Len Corrigan's Story

CHAPTER NINETEEN - Searching for Answers and Renewing Relationships

The reception of the Hong Kong veterans was overwhelming. In the days that followed, Leonard spent time visiting friends and relatives who also wanted to express their relief at his return and their good wishes. Then, perhaps to remove himself from all the socializing, he and his father decided to visit Leonard’s younger brother, Chuck, in the United States. He and his father set off for St. Paul, Minnesota. And the letters between Gladys and Leonard began again.

From St. Paul, Minnesota –

Dear Gladys,

Father and I have been cutting us a merry caper since we escaped the dominance of our women folk; in fact for a pair of not too ardent picture goers, we haven’t done at all badly. Our score to date includes the following: “Bells of St. Mary’s, Weekend at the Waldorf, The Very Thought of You (definitely “not appropriate”) and Alaska”. I might record here that the last mentioned extravaganza was directly responsible for the decision on our part to forego any future dubious pleasures which the cinema might have to offer.

Later, Leonard and his father “braved the bitter elements” going to Minneapolis for a symphony performance and also a hockey game where his brother Chuck Corrigan was playing. Father and son attempted shopping. Leonard describes his father standing in a “nylon line-up” for an hour to bring home something special for the women back in Winnipeg. His father “just about froze while doing so, but he was overwhelmingly outnumbered!”

Gladys stayed in Winnipeg with Paddy and Shelagh at the home of the senior Corrigans after Leonard and his father returned from the U.S. By now, Leonard had started to worry about his future and decided to set off for Ontario in hopes of finding some kind of job. On January 21, 1946, Gladys received this postcard -

Still coasting through the frozen wastes of northern Ontario. Three hours late now. If this keeps up, I’ll have to wire for reservations again!

Love Elsie (a play on his initials, L.C.)

From Ottawa, dated Friday, Gladys received the first of letters written each day from Ontario. He describes a long and tiring journey from Winnipeg and an attempt to contact a person at the Parliament Buildings. While waiting for the gentleman, he tours the buildings and sees the Provincial Premiers leaving a conference – including Saskatchewan Premier T.C. Douglas, whom he plans to meet at a later time in Regina. He finally connects with Roy Graham at 3:15 p.m., who promises to look around for him. Leonard has no specific idea of what he wants to do but suggests the position of Foreign Trade Commissioner Assistant.

His letter, written at 11:30 p.m. to Gladys that night, says he has decided to leave for Toronto in the morning – an eight hour trip by train, where he will visit his sister, Nina.

Tuesday – Toronto – Chorley Park Military Hospital

On Sunday afternoon, Leonard had contacted George Prendergast and the two of them met up with John Reid, (Major Reid was one of the Hong Kong Medical Officers) on Monday. Reid was undergoing treatment for amoebic dysentery and told the two men that 30% of the Hong Kong boys had been found to have dysentery. Tests done in Winnipeg were described as “rather skimpy”. When Reid told the two men about the specialists and the slightly more comprehensive analysis than experienced in Winnipeg, they decided to seek tests in Toronto and were admitted to Chorley Park Military Hospital – as Leonard says, “to embark on a five day course of stool tests (six per day prompted by the liberal use of salts).


Prendy and Leonard are situated in a four bed ward in Chorley Park. He writes to Gladys,

“If you recall the rather turbulent era of Mitch Hepburn, Premier of Ontario, you will probably remember the disposition of the home of the Province’s Lieutenant Governor – on the grounds that it constituted “unnecessary expense”. That was Chorley Park and what a grand residence it must have been. Our room is on the third floor and we enjoy all the amenities. I think the week’s enforced rest will do us both good. Our M.O. seems a particularly efficient chap and is considered one of the two M.O.’s who is fully qualified to handle amoebic dysentery. Evidently he has considerable experience with it both in Italy and Holland. It will mean that, if we are given a clean sheet, we can rest assured by his judgement. Incidentally, a lot of the staff have contracted the “bug”. I might mention here that the serious part of dysentery is that, if it is disregarded, it results in abscessed livers – for which nothing can be done.”

By this time Leonard has also developed a head and chest cold.


This letter describes the hospital routine. Prendy has been offered a job with the bank, transferring to Jamaica. Leonard also questions Gladys’ stay with the “in-laws”.

He goes on to describe a visit with a couple of Hong Kong lads convalescing at Malton Military Hospital.

What a gyp we of the west are taking! These lads describe special balanced diets, vitamin shots, organized physical training and all types of games such as badminton, volleyball, etc., to get the boys in shape. And I thought I was being clever transferring to Winnipeg. I seem to have a penchant for doing the most stupid things.


This morning received the heartening news that the results of our first two-day stool tests produced no unusual results. If we can just hold out until tomorrow, we should be able to rest our mind as to the final result.

Nina (his sister)was up for an hour or so last night and brought books which will help to pass the hours a bit. Nurse Christie, who you will probably recall as one of the Canadian nurses at Hong Kong, was in also. She had worked with Viola (Leonard’s cousin Viola Barry)prior to the Hong Kong jaunt.

He continues….

An odd thing. Our M.O. happens to be named Longmore and when I inquired whether or not he had relatives in the west, he replied that he had – in Swift Current. A.E. Longmore is an uncle. Another M.O. who has been working on the H.K. lads has just moved in to the ward with us, completing our complement. He too is a “bug” suspect.


Leonard writes…

I don’t know what the trouble was yesterday but I did feel low. I had just finished reading Benny Proulx’s “Underground from Hong Kong”, so that may have been responsible. Some of the passages brought vivid recollections of those four years and, of course, the logical train of thought continued on into the present. I can’t seem to accept the new status without reservations and apprehension.

He continues…

I don’t know, of course, just when I’ll be back but I think we should be leaving here Monday night. Our tests so far indicate nothing, so if we’re able to maintain our average we should be discharged Monday morning.


Writing daily letters has become hard for both Leonard and Gladys but each continues a daily exchange of mail.

Leonard writes that there has been an added complication –

“…an oversized liver, exhibiting tenderness when it should not”

Other than that, he still registers negative results.


Leonard admits to sleeping late after being allowed to go out for the evening on Saturday with his sister, Nina, and sister-in-law Hazel Corrigan, Chuck’s wife.


Prendy obtains his freedom as from noon today and I get my ticket on Thursday, providing all goes well. The M.O. tells me I should be able to rest assured if by Thursday nothing has turned up, but I should have another check in six weeks or so.

Wednesday he begins making plans to go home by train to Winnipeg.


Leonard notes that Tommy Dorsey is playing in Toronto but the train departure of 10:55 p.m. doesn’t allow him and Prendy to hear him play. They leave for Winnipeg.

By this time, Gladys has left Winnipeg, taking Shelagh with her. Leonard admits she has probably had a hard time living with her in-laws. Paddy stays in Winnipeg where she attends St. Mary’s Academy and takes piano lessons. Gladys first goes to Regina to see her mother and step-father.

Letters begin daily from Winnipeg where Leonard says he hasn’t had much luck with job hunting. His contact suggests it might be best for him to return to Swift Current and the Post Office – for the time being at least. (He is reluctant to do this.) But he does get a civil service application. He finds it difficult to push himself. He also has to start looking at civilian clothes – a suit sells for $70.

Wednesday, March 6

Missing Gladys and getting nowhere with job prospects, he also learns form the W.T.P.B. that he’s not eligible for a car priority. He writes Gladys to see what she can do about a car in Swift Current.


He has to go to Deer Lodge Hospital for follow-up tests. What was an attempt to see if a fellow at the Knights of Columbus office might have any job suggestions yesterday instead turns into Leonard buying a membership in the K. of C. Then a fellow Hong Kong lad borrowed money from him. So he begins to feel that “yesterday was a wash-out”.

Later on Thursday, he writes that he’s “the loneliest guy in town, craving the simple home life and all that it entails. Maybe I got a bit too much sun in Hong Kong”, he concludes.

A letter from George Dunlop in Swift Current brings suggestions of a job apparently at the Post Office in Swift Current, but involving night and weekends which he’s not sure Gladys will like.

Friday, March 7

Leonard writes of going to the hospital tomorrow morning to have his stomach pumped – so it will be an early morning and no food. His mother is leaving next week on a trip so Leonard, daughter Paddy and his father will have to manage on their own. He expresses his loneliness and frustration.


He describes having the test at the hospital – very unpleasant. Monday there will be a stool test and Friday he is to see the M.O. “I hope in the meantime that something in the job line turns up, he writes.

He missed an Oscar Peterson concert which he later regrets since the press notices said the music was good and the audience highly appreciative (nearly 4,000 attended).


He missed writing a letter Sunday because he wasn’t feeling well. Paddy played at a recital at which everyone seemed to think she did well.


Nothing further to report on the labour front here. I gallop out to the hospital every second day but aside from that I do nothing. Paddy comes home for the noon meal now and as I think I mentioned, the evening session will be held at the Homestead Restaurant. (Leonard’s mother is away.) I need to get my teeth into some good stiff work.

Friday, March 15

Paddy’s birthday and Leonard says he thinks she is pleased with her present of a jacket. Aunt Flo (Gladys’ sister) has sent her a book.

Leonard makes his plans to return to Swift Current and writes to say that he’ll probably be with Gladys before the letter arrives.