Toronto – January 30, 1944 – Part 4

(Dodging Shells gave you Tommy’s letters to his sister, from the front. Here’s the end of Kathy’s first letter of 1944, in response.)

…..I’d been looking forward to spending New Year’s Eve with a group of friends, but nothing is easy. For a month, everyone had been agonizing over where we’d go.
…..“Let’s go to Columbus Hall. Jack Evans’ orchestra will probably be there. That’s a good band….”
…..“Well, you’re bound to say so…you’re Catholic.”
…..“You don’t have to be Catholic to go to Columbus Hall! We’ve all been there before.”
…..“Exactly! So why don’t we go to the Orange Hall on College Street, then? The band there is just as good.”
…..“You know my mother won’t let me go to the Orange Hall!”
…..“That’s just stupid!”
…..“Oh, before somebody gets mean about it, why don’t we just go to the dance at Mutual Arena? Glen Miller played there once…somebody must have thought it had class.”
…..By that time I was so fed up with the nonsense that I suggested something entirely different, hoping to side-step the issue.
…..“Anyway, we get too sentimental on New Year’s Eve,” I pointed out. “Maybe dancing cheek-to-cheek with handsome military men who are ‘just passing through’ would just be playing with fire.”
…..“Handsome military men?” It was a chorus. “Isn’t it our patriotic duty…?”
…..But common sense prevailed.
…..I know…that seems to suck the fun right out of the occasion. Kindly withhold judgement until you read about our evening.
…..By nine p.m. New Year’s Eve, we were all bundled in our woollies and skating around the rink over at Bellwoods Park–the one in the gully, not the big one at the top. There were eight of us: there was Julie and Alice (you know Alice) and May Cameron, and May brought her cousin Cliff, who’d just joined the Hasty P’s and was spending a few days in Toronto before reporting for training. Jennie and Helene came and, of course, Helene’s boyfriend. (He’s kind of quiet–Helene does all the talking. But he’s a good listener, and he laughs nicely on cue.)
…..It had finally snowed during the week after Christmas and several of the gang were tempted to slide down the hill for a lark, but we had no sleds, and I still carry a vivid memory of the reception I got at home the time I indulged such an impromptu whim and slid down that same hill on the seat of my coat. I must have been about thirteen…remember that? I’m sure you do. Unless I’m mistaken, it was you who egged me on!
…..It was magical, skating out there in the moonlight. There was no wind, and a few big snowflakes fluttered down like frosty feathers. A blanket of snow on the ground always smooths out all the gritty little imperfections and makes it easy to believe in fairyland.
…..Of course, nothing is allowed to be quite that good. I noticed May’s cousin hovering in my vicinity, and began to suspect that he was way too interested. I didn’t mind chatting with him, but he’s barely eighteen…he should have been hanging around Jennie–she’s a pretty girl, and more his age. Perhaps he’s attracted to the urbane, sophisticated type. Then why did he choose me, you ask? Don’t be a smart aleck!
…..After several clumsy attempts to lure me off for a stroll through the park (which, of course, I refused–I was having much too much fun skating) he settled for getting under my feet whenever I tried any fancy flourishes on the ice. Oh, I have some fancy flourishes…you don’t know everything!
…..They keep the rinks open late on New Year’s Eve, so we stayed until we started to get really chilled, then we hopped on the streetcar to Diana Sweets on Yonge Street (also open late for the occasion) to warm up with hot chocolate and desserts. And finally, on to the Imperial Theatre in time for the special New Year’s midnight show. You see? It wasn’t a bad sort of plan after all, was it? But somehow, in the confusion of seating, Cliff ended up beside me. Imagine my surprise.
…..We’d all stuffed our pockets with streamers, so we were ready for the count down to midnight. There it was…seven…six…five…four…three…two…one…HAPPY NEW YEAR! Streamers and confetti and noisemakers and a theatre full of people hoping that this year would bring an end to the terrible war! And one young recruit on his way to join that war who took advantage of his opportunity to get a New Year’s kiss.
…..Well, at the very least, I should get credit for doing my bit to entertain the troops!

…..I’ve saved you the finest of my wishes for the new year, Tommy. I kept them aside, especially, and you can use them in whatever way you think might keep you safest.


P.S. – Didn’t you get the cigarettes? I send cigarettes all the time, but you never mention them. I usually mail them directly through the tobacco store, but this time I put them in with the watch and the candies.


About Wendy Bertsch

I’m a Canadian author—a pragmatic optimist with rather eclectic interests and a pervasive sense of humour. Toronto born and bred, I live by the lake with a motley array of dogs and a cat, all but myself being of unknown origin, in a comfortable old house filled with books. Over a thousand books. Books in every nook and cranny. And now, since there can never be too many books, I'm writing more. Once More, From the Beginning highlights the women in the bible. It's about time! And believe me, they see things quite differently. And in Dodging Shells, you'll meet the irrepressible Tommy, as he fights his way through Italy in World War II. You'll love Tommy. I do. Next? Well, that's a secret yet. Stay tuned... I recently initiated the fledgling Ocean Highway Books, providing editing, formatting and cover design services to authors wishing to self-publish.
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