Prairie Visit

It had been two years since Helen had seen her parents and younger siblings. So, in September, 1945, when it looked like Harry wouldn’t be coming back for awhile, she took the train back to northern Saskatchewan to spend three weeks with them.
            Not wanting to miss any of Harry’s letters while she was away, Helen asked him to address his letters to Melfort. After two years of sending mail across the ocean, she could predict how long his letters might take to arrive.
Louie & Albert Reeder
            When she arrived at the farm, Helen noticed that her father looked thinner and that her mother’s hair was greyer. Her three younger sisters, Jean, Velma and Vivie, were so happy to have her home that they stayed home from school for two days to be with her. Helen helped them with their homework and they told her all about their “big problems”. She was settling back into family life on the farm.

                *                  *                  *

“How do you like Toronto now Helen?” her mother asked, looking up from sewing a patch on Jack’s pants.
“Well, it’s quite different from here, that’s for sure. There’s lots going on – we go to the movies, shopping, see my cousins, never a dull moment,” Helen said. She was embroidering a table set for her hope chest.
“You’re quite the city girl now.”
“Oh, Mother, in spite of all that, I do miss everyone here, especially you and the girls,” she sobbed, putting down her handiwork and giving her mother a hug.
Just then, her father came in from town, after stopping at the co-op and the post office.
Louie & Helen
Tearing herself from her mother’s arms, Helen asked him, “Is there a letter for me?”
“I think I did see a blue airmail letter, now where did I put it?” he smiled, checking his pockets, “Oh, here it is.”
Snatching it from his hands, Helen ran upstairs and closed the door.
Her parents looked at each other.
“I guess there’s no use wasting our breath trying to persuade her to come back home,” her mother sighed, picking up her sewing.

Melfort, Sask. Sept. 18, 1945
My Sweetheart Harry,
My Dad gave me your letter of 10th at noon. He had it in his pocket and it was a bit crumpled [it’s torn and wrinkled]. He pretended he lost it for a few minutes, just to see the expression on my face. Maybe he doesn’t quite know how precious they are to me.
            I wasn’t expecting one so soon, hope you are getting mine now honey. It would be terrible to go without a wee bit of sunshine. I’m so glad they [her letters] cheer you up a little. If I could only give more of myself!
            Yes, darling, I’m enjoying my holidays but don’t ask me what I’m doing besides eating and sleeping. Well, last night Ray [her brother who was in the RCAF] and I were out for supper to one of my girl friends. She was just married last November and seems very happy. They are building their own home this fall. Ray went overseas with her brother-in-law, so we all had lots to talk about. I didn’t intend to do anything exciting when I came and anyway, how could I sweetheart without you? I mean that sweet. Eleanor has been home for a couple of months, and is going back to Vancouver soon, so I’ll have to see her too.
Helen's sisters, (l to r)Velma, Jean & Vivan
[Sept. 14, 1945] My sisters didn’t go to school for two days because they wanted to stay home and talk to me. They had me helping them with Art and Arithmetic last night. Art was always my weak subject.
            They’ve all decided what they want to study for already. [Jean became a nurse, Velma became a teacher and Vivie went into accounting.]
            Jim [her brother who was in the Navy] has his discharge now and enrolled for an eight months’ course in the University. He leaves on Oct. 1st.
            It’s quite a change for me when I don’t have to go to work and I’ll try to get a good rest as you told me.
[Sept. 21, 1945] I just heard at noon that another 4,000 had landed at Quebec. One of these days . . . [he will come home].
            Mother and I just had a long talk, mostly about us. They like to know what we are planning, they don’t understand that it’s hard to plan through letters. Parents are always thinking of your welfare whether at home or away it seems. Yours do too, I know that. I bet your Mother is expecting you any day now. I’ll probably get her answer to my letter the beginning of next week.
[Sept. 18,1945] I worked some this morning, cleaned upstairs and dusted. When my sisters are here they won’t let me do anything.
            They lunch between meals here, but I won’t eat. My brothers think they know why and they’re always kidding me. Well, so what, I can’t gain weight.
            I’m embroidering a table set now; four place mats and a centre-piece. It’s a good pastime, and I keep everything.
            I’ve been sitting here long enough I guess, so will close. I’m saving all my kisses for you. Goodbye darling. My best love,
Helen xxxx

The Waiting Game

The Personnel Reception Centre no. 3 band had been putting in the time until they were to go home playing in the bandstand in the Lower Gardens near the Pavilion, playing at the Westover (formerly a skating rink), playing dances for the American GIs, parades, lunch time concerts at the sergeants’ mess, tea dances at the Red Cross Club and travelling to London for official ceremonies. They didn’t have to worry now about being hit by a bomb.
RCAF dance band at Westover in Bournemouth
            At first Martin Boundy (head music director for the RCAF) said they would be going home in April, 1946, then it was changed to January or February, 1946. Harry was reluctant to tell Helen, for fear of the date being changed again, but decided to anyway.

Bournemouth, Oct. 13/45
My Darling Helen,
I wrote you yesterday that they promised we’d be home by April, but last night at the Westover, Boundy’s right hand man was talking to us and he felt sure we’d be going home in Jan. or Feb. – so that’s a little better isn’t it sweetheart?
            Hunt’s band and what’s left of the #1 band came down here yesterday and we have to practise marching for a W.D. inspection by the Queen in Buckingham Palace next week-end I think it is. The combined bands will make a band of 54 pieces and I was hoping to evade it as there’s always too many clarinets but I didn’t succeed. Most of us are pretty sloppy on parade so we’ll have to do a lot of fast slogging around the streets of B’mouth. I might even get a new uniform out of it as they want us all to look smart! We even have to rehearse Sun. afternoon!!
Bandstand on left, Pine Walk, Bournemouth
            Well darling, I’m in the middle of six nights of dances in a row, even Sunday night, so I haven’t much free time. The 1st alto man decided he’d like to try tenor again so I’ll be playing alto for awhile. I’ll be glad of the change.

[Oct. 12, 1945] I should be able to save another $1,000 between now and then if I keep working four nights a week, if that’s any consolation. We’ll have a bit of cash to start with when we do finally settle down. Oh happy day! Mother expects me home on every boat and it’s so hard to explain to her as she doesn’t realize the situation and I’m probably to blame too. Well, I can’t worry about her too. You take up all my thoughts darling and it almost breaks my heart to tell you when I realize how long you’ve been waiting now. If we can get a fresh grip on ourselves it shouldn’t seem too long – or should it? I can just hear you say it’s been too long now, and I agree with you.
            I sent two copies of two snaps this morning taken on the beach this summer. You can give two of them to Mother if you like. They didn’t do a very good job of printing them as there’s specks all over them.
Bournemouth Beach, Harry Culley (centre)

[Oct. 13, 1945] The boys who were on the Continent have some terrific stories to tell about the black market dealing in France and Belgium. They got a shilling apiece for cigarettes over there! One fellow bought a new French clarinet for 2000 cigarettes which would cost him about $7, the clarinet would cost at least $200 at home. One guy bought a fur coat for his wife. They nearly ate themselves to death in Denmark (Copenhagen), they had all the eggs and beef steak they could eat in restaurants. They travelled all over in open trucks but that was the worst part of it. If we had any idea that we were going over for Christmas I’d start buying up coffee beans over here by the bushel and do business in a big way, but nothing has been said about it. They saw the ruins of Kiel (a naval base in Germany) and Hamburg, but Paris is the city that knocked them out the most. I sure would like to see it.
            Well darling, I’ll have to close now, but I thought I’d let you know I should be home in Jan. or Feb. at the latest. I see the Queen Elizabeth [ocean liner] is going to carry Canadians for a couple of months. That might make a difference to us I hope!
            Good bye for now dearest. All my love & kisses forever angel. Harry xxxxx
Toronto, Oct. 23/45
My Own Darling Harry,
I have been getting two letters together lately, honey – not that I mind. They were dated 12th and 13th. I can’t say I felt elated after reading the latest, but still we might have known you’d be about the last to come. No, I’m not sorry you’re in the Band, because there are many advantages to it. If you had to stay there five or six months and just put in time then it would be just too, too bad. This is the only way to look at it I say to myself, and it is a consolation to know we’ll have savings through your efforts. You can say that again; we’ll be a happy pair. It has been a long wait, and it would have been hard to wait if we had been together. In that case, would we?? [JC – not sure what she means here]
            Another thing I have to ask you tonight, and don’t forget to answer right back. We’re thinking of getting you a signet ring for your birthday – sorry we have to tell you but we want your size. So your Mother would like you to go into a jeweller and get the size of the finger on which you want to wear it, and also, how would you like the initials, raised, printed or otherwise? please designate. We want to send it, so don’t tell us not to bother honey.
            Well, I guess all that parading and rehearsing will be over. How long were you in London? Was this after our Prime Minister lunched with the King? I hope you were close enough to catch a good glimpse of the Queen. I’m sure you’ll remember those important moments, even though you are included against your will. Did you get a new uniform?
            I was downtown yesterday on my off day, and let’s see – what did I buy? a black hat with sequins in front to wear over my forehead or back. By the way, my coat was delivered today and I tried them both on together and they look smart. I’m wearing my other coat to work and will keep this one nice. Then I got a plain green wool dress for work too, but no blouse yet. That wasn’t bad for an afternoon, was it? Considering the way I walked through the crowds as usual.
            I was interrupted, Georgie just phoned. She asked about you and I had to go into detail – you know how it is.
            I’ll have a few more dateless nights. I’ll feel like a different person when I go out and forget all but our little world and the two of us, oh darling. Now it’s goodnight.
All my love, Helen xxxxx

P.S. I just heard about your parade on the news and your Band was mentioned.

I’ll Buy That Dream

When she entered the apartment building at 72 Isabella St., Helen could smell the sweet aromas of butter, eggs and flour wafting through the hallway. She guessed that Ida was making Harry’s fruit cake to send him.
After entering, she could see her future mother-in-law in the kitchen with her lacy apron on, removing the cakes from the oven and placing them on a rack.
“Oh, those smell so good – Harry is sure to love them,” Helen exclaimed.
“Here, have a taste of the smaller one and tell me what you think.”
“Mmm, it is yummy, I must get your recipe.”
(l to r) Ida Culley, Helen Reeder
“Oh, and I have some plum puddings steaming, so he should be well fixed. I’ll need to send them off tomorrow so they get there in time for Christmas.”
“Are you sure, because I heard on the radio that the cut off date was November 15,” Helen said.
“Well, I don’t know, the sign at the post office said November 1 and I don’t want to take any chances,” Ida said brushing the flour from her hands.
“I guess there won’t be as many parcels going over this year, as most of the boys are back already,” Helen said sadly. “Imagine – this will be his third Christmas in Bournemouth.”
“Yes, it’s a damn shame he’s still over there,” said Harry Sr., coming in from his walk and going over to give Helen a kiss. “Hello, my dear. If he gives any of that baking away, it’s just too bad for him.”
“I hope he finds a landlady who can make him a nice sauce for the pudding,” said Ida.
“Or you could send him the recipe and he could get the ingredients himself,” suggested Helen.
Harry Sr. settled into his arm chair to read the paper.
Ida & Harry Culley Sr.
“They say this gale has been awful – the Queen Mary only docked last night, they were delayed several days, and the coast at Halifax has been knocked around something terrible.”
“I hope Bournemouth hasn’t been affected. In his last letter, Harry said they were still sitting on the beach – can you imagine – in October!”
“Yes, it can stay pretty mild there, all through the winter,” said Harry Sr.
“Look, it’s almost 8 o’clock, time to turn on the radio,” said Ida, coming in from the kitchen. “We don’t want to miss Amos ‘n Andy and Fibber McGee. They’re broadcasting from Maple Leaf Gardens tonight.  Hopefully it will come through loud and clear, being just down the street.”
 “Oh, I wondered where everyone was going – that’s why the street cars were so packed on my way over here.”
Harry Sr. fiddled with the knobs on the stand-up RCA Victor radio, and got a pretty clear signal.
As they settled in to listen, Helen closed her eyes and thought about Harry and her dreams for the future.
After it was over, she got up to go home, as she had the early shift the next day.
“I’ll be writing Harry tomorrow at work, so I’ll tell him that you’re sending the cake and pudding,” she told them. “Oh, and I wanted to ask, have you heard that new song, “I’ll Buy That Dream?”
“I think so, maybe last week – do you like it?” asked Ida.
“Yes. I’ve been singing it in my head all day – do you think you could play it on your program next week?”
“Well, when we go in to the studio tomorrow, we’ll see if the publisher has sent us a promotional copy, and sure, Ida and I could work it up,” Harry Sr. replied.
“Great – bye for now.”

Toronto, Oct. 30/45
Darling Harry,                 
I’m snatching a few moments from my noon hour to drop you a line. I haven’t written you at the office for so long, it’s always harder for me to concentrate somehow. When you go to the Beach CafĂ©, do you go off in a corner all by yourself when you write?
It’s grand out now, but it’s always cool enough in the morning for a suit and topcoat. It will be two years on Thursday since I came here [to Toronto] and it seems that long too  . . . so different than it was two years ago. It rained the whole three days I was job-hunting, then when I got settled it cleared up – funny, wasn’t it?
There are only three girls left in the office now, and we were told we’d be staying on as long as we wanted to. You see when we came it was just supposed to be for the duration [i.e.  the duration of the war]. They are just taking ex-servicemen now.
              I just want you to know you’re with me; a part of my day. It will never be any other way. Bye darling xxx
My love Helen.
London, Oct. 23/45
My Darling Helen,  
Well, these last few days have been nothing but a panic getting ready for this parade this afternoon. I even got a new uniform and got my ribbons sewn on – both of them – by an old lady at the “Y” in the Strand. I’ll have to get pressed up somewhere before 2 p.m. to-day – that’s the time we’re reporting at Wellington Barracks. We had a dress rehearsal there yesterday and my feet were really tired from standing around all day. I went to Wigmore Hall last night and heard the first string quartets by Bartok and Ben. Britten. The last one sounded like a cat fight.
Harry Culley
            Jonesy our discipe got a wire to report to B’mouth to-day to go home and he’s heartbroken. He wants to go home with us but I don’t think they’ll let him stay any longer. They say Boundy [the head music director of the RCAF] is going home next month sometime. We haven’t heard any news about when we’re going but they think around January. We’re going back to B’mouth to-morrow morning and are coming back here again on Saturday to play a concert in Hastings on Sunday. I’ll have three dances to play in B’mouth this week, but Smitty will be staying in London all week as he and the band drummer have to play a dance here on Thursday. I’m lucky to be able to work this 2 guinea dance job at the Town Hall [in Bournemouth] on Thursday!
Oct. 25/45 - You’re probably read about the terrific gales we’ve been getting here in the south. It’s raining harder now than I ever saw before here – it usually just drizzles down. It’s a regular March rain storm and it’s still quite mild.
Well, darling, I’ll close for now. I seem to be running all the time in this town – it sure is getting back to normal in a hurry. Will write to-morrow sweetheart.
All my love. Harry xxxxxxx

Toronto, Nov. 1/45
Dearest Harry,            
I was glad to receive your pictures and your letter of 23rd on Tuesday. You seemed to be in a whirl when you wrote it. Did you get everything done in time? I was wondering if your uniform had a windbreaker style coat, I had an idea the R.A.F. issue was like that. They don’t look as dressy as the others. I kept two of the pictures – the close-up is swell. I like your profile – and how! And do I love you ----- yes. You’re blowing harder than the others, aren’t you?
            It may be January after all [when he would be returning], do you still think so? Was there a reason why Jonesy had to go home before the rest of you? If the S/L goes too, the ones who are left can’t carry on – that’s what I say, but they always have vague ideas.
Yes, you were lucky to crowd that dance in on Thursday. Was Smitty mad because he had to stay? You’d miss another job last Saturday.
            “I’ll Buy that Dream” was first on the Hit Parade last week. I’ve been humming it all day.
            Guess I’ll go again honey, and I’ll write before Sunday, because I won’t have time then if Lois is here. Is that all right? You’d say so anyway. So long dear, yours forever. xxxxxxx Helen

I´ll Buy That Dream, written and composed by Allie Wrubel

Imagine me with my head on your shoulder,
And you with your lips getting bolder,
A sky full of moon and a sweet, mellow tune
I'll buy that dream.

Imagine me in a gown white and flow'ry,
And you thanking Dad for my dowry,
A church full of folks, those last minute jokes
I'll buy that dream.

A honeymoon in Cairo, in a brand new autogyro,
Then off to Rio for a drink;
We'll settle down in Dallas in a little plastic palace...
Oh it's not as crazy as you think.

Imagine me, eighty three, wearing glasses,
And you, ninety two, making passes;
It doesn't sound bad, and if it can be had
I'll buy that dream.

Imagine me on our first annivers'ry,
With some one like you in the nursry;
Oh, it doesn't sound bad, and if it can be had
I'll buy that dream


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