(Dodging Shells gave you Tommy’s letters from the front. Here’s another of his twin sister Kathy’s letters in response. More about Toronto during wartime.)
September 10, 1943
…..I know that you must have gone across into Italy and won’t get my letters for a while, but by the time they reach you, you may need a laugh or two, and they’ll be waiting.
…..Your last two letters arrived only two days apart, so I guess I’m pretty much up to date…on Tommy’s Exciting Adventures in Sicily, at least. I might want to do some travelling myself some day, but I think I’ll pick a time when I can learn something about the country other than how to blow a hole in it. I’ll be looking for the best places to eat pasta and sip Chianti…not the best places to hide from large, humourless guys aiming deadly weapons. (I’m assuming that you and the Jerries have left a bit of country behind for the rest of us to see.)
…..Dad was quieter than usual at the dinner table yesterday. I could see he was struggling with something. Something he wasn’t sure he wanted to tell us.
…..“Well,” he said finally, “I went down to enlist today.”
…..I was stunned. Pearl started brewing up a hearty scene.
“No…don’t get excited.” he added. “They turned me down.”
…..“What a stupid thing to do!” She launched in. “You’re fifty-two years old! They won’t want you! Well, maybe for something right here…but what if the war goes on?” Her voice started to slide up an octave. “You could be shipped overseas! How did you think we were going to manage?”
…..“Pearl, I said they refused my offer. Relax.”
…..“Why did they turn you down, Dad?” Maybe I could shift the focus. It was worth a try.
…..“Bad lungs.” (He has been coughing more the past year or so.) “I told them I fought in the Canadian army at Ypres in the First World War and was gassed in the trenches.
…..“‘You’re a lucky man,’ the medical officer remarked. ‘So many good men died from the chlorine gas.’
…..“‘Lucky be damned,’ I told him. ‘Men were dying all around me! But I’d been training for years.’
…..“‘You see, I never passed up an opportunity to share a pint with good company…not since I was old enough. And by the time I joined the army, my bladder had expanded to accommodate my recreation without the need for inconvenient bathroom breaks.’
…..“‘Well, it was most inconvenient to relieve oneself during the heat of battle, so when the gas settled into the trench and others succumbed, I had no trouble soaking my handkerchief. It was breathing through that urine-soaked handkerchief that saved my life. And I drink whenever I can, in appreciation, to this very day.’”
…..I’m sure Dad knew they’d turn him down. But he had to feel he was doing what he could to help you over there. He wants me to ask you if you carry a gas mask with you. Is it always handy? Don’t rely on peeing on a rag.