. had a reunion of all the other ladies that all went to Victoria School together, what wonderful memories.  One of our old neighbours still lives at 40 Doncaster St. and she has been there for 55 years.  I keep in touch with her and she lets me know about the old neighbourhood, what fond memories I have.The current owners of the house are Emma Mason &Linda Mason, who moved into the house on June 6,2003,and before us were the Smiths who lived here for 13 years. We thought it had excellent curb appeal and the neighbourhood was quiet. While they were renovating their home they found a sign in our wall that read "do not disturb,war worker resting"
  • This story comes from Diane (Faulds) Sutherland.Diane’s story was unlike all the others we have received so far. Diane, her mother and sister only lived at 21 Doncaster St. for about 5 years. Around 1947, her parents separated and Diane and her mother and sister left Doncaster St and never saw her father again.In 2007 Diane’s mother passed away and she decides that she would like to learn more about her father. She decides to put an ad in the Standard: “Searching for family: would you or someone you know remember my parents William Wesley Faulds and Georgena Joy Bowles when they lived at 21 Doncaster Street in St. Catharines from 1942 to 1947? I am searching for family history and would appreciate any information concerning my parents.” Two residents of the city respond: Angus Verge a friend, neighbour, co-worker and fellow fisherman and Darlene Erskine, who was born and raised on Sandown St.From Angus, Diane learns that her father had an other family, whom she has gotten to know. And that they share a love of writing and music.From Darlene, Diane returns to her Doncaster St. home and learns that the boys in the photos are Johnny and Tommy Keenan, who lived next door. Diane writes, “My journey began in a wartime house on Doncaster Street in St. Catharines.  No matter where else I travel in this life, I will always go back there in memory and dreams.” This is something I have heard from so many people. Her story to me, says so much not only about the people who grew up in these neighbourhoods, but also the residents of our city. These families looked out for each other, cared for each other and even after many years, they share a connection. I’m not sure you’ll find this today.
  • Sam was around 35 when war broke out.  He joined the Lincoln and Welland Regiment at the beginning of the war and went overseas with them. While overseas, he transferred to the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards and fought in the Italian campaign.  He was wounded on the Gothic line. When Sam finally came home from the war he was 40 years old.
  • During the war Sam wrote and recited poems to entertain his buddies.  They were well received and often based on actual incidents.  These poems are funny, touching and provide a  glimpse into life during and after the war.Once Sam returned, he had to fight for his home at 3 Sandown St.  According to his family, it had been assigned to a veteran who never served overseas and they believe did not serve as many years as their Dad.Sam’s first job after the war was at a recycling plant called Victory Bags where they recycled paper and other materials.  It was about that time that he wrote the poem Rehabilitation 1946. 
  • Home from the War - Stories from St.Catharines Wartime Neighbourhoods

    1. 1. Home from the War<br />Stories from St.Catharines Wartime Neighbourhoods<br />
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    4. 4. St. Paul St - VE Day, May 8, 1945 <br />
    5. 5.
    6. 6. St. Paul St - VD Day, August 15, 1945 <br />
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    9. 9.
    10. 10.
    11. 11. The War Years – Armed Forces<br />
    12. 12. The Lincs and Winks getting ready to board the train.<br />
    13. 13. Lincs and Winks, No 4. Platoon Bren Gun Carriers in August 1941 <br />
    14. 14.
    15. 15. The War Years – Armed Forces<br />HMCS St.Catharines<br />HMCS Merrittonia<br />
    16. 16. The War Years – Armed Forces<br />
    17. 17. The War Years – Armed Forces<br />
    18. 18. The War Years - Industry<br />McKinnon Industries – A Division of General Motors<br />
    19. 19. The War Years - Industry<br />Grouts<br />Thompson Products<br />Foster Wheeler<br />
    20. 20. The War Years - Women<br />Hayes Dana Blood Drive<br />Grouts Factory<br />
    21. 21.
    22. 22. The War Years - Women<br />
    23. 23. The Neighbourhoods<br />
    24. 24.
    25. 25.
    26. 26.
    27. 27.
    28. 28. The Houses<br />
    29. 29. The Houses<br />
    30. 30.
    31. 31.
    32. 32.
    33. 33. The Houses<br />
    34. 34. The Houses<br />
    35. 35. The Houses<br />
    36. 36. The Houses<br />
    37. 37. The Families<br />
    38. 38. The Families<br />
    39. 39. The Fricks – 44 Doncaster St.<br />
    40. 40. The Fricks – 44 Doncaster St.<br />
    41. 41. The Faulds – 21 Doncaster St.<br />
    42. 42. The McArthurs – 3 Sandown St.<br />
    43. 43. The McArthurs – 3 Sandown St.<br />
    44. 44. The McArthurs – 3 Sandown St.<br />The Girl in Brighton<br />I met a girl in BrightonShe was pretty, blonde and tallI told her of my cattle ranchBetween King Street and St. Paul.<br />I told her I was a cattle KingWhere the grass grew green and tallAnd the city was built around my ranchBetween King Street and St. Paul.<br />I told her that the rolling hillsWas the prettiest scene of allAnd we would gallop up and downBetween King Street and St. Paul.<br />I touched upon the beautyOf maple trees in fallOf my cattle at the water holeBetween King Street and St. Paul.<br />For miles around my grazing herdAwait my beck and callAnd she would be my cattle QueenBetween King Street and St. Paul.<br />I wonder what she’ll think of meWhen she comes out next fallTo look for me and my cattle ranchBetween King Street and St. Paul.<br />
    45. 45. The McArthurs – 3 Sandown St.<br />Rehabilitation 1946<br />I closed the door of the office,And I slowly turned around,I shook my head in wonder,As I looked the factory up and down.<br />I went there looking for a job,And here’s what I was told,“There’ll be an opening shortly,But, I’m sorry you’re too old.”<br />From one factory to another,The same thing I was told,“We need a man for heavy work,But, I’m sorry you’re too old.”<br />One year ago I walked a mile through mud,For twenty miles or more,And helped to keep the Germans,From breaking down your door.<br />We fought for every inch of ground,And time and time again,We cleared a house or took a hill,With hardly any men.<br />And as we fought both day and night,Hungry, wet and cold,No one came up to me and said,“I’m sorry you’re too old.”<br />
    46. 46. Down Through the Years<br />Our lives were like a coin you tossWe have won, our friends have lostAnd now they sleep beneath a crossDown through the years.<br />Side by side they fought their wayThat we may vote, our children playAnd now they sleep until Judgment DayDown through the years.<br />Many friends we knew have gone beforeAnd now they’ve reached the distant shoreTheir memory lives forever moreDown through the years.<br />
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    48. 48. Home from the War<br />Stories from St.Catharines Wartime Neighbourhoods<br />