From Barrie with Love Part II: Wartime Letters from a Briton in Barrie

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  • A red-bricked Barrie house.

This is the second instalment in a new blog series for the Barrie Historical Archive, courtesy of archive supporter Diana Strachan. Catch the first instalment here.

After settling in Barrie with her sister, auntie and uncle, we see a snapshot of 16-year-old Peggy Newman finding her way in a new town. In these letters, Peggy details friendships she’s made since enrolling at Barrie Central Collegiate, many of which, according to her daughter Diana, would last her life long.

Peggy also makes mention of popular locales around Barrie and the surrounding area as she discovers them, including restaurant The Corner Cupboard, nearby Willow Creek and Springwater Park. Her letters also offer a glimpse into springtime activities still beloved in Barrie, including picnics, bicycle rides, sunbathing and ice cream eating.

April 28, 1941

Darling Mummy and Daddy,

How are you getting on? Well, we are now settled in Barrie and are having a marvellous time. Do you remember me telling you in my last letter about an invitation to a party in Toronto I had, and that I was going to wear my new dress? Well it so happened that the party was formal and so I wore that lovely blue dress of Auntie’s which she gave me. The party was on April 17th, which was a Thursday and I was driven into Toronto in the afternoon but a Mrs Massen who Auntie knew. I then went to Lady Gooderham’s house where Frankie Harrison is staying and had dinner and then we both got dressed and left for the party about 9 o’clock.

There were over a hundred girls and boys there, the boys in Tuxedos and girls in long dresses and everyone had a dance programme. Frankie and I got there rather late and only managed to get a few dances booked but that didn’t matter because I didn’t stnad out once. We really had a super time and one boy I met had rather a crush on me and danced four dances including the supper dance with me and I might tell you that was a lot because each dance had so many parts to it. Eventually the dance ended at 2 o’clock and some boys took Frankie and I home in their car.

When we arrived we couldn’t get in because the doors had been double-locked and so we stood about for at least half an hour before we managed to wake the cook up to come down and let us in. The next morning we were up about 9 and had breakfast and then went for a walk to see some of my old friends and after lunch we went to a show with another English girl and then I was driven to the station and got some dinner and then caught the train home for Barrie. Golly, that train did take a long time and it was terribly old.

Anyway all that week I was terribly busy, one night I went out to dinner at Joyce Little’s and met some other girls, and on Tuesday we went for a bicycle hike and took our lunches and went out to a place called Willow Creek, honestly it was simply beautiful. Another time Joyce and I went off together for a ride and sun-bathed. Honestly, I was just whizzing around everywhere and met tons of people. Last Monday we started school at Barrie Collegiate and Joan and I both love it. I was put in the same form as Joyce so I go around with all her crowd and they are fun. There’s Emily Bell who is really most my friend along with Joyce, and then there’s Hammy and Livery, two girls who are grand fun and another girl call Margaret Mckinnin and then me. We all sit to-gether in class and have tons of fun.

On Thursday night I went to the French Club which they have and had a lovely time, all the members are mostly from 4th form and we meet at different girls houses and play French games and then whoevers house you are at provides refreshments which are very good. There are two French masters and a French mistrress who organise the games and everything. While I was there one of the boys from my form came up to me and started talking to me, he was rather fun and afterwards took me home and bought me a soda on the way. His name is Ken Carter and he’s quite a bit taller than me and altogether he’s not bad.

On Saturday Joyce and I and Gerry Norman, another girls in our form, and Joyce Flynn a friend of Joyce’s who has been very ill and at the moment doesn’t go to school went for another bicycle hike and we all got beautifully sunburnt. Afterwards when I got home Ken rang up and asked me to go for a walk, which I did and then he came back to the house and we couldn’t get in because everybody had gone out so we finally got in through a window. We then found some candy and I got my wireless down in the kitchen and we danced around and I was shown some new steps. Then Auntie came home and Ken left and then we went to bed.

On Sunday we got up rather late and then I did my prep and in the afternoon Joyce came up and I went back home with her and we went out with Dr. Little who had a call in the country. On the way out he bought us an ice-cream each and on the way back we went into Spring-water park which is a big national park and saw white deer and peacocks and all different kings of birds and there were a lot of table and fire places in the open where people come in the summer and bring their food with them and cook hotdogs etc. It was really lovely.

We finally got home and Mrs Little gave us something to eat and we listened to the radio. Finally I got home by Auntie coming to fetch me and found Uncle home with another Major whom I hadn’t met and who told me after we’d been introduced that he had bought some ice cream along but that Joan and he had eaten it all up between them so there was none left for me. Finally I went to bed and when I woke up it was to-day Monday, and I went to school.

At school we learnt that there is going to be a school dance on May 9th where everybody goes stag so I’m going with the kids and we also learnt that there is going to be a demonstration night for the girls on May 24th where the first and second form will do folk-dancing and some gym demonstrations and the third form will do first-aid etc and the fourths and fifth will do demonstration ballroom dancing. Its going to be fun and we will wear long dresses and really dress up for it. Emily is my partner and she’s got a pink dress and I shall wear my blue dress so we ought to look good to-gether.

After school Ken came up and asked me if I was busy, but I was going to Joyce’s house so I don’t know what he wanted. Did I tell you that I am now taking typing, well I am and I’m getting on fine, so soon I shall be typing my letters to you which will be much quicker.

Well, I guess there is nothing else to tell you. We have been recieving your letters OK and you all seem pretty well. Joan and I are fine and my nose is beautifully sunburnt and we are having a wonderful time. Please send my love to the boys and all my friends. Cheerio, till I write again!

Tons of love,

From
Peggy xxxxxxxxx

PS Please look after yourselves

PSS Congratulations, Daddy on your J.Pship

May 4, 1941

Darling Mummy and Daddy,

How are you getting on? Everything is simply marvellous here and I had a lovely week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Emily Bell, Joyce and I and another girl played hookey from school for one period which was a study and went and bought ourselves ‘Cokes’. We had grand fun and we managed everything O.K. Practically every night, Ken rang up and on Friday night I had a date with him. We went to a show and afterwards had a milk-shake each and eventually got home about half-past eleven, which wasn’t bad because we didn’t get out of the show ‘till quarter-to-eleven.

On Thursday Auntie and Uncle threw a cock-tail party to forty or so people and Joan and I were given money for dinner and a show. So we had dinner at a little place called “the Corner Cupboard”. Its really a super place and everything that is cooked is home-made. After that we went and saw “Western Union,” it was a very good show and we enjoyed it very much.

On Saturday I had to be up early because I had been asked to tag for the blind. I went with Liver and she made $11 something and I made $12.05. We tagged all morning and then all the girls went to the church where we had lunch provided for us. It was very good, we had hot-dogs and sandwiches and cake and coffee and lemonade. After lunch Joyce, Emil, Liver and I went to a show and I eventually got home about 5.30 after a very tiring day. Then Ken rang up and wanted to know if I would go out with him but I cried off because I was too tired.

Today is Sunday and Joan and I both went to church this morning and just before dinner Ken rang up again and wanted to know if I would go out with him this afternoon, but I said no partly because I haven’t recovered quite from yesterday and partly because I’ve got letters to write.

Next Friday we have the school dance and Ken has asked me to help him with the decorating. I’m sort of hoping he’ll ask me to the dance because then I shall go formal, but if I go stag I shall wear a short dress. I’ve just rung up Joyce and asked her to tea so she’ll be up here about four.

Well how is everything going at home? Have you recieved our parcel yet with the food in it? How are the boys getting on? Is Bobby’s Austin still going strong? Daddy, what does it feel like to be a J.P? Please send my love to the Kynocks and the Gribbles and all my friends. How are Granny and Grandpa keeping? Well, there is really nothing else to tell you that I can think of so I guess I’ll stop now. So, cheerio ‘till next time.

Tons of love

From
Peggy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

2018-07-31T19:13:24+00:00

About the Author:

Billy Courtice is the Chair of the Barrie Historical Archive. Otherwise, he is a writer, reader and rampant ice cream eater who makes a living in strategic communications.
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