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War bride and others


Last fall I was in Antigonish to attend my class's 40th reunion at St.F.X.'s annual homecoming. Being on campus brought back memories of events that happened upwards of 44 years ago. Yet, it all seemed like it happened only yesterday. In September 1951 when I began kindergarten at Notre Dame Academy I had no idea that the Second World War, the most destructive war in history, had ended just six years earlier in 1945.

Last fall I was in Antigonish to attend my class's 40th reunion at St.F.X.'s annual homecoming. Being on campus brought back memories of events that happened upwards of 44 years ago. Yet, it all seemed like it happened only yesterday.

In September 1951 when I began kindergarten at Notre Dame Academy I had no idea that the Second World War, the most destructive war in history, had ended just six years earlier in 1945.

Furthermore, I had no idea that the mothers of some kindergarten classmates had not been born and raised in Newfoundland. And I had no idea of the emotional and cultural trauma these women must have been experiencing in their new homes.

In service of king and country, men from here joined the navy, air force, artillery, forestry, army, and merchant navy at the outbreak of war in 1939. They served with the Allied Forces, and spent years in the U.K. where they not only became good friends with some of the local women, they married them.

At the end of the war these women who had married local service men came to our town to live. These women who came to be known as war brides had been born and raised in places like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. One woman was from Australia.

I sensed these women were different than any other woman I had known up to kindergarten while playing with classmates such as Hedley Downton, Gerard Griffin, and Cyril Taylor. Their mothers spoke with a much different accent to which I was accustomed. Hedley's mother, being Northern Irish, had even more different accent.

Later I discovered it was not just my classmates at NDA who had mothers who were war brides. At Grand Falls Academy there were more boys and girls whose mothers were war brides from overseas.

Last week, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dave Devine, signed a much belated proclamation in tribute to war brides. However, we in this town have long known the value of war brides to our community. These women, many now deceased, not only became the mothers of many boys and girls of my school days, but also became involved in every facet of our community from churches, clubs, community organizations, to politics. We owe them a deep gratitude for their presence and perseverance.

They became so involved in our community you forgot they had family roots thousands of miles away. I served with a war bride, Irene Skinner, on the Grand Falls Town Council, and I always thought of her as a local person, and not an Australian by birth.

Grand Falls had been only founded 40 years before the arrival of war brides. Most of the people here then had their family roots in the great bays of Newfoundland. But there were still families such as Arklie, Shapeleigh, Southcott and Lindahl whose family roots were in Scotland, the U.S.A., England, and Sweden.

Before the arrival of the war brides and afterwards others showed up here, either to live and work for a short time or permanently. Names from the time include Cohen, Riff, Lambe, Alteen, Munch, Basha, Becker, Chow, Lee, and Cardoulis.

The Grand Falls of my childhood was mostly caucasian. Thus, the arrival of black man, Clobie Collins from Truro, Nova Scotia to our town was a marvel. And even more marvelous was his phenomenal ability to play hockey, notably his skating finesse. He was a local hero while he lived here. We loved Clobie.

Since the 1960's our community and region has seen the arrival of health professionals from such places as the Philippines, Ireland, Scotland, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Mauritius, and Iraq. As well, other professionals and business people have come to us from Greece, Italy, Poland, Peru, Russia, and Lebanon. And never should be forgotten are the mill management personnel from other parts of Canada who came to work here and live with us.

Besides those from foreign lands we have had Canadians from other provinces come here for the long and short haul. We have been blessed with the likes of Joe Byrne, Artie Daye, Bruce MacDonald, Herman Eisenhaur, Wes Trainor, and John McSween.

How have we valued them? Artie Day, deservingly, has been Citizen of the Year, and the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium is a great tribute to that man who made this place his home.

The offspring of the marriage of locals and those from foreign lands have given us a new richer and deeper perspective on life. Race, religion, language, and culture can be lived, cherished, and preserved without the ugliness of racism and bigotry.

Some war brides found it too trying to be away from home and went back to the U.K. Some people from other lands and provinces who lived amongst a long time have moved on due to personal and religious needs, and family ties.

Nevertheless, the 109 years of existence our community would not be the place it is today without the contributions of war brides and the others who settled amongst us. We have been enriched as a people, a town, and region by their being here either for the short haul or the end time.

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