December 13, 1944

December 13, 1944

Dear Tommy,
…..The most horrendous blizzard hit Toronto a couple of days ago. We’re snowed in! Twenty-two inches of snow has fallen within two days. Visibility the first day was absolutely zero and the wind was so strong that it knocked a street car right over on Queen Street, trapping 170 people inside and killing one of them.
…..It’s terrible, Tommy. The radio has reported several other deaths already…many of them heart attacks. People are literally shovelling themselves to death!
…..They’ve managed to keep a few of the main streets open with volunteers shovelling but for a while, Yonge Street was just one huge drift with a single track cleared for pedestrians. People have been seen skiing down Bathurst Street.
…..When Dad opened the door to go to work yesterday morning, he walked into a wall of snow. It had drifted right over the doorway during the night. I cooked up a batch of porridge and he tackled the barrier. The first bit had to be brought into the house in basins and melted in the sinks and bathtub—there was nowhere else to put it—and even a few feet out, the snow was up to our waists. Dad managed to clear a two foot corridor out to the road, with help from me while he warmed up with a Blizzard Breakfast. That’s a huge bowl of hot porridge smothered in brown sugar…for energy. (I said so, that’s who!) It had been an ugly feeling, being trapped like that. The path was just a symbol of family honour by then. We knew from the radio that there was no point heading out to work. Most businesses were closed. Hell, even the munitions factories were closed that day.
…..They had firefighters delivering emergency milk and fuel because, of course, no delivery vans could get through. There are people running short of food all over the city, but don’t worry…we’re doing fine. Although we have had to nip into our Christmas supplies a bit.
…..About mid-morning, there was a knock at the door and an exhausted little woman asked to use our phone. She was a teacher at Grace School, over by Dundas Street. She’d fought her way this far, but she just couldn’t make it the last few blocks to the school, and she wanted to call them to say that she wouldn’t be there. There was nobody there to take the call. She had stopped here because it was the only house she could get to. All the others were still completely snowed in. I guess they had no emergency porridge on hand.

…..I heard today that a couple of the other girls in the Personnel Department actually made it in to work yesterday. They got in…but they were trapped there and couldn’t get back home. They’re still there!
…..They’ve been bunking in the furniture department, and I didn’t ask what they’ve been eating, but after their dedication in braving the storm, management wouldn’t have the heart to deny them the necessities. Nine floors, a city block square…there are plenty of necessities to be found, I’m sure.

…..I’m going to bundle up and try to find a mail box, Tommy. I still owe you a Christmas letter, and it’ll be coming soon. But as you’re sitting, shivering in a trench somewhere, I just wanted to drop you a quick note to remind you what a Canadian storm is like. I bet Italy can’t match that!
…..Of course, we aren’t actually sleeping out there. Actually…we’re quite cozy….
…..Poor Tommy.

Live…from the Frozen North…it’s

*   *  *  *  *  *  *

Tommy arrived home in Toronto on December 15, 1944, in the aftermath of the worst snow storm Toronto had ever recorded.

The army had contacted his family, and his sister was at the train station to meet him.

Tommy never returned to Italy. After his leave was up, he was given a six-month tour of duty in Canada, and before that was over, the war in Europe ended…on May 8, 1945. Japan surrendered three months later.

He did not re-enlist.


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