January 5, 1917 Letter to Winnie Trainor

January 5, 1917

Studio Building, 25 Severn Toronto

Dear Winnie,

Thank you for the Christmas gifts. I received the parcel when I got back to Toronto. My visit to Owen Sound was grand. I got to see Tom and Elizabeth in Annan too.  Father and Mother are doing well but my Father was starting to get ill when I left for Toronto. I am sure it’s nothing of worry.

It’s quiet around here but I don’t mind because I plan to get a lot of canvases done. I plan to get back up early as possible in the spring to do more sketches. We’ve had an awful lot of snow here in Toronto and it’s colder than usual. There’s been more than the usual number of fires because people are burning anything they can for fuel and that makes for bad creosote fires. They’re next impossible to put out and usually the whole house goes down to fire.

I hope work is going well. The women here are working in the munitions factory and they are always looking for more. They opened a women’s employment bureau on Bay St. Remember me to your parents.I hope to stop by when I go in the spring. If I take early morning train I can come for an afternoon visit and the catch the afternoon to make the connection to the Park. That way I don’t need to be put and I’ll be as little trouble to your parents as possible.

Affectionately yours,

Tom

P.S. The hat you made makes for a fine night cap. I keep the temperature as low as possible during the night. I’ll use it for outside when it’s closer to spring.

 

January 3, 1917 National Service Week Survey

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January 3, 1917

As  expected, I found this questionnaire in my mail slot this morning at the Studio Building.

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Each male is asked to complete a questionnaire distributed by the Post Office

Name:
Age:
Place of birth:
Nationality:
Parentage:
Marital Status:
No. of dependants:
Physical condition:
Trade or profession:
Present occupation:

Would you be willing to change your present work for other necessary work at the same pay during the war?

January 2, 1917 Return to Toronto

January 2, 1917

I took the train back to Toronto today. Father and Mother  wanted me to stay a few days longer but I said I need to get back to my work. I have a lot to do. I enjoyed my stay up in Owen Sound but after a time I begin to feel trapped into my past and I need to move on.

As she promised, Louise Julyan was on the train too. I saw her in Annan Soiree. She sat beside me and we talked about many things. I was surprised on her keenness on art. I let her do most of the talking, I don’t like talking about my paintings, and she said she wanted to visit me in the shack.

We arrived at Union Station in the early evening. Recruiters were everywhere. A marching band with signs ‘Free trip to Europe’. There were other signs indicating  that it was ‘National Service Week’ and that every man should be filling out the questionnaire delivered by the Post Office.

I walked with Louise up University Avenue and over to Elm where the YWCA was. It was nice, she held my arm, and since we looked like a married couple, we weren’t bothered by the recruiters. On the way we saw signs posted for the Ontario Government Public Employment Bureau for Women. The office had opened last November, and women now had to apply at the bureau instead of going to the factories. Louise mused that if her art didn’t work out, she decided to work in a munitions factory instead. At the front door of the YWCA, I bid her goodbye. I could tell she wanted me to linger for a few moments longer.

“Tom, thanks for the wonderful time. Can we see each other again?”

“Sure,” I said, “but the next few weeks will be busy.”

“I’ll send you a letter next week, Tom.” I could tell from the tone of her voice, there was something more.

From the YWCA  I made my way back to the Shack. I could have taken the street car since I walked this far already, there was no point. I like walking at night to look at the stars, but in the city mostly lit by electrical lighting that’s harder and harder to do. Plus, the smoke and soot from the coal fires make it hard to see the night sky.

When I finally arrived, the door to the Shack and the wood shed were frozen shut. The snow had drifted against the wall, melted, then frozen again. I managed to get the wood shed door open and used a old miner’s pick to chip away the ice. Inside, all was as I had left it, except everything was frozen solid. I set the stove alight and it will be well into the night before the the chill is gone. I don’t mind the chill so long as I have a good cover on me when I sleep.

I’m looking at my canvas on the easel. It’s been there for almost two weeks in the cold and the paint is set as hard as rock. I won’t be able to do any scraping and if I add anything, it would look no better than a poor afterthought. Tomorrow, I plan to start another canvas. I’m not sure which one, but I plan to sort through my boards to find something.

January 1, 1917 A New Year

January 1, 1917

Yesterday’s New Year’s Eve Celebration was a quiet affair. After Sunday dinner in the afternoon in Annan, I walked back into Owen Sound. I got to my parents’ around 6pm. Since it was a Sunday all of the establishments were closed, so New Year’s celebrations were a home affair this year. We stayed up until midnight, reading poetry, singing, and of course, singing Auld Lang Syne at the strike of midnight. We welcomed the New Year into the house by opening the front door and going out into the street to wish our neighbours well. The whole neigbhourhood was out on the streets wishing each other well. An intrepid soul had gotten out their bagpipes was marching up and down the street, belting out parade songs. That made everyone smile. Soon everyone retreated back to their houses and the New Year became as silent as any other winter night.

After two nights of celebration, today  will be a quiet day of rest and reflection. My father has taken ill this morning and my mother isn’t looking the better of it either. Aunt Henrietta says that their health hasn’t been the best these past few months. She says it’s because of the cold damp air, but I believe it’s the weight the War. It’s wearing on everyone, now. No one knows when it will end. Little hope by spring, before the big offenses begin once again. Everyone feels it because, there are a thousand men from this town and countryside in England ready to be shipped to the battlefield. If nothing changes in the War, spring will be a time of sorrow here. An another thousand will be ready to go by the summer. It will be sorrow for all seasons.

Tomorrow I am leaving on the early train to Toronto. So this is my last full day in Owen Sound. I may come back up in the spring before I go to the Park. Depends on the weather.