Whoa Whoa Whoa

On the 9th of January, 1941, I have volunteered for the ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE in Winnipeg. I have to report to Gimli in 2 days. I’ll write when I get there.


When Grandma saw this letter her head dropped on her arms on the kitchen table. Only the cat heard her quiet sobs. Grandpa sat in shock in his rocking chair, tears unable to pour from his dry eyes. The rocker didn’t move. The huge pendulum clock on the wall brought all the way from Koenigsberg, Germany after Grandma had finished her studies as a young brilliant nurse, tick-tocked slowly. A small fire in the kitchen stove crackled. Bright yellow crocuses bloomed from a pot on the window. The kettle steamed ready for tea.

Neither Grandpa or Grandma spoke to each other or to anyone all day. Quietly they went about their chores and slipped into bed without supper.

Words were too shallow to break the quiet of their private thoughts. Tomorrow would be another day. Perhaps they could talk about this then.

Jake had one day to spare. He must get to Morden before shipping out. Gimli was some 50 miles north of Winnipeg. He begged a farmer to give him a ride. He already had told his most likable trustee that it was finished. He had volunteered to join the Air Force. The community understood.

In Morden he stopped in at a jewelry store and paid $5.00 down on a ring. Once more he begged a ride and delivered the gift to an address in the better part of town. No one was home. He left a note with a Gimli address and rushed to catch the Greyhound bound for Winnipeg. Late at night he arrived at Katie’s house and told her all. She of course welcomed her brother with open arms and bedded him down for the night in preparation for the ride to Gimli the next day.

Once in Gimli Jake registered at the RCAF base office and asked for permission to send a telegram. Permission was granted.

The telegram said:

Dear Ruth:
Will you marry me?

Later that afternoon a telegram came back:

Dearest Jake:
Love Ruth

Now it was time to write the letter.

Dear Father and Mother:

I have arrived in Gimli safe and sound. Katie was very good to me and gave me a room and lots of food.

Tomorrow I begin with the courses chosen by the Air Force. It sounds very exciting. I will learn to fly because they say my tests are very good. In fact my test scores were the highest they had ever seen in Winnipeg until that day. So you can be proud of me.
I already have friends here with me so don’t worry. The Schellenberg brothers took the same bus from Winnipeg. We are all going to learn to fly since the Air Force needs pilots. There will be a year of studies and practical training so I will probably see you before going overseas. But I cannot tell you any more about my plans because the Air Force will decide.

Oh. By the way I am engaged. Her name is Ruth Simmons. She lives with her parents in Morden while she takes nurse’s training. The Air Force also needs nurses. Maybe she’ll join me later.


Somehow Grandma was too calm about the news. Grandpa couldn’t figure it out.

Things were coming too fast for him. Emotion failed to register.

“Time to milk the cows,” he said and left with the pails.

Grandma trudged behind.

The haunches were warm and soothing as Grandpa and Grandma both leaned into their cows. Their only friends seemed to be the bovine beasts calmly chewing their cud.

No one said a word.

What will be will be.

The implications of what Jake had done to them were just too massive to contemplate. It would take time to organize their thoughts and to react to the inevitable. Better just pray for guidance and hope that the church community might provide some help to get them through this trying period.

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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