Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Paulo Jealousy

I'm writing a short story about Clara Peeters, one of the first female still life painters of record. The story is set in Antwerp and this particular bit is about her nemesis, Paulo.



Paulo Jealousy

Paulo looked up at the big clock on the cathedral tower as it struck the quarter hour. He’d lingered too long in the sailor’s tavern and was late again! Osais would soon remind him that tardiness was inexcusable to the Dutch. Could he tolerate another demeaning scolding for his undisciplined Italian ways? With his collar up and his hands shoved in his pockets, Paulo rushed along the icy walk to the studio, slipping and sliding as he went.


It was late November in icy Antwerp and by four o’clock in the afternoon, the narrow streets were dark and gloomy. The sun sank quickly in the north as did Paulo’s mood. Even though he’d been warned about the harsh climate and the aloof Dutch, nothing could dissuade him from accepting the apprenticeship with the Osais Workshop. The legendary Antwerp studio practically invented the modern still life and was famous for teaching technique and detail.


When he won the apprenticeship competition, Paulo was ecstatic and had immediately begun learning Dutch. As would any Italian man, he was careful to first learn the “love” words in Dutch, then the jargon of the painters. He had rarely slept alone in Florence—admiring girls and women were eager to share his bed. In Antwerp, lonely, homesick and depressed, he could only dream about the buxom, blond women to whom he seemed invisible. At the “Pay in Monkey’s” bar on the wharf, where the sailors coming home from Indonesia really did pay their bar bills with a monkey, he found some relief from the dour Dutch atmosphere. He gossiped with the seafaring Italians and watched the antics of the acrobatic monkeys with whom he felt an odd kinship, both being fish out of water.

A prodigy in his home city of Florence, Paulo had kept his own hours and basked in the praise and admiration of his teachers and fellow artists. His brash paintings won prizes and accolades all over Italy. Here in dark, cold Antwerp, he had to comply with strict Dutch rules along with the other apprentices whom he had learned were more craftsmen than artists. Working harder than he ever had, he’d yet to prove himself worthy of his place in the finest still life studio in Holland. Early in the apprenticeship, he realized that the Italian concept of hard work was but paltry effort in the eyes of the industrious Dutch. His passionate and flamboyant style was considered “childish”; the first critiques he’d received from Osais on his work were ego crushing.

As he approached the studio door, he peered through the soot-streaked panes and saw twelve-year-old Clara, perched on her stool, painting tiny hairs on the legs of a beetle with her finest brush. Her silvery hair hung in plaits down her straight back. Contained and calm, she leaned in to apply a crucial spot on the beetle carapace, then stretched back to the check the speck from every angle.

Many of the apprentices thought she must be a witch, for the child painted anatomically accurate insects which looked alive. Prospective buyers in the studio had been seen trying to swipe a fly off a painting, then leaning in closer and realizing with astonishment, that the insect was painted into the scene.
He turned away from the window and felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing deeper into his guts. How did she do it? Like magic, she’d flick her small hand over the canvas, over flat paintings of lilies and silver vases, which seemed under her brush to spring to life. She could paint a drop of water barely clinging to a petal, caught in that moment just before it fell to the ground, so tenuous that observers would tread softly as they passed.!Her skill was incomprehensible to him. His face flushed with anger and the now-familiar agony of humiliation as he watched her. His own easel was visible just past hers—it was clear that his work, so lauded by Italian masters, was mediocre by comparison. Trembling with frustration, he spat into the snow and once again wished she was dead.

Just then Osais opened the door.
“Ah, Senor Paulo,” he said sarcastically. “You have found time for us today?”

Jill's Fur Coats - Writing Class


The Smithsonian magazine fell open at this essay when I picked it off the pile of reading material.



"I picked up the button and sniffed it. I held it in my palm, recalling the prickle of leopard skin at my nape as I smoked a joint, the Hail Mary pass I missed seeing because I was counting the rosettes on my muff, the pillbox at the graveside, the swing of the spotted jacket as its wearer dragged a sackful of tin cans to the curb for the war effort. I thought of the determined young bride in the long belted coat and of the handsome leopard, transformed over and over, that had faithfully accompanied us through loss, and confusion, and growing up, and growing old."
("Changing Spots" by Edith Pearlman, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2002. )


It was April 2002 and I was sitting in a lawyer's office waiting room. My mother, Jill, had died a month earlier; the estate lawyer and my sister, also a lawyer, were reviewing my mother's estate, speaking legalese, a language unknown to me.  Grieving had taken a toll; we were both tired and numb but eager to get the paperwork done so we could close out the house in Winnipeg and deal with mother's personal belongings. Always a difficult task when one's parents die, this was worse than usual as we both lived 2500 miles away, in California.

The nostalgic Smithsonian essay seemed written for me at that moment. Immediately, memories of my mother's fur coats flooded into my consciousness.
My mother in her sheared beaver fur with me

While Edith's (the essayist) mother's leopard skin coat, turned into a jacket, then a collar, then a hat, muff, pillow and finally a button, my mother's sheared beaver and muskrat, intact as full-length coats, were hanging in the basement of her house, zipped into plastic bags, choking on mothball effluent, destined never to see the light of day again. When Jill was alive, in late autumn, the gloomy cupboard was opened and out came the coats, but no amount of airing could completely eradicate the whiff. Anywhere you went in our city, particularly on crowded buses, "Eau de Mothball" was the parfum du jour.
 
All through Jill's life, her coats remained un-remodeled—coats which reached down to her boot tops, with sleeves that covered her fingertips. I can remember her commenting about this critical tailoring detail; sleeves too short could ruin the look of a coat, according to Jill. The coats weighed a ton and women slouched along under the weight—but they were warm and necessary in the Winnipeg winters where temperatures sometimes reached -40 degrees F. Unbelievably, there are times in Winnipeg, jokingly known as Winterpeg, when the temperature is as cold as the surface of Mars! And that's not factoring in the wind chill effect which can make the temperature feel 20 or 30 degrees colder. Brrrrrrrr.

When you were invited into someone’s house in the winter for a party or social gathering, the  coats were piled on the bed in the master bedroom, creating a mountain of fur just asking a kid to dive in. And dive we did, rolling around in the softness, little peltless animals that we were, awed by the sensuous warmth of what was once a beaver, a seal or a mink. Little did we know in those days of innocence, when there seemed to be too much of everything, not too little, that soon we’d be reviled for wearing skins, humiliated in public, ink thrown over the coats.

Preparing to go out in the winter, Jill would stand in our small foyer and watching herself in a mirror, carefully wrap a silk scarf over her shoulders. After the coat was on, she'd look again in the mirror, adjust the scarf and fix her hair. Once satisfied, she'd be ready to go out the door. The scarf protected her neck from chafing under the weight of the coat and protected the coat from body oil from hair or skin. My mother had a mirror in every room and never passed one without taking a look. Eilleen and I would laugh about it and oddly, we went the other way and rarely looked at ourselves. Jill applied make-up everyday and always looked good in my memory. How shocked she'd be to know she has a daughter, me, for whom "dressed up" in retirement, is donning the set of free sweats bestowed upon me by Emirates Airlines during our one blow-out extravaganza first class flight to Dubai.

My sister and I having dealt with everything else, finally confronted the problem of what to do with the nostalgia-laden coats. We tried them on in Mom's living room; laughing about the finger-tip sleeves and crying as we added her hats and jewelry and mugged in her mirror. I recalled feeling the soft sheared beaver against my face as a child sitting in her lap or walking next to her holding her hand. Memories whispered to us each time we turned up a collar, felt inside the pockets, fingered the buttons. As we struggled, my wonderful friend, Linda, suggested we have legacy Teddy Bears made out of the skins. "Jilly Bears" were created—all three are now in the hands of my niece to pass down to the girls in the family.

Time races along and people are sadly, so easily forgotten. A decade passes and even people you love intensely, even your mother, fades from memory and eventually disappears from consciousness like so much smoke in the air. The bears, now the keeper of Jill’s memory are no doubt in a closet somewhere on a top shelf; but one day a great or great granddaughter will accidentally feel the soft fur while looking for a hat or a purse and stumble onto one of the JIlly Bears. I hope she’ll ask,  “Who was Jill?”







A Rough Draft

The women gathered at twilight, driving into town from neighborhoods around Fallbrook. They parked on Hillcrest, the steep street in front of the auditor's offices: SUV's, a Porsche, one Corvette, and a Nissan. She pulled into the last street spot open, parked and turned her wheels to the curb. Slinging her heavy purse over her shoulder, she scooped up the iPad, a can of nuts and a bottle of wine, cradling them in her arms while she locked the car. Carefully she crossed the street, looking closely both ways. As she didn't hear well and only out of one side, she had to be very alert. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see a faint yellow light shining through the front window of the gallery across the street. The faint light stirred something in her and she looked more closely. The eclectic owner was likely working late on one of his stories; she noticed his beautiful wife, owner of the shop next door, pushing in the wheeled racks of sale clothing kept out on the sidewalk during the day. She'd always thought the dramatic couple would be potential protagonists in the story she herself planned to pen one fine day. 

As usual, this part of Main Avenue was almost deserted except for one block down where the village pub was coming alive and slowly filling up with marines, young girls and the grizzled regulars who moved from the coffee shop seats during the day to the pub booths at sunset. Lattes were for daytime; draft beer for night. She shuddered thinking about the last time she went into the pub finding the heavy atmosphere fraught with tension and a palpable lingering disappointment—a "morning-after" aura. The bald bartender served her pint with noticeable disdain. She'd drunk half of it quietly and left quickly, feeling a huge relief as the door slammed behind her and she stepped back into the sunshine. 

The light was fading fast, shadows deepening. She walked past the wedding cake store with the unchanging display—a dusty three-tier cake resting on a lace doily in the window. A 1950's plastic bride and groom sat on top, broad smiles frozen on their faces. The clatter and chatter of a printer emitted from behind the accountant's office door, where they were still working late every evening, processing late tax returns and payment extensions. 

The auditor's office was upstairs over a craft brewery where the brewers made ale on the women's meeting nights. The smell of hops, fermentation and stale beer wafted up and curled in through the windows leaving a slightly cheesy aroma in the air. In the small back alley behind the office next door, the miserable dog was chained for the night again and the women could hear the mutt whine, belying his heart-wrenching loneliness. B had suggested once that they kill the negligent dog owner but the group reminded her that their goals were bigger than that.


As she stepped inside the door, six faces looked up and smiling, everyone greeted her. Three open wine bottles were lined up along the glass conference table. Bags of nuts and chips were opened and being passed. She settled down at her usual place at the head of the table so she could turn her hearing ear toward the group. Ah, she thought to herself...here were the Queens of Quiet Harrassment. 

B opened the meeting, as usual, by reading reports about local arrests reported the month prior. Two were placed on the list without further discussion. The total of pending cases to consider was six. P, our lawyer, glanced over the report and updated everyone as to legal status of the accused and the victims. K reported a big success during the last month scoring several hits against the perp we laughingly called Micky Spillane.  As we operated under the cover of a book club, it amused us to assign character's names to our intended victims. Whenever she saw his car, K would trip and accidentally spill her drink on the passenger window and door. There were chalk marks all over his tires. Advertising flyers from the supermarket were scattered across his trunk. Chewing gum had been pushed into his...........

The storyteller, feeling stiff and blocked, got up from his computer, stretched and walked over to the window, looking up at the light in the auditor's office across the street. He contemplated the seven women's heads which he could just make out. He stood for a while, tapping his foot, scratching his head.


"Nah"...he said to himself as he sat back down, pressed delete and started again.The women gathered at twilight.  The seven women gathered monthly for a book club meeting but he suspected it was a cover-up for another activity, far less benign........









Friday, November 11, 2016

Sepia Saturday # 345 War & Peace: Wounded in France

I'm continuing with the story of my father's WW1 military service in the Canadian Army. He was shipped from Shorncliff to France, arriving on Oct. 16th, 1917. He was prepared to be moved to the front when my Grandmother got word of it and sent a cable reporting that my father was under age. She also sent a letter or letters to which she received the following reply: 



According to Dad's records, he was moved from the 4th Bde to Etaples, France. If he'd remained on the front lines it's likely he would have been in the 1st Battle of the Somme or the 1st Battle of Arras. Somme battles losses were huge. 177,739 men of Britain and the Commonwealth were killed, wounded or missing. 15,000 were dead and 90,000 missing. As a gunner, it's likely Dad wouldn't have survived. 

Here's a page from the war diaries of the  4th Brigade.


Instead of the front, he spent from Dec. 26th, 1917 to July 29th, 1918 in Etaples. Here's what it was like there according to www.throughtheselines.com.au.

Étaples is a very old fishing town and port, which lies at the mouth of the River Canche in the region of Pas de Calais in Picardy. The Étaples Army Base Camp, the largest of its kind ever established overseas by the British, was built along the railway adjacent to the town. It was served by a network of railways, canals, and roads connecting the camp to the southern and eastern fields of battle in France and to ships carrying troops, supplies, guns, equipment, and thousands of men and women across the English Channel. It was a base for British, Canadian, Scottish and Australian forces.
The camp was a training base, a depot for supplies, a detention centre for prisoners, and a centre for the treatment of the sick and wounded, with almost twenty general hospitals. At its peak, the camp housed over 100,000 people; altogether, its hospitals could treat 22,000 patients. With its vast conglomeration of the wounded, of prisoners, of soldiers training for battle, and of those simply waiting to return to the front, Étaples could appear a dark place. Wilfred Owen [Collected Letters.Oxford University Press] described it as,
A vast, dreadful encampment. It seemed neither France nor England, but a kind of paddock where the beasts are kept a few days before the shambles … Chiefly I thought of the very strange look on all the faces in that camp; an incomprehensible look, which a man will never see in England; nor can it be seen in any battle, but only in Étaples. It was not despair, or terror, it was more terrible than terror, for it was a blindfold look, and without expression, like a dead rabbit’s.

Here's a map of the camp on which you can see the Canadian GHP: 



At some point during his time in Etaples he got over to Marles-les-Mines, 85 km inland and had the below photo taken. He must have thought it would be his last. He looks older and more serious than the earlier photo where he was posed standing and holding a swagger stick. 
On Aug. 2nd, 1918 he was rejoined, now to the 4th Bde. He was wounded by gunshot in the eye on Sept. 3rd.


 Newspaper announcement of my Dad's wound. Gunner F. J. Killeen. "Word has been received by his mother at 448 Victor Street, that Gunner F. Jos. Killeen (No. 2043510)has been wounded by gunshot in the eye and is now in...."

He received some treatment on the spot in an American Field hospital and then ended up in Aldershot on Sept. 8th. Four days later he was in Basingstoke which was a recuperative hospital and on Sept. 30th, he was discharged and sent to Bordon Camp. He returned to Canada on the Canadian Pacific Liner "Melita" in December1918 and was discharged on Jan. 27th, 1919. 





CPL Melita


He must have enrolled in law school immediately because he graduated in 1922 cum laude with "Ad Baccalaureatum in Legibus" and was admitted to the Law Society of Manitoba Oct. 13th, 1922 as an Attorney or Solicitor of the Court of King's Bench for the Province of Manitoba. 

Military service was the defining experience of my father's life. He loved the army and never quite left it. He went back in again during WWll, training troops in Ft. William, Ontario where I was born and then as a Judge Advocate. After the war, he worked for the Canadian Department of Veteran's Affairs, The Veteran's Land Act and as legal counsel for Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg - the Veteran's Hospital. He was very patriotic and disappointed that both his daughters left Canada and moved to the U.S. 

See Sepia Saturday for more stories of War and Peace. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sepia Saturday #345 :The Canadians at Shorncliffe



I found this great account on the website www.stepshort.co.uk - it describes the situation at Shorncliffe, where my father was sent for training before shipping off to France. He was at Shorncliffe from April 29th, 1917 to October 15th, 1917, when he was shipped to Witley Field and then to France arriving there on October 16th, 1917. He had a leave of absence from October 2nd to October 8. There's a note in his service form that says he received "free transportation." Wish I knew to where. 
Francis Joseph Killeen - 1917


The Canadians in Folkestone during the Great War

Forty thousand Canadians came to the area in 1915 and, in the towns of Folkestone and Hythe many local people even started to talk like Canadians, saying ‘sure’ instead of ‘yes’. The local people welcomed and liked the Canadians. The Maple Leaf Club was started by a small group of English women to provide home comforts, such as a bed, bath and a meal at reasonable rates. The Canadian soldiers did lots of things which helped to make them popular with the people of Folkestone. Their bands played music in the bandstands on the Leas and at local churches, and they also marched through the town. They arranged sports days at Radnor Park and showed how good they were at horse riding.

The huts and tents where most of the men lived were very basic. After they had spent a hard day training there was not much for the men to do to relax. To help them, the people of Folkestone and elsewhere raised money to put up a special hut, the YMCA Hut, where the men could enjoy their free time. The hut on St Martin’s Plain was officially opened in April 1915. The event was reported in the local Folkestone and Hythe Herald, "The patriots from Canada greatly appreciate the comfort and advantages of the YMCA’s admirable building which is tastefully fitted up. On week-days concerts and cinematographic performances are given to the men, while on Sundays services are held. At one end there is a counter where the men can procure refreshments of all kinds. Writing paper and envelopes are provided and there is a gramophone and bagatelle table."

The soldiers could also come into Folkestone in their spare time. One soldier, Private Broome, wrote home to his family in Canada, telling them: “29th September 1915: We have had nice weather here till today and it’s raining cats and dogs. We are fixed up alright though. We are in huts. About 30 men live in each hut and have their beds and tables and chairs and crockery. The food is brought from the cookhouse and we eat right in our huts. They are pretty big although the name makes one think they are small. I believe I told you we are near Folkestone. We go there nearly every night. I am learning to roller skate. It is great fun although kind of rough for a learner.”

Other soldiers wrote home from Folkestone to tell their families about the War. Folkestone was very important because most of the men who had to fight in France (the Western Front) had to travel by ships from Folkestone harbour. Private Louis Duff wrote to his parents, “29th June 1915, Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe: Just a line to let you know we arrived OK and am well…We have two pretty coast towns close by, Hythe west of us an hours walk and Folkestone, a popular seaside resort, east of us…On a clear day France shows up plainly. Submarines and Torpedo Boat Destroyers are patrolling the sea all the time. Aeroplanes and dirigibles are a common sight.” 

The soldiers had to work hard to learn how to use their rifles and to march and how to dig trenches. In France there were thousands of miles of trenches and the soldiers spent most of their time in them. They were dirty, muddy places but they helped to protect the men from the guns of the enemy. Once the training was finished the men were ready to go to war. They must have felt excited, but also nervous and frightened. Even though Folkestone was not where the real fighting was, the town was close enough to France and Belgium to hear the sounds of the battles. Lieutenant Kirkland, wrote home from Folkestone to say, “When there is a heavy bombardment on around Zeebruge or at the west of the battle line at Dunkirk, or in the direction of Ypres, we can distinctly hear the rumble of the big guns…I thought at first the noise I heard was thunder but as I was hearing it every morning I made enquiries and was told it was the noise of battle.” When the day came to go off to war, the men soldiers marched to Folkestone Harbour to board a Troop Ship for the crossing to Boulogne in France. One of the many thousands of men who crossed was Harry Patch. Harry died in 2009 and was the last surviving British soldier (Tommy) who had fought in the Great War. He described what it was like to leave England to face the unknown horrors of the war, 

“Our small group walked up a narrow gangway and was packed together in an old paddle steamer. As we pulled out of Folkestone harbour, we watched England and the white cliffs gradually recede into the darkness. I wasn’t the only one who wondered whether we would ever set foot on her soil again. Would I come home and, if I did, would I be in one piece?”  

With so many thousands of soldiers in Folkestone training for the war, and many more who came back from the fighting in France and Belgium with injuries, it was necessary to provide hospitals and medical staff, nurses and doctors, to treat the ill and wounded men. Many places which, before the war had been schools, hotels and ordinary homes, were turned into hospitals. Most of the ill and wounded soldiers recovered, but not all. Some died. It was decided that the Canadian soldiers who died in Folkestone should be buried at the Military Cemetery at Shorncliffe Army Camp. As so many of the Canadians were buried so far from their homes and families, the people of Folkestone and Hythe decided to help remember them and this led to the idea for Canadian Flower Day. Children from local schools would go to Shorncliffe Cemetery each year to say payers and place flowers on the grave of a Canadian soldier. The first time this happened was in 1917 and, apart from a short break during the Second World War (when local school children had been evacuated to safer parts of the country) the ceremony has happened every single year since. 

Manitoba Historical Society


Check out Sepia Saturday for more stories.....

Sepia Saturday #345: Nan - Mascot of the 21st Battallion - Canadian Expeditionary Force




I'm using the 4 week prompt this month, War & Peace, to gather together an account of my father's experience in the Canadian Army, WW1. My father was in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Battalion 21, No 4 section, Divisional Ammunition column. This is an interesting war-time story about an animal my father must have been aware of. I copied the account in it's entirety from the website, 21stbattalion.Ca.



The mascot of the 21st Battalion was a white goat named Nan. Nan seemed to be intuitively aware of her surroundings and situations. When preparations for a move were being undertaken by the Battalion, Nan sensed the meaning of the activity, and was always ready to leave with the men. She would carefully watch the members of the transport section, her closest friends. Nan knew these men would prepare a flat section on one of the G.S. Wagons so she could ride comfortably to the Battalion's next position. Nan required a great deal of care, and on several occasions, she went AWOL. More often than not, it was not her fault as she was usually found either tied up in the lines of another unit, or at the rear of a local pub.

The men dearly loved Nan, and a story is told by the men of the Q.M. Detachment and Transport section. It was during the march to the Somme, the Transport Officer came to the conclusion that his men were spending too much time caring for Nan, and subsequently sold her to a Frenchman for 20 francs. When this was discovered, horror and outrage swept the ranks. It was not until Nan was safely returned to the Battalion that peace within the unit was restored. Nan was known from Ypres in Belgium, to Amiens in France and westward to Germany's Rhine River. Nan holds the record of being the first Mascot to cross the Rhine, at the City of Bonn, on the morning of Friday, December 13th, 1918.

Getting Nan into France was easy compared to the problems encountered by Battalion Headquarters in arranging transport back to Canada. Embarking at Le Havre for England in April 1919, the men hurried Nan on board and disembarked with the Battalion the next morning at Southhampton without any unpleasant questions being asked. However, approximately fifteen minutes later, the Commanding Officer was requested to report to the Officer in Charge of the Port. The Port Officer, without emotion, informed the C.O. that it was contrary to the regulations of the Board of Agriculture to bring an animal into England from a foreign country. Nan, however, had already landed, and the Battalion, en route to Witley Camp, placed Nan in a baggage car under guard and in strict isolation.

Nonetheless, the Agriculture Board had not forgotten Nan. The next day, a courteous inspector visited Battalion Headquarters to enquire about Nan. It was admitted that Nan had been brought to Witley from the Port of Entry. The inspector, a former Officer in the Army, appreciated the feelings of affection and sentiment toward Nan, but insisted the law must be obeyed.

Nan would have to be slaughtered or re-exported. Nan was indeed re-exported, but not to France; Nan left for Canada, after three weeks in quarantine. Homeward bound on board the Cunard liner "Caronia," Nan, as usual, attracted unwanted attention. When the Ship's Commander became aware of Nan's presence, he ordered that Nan be kept below deck in a place reserved for animals. Disembarking at Halifax, Nan had a clean bill of health. She had been ill for two weeks in France with sore feet. However, through the efforts of a Piper from the Orkney Islands, she recovered. The Piper had been a shepherd before coming to Canada.

When the Battalion was disbanded, Nan was lonely for her friends, but her comrades did not desert her. For a short time Nan was cared for by Piper Nelson, Nan's closest friend, and spent the summer on the grounds of Mowat Hospital. When the disagreeable weather of autumn arrived, the Commandant of the Royal Military College made arrangements with Captain N.F. Bray, the College Riding Master, to have Nan bedded down in the stables and to see that she was properly fed. When Captain W.J.Finney succeeded Captain Bray, he and his men carried on to ensure that the last days of Nan were happy ones.

When His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales made a visit in 1919, Nan was prepared for presentation by Piper Nelson. He gave her a good rubbing of wet oatmeal to whiten her coat. When Piper Nelson led her to the stand to greet His Royal Highness, they both carried themselves proudly; Nan appeared to be as aware of the occasion as her handler. The Prince of Wales greeted her, and smiling, remarked he had met her on one occasion in France during the war.

Unfortunately, old age overtook Nan at the age of 12, and life became a burden. She lost the use of her legs, and on the advice of the Veterinary Officer of Military District

No. 3, Nan was painlessly put to sleep on September 22, 1924. Nan was buried by the men of her Battalion, and her grave suitably marked.

Nan was a veteran, having served with the Battalion for over four years. She was with the men she loved and who loved her. Although Nan has left us, and she was just a goat, her spirit has surely joined her comrades who sleep "Between the crosses row on row" in France and Flanders.

A few of the postcards demonstrating that humor lived on even in the most grisly of circumstances.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Sepia Saturday #345: World War 1 Canadian Recruitment posters

The prompt for the month of November is War and Peace. From my father's regimental documents secured from "Library and Archives Canada, I'm attempting to piece together an account of his 2 1/2 years of military service. 





















My father enlisted in the Canadian Army on December 26th when he was 17. He told me he thought he was embarking on an adventure somewhat like the boy scouts, on a cruise. After looking through these Canadian military recruitment posters from WW1, I can see where and why he may have gotten that message. Not only would he get to go on a cruise but he was also paid the magnificent sum of $15.00/month. His pay was sent to his mother. 

December 26th is Boxing Day in Canada and a national holiday. I guess the recruitment offices were open anyway and my father must have experienced a swell of patriotism during the Christmas holidays—something moved him to enlist on the holiday. He lied to the recruiter and stated his birthday as 1898 instead of 1899, even though he was cautioned that if he made any false answer to the pertinent questions he would be liable to be punished as provided in the Army Act.

The Oath he swore was:
I, Francis Joseph Killeen do make Oath, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, Heirs and Successors in Person, Crown and Dignity, against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of all the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God. 

The term he agreed to was..."I am willing to fulfil the engagements by me now made and I hereby engage and agree to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force and to be attached to any arm of the service therein, for the term of one year, or during the war now existing between Great Britain and Germany should that war last longer than one year and for six months after the termination of that war provided His Majesty should so long require my service or until legally discharged." 

On the physical description, he was listed as 5'6" and his chest girth was 35", expansion 4 1/2". Oddly they didn't weight the recruits, being more interested in the condition of their lungs. The examining medical officer declared on the certificate:

"I have examined the above-named Recruit and find that he does not present any of the causes of rejection specified in the Regulations for Army Medical Services. He can see at the required distance with either eye; his heart and lungs are healthy; he has the free use of his joints and limbs, and he declares that he is not subject to fits of any description. 

After basic training, he was sent from Winnipeg to Halifax from where he sailed (the cruise part) on the H.M.S. Northland from Halifax to Liverpool. They left on April 17th, 1917 and disembarked on April 29th, 1917. So much for the 12-day cruise. Next, on April 30th he was "taken on strength" at Shorncliffe camp.

From Wikipedia: 

The camp was established in 1794 when the British Army bought over 229 acres of land at Shorncliffe; it was then extended in 1796 and 1806.

Shorncliffe was used as a staging post for troops destined for the Western Front during the First World War and in April 1915 a Canadian Training Division was formed there. The Canadian Army Medical Corps  had general hospitals based at Shorncliffe from September 1917 to December 1918.The camp at that time composed five unit lines known as Ross Barracks, Somerset Barracks, Napier Barracks, Moore Barracks and Risborough Barracks. On three occasions there were German air raids which killed soldiers on the camp.

My father, Francis Joseph Killeen, about 1916.







This poster intrigued me. There's a small insert just behind the woman's chair in which the artist, Will Ross Perrigard is credited and states that is "after Whistler." I've put the real Whistler's Mother here below so you can see how Will changed his image. The picture hanging on the wall is different in the recruitment poster and there's no curtain. Of course in Will's version, the woman's face and bonnet are less artful than the Whistler original. 

Whenever and wherever there's an emergency, the first thing people want to do is hoard food. They took the offense seriously in Canada.

Free cigarettes for all the boys over there! The Over-seas club logo looks very much like the Safeway stores logo which came into being much later. 

I wonder about the blank face. Doesn't seem like good marketing to me.  





Only white hearts are patriotic?


I wonder if my father was happy at Shorncliffe? He had escaped from the tedium of working as a "warehouseman" in Winnipeg. 
He must have completed high school and taken the job. I'm guessing he worked at that job for less than a year before enlisting. 




Sepia Saturday #345: World War 1 Canadian Recruitment posters

The prompt for the month of November is War and Peace. From my father's regimental documents secured from "Library and Archives Canada, I'm attempting to piece together an account of his 2 1/2 years of military service. 





















My father enlisted in the Canadian Army on December 26th when he was 17. He told me he thought he was embarking on an adventure somewhat like the boy scouts, on a cruise. After looking through these Canadian military recruitment posters from WW1, I can see where and why he may have gotten that message. Not only would he get to go on a cruise but he was also paid the magnificent sum of $15.00/month. His pay was sent to his mother. 

December 26th is Boxing Day in Canada and a national holiday. I guess the recruitment offices were open anyway and my father must have experienced a swell of patriotism during the Christmas holidays—something moved him to enlist on the holiday. He lied to the recruiter and stated his birthday as 1898 instead of 1899, even though he was cautioned that if he made any false answer to the pertinent questions he would be liable to be punished as provided in the Army Act.

The Oath he swore was:
I, Francis Joseph Killeen do make Oath, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, Heirs and Successors in Person, Crown and Dignity, against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of all the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God. 

The term he agreed to was..."I am willing to fulfil the engagements by me now made and I hereby engage and agree to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force and to be attached to any arm of the service therein, for the term of one year, or during the war now existing between Great Britain and Germany should that war last longer than one year and for six months after the termination of that war provided His Majesty should so long require my service or until legally discharged." 

On the physical description, he was listed as 5'6" and his chest girth was 35", expansion 4 1/2". Oddly they didn't weight the recruits, being more interested in the condition of their lungs. The examining medical officer declared on the certificate:

"I have examined the above-named Recruit and find that he does not present any of the causes of rejection specified in the Regulations for Army Medical Services. He can see at the required distance with either eye; his heart and lungs are healthy; he has the free use of his joints and limbs, and he declares that he is not subject to fits of any description. 


After basic training, he was sent from Winnipeg to Halifax from where he sailed (the cruise part) on the H.M.S. Northland from Halifax to Liverpool. They left on April 17th, 1917 and disembarked on April 29th, 1917. So much for the 12-day cruise. Next, on April 30th he was "taken on strength" at Shorncliffe camp.

From Wikipedia: 

The camp was established in 1794 when the British Army bought over 229 acres of land at Shorncliffe; it was then extended in 1796 and 1806.

Shorncliffe was used as a staging post for troops destined for the Western Front during the First World War and in April 1915 a Canadian Training Division was formed there. The Canadian Army Medical Corps  had general hospitals based at Shorncliffe from September 1917 to December 1918.The camp at that time composed five unit lines known as Ross Barracks, Somerset Barracks, Napier Barracks, Moore Barracks and Risborough Barracks. On three occasions there were German air raids which killed soldiers on the camp.

My father, Francis Joseph Killeen, about 1916.







This poster intrigued me. There's a small insert just behind the woman's chair in which the artist, Will Ross Perrigard is credited and states that is "after Whistler." I've put the real Whistler's Mother here below so you can see how Will changed his image. The picture hanging on the wall is different in the recruitment poster and there's no curtain. Of course in Will's version, the woman's face and bonnet are less artful than the Whistler original. 

Whenever and wherever there's an emergency, the first thing people want to do is hoard food. They took the offense seriously in Canada.

Free cigarettes for all the boys over there! The Over-seas club logo looks very much like the Safeway stores logo which came into being much later. 

I wonder about the blank face. Doesn't seem like good marketing to me.  





Only white hearts are patriotic?


I wonder if my father was happy at Shorncliffe? He had escaped from the tedium of working as a "warehouseman" in Winnipeg. 
He must have completed high school and taken the job. I'm guessing he worked at that job for less than a year before enlisting. 




Wednesday, November 02, 2016

My Mother's Tipsy Afternoon


Probably too long for a blog entry - 5 pages, double-spaced. Our writer's group decided to attempt this level of output weekly. I don't think I can keep it up, but I did manage to take a fairly short scene and stretch it into 5 pages. This is the opposite of what I usually try to do, which is pare everything back. I have to admit, it was fun to rattle on and on for me, the writer, but probably boring for anyone else to read.



That summer...that day, was when I first realized my mother was different. We were at Dorothy Lake and it was blazing hot. In Canada, heat records had been broken and it was well over 100 degrees F. with high humidity. I have to stop here and explain a few things. We Canadians, notorious for being non-notorious, begin most of our conversations with weather talk. Weather can break the ice—important in Canada—and get a couple of people used to being with each other, face to face. A skilled Canadian can stretch a weather conversation to the limit, getting into barometric pressure, wind speed and weather records—like those we were experiencing at the lake that day. Broad generalizations are of course dangerous, and I can’t speak for Canadians of all ages, color, sizes, religions and ethnic persuasions but I can tell you, you just can’t go wrong talking to a Canadian about the weather.

Don’t expect to hear a lot of personal stuff from a Canadian, particularly a French-Canadian for some time. It’s not considered polite to talk about yourself and certainly not to disclose personal information to people you’ve just met. My mother and her neighbor, Mr. LaCroix addressed each other as Mr. and Mrs. for all the twenty years they lived next door to each other. Even though his undershorts flapped on their clotheslines in our plain view and even though my mothers’s bras flew gaily on our clothesline in his plain sight, formalities and a distance was always maintained. between them.  


And there’s another thing I should mention here—Canadians like their personal space. Good manners, Canadian style, dictate that you give a person a foot or so of his or her own to maneuver in.  We’re also notoriously non-argumentative, so don’t try and give me a load of crap about being prejudiced with these remarks and how there are more differences between individuals than there are between ethnic groups. Give me a break...anyone who has traveled around picks up pretty quickly on these behavioral differences, like how close to stand to someone during a conversation. Probably it’s something built into our genes to make us amenable to strangers. Otherwise, our gene pool would have turned awfully shallow and who knows where we’d be now? Crouching in caves with clubs ready to bash anyone different in the head? Eh?

As an example, I used to work with a man named Barrero—I loved the guy. But he liked to stand two inches away from me, look me directly in the eyes and talk—made me mucho uncomfortable. I’d back up and he’d move forward….like a magnet was keeping us together. People in our office used to enjoy our dancing around and tease us both about it. Even though he knew I was bothered by this trait of his, John kept on doing it; eventually, I played along and would take the initiative, standing so close to him I could smell the tacos he’d had for lunch. Fat lot of good it did me….John would never budge and wouldn’t blink. I thought we’d be friends forever but when he left the job the company had a big roast for him. He kept a silly little statue on his desk of a clown pulling his pants out and in the space this created, a tiny cactus was growing. I always thought it was in bad taste but I refrained from making any kind of judgment. But a roast??? ...that’s another thing altogether and who could pass up the opportunity?  I began my little roasty speech about him by saying I always wondered what John was trying to say to the world by keeping that statue on his desk. What a prick he had? —remember I said it was a tiny cactus— or what a prick he was? John never spoke to me again.

But I’m straying away from my story and that’s almost enough about the weather. As I mentioned, the heat was horrible. And how ironic it is to complain about the heat as most of the time we talked about how cold it was. The cold talk wasn’t idle chit-chat..because there were times I can remember when it was life threatening. At 30 - 40 below zero, your skin can freeze in three minutes of exposure. Radio stations would interrupt the “regularly scheduled programming” to give alerts, warning us to cover our faces when outdoors and limit exposure to a minute or two.

Sitting on the big sunny rock at Dorothy Lake that summer, i was about ten years old, winter was far from our minds and we were fanning ourselves with the Winnipeg Free Press, the paper where my Uncle Lorne worked as a linotype operator. Uncle Lorne and Auntie Addie owned the folksy cottage sited about thirty feet from the clear water’s edge and eighty miles out of the city of Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba.  Lorne, Addie and my mother were perched on a trio of folding aluminum chairs. Most of the time, the chairs hung on a couple of nails outside the cabin. When you took them down and opened them up, spiders and other insects would climb out of the nooks and crannies and put on a real creep show. It wasn’t so bad during the day, but at night when we lit the lamps inside the cabin, the windows on the outside would be covered with bugs - big and small, flying and crawling. Fortunately, I always liked bugs and enjoyed sitting on the inside looking at the bug underbellies as they crawled and slithered around. My mother couldn’t stand them and stayed as far away from the windows as she could. Why so many bugs? The little cabin was the first structure ever built on that virgin piece of land. Ever. Like the insects covering the windows, the 35 million people living in Canada are all strung along the border with the U.S. Go a hundred miles north of the border, where we were and there are gajillions of acres, either farmed or in brush and further north tundra. It was an entomologist’s dream.

I stayed in the cool water most of the day submerged up to the neck, hanging onto the edge of the moored boat, close enough to hear all the conversation but protected from our greatest nemesis—mosquitoes.  The three adults had Black Cat cigarettes fired up and puffing, creating a kind of temporary protective screen. Out of the water, I’d have to slather myself with the stinky, insect repellent we used to keep the pests away. Or as away as they got—which wasn’t far. We all had bites, and scratching was just a thing you did all summer. Scratch, scratch, scratch. You probably think I’m exaggerating but at one time, the chief entomologist in Winnipeg made a salary equal to that of the mayor. He was a bit of a rock star and when he quit under mysterious circumstances, the front page headline read of the paper read,  “Winnipeg Bug Battler Bolts.” That's how important mosquitoes are.

From my watery vantage, I could see the bites and welts along my mother’s stomach. Even though she’d applied a paste of baking soda and water to the itchy spots, that concoction provided minimal relief. Mom was wearing her two-piece, mauve satin bathing suit with the gathered top and gently elasticized tummy front. Addie, Mom’s younger sister, skinny and wiry, wore a bathing suit probably purchased in a teen’s size; she never weighed more than 100 pounds. The top of her suit was polka dotted and had ruffles.  Bustlessness was a family curse and ruffles were our only defense in those days. Horizontally striped ruffles were even better. We fooled ourselves into thinking they created the illusion of a bosom.

Addie had made us a big jug of lemonade and we were enjoying a rare lazy afternoon. We’d eaten Addie’s famous egg salad sandwiches for lunch and were contentedly stuffed. My aunt’s secret was freshness—she simply boiled the eggs just before assembling the sandwiches instead of hours or days before. She’d peel them under cold running water and chop them while still warm; then she’d mix in mayonnaise, a tiny bit of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and some of her home-made pickles, diced small. We only used Wonder bread for these sandwiches because my mother and aunt, who grew up with home-made coarse textured loaves, loved the fine white even texture of the Wonder stuff. Lumps, frequently found in home-made bread, were a deadly sin in their opinion.  My mother would hold each slice of bread up to the light checking the texture, like an oncologist checking somebody’s lymph glands. If she spied a lump, the whole loaf got torn up and turned into bread pudding! Addie made double-filling sandwiches: three layers of bread and two of egg salad. After assembling, she’d press them down gently, cut all the crusts off and then slice diagonally across each sandwich making four dainty triangles. Why am I going on and on? Because the devil is in the details with the simple, comfort foods of our memory. I remember these sandwiches as exquisite...and some of the exquisiteness came from the freshness and some from the home-made pickles and yes, some from the slight pressure Addie applied to the sandwiches before cutting. That little pressure spread the egg salad evenly and pasted the layers together. Without the final pat, the layers might have slid apart when bitten into and the beauty of the flavor came from eating exactly three layers of bread with exactly two layers of egg salad. And of course, it goes without saying, that the sandwiches had to be in triangles. With triangles you ate each corner in one bite, leaving a lovely small piece in the center - the heart of the thing. A square egg salad sandwich would just be so WRONG.

We easily ate a dozen eggs during that wonderful lunch, savoring every bite—licking our fingers and exclaiming about the deliciousness of every morsel. It was such a care-free day without my father and sister. Dad would have been trying to teach me something boring like the geology of that lake area; my sister would be annoyed with me as always - if I wasn’t annoying and she wasn’t annoyed, our relationship got out of kilter. It’s just how it was. We all loved each other, but as everyone knows family dynamics are tricky. That afternoon, my mother seemed light and unburdened, free to be herself and a sister to Addie—not a wife and not a mother.

Around 4:00 we decided to drive back to the city, cleaned up the kitchen, folded up the chairs and got into the car. Even though the windows were down, the air was hot and sticky. After about 30 miles of driving, we stopped at a tiny lake, more like a waterhole to cool off.  It was 5 o’clock by then and cocktail hour could begin. Lorne mixed a couple of drinks and Mom and Addie got the inner tube out of the trunk. Somehow they both got into it and proceeded to merrily float back and forth across the pond, sipping and laughing together. By the second drink, they were laughing at everything...and so were Uncle Lorne and I. It all seemed funny, the floating, the drinking, the pond, the inner tube…..life. I’d never seen or heard my reserved mother like that before having such uninhibited fun, wildly laughing and enjoying the closeness with my aunt. I think I saw my mother for the first time.