Memories Uninvited - Back to School

Back to School

After getting most of the euphoria of being a free man out of my system, I began to think about getting back to school. I forget the details of the process that finally took me to the refresher course for veterans at Sir George Williams College, but I do remember meeting several interviewers who tried to discourage me from attempting to re-enter school.

Some of the civil servants at the Department of Veterans Affairs were more than rude and abrupt. They gave me the feeling that I was asking for favours that I didn't deserve!

What a difference today, when a veteran is treated like a gentleman, and given every consideration to his requests.

So I braved the taunts and insults levelled at me by those minor officials. I bear them no malice, but judging by the behaviour they displayed in dealing with me, I doubt that any of them went very far in diplomatic circles.

I was finally authorized to use my re-establishment credits to further my education, and was accepted at Sir George Williams. Having been away from school for eight years, I hadn't the slightest idea of what to expect.

I had toyed with the idea of studying pharmacy, a seed that was probably planted when I was dispensing potassium permanganate and sulphur lotion in the hospital in prison camp.

I wisely chose the twelve-month refresher course, being pretty certain that it would take all of a year to bring me up to par and entrance to McGill.

Our classrooms were on Claremont Avenue in Westmount, and our laboratories were in the YMCA Building on Drummond Street in downtown Montreal.

The very first lesson was in high school physics, and the whole experiment was based on converting a fraction to a decimal. I hadn't a clue what to do!

I often wonder now what force kept my nose to the grindstone all those twelve months, starting in April, 1946 and ending the following spring. I am grateful now that I persisted, and didn't succumb to the temptation to quit and use my credits in the same way that many  other veterans did.

I'll not bore the reader with the details of my erratic journey from Sir George to McGill, to the University of New Brunswick, ending finally in a Bachelor's degree and a Class I Teaching degree.


The path I took has given me much satisfaction. I have been supported at every step by my wife, Edwina, who had faith in me and allowed me to choose what I thought was the right way to go.

Without her sympathetic support, and her willingness to share the hardships of living in need while raising a family, I could never have made it.

In July, 2009, we will be 62 years married. She still upholds me in all important decisions, and comforts and encourages me when I feel low.  Without her I could never have made it. God bless her.

In the winter of 1996 Edwina and I spent some time in Victoria visiting with Harry Atkinson, Lionel Speller, Ray Squires, Gerry Mabley and others.

While we were there Edwina suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for the better part of a month before she was well enough to return to New Richmond. 

From then her health steadily deteriorated. She developed COPD, diabetes and intestinal problems. On December 24, 2010 I spent the day holding her hand in her hospital room and she died shortly after midnight on Christmas Day.

Since the debacle in Stanley Village, Hong Kong, Christmas Day, 1941, where I lost so many comrades, the time of year has always been painful for me. Now it seems ironic that the grief I have always experienced on Christmas Day has been compounded by Edwina's death on that day.