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A British Child Guest Remembers

by June Jolly, London U.K

Some British children were given sanctuary in Windsor during WWII. These children were introduced to the joy of cokes and hamburgers and Canadian Christmases and endeared themselves to the locals.

British kids in Windsor enjoying a game of baseball in 1943, (l-r): John Shackleton, Mary Phillips, Neville Haslop,
Jeanette Rothwell, Dennis Drew, Jacqueline Eastman, Kenneth Pendergast (batting) and Mamie Bain, catching.

During WWII, several Rotary Club members in Windsor opened their homes to children of Rotarians in England. I arrived in Windsor as a 12-year old girl with my 9-year old sister and 6-year old brother. We had traveled across the Atlantic – criss-crossing to avoid the U-boats – and were somewhat shell-shocked. We had been living on the southern coast of England where an invasion was expected at any time. The feeble defenses in that area consisted of barbed wire fences and mines on the beaches. The war was long over before these armaments were finally removed.

My siblings and I were welcomed into three separate families; my sister went to a home in Riverside, my brother moved in with a Grosse Pointe, MI family and I spent four years with Walkerville pediatrician Dr. George White, and his wife and family. I attended King Edward School and Walkerville Collegiate along with the White’s children, Dordie [George] and Ann. These were happy years for me, highlighted by annual holidays with the YWCA camps at Orendoga and Tapapwingo.

School in Windsor was very different from in England; the lack of uniforms and the inclusion of the opposite sex were foreign to me. I am certain my teachers were appalled by me accent and writing skills, as all I could do was upright, “joined-up” printing. Mrs. McLaren, our Grade 8 teacher, was the first to instill confidence in me and I ended up winning the annual school medal – which I treasure to this day. I learned to spell, which I am doubtful I would have accomplished elsewhere. I was instructed in public speaking, health studies, and music and art appreciation, and benefited from a much more liberal education than was available to me in my home country.

Left photo: Anne White with British guest June Jolly during WWII. Right photo: June and Anne reunite in recent years.

Outside of school, we made candy to sell and filled “ditty bags” for sailors to help with the war effort. In winter, Ann and I often skated up the road to join in the fun when Willistead Park was flooded to make a rink. As soon as spring came, we played hopscotch and baseball on the vacant lot opposite our Devonshire Road home.

Hallowe’en was another mystery to me. I shall always remember my foster father having us all duck for apples before we were given our treats. Christmas and the real trees were another wonder. I especially remember the year our tree was sprayed white by the local garage and decorated with blue fairy lights.
On Christmas morning we shouted our greetings to my family in England, just after the King’s speech, knowing that my parents were doing the same. Later, it was possible for us to have a short phone call, but these were never very satisfactory.

My parents somehow managed to send over my bicycle in the middle of the war. It was very different from the Canadian cycles. I even had a little pump attached to it to blow up my tyres which was a great bore. I was delighted when they were adapted so that I could use the local air pump on Wyandotte Street.

Memories of milk shakes and sodas at the Peerless Ice Cream Parlour and the downtown movie theatre are also fondly recalled. It was after experiencing these treats that I was introduced to hotdogs, hamburgers and, wonder of wonders! a coke – all things I longed for after my return to England, where rationing continued for several years after the war.

Another great treat was our annual trip to Bob-Lo Island. As it was leased to the United States, Canadians were allowed only three days per year to enjoy the fun. As British Child Guests (BCG) we were given free tickets and could go on the rides as often as we liked. We never had to queue as we went in through the exit gate and must have been a real pain to everyone else who had to patiently wait their turn. This excursion was one of the few occasions that I saw my sister. Strangely, I saw my brother more often as I was invited to stay with his foster family, the Hendersons, in Grosse Point.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was so kind and patient with us. When I left England I had been cross to think that I had to leave friends and family in England during the bombings so I was not a particularly grateful guest at the time.

I shall be eternally thankful to all the people who sacrificed for my family and me. Later I learned that these generous individuals received no compensation whatsoever for their kindness.

Canada will always remain part of my life and a treasured memory as I grow old. Thank you all at The TIMES for reviving my many memories.

Editor’s note: Wallace Campbell, president of the Ford Motor Company during WWII, also opened his large home opposite to Willistead Park on Richmond to many British children.



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