Jack Bridges now and then. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Guest column: A letter from home

By Jack Bridges

My dad was born in 1897 in Ontario. Canada had a population of about three and a half million and Toronto about 50,000. The grand banks of Newfoundland were full of cod, but they are gone. The three eastern provinces were full of large trees but they are gone. Ontario did most of the manufacturing but China does it now. The prairies had a million Buffalo, but they are gone and B.C. had lots of salmon and large fir trees, but they are almost all gone and this has all happened in one generation.

My dad had a Grade 3 education and then left home at nine years to live with a harness maker and learn a trade. My dad got married in 1907 and I was born in 1923. In 1939 the war started and I tried to get into my hometown regiment [the Perth] but couldn’t pass the eye exam. However, I memorized the eye chart and joined the RCR regiment in 1941. I later went to chemical warfare in Ottawa but didn’t like it and ended up in the artillery.

The time came to leave for England. Should I tell Dad and let him worry? He was old. Should I see him again, or would I come back? I decided not to tell him and I ended up with the 4th Canadian armoured division. One day when we were in Holland I received a letter. I didn’t know who it was from but it turned out to be from my dad. I didn’t know he could write.

Dear Jack,

Why you no tell the dad you go way far from home if the dad nowd you go he like to have little talk to you bout girls, now Jack there good girls and bad ones and the bad ones can make you plenty sick so the mudder and I hopes you goes with good unes ETC.

At 22 years old in the middle of a war in Holland, my dad solved the mystery of the birds and the bees for me. I dried my eyes, picked up my bren gun and carried on a much wiser boy.

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A photo of a photo of Jack Bridges from his time in the army. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

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