Toronto – April 26, 1944 – Part 1

(Dodging Shells gave you Tommy’s letters to his sister, from the front. Kathy’s letters in response tell of life in wartime Toronto.)

Dear Tommy,
…..I can tell that you’ve settled right in to your new job over there. One question, though: when the Germans notice where those big mortar shells are coming from (I suspect they keep an eye out for that kind of thing), doesn’t that make you rather an obvious target? I don’t want to upset you…but are you sure you’ve thought this thing through?
…..I say nothing of the unanticipated possibility of dropping a live mortar shell on your toe. I understand that that is not supposed to happen. Naturally, it almost happened to you. It will probably never happen again. I’m so relieved.

…..My job in the employment office has gotten kind of routine by now. Most days, there seems to be barely a couple of hours of real work to it, and the rest of the time I’m expected to look busy. It’s a strain…although the other girls don’t seem to feel it the same way. I amuse myself by inventing little improvements and efficiencies, but that just makes it worse. So I welcome small distractions.
…..For our entertainment, they’ve located the Store Manager’s office right next to the employment office…that’d be about fifteen feet from my desk. One day, I noticed an unusual number of the girls hovering nearby. I looked up, enquiringly.
…..“Shhhhh,” whispered Morgie. “We’re listening.”
…..“To what?” I asked.
…..“They’ve caught some clumsy sap shoplifting, and the Store Detective always questions them in the manager’s office.”
…..The office door had been securely shut, of course, but for some reason – maybe ventilation – the walls don’t reach all the way up to the ceiling, and all conversations are clearly audible to anyone nearby who cared to listen. This seems to have escaped the notice of management. It has not escaped the notice of the employment office staff. I struggled momentarily with the concept of privacy invasion then perked up my ears. I had a ringside seat.
…..“This is very serious,” the Store Detective was saying…although, somehow he didn’t sound so very serious. “I saw you put those panties in your coat pocket. You were obviously not intending to pay for them.”
…..There was a silence.
…..“Are you unable to afford them, then?”
…..“Oh, no!” It was a man’s voice! “They’re very reasonable. They’re on sale this week.”
…..“Well, then!”
…..“I was embarrassed. I mean…the clerk is a young woman, and it’s not a very manly thing to be buying…you know? My wife sent me to get them for her. She’s kind of sickly, I guess you could say. She doesn’t get out much. But she can be very, um, insistent.”
…..“So they aren’t for you?”
…..“Certainly not!”
…..I could hear wheezing as one of the girls strangled laughter.
…..“Why didn’t you just say they were a gift?”
…..“Look at them. They’re cotton! What man would buy cotton underpants as a gift?”
…..“I see your point. But this was a bad solution, don’t you think?”
…..“Well, this is sure more attention than I was hoping for. I won’t try it again, you can count on that!”
…..“Yes. Well. I’m going to let you go this time. But from now on, I’d suggest you do your lingerie shopping at Eaton’s. They offer a very creditable line of ladies’ cotton underpants, and at a competitive price.
…..“Or better yet…order from our catalogue the next time.”


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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