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

/, Downtown/From Barrie with Love Part IV: Wartime Letters from a Briton in Barrie
  • A two storey building with a marquee.

Read the fourth instalment of this exciting new blog series for the Barrie Historical Archive, made possible by archive supporter Diana Strachan. If you need to catch up, check out the preceding blogs here.

Diana’s mother, Peggy Newman, is now fully engrossed in our humble Canadian town. Here, she documents her 17th birthday celebration and some exam results as she completes her courses at Barrie Central Collegiate, though she does gloss over the grades rather quickly!

Peggy also details her first real “grown-up” dance, a bombastic night hosted by the Ladies Auxiliary for a crew of officers. There, she sells cigarettes with her new friend Joyce Flynn and meets some high-ranking commanders at Canadian Forces Base Borden.

June 15, 1941

Darling Mummy & Daddy!

I’m just so full of news that I don’t know where to start.

On Tuesday we started exams with English Composition in the morning. On Tuesday afternoon I had a holiday while the others wrote Chemistry, so I studied for English Literature on Wednesday morning. Well, Wednesday was also my birthday, so I really had a very full day. I got the loveliest pair of spectator pumps from Auntie and Uncle, also three pairs of cute pink panties which I needed rather badly. Joan gave me a beautiful pair of silk stockings and I got the most gorgeous red handkerchief with the fluffiest powder puff on it from Joyce Gribble, which was terribly sweet of her.

I also recieved Daddy’s letter to me which made the day seem all the happier. When I got home from school I found a telegram from you, so everything was perfect.

I had another holiday in the afternoon and some friends of Auntie’s from Long Island were here for lunch and dinner and we really had grand fun. We had icecream and strawberries, as many as you could eat, for dessert so I really had a lovely birthday, although I was studying most of the afternoon and evening. I was very sore on a certain spot at the end of the day, because it is a custom to smack a person whose birthday it is, the number of years they celebrate and golly, seventeen smacks is a lot just by itself, but when its been done several times it really isn’t funny (This is a custom at school only!!)

On Thursday I wrote Algebra in the morning and History in the afternoon. Then I came home and washed my hair and studied Geometry. On Friday I wrote Geometry in the afternoon and then I came home and now here comes the big news. You see the Ladies Tank Auxillary of which Auntie is vice-president were putting on a dance for the officers of the Tanks that night and I was going.Honestly, Mummy, I was so terribly thrilled. I and Joyce Flynn were asked to go round selling cigarettes and take turns with two other girls so that we could dance. Of course, it was all formal and I wore that darling blue dress again and I had my hair brushed and brushed until it shone like gold and I just had it fluffy at the ends. Honestly, Mummy, I sort of knocked myself over, I really didn’t know I could look so stunning. I think when I get back to England you won’t know the plain little Peggy that left, except I’m just the same underneath. Auntie was an absolute knockout she wore the darlingest bluey-grey dress and she was the most beautiful thing I have seen. Uncle looked terribly handsome and he gave me and Joyce the loveliest corsages each, mine was pink rosebuds with some green fern all beautifully arranged and tied with plenty of silver ribbon, and Joyce’s was the same only she had pink, orange and a darker pink in hers as she had a turquoise dress. They had the most heavenly smell.

Anyway Auntie and Uncle went off early as they went out to dinner so they didn’t see me until I arrived at the dance, where Auntie was on the receiving line. The Flynns picked me up and Joyce was terribly thrilled with her corsage. Well, I had the most marvellous time and I was introduced to so many Majors and Colonels I got quite muddled and then on top of that Auntie introduced me to Major-General Samson who is the man of the army here. He talked with me for quite a while and later on I sold him some cigarettes as I didn’t have the cigarettes when I was introduced to him. I had the loveliest dance with Uncle and I had lots of dances with other people.

It was rather awkward when I was selling cigarettes because I would be asked to dance and I couldn’t very well, but I managed somehow. On top of everything we four cigarettes girls had our photo taken for The Telegram so we are just waiting for it to come out. Auntie also had her photo taken with the president of the Ladies Auxilliary, and with Major-General Samson and his wife, so we are both waiting anxiously for results. Auntie told me that this was my coming-out party and I guess she was right. I recieved many very lovely compliments and I don’t think you can find a happier girl than me anywhere.

There was a taxi ordered to take Joyce and I home at one o’clock but we didn’t want to go, however, we got our wraps but when we got down on the floor again somebody came up and asked me to dance so I started off again and we didn’t leave ‘till two o’clock, after I had had two offers to take me home which I had to refuse.

Finally, however, I got home although I didn’t feel a bit tired. Auntie and Uncle got home about 4.30. I forgot to tell you that we had a super floor show with jolly good dancing and singing. Anyway, now I have really been to my first grown-up dance and just loved it.

I am going to have a small party of my own next week to celebrate my birthday so I’m really having a very gay time. On Saturday I got up quite early and messed around and then in the afternoon I went to see “Men of Boy’s Town”, with Joyce and had a lovely cry all the way through. This morning I went to church by myself because Joan went away to spend the weekend at her girlfriend’s camp. I’m expecting her home any minute now. I wore my spectator pumps and new hat and that new blue dress and really looked very smart.

This afternoon I studied for my French exam to-morrow and then I went out for a walk with Joyce. Uncle is staying out at camp to-day as he is on duty and Auntie has gone to a cocktail party so I’m all alone, although I’m going out very soon to have a coke with Joyce.

Well, I guess I’ve told you all the news, I’m hoping to go into Toronto with Auntie sometime next week and get one or two summer dresses as I have grown out of all mine. (I’m afraid I’ve put on weight!)

Well, darlings I hope you are both O.K. how did your speech from the town hall balcony go off, Daddy? I wish I could have seen you. Please send my love to the boys, I guess John will be home for this holidays soon. Are you going away anywhere? I hear that Granny and Grandpa are going to stay with you for a while. I do hope they do. Please send my love to all my friends and remember me to everyone.

Send Joyce Gribble my love and a big hug. Cheerio, ‘till next time.

Tons of love

Peggy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

August 4, 1941

Darling Mummy and Daddy!

It’s simply ages since I’ve written to you and there is really no excuse for it except that I’ve been having a simply hectic holiday with something doing every day. To start off with however, you must know that I got my Junior Matric O.K. I really did quite well considering everything, and Auntie and Uncle were very pleased with me. I came second in the form for one of my Englishs and every subject I got into the sixties except for one which was in the fifties. Anyway I came out of it with an average of 65%. Thats enough of school for now however, and now I must tell you everything else which has been happening.

I received the housecoat you sent me O.K and its practically a perfect fit and really darling on. Also I have recieved the sweater and blouse, unfortunately, however, the sweater was too small so I gave it to Joan and in exchange she gave me the cardigan which you sent her, but which was to big for her, so in the end everything turned out O.K.

So far this holiday I have done everything which any girl could ever dream of doing. I’ve been swimming practically every day, I’ve been dancing and canoeing and have been to any amount of shows and weiner roasts. I’ve had dates galore, in fact Auntie says its practically hopeless trying to keep track of me. By the way, I’ve got the darlingest new boyfriend, his name is Ted Rodgers and we’re simply crazy about each other. He’s very tall and blond and quite handsome. He’s eighteen years old so we go beautifully to-gether. He still goes to school but I did not meet him there because he was one of the lucky ones that got off at Easter to do war work. At (sic) it is, I only see him over the weekends now so we are both looking forward to school so we shall see each other more often.

To-morrow Joan and I go off to camp and so yesterday Ted and I had our last date to-gether for two whole weeks which is a terribly long time. Anway (sic) we had a weiner roast (hot-dog roast) as a farewell party and some other kids came along and we all went off in our different cars and really had a super time. I did not get home ‘till one o’clock this morning which made Auntie rather mad, but it really took an awfully long time to say goodbye believe it or not.

I have been having dates with an air force boy too, who is a darned nice kid. His name is Lysle Shaver and he’s tall and dark and very, very handsome. He’s really a super dancer and has got the loveliest voice. He’s asked me to come out to Wings Parade on Aug 20 which is the day after we come back from camp, but I don’t think I shall go ‘cos it wouldn’t be fair to Ted.

The most exciting thing happened the other day, there was a big carnival here which lasted for three nights and each night I was doing something. The first night I sold flowers for the Red Cross and kept on selling out, the second night I sold tickets for a portable radio and really did marvellously and the third night I sold tickets for a fifty dollar war savings certificate and on that job I made a quarter on every book of tickets I sold and there were five tickets in a book and I sold eight books which meant that I sold 40 tickets in three hours which is pretty good going. To crown all that however, I was asked to make the draw for the certificates and for the radio. I made thirty draws altogether adn it was really very exciting.

Honestly, I’ve done so many exciting things these holidays that it would take a whole book to tell you about everything. Do you realise that it was a year ago last Tuesday that we landed at New York? Honestly, it seems hard to realize that we’ve been away from home a whole year. One whole year in which we’ve done so much and seen so much that it doesn’t seem we are the same people. I wonder if you will find us altered much when we eventually come home.

You know I honestly think that I could never settle down in England again to live. I think I shall marry a Canadian and come over and see you for a while and then come back again. Anyway theres tons of time to think about that.

How are the boys getting on? We had a very nice letter from John the other day. I guess the food we sent you must have been very much enjoyed by every-one. Apparently we can’t send you any more which is rather disappointing. Well, I guess I had better stop now and get my beauty sleep already for tomorrow. Please send my love to all my friends especially Joyce Gribble. Send my love to the boys. I’m so glad that Granny and Grandpa were able to come and stay with you, it must have been a nice change for them.

Well, cheerio ‘till next time.

Tons of love

Peggy xxxxxxxxxxxx

PS! Please excuse the awful scribble!

2018-08-27T19:15:53+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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