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Remembrance Day 2000 Links

Definitely Not Child's Play

by Shelley Divinich Haggertgirlguides-big.jpg

Hundreds of Windsor families lost fathers, brothers and sons in the First and Second World Wars.  While children in Europe lived in the midst of the battlefield, Windsor children- though not having the war raging on their doorstep- nevertheless felt its impact. Aside from the absence of a father or older brother or sister, daily life more or less continued as always. Children went to movies, played in vacant lots, and attended school. But, then again, there were definite differences.

During World War I, children planted Victory Gardens to help combat food shortages at the front. Contests were held for best planned and most productive garden planted by a child. And there were changes in the menu at home.

In 1917, the Walkerville Women's Group's  "Win the War" campaign, with Mrs. C.J. Stodgell as president asked households to observe two days per week without wheat, beef or bacon, to ensure the men at the front received enough food. Even though Walkerville was 3,500 miles from the front, alarm struck close to home in the early morning hours of June 15, 1915. Residents were awakened by the noise of an explosion at the Peabody Overall Factory on Riverside Drive near Devonshire Road. An investigation revealed that it had been a sabotage attempt; uniforms for British and Canadian troops were being processed at the factory.

There was also an abandoned attempt to destroy the Armouries in downtown Windsor. Lingering fear and uncertainty led to the establishment of the Essex County Home Guard.

Teenage boys, struck by a sense of duty, joined the Canadian Service at a young age. Others, like future Windsor mayor David Croll, were less successful. In 1915, the army accepted him, but his parents put a stop to it as he was only 15 years old. In 1917, he tried again, but this time the army said no.

After the Armistice of 1918, life did not instantly return to routine. A flu epidemic was sweeping the globe, and children were often its first victims. And for those lucky ones who hadn't lost a father, there was the reacquaintance with a parent many barely knew.

During World War II, children again bid farewell to their fathers and older siblings. (In 1939, Croll now a father of three, finally got a chance to serve his country.) While British children withstood daily air raids, Windsor school children received lessons in blackout preparation.  Windsor also played host to several British 'guests', children who had been sent here to live for the duration.

With the men away, the farms in Essex County were in need of labour and many children spent their summers working in the fields. Groups like the Kiwanis Boys Band performed to raise funds for war aid and during both wars, children in Guiding and Scouting groups were active in war work. They paid special attention to their First Aid training, and assisted The Red Cross with donations of money and goods to be sent overseas.

Dorothy Mitchell, a former Guide leader, remembers that camp trips were held locally to save gas and tires. Older children were taught how to turn off gas and water, do domestic repairs, and dial a telephone in the dark in case of blackout. Girls took courses in nutrition and preschool psychology, in case it became necessary to care for small children.

A significant occurrence, that was to have lasting repercussions was when mothers went out to work for the first time, and older daughters followed in their footsteps. In 1942, the federal Director of Nutrition, after a cross-country tour, declared that the nation's children were suffering from malnutrition and neglect. So many women were working in the factories and other war efforts, that he recommended regulated nursery schools and that meals be served in public schools to combat the problem.

On November 11, as we again remember the service and sacrifice of the men, women and children of Windsor, we must also remember those families living in fear around the globe due to current violent conflict.

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