My Dad worked his whole life for the CPR. He began working for them during the first years of WW II . At this time , there weren't many career opportunities in small Northern Ontario towns . Without means,privilege or a greater education , even in better times , the best a young man could hope for was a job in Lumbering or with the Canadian Pacific Railway .
Dad had lost his mother by the time he was nine years old , near the end of the Depression , the youngest of at least 8 - two sisters and five brothers in the home . His parents had owned a bakery which was reknown in the area . After her death , the bakery failed when his Dad turned to alcohol
These were hard years for everyone . At fourteen , Dad quit school in anger and desperation to escape the abuse he faced daily . He and at least two of his brothers suffered corporal punishment at the hands of Nuns and sexual abuse by the parish priest .
As a young girl , when I listened to my uncles talking with Dad about their childhood , I didn't comprehend such things . I didn't know that being sent to the church by the Nuns from class to help the priest with Mass and ' pump the organ' , was code for the sexual abuse they suffered regularly at his hands . Their secret language and knowing looks shared the anger and pain that they were not allowed to speak of openly . I only understood that they were saying more to each other than I knew , or would be allowed to know for many years .
At fourteen , he got by taking any odd job available until he was nearly 16 . By that time , the War was in full swing , and many men had enlisted from Mattawa . All of his brothers were gone overseas , too . That left openings in the job market . So , Dad got on as a section man at the CPR - the lowliest job , with back breaking work and meagre pay .
The minute he turned 18 , he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa , and headed overseas to England . He was worried he was going to ' miss the War ' since it was already 1941 . In England , he was trained in the tank corps ( affectionately refered to as 'Cowboys' for their tank handling style ) . It was then , that he met my Mum - a soldier in the British Army Signal Corps .
My Mother , Mum , was born in the town of Norfolk in the Midlands . She had lost her mother at the age of seven making life very hard for her siblings as well . Once they had left the home , Mum was left behind with a sexually abusive father . She was glad when she got an opportunity to get on a children's ship to go to Canada for the duration of the War . But as luck would have it , her father refused to let her go and she missed the boat . As hard as it was for her to remain with her father , she was alive .The ship was sunk by German Subs in the North Atlantic . All aboard perished .
Mum fantasized about sailing to Canada and 'riding off into the sunset' with a cowboy named Gene to live 'happily everafter' . She was much affected during this period by two movies she had seen - one with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald ( which , by the way , had scenes filmed near Mattawa along the Ottawa River ) and another starring Gene Autry .
Finally , she told her Great Aunt Maud about what she was going through at home . Her grandfather's sister warned her father off . She remained safe but uncomfortable until at age 14 she was allowed to go to work on a farm in the country , as part of the War effort in England . As soon as she was 18 , she enlisted in the British Forces in 1944 , a year before the end of the WW II .
After meeting a " cheeky and persistant " Canadian soldier named Eugene , who walked miles to be with her at every opportunity , she finally succumbed to his charm and laughter . They shared their stories and discovered many experiences were the same in their lives to that point . She grew to love and trust him .
Permission came through for them to marry . They did so on March 15 , 1945 ...the Ides of March ?!?!
At the end of the War , Dad had to leave his Bride behind while he returned to Canada with the other troops . Mum followed with other War brides , children and immigrants a few months later .
Together , they began a life in Northern Ontario and Quebec with the CPR playing an ever present role .
She got her 'cowboy' named 'Gene' and she was riding into her sunset behind an Iron Horse .