Remembrance of my father by Barbara (Quinn) Dunster
While my story about World War II would pale to some, perhaps even right here at Parkview Place and as Remembrance Day draws near, I would like to share a few of my memories with you.
My father, Leonard S. Quinn, (I always called him “Daddy”), was born in May 1907 and my mom Flora (MacNamara) Quinn, was born in July 1906. They were born and brought up in the Lyn area where they met and married in October 1932 and moved into the Village of Lyn.
They had three daughters, Beverly in 1933, Barbara in 1935 and Joan in 1937.
Daddy was a farmhand for several farmers in the area and worked for Simpson’s Sand and Gravel Shipping, hauling such from Wellesley Island in the St. Lawrence River to the mainland at Johnstown near Prescott, Ontario where the large grey structure still stands. He acquired a government job with the Dept. of Highways and was working on the rock cut at Rockport, Ontario, west of Brockville, Ontario for Highway #2, when the War broke out in September 1939. The construction of Hwy #2 ceased during the war years to allow money for war supplies etc.
When the Second World War was declared in the Fall of 1939, I was four and a half years old. My Dad was helping to build Highway #2 in the Brockville and Mallorytown area at the time, but his job ended immediately when the War broke out. Since work was hard to find and men were needed for service, Dad joined the Army with the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders. He trained in Kingston, Ontario and Truro, Nova Scotia before going overseas in April 1940. We didn’t see Daddy again for five years, “Snail Mail” was our only means of communication.
My Mother and two sisters spent the next 5 years coping with no Dad and many difficult times. Mom nursed us through all the Communicable Diseases and several surgeries, one which nearly claimed my life. At seven years old, I was stricken with Acute Appendicitis and required surgery immediately. I developed double pneumonia, went into a coma and was not expected to make it. They cabled overseas to tell my Dad, only to find he was in hospital with pneumonia, having just had a Mastoid operation. They never did tell him how ill I was, until he was well.
I remember the doctor coming to the house to witness the Ration Books being burned in the kitchen stove, after my sister and I had Scarlet Fever. Only then could we get new books issued. Of course we were quarantined for all those diseases then.
We lived for the days we’d receive a note or letter from “Overseas” with “Dear Wife and Kiddie” in it! We wrote many, many letters over the next five years and always begging him to come home. Same reply, “I’ll be home as soon as I can get there!”
My two sisters and I learned how to make “War Cake” early on. I still make it today and when you go by our door and smell cinnamon and cloves, I’m more than likely making War Cake*. We kept Daddy supplied with this cake because it keeps well and when he emptied his Kit Bag when he arrived home, there in the bottom was a small piece wrapped tightly in waxed paper along with a bent picture of his “Dear Wife and Kiddies”.
We helped gather the milk weed pods for making parachutes and were involved in the Concerts put on to raise money for War supplies. At these Concerts in the area, and at the Friday afternoon Sing-a-long at school, I would be asked to sing, accompanied by Don (now my husband of 51 years). The Song? “Bless Them All”. I cried! I remembered! We saved all our pennies to buy War Saving Stamps, thinking that would bring Daddy home sooner.
I was too young to understand fully the dangers of war, but I do remember us getting a letter that was covered with mud. They had become mired in it and didn’t think they would get out, so they scribbled notes to be sent home and threw them to the ones behind, until they reached solid ground.
It was difficult for my mother raising three little girls during that five year period. A monthly payment to Blue Cross was the only health plan. Mom received a cheque each month for $93.00 to cover food, home, clothing, medical needs etc. Sometimes those cheques arrived late making a more difficult situation, especially when they didn’t arrive until after Christmas.
Finally in June of ’45, the letter came that he would be home in August. I cannot tell you how excited I was! I literally grabbed the letter from Mom and raced down the hill to show my Aunt and Uncle. He would be sailing home on the “Isle de France”, docking in Montreal, taking the train to Brockville and driving the last four miles home to Lyn, where his “Dear Wife and Kiddies” were awaiting his arrival. He had done his Duty! My sister Beverly and I sang all night waiting for him to come home.
Daddy had fallen in a trench during a blackout in France and injured his shoulder to the extent that he was unable to return to highway construction. After waiting the required month upon receiving his honourable discharge in Kingston on August 31st he started work at the Brockville Ontario Hospital, beginning October 1st, 1945 as an Attendant, where he worked for the next 27 years until he retired at age 65. He received his training there and was known as a well respected, loyal, hard working male attendant.
After retirement they sold their home in Lyn and moved to the Churchill Apartments on Reynolds Drive in Brockville.
Daddy and Mom were totally devoted to we three girls, our husbands and our families. They waited every day for our phone calls, letters and our visits.
Although I never did get to know and understand my Dad well, after being separated from the time I was four and a half to ten years of age, I do know he was a quiet, hard working honest man, with a heart of gold, who loved me very, very much!
Daddy passed away February 21st, 1980 after a massive stroke. If he was here with us today, I would say “Thank You” for going to war, to help Our Country, and Really mean it, even though he left behind his “Dear Wife and Kiddies” for five and a half years.
My mother passed away on March 22, 1991
Daddy gave me his War Medals and I am so very proud of him!
Written by Barbara (Quinn) Dunster, July 2017. Barbara sadly passed away in August 2017.
Barbara donated her father’s Service Metals to the Heritage Place Museum where they are on display. We are grateful to her for this gift.
*War Cake was an egg-less, almost fat-less, milk-less cake, very aptly named, it was easy to make and the ingredients were available during the wartime shortages.
Recipe for War Cake
2 cups castor sugar; 2 cups hot water; 2 Tbsp lard; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp cinnamon; 1 tsp cloves; 1 package seedless raisins
Boil all together. After cold, add 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp hot water. Bake about one hour in a slow oven (300-325f) (Internet source for this recipe)