It was a classic case of one-thing-leading-to-another. I’d always known my father was 17 when he went to war but it never dawned on me just how very, very young that was until my own beardless boy was the same age. (At which point, it promptly broke my heart. Children should not go to war. I get weepy whenever I think about it.)
Dad became a pilot of a Halifax bomber. By the time he returned to his hometown of Stittsville, Ontario in 1945, he’d flown 33 missions over Nazi Germany. He’d won the Distinguished Flying Cross for valour. And he’d been engaged at least twice. This was all before he was in the eyes of the law even considered an adult. (He turned 21 on the troopship home.)
That belated realization on my part spawned several creative projects. The first is a little video I did last year for Remembrance Day. (It’s only a minute long so please watch if you can.)
The second is on-going: a mystery novel set in Halifax (the city, not the bomber) during World War 2. For several years, Halifax, believe it or not, was the most important port in North America. Soldiers, sailors and airmen from all over the world filled the harbour, streets and dance halls. It made it a very exciting time – especially for young Haligonian girls.
And that’s what lead me to my third project. In the course of doing research for the book, I interviewed a number of women who lived in the city at the time. I thought I was going to hear sad stories of young lives lost – and I did hear a few of those – but mostly I heard about the crazy fun of wartime Halifax. There were ten boys for every girl so, as one of my ladies said, “If you didn’t have at least a few dates for Saturday night, you were slipping.” Their fabulous, hilarious stories are recorded in my very first documentary, Dancing Was My Duty. It aired on CBC-TV in the summer but you can watch it now online.