Growing up as a post-war baby boomer, I’ve often thought the Second World War cast a shadow over my childhood and youth. My father lived through occupied France between the ages of eight and 13. My close friend’s father was a veteran who had marched north up the Italian peninsula with the Canadian Army. My grandmother would speak sadly of her older brother, who was lost when his plane went down while serving in the air force. War left a strong impression on these people which took a long time to process, not only touching them but also those close to them.
While the warmth of summer unfolds, I invariably find myself repeating my French father’s wartime food scavenging habits. Family karma asserts itself, and I find myself eagerly eyeing the raspberry and rhubarb plants edging the laneways while imagining tasty concoctions.
Our summer is so short that it seems shameful not to enjoy the season to the utmost. A summer stroll takes on more dimensions when you stop to pick food and mentally savour the fresh taste of your harvest. Knowing I’m getting much-needed exercise makes me feel virtuous. This virtuous feeling is further enhanced when I think of the copious quantities of vitamin C contained in both rhubarb and raspberries.
This 1942 photo of army recruits walking down 118 Avenue is a good representation of popular culture in Edmonton during the Second World War.
The Pearl Harbour attack had occurred on Dec. 7, 1941. Lesser known is the heavy loss of Canadian troops during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong beginning Dec. 8, 1941. The brief but disastrous Dieppe raid on Aug. 19, 1942, was devastating. Of the 4,963 Canadians who left England for the operation, only 2,210 returned, with several wounded.