[Subtitled: A Davis-Keefe, Canadian-American Experience]
Oral History Interview: Continued Sept 04, 2000 3
1. Introduction and explanation of tape process 3
2. Adjustment From One room schoolhouse to city /school -WDK 3
3. High School Career Planning & Basketball –WDK 3
4. Selling family furniture to survive during the depression 5
5. People moving around, taking odd jobs and “Honey Wagon” 5
6. Whitehorse, Picnics into the night- 4 months a year 7
7. Dapper Dan, Jack first day in Whitehorse – meets Wanda 8
8. Wanda’s help for bond work, soldier & Jack 9
9. Jack’s South American Friends in Yukon 10
10. Close Friendships, Canadian and Americans 10
11. Accommodations for Whitehorse staff, men & women 10
12. Camp food a plus 11
13. Plan to Go back to Alaska, children? 12
14. Trappers Cabin and Jack’s chilly fall 12
15. Brown Bears and Jacks knife for Wanda 14
16. Raising the Marriage Question 15
17. Jack’s Beard, Wanda’s comment; Whisker Blake & Errol Flynn 15
18. Nationally of Colleagues in Yukon 16
19. Soldiers in Yukon: American, Canadian, Russian 17
20. Working outside in the cold Yukon 18
21. Staying in NY, Visa Problem, foreigners entering USA 19
22. In 1944 the war result still not certain 20
23. Friends lost in World War 2, Canadian Forces in Battles 20
24. Atrocities on both sides during the war 21
25. Canadian friend visits a battle area in Sicily years later 22
27. Wanda Starts work at Look Magazine 24
28. Selective or delayed Memory 24
29. Wanda’s knowledge of farm tools from 2 Centuries 25
Subject Index – Word Concordance 27
[Subtitled: A Davis-Keefe, Canadian-American Experience]
AKK = Adhiratha K. Keefe
JJK = John J. Keefe Jr.
WDK = Wanda D. Keefe
AKK: Recording of Jack and Wanda Keefe filmed on digital video on 4th September 2000. 3947 Fulton Avenue, Seaford, New York USA.
Note: The process used: Recorded on Panasonic digital video camera, and place onto the computer using a firewire connection and Digital Origin Edit software. The segments were captured in two gigabyte GB sections (= about nine minuets of recorded video). Then the audio portion was copied to a separate file, combining the audio track from the multiple two gigabyte video tracks. The combined audio track was then played back through the external speakers and picked up by microphone connected to transcriber as input. The transcriber was recording onto cassette tape. This tape was then used for the following transcription.
AKK: We were talking about you going from a one room schoolhouse to having 40 children in class. What was that like for you?
WDK: Scary, it was really overwhelming. When I look back. I didn't like it. I was very unhappy for quite a while. I did not want to leave the farm in the first place. You leave all the animals, your horse you rode all the time. All the great things about a farm, and you leave to go to the city. And then of course there are all the city kids that are making fun of the Hicks from the farm.
AKK: How old were you?
AKK: They all had bicycles when you had a horse? Some of them had bicycles?
WDK: Not all of them. So, I finished up at the Eastwood school. I finished there and went to start grade nine, which was high school at Eastwood. And went there for two years, grade nine and 10. And then talked my parents into letting me go to a commercial high school. To switch. Because I wanted to take commercial courses.
AKK: You knew you weren't going to go to the University so you thought...
didn't want to be a teacher, I didn't want to be a
nurse. My father really wanted me to be
a nurse. I had no desire to be a nurse
at that time. And I certainly didn't
want to teach. I wanted to get
secretarial skills, which I did. I went
to commercial high school and graduated from there. We had the Olympic girls basketball team came
AKK: Was this the other girls who make fun or the boys?
WDK: No, the guys you know, they would be whistling and would be calling the “snake hips” and all these remarks, and I just hated it. So I just quit playing basketball.
AKK: Was your father encouraging you to play?
WDK: Of course. He thought I was stupid when I quit.
AKK: You enjoyed it, it was just that other part of it?
WDK: I didn't like everyone looking at me and making fun of me.
AKK: Did they travel, they used to travel some too?
WDK: 0h, yeah. They went all over. They went all over the
AKK: Then that was the last one. The didn't get canceled for the war then?
JJK: They canceled out 1940.
AKK: So, did you travel with them at all?
WDK: No, no, I just played on school team there. But they also.
AKK: That was the feeder teams?
WDK: Right. Right. The principal of the school was coach of the basketball team
AKK: So he was encouraging you. Were you considered tall?
WDK: I was five foot six. Which was quite tall in those days I guess. But, I was all arms and legs and I didn't like the comments.
AKK: So, going back. Then you lived by yourself. And then Gwen came and joined you when you were
WDK: Right. When I finished up at the
hospital, and went to work on the south side at the Treasury Department. In the bank. My mother and father then went up to
AKK: But, it was pretty good pay for that time?
WDK: Yeah, for then it was. And Gwen and June went with them first and then Gwen had to finish high school, so she came and lived with me.
AKK: When was the time you told me it was really tough, where you would get some money together and then you would buy back the beds you sold?
WDK: 0h, that was
when we lived in
AKK: That was during the Depression?
WDK: Very much so. After we first moved in there. We actually moved into
AKK: And at least she wouldn't have to board then too. And you would be together?
WDK: Right, right. And be with the
family. And that's why we moved to
AKK: And that was pretty common to everyone at that time for what I hear everybody was moving around and...
WDK: Oh, yeah! It was terrible. Jobs were scarce. That's when men were really selling apples on street corners. I even remember that.
AKK: All the way up there? I know in the big cities down here they were, but up there too?
WDK: Yeah, they were doing the same thing there. And they were riding the freight trains. Wasn't surprising at all to see somebody at your back door asking for sandwich or a cup of soup or something. And they moved from here to there just trying to get, trying to live.
AKK: And it wasn't considered sort of unrespectable at that time, it was just what did you do. At least they were moving around trying to get work?
WDK: Right, right, right. And they would come and say "can I chop
wood for the day for a meal?" and all that. No, it was tough, it was very
tough times. People are more familiar with it in the
AKK: Basically, people were moving around. They were doing anything. They put all their belongings from the farm on the car or whatever and moved to the next town and try to get something?
WDK: We also lived on, what you called here Welfare. We call it Relief there. But the men worked for it. They would give them city jobs going around picking up garbage and junk. They would work so many days for that. Then they would get, what did they call it? Tickets for clothes and money for the family. They would get, vouchers they were probably called. So my father worked at jobs like that and paid all.
AKK: Since they did not have something like running sewage from the outhouses, did they have to go around and clean them out?
JJK: The honey wagons.
WDK: That's right. They had to go and pick that up. That was a terrible job.
AKK: Did they have honey wagons down here too?
JJK: Not to my knowledge, no. We always had indoor plumbing.
AKK: Always? From the time we got of the boat? From the time we came from Ireland?
JJK: Well I don't know about that. But my father and my mother..
AKK: Oh, you mean your family?
JJK: Yeah, the family. Oh, no, they probably had been in different parts of the states, they just didn't have them in Brooklyn where we're brought up.
AKK: But you knew about the honey wagons and you had heard her stories.
JJK: Well I heard her stories...
WDK: We didn't call them honey wagons up there though. No, but they had lots of funny stories about it. But the outhouses were built for it, with the trap door that came up in the back.
JJK: Sure, when I went with her and
met members of her family before we got married they had the back houses right
there. Still there, this is in the city
WDK: We haven't got there yet.
JJK: Before, you got as far as going to Whitehorse, and he wanted to skip.
WDK: No, I wanted to go back. He was going on, he wanted to know about the first date we met. That's what you're waiting for.
JJK: Right! (Chuckle) but before that she was in Whitehorse for about six months, it seldom got dark. So the people up there availed themselves of the opportunity to go partying and to go dancing. Right Wanda?
WDK: And on picnics, up to
AKK: Those were like picnics in the middle of the night?
WDK: Yeah, you'd work until 10 or 12 o'clock at night sometimes overtime and then you would have a picnic lunch with you. I was very good friends with the Baker. And tell him what we wanted. And he would pack us a picnic lunch and then go up to Lake Kluane or somewhere else.
AKK: That was like ten miles away or something? Then you go by horse? Or did you have a car?
WDK: No, some 50 or 60 miles away. No, no, no that's when we had jeeps and command Cars and things
AKK: Oh, from the place. So they were company cares.
JJK: And army jeeps.
WDK: And army jeeps. No, I had quite a summer. Because it was, it just never got dark. (Chuckle)
AKK: So, you are get home 3:00 in the morning and have to be up at eight?
WDK: Yeah, you would get real tired but then you would get your second wind. And it was like... . Okay, but I was young too.
AKK: How old were you there?
JJK: By the time I got there in October, it was getting dark most of the time and beginning to get a little bit on the chilly side. So, her forays into the dancing field in the evening were ended by then.
WDK: No they weren’t. I still went to the dances. I still went to the dances.
JJK: Oh, oh yeah but it was dark. It would get dark about five and six o'clock.
WDK: Right, right that was the bad part of the winter because it was dark most of the time there. Summer was great. But in the winter we went to work in the dark and we --
JJK: It got light at 10:00 and got dark again at three in the afternoon
AKK: That's like when I was in Copenhagen. This is it even a little more extreme because you're a little further north. So when you were there you saw a number of people coming in and their files, who is coming. So you knew this Mr. Keefe was coming and he had been involved in things in South America?
WDK: Right, right and I also knew he wasn't married, from the files because that's when I learned to look up for. Because a lot of a the guys who came up there they pretended they weren't married or tried to get away with the fact they were married. But he came into the office about 10:00 that morning, because you had already gone to personnel and got things straightened out there?
JJK: Yeah, we rode all night over the whitepass and Yukon Railroad. We only got in about six o'clock in the morning into Whitehorse.
WDK: You, came into the payroll office, and I remember you standing at the counter you had a gray stripe suit on. Did you have the Hamburg?
JJK: And the Hamburg! (Chuckle)
WDK: You expected him to come in twirling a cane.. (Chuckle) and I looked up and I thought oh my God!
AKK: So, you knew it was him immediately?
WDK: Pretty immediately.
AKK: He must have been pretty tan too if he had just been in South America?
WDK: Oh, he was real dark. And his hair was real dark then too. And he was so tan. And I said oh boy, tall, dark and handsome. But then winter came.
AKK: Lose the tan.
JJK: And I looked over there and I saw her in the files. And I said: Oh, Oh, look at Blondy. (Chuckle)
WDK: And he must have been impressed. Because we went over -- Kathy Wetteland then was working in the personnel and he checked in with her, I guess they assigned you and then you went and got your clothes.
JJK: we had to get all our winter
gear and get rid of my
WDK: And your blankets for your bed and all that. We used to go for lunch in a big Quonset hut that was a mess Hall. And we would wait outside until they opened the doors. I was talking to Kathy and a group of other people and he was with two or three other guys over at the side. And the next thing I know I hear him going "oh Kathy, Kathy" you know like Hethcliff? (Chuckle) and all the time he's doing that, he's looking straight at me. So he comes over and then Kathy has to introduce us.
JJK: We were formerly introduced. She used to call me Mr. Keefe.
AKK: Kathy did too? Or just mom?
WDK: No, but he wasn't the only one, I called everybody Mr. And then he came back and they assigned him. My file cabinets were set up, three of them, tall filing cabinets with about this much space in between each one. And they put his desk, they were trying to organize everybody, people would come in three or four at a time. They put his desk right there behind my file cabinets. So every time I go to do my filing, there would be this eye looking at me through this (space between the filing cabinets). I think it was that night I was doing the work on the bonds. Because we sold bonds as well.
AKK: To the workers? So they can save money?
JJK: Yeah, we take the money out of the payroll.
WDK: So I was working on the books doing that and there was a young soldier I knew, and he had come over. And he said he would help me. He had wanted me to go, I guess to one of the dances. And I said no I couldn't, no I had to do this. He said well I'll stay and help you. So, he comes over (points to Jack) and he says I'll help too, I'll help you too. So then pretty soon he says , I don't remember the guys name, he says to him, it's all right we don't need you anymore, we will finish up. (Chuckle) and he tells him to leave. (Chuckle)
AKK: Where you shocked when he did that?
WDK: Of course I was! I mean what do you say? The guy was very nice, he was trying to help and he wanted me to go out. So I think you asked me then to go out with you then to Whitehorse, the town, because you're meeting some of your friends.
JJK: Yeah, yeah ,
there were a lot of people with the
WDK: They are the ones that we stop with, when we went to Canada in 1965. In 1965 when the first went.
JJK: I know Michael was a little fella. So he would have been --
WDK: Again in 1969 and 1970. You went up with me 1969 right? Did we stop in Wisconsin?
AKK: We stopped a few places, I don't remember exactly where.
WDK: I Think so. But on the way back we definitely stopped to stay overnight with Jules and his wife, Helen, in Wisconsin.
AKK: So he made some friendships that lasted quite a while? Was part of it because there was such close living arrangements too and you worked --
WDK: Very, very [close friendships]. I don't think that (because of close living arrangements). It was just nice people from all over. I found --
AKK: So both Canadians and Americans were on this staff?
JJK: Oh yeah, they lived in the same barracks. They had the Canadians and Americans in the same barracks. And a woman's barracks was about 100 yards from the men's barracks. Right? And then you had the men's barracks, the woman's barracks, the office and a mess Hall.
AKK: What about the showers? They were all separate weren't they?
WDK: Not in the woman's.
JJK: The woman had their own showers. But then men, the showers was about quarter of a mile from there, where we used to go.
WDK: And you had the washing machines down there that you could do your clothes and everything too. And we had ours right in our headquarters room.
AKK: Were you guys all in one room or you had separate rooms for the woman too.
WDK: Well, some of them shared, there were four of them in a room, but I got --
JJK: You had four in the woman's?
WDK: Yeah, down at the other end of the --
JJK: I only knew two, Nancy Ferrymen and Helen Ashland and they had two.
WDK: Right, but there were a couple of more, yes. But my room, see I was one of the first girls to go up there, one of the first six. So I had a choice, they very kindly gave me -- first they kept me in the hotel down in Whitehorse and they picked me up everyday and brought me to the office. To be back at night. Then they got the Quonset hut set up as headquarters. They had single rooms at the front side was the community room where the big stove was, to keep the fire going and everything warm. There were two single rooms on each side going down the hallway and I picked the first one. And that's the one I had the whole time, so I had my privacy and my own room.
JJK: In the men's barracks you just had a bed, period.
AKK: Everybody was in the same?
JJK: Everybody. Yeah, 40 guys.
AKK: 40 guys! Not even four to a room or anything? It was just all --
JJK: No, just 40 beds. And you had it heated with a round bellied stove. You had three a round bellied stove's. One at this end, one in the middle, and one at that end. The bull cook used to come through all during the night and throw wood on it to keep it warm. And the son of a gun, he would get drunk every now and then and he would not show up (chuckle) . When you get up in the morning and it would be freezing! At the other end of the barracks where I had my bed you also had hot water. The water was in a big can and they heated it. You would go up there and you get a little water and you would shave. And the John was about 50 yards away from there. If you had to get out in the middle of the night, you had to walk about 50 yards through the cold and the ice to get there.
AKK: Was that the same with the woman's thing? Or they had the John inside, indoor plumbing or latrine?
WDK: Everything indoor.
JJK: Oh, they lived high on the hog. They had it right in there.
WDK: We were treated very nicely.
JJK: And the food, the food was just great. After being in South America for two years, the tropics, the food there was not in the same -- with the food up in the Yukon. It was really great food and also you had wonderful Baker's so it was good. The thing that amazes me, we used to go down the highway every week to pay off. It was a distance of roughly 200 miles from camp MaCrae where we were to Watson Lake. And every 25 miles or so they had what they call repeater station. And that repeater station they had about a sergeant and 10 men. Now they'd all get the same food and yet some of those repeater stations you would never go back there to eat with them again because the food and the coffee was so lousy. But, the other place which got the same food and they have good cook that made sure the guys were treated right. You made sure you ate at their place when we went down the highway.
WDK: It made all the difference in the world having a good bull cook and a good baker.
AKK: Because those are one of the few things you had to look forward to? Was a good meal and people would relax, sort of like the merchant ship?
JJK: Yeah that's right.
WDK: Now you can understand why I agreed to marry him and come down on our honeymoon if we would go back to Alaska.
AKK: You wanted to get the good food?
WDK: Yeah, (chuckle). And I wanted to stay up there.
AKK: And you didn't have any intention of having children right away?
WDK: What ever God sent.
AKK: Right. But you hadn't thought it through?
WDK: No, no. No, we were supposed to go back. We were all ready to go back to Alaska.
JJK: Tell him about the cabin.
WDK: What cabin?
JJK: The cabin on the river.
WDK: Oh. I got that before you came up there.
JJK: I know.
WDK: A Couple of my friends and I found this cabin that had been -- it was a trappers cabin and it had been abandoned. Because you know, when you leave there, you didn't take things with you. There really was no way to take it to out of there. It was a not worthwhile. So it had tables and benches and chairs in it and a stove and all that. But it hadn't been lived in for a longtime. So we got equipment and cleaned it all up. We used to go down there and cook meals. A whole bunch of us would go down.
AKK: Just for the weekend, type of thing?
WDK: No, just for the evening. We get stuff from the commissary.
JJK: It was two miles from our camp. We used to walk.
WDK: And we would walk down and have a big meal and sit around and talk and everything. Just enjoyed ourselves. Was it the first night you went down that you fell in the water?
JJK: No, no it was after a couple of weeks.
AKK: But, then you knew what you were getting into? You just didn't realize how cold it would be, or the snow?
WDK: He was dressed by then for everything. But, we were going down this one night and everybody helped each other across. There were some streams that the water wasn't frozen all the way through. The water was off the river, it was like a slow brook off the river and it never froze that winter the whole way. It was moving so swiftly I guess.
AKK: So, so across the top there would be ice?
WDK: Right, there would be ice and everything.
JJK: But, it would be very thin.
WDK: But, we had logs that went across so we could walk across it. But, everybody helped each other. One person would give another person a hand and then they would help them across. But your father, "I can manage myself. No, I don't need a hand." And of course he had the brace and he walked with a limp. --
JJK: I said as long as I get my hands on these branches --
WDK: My "mitts on these branches" . That's what you said -- just before you went in (chuckle)
JJK: I'll just go right over, you know. What I overlooked was the fact that the branches were going to break. (Laughter) Then I 'm in midstream and all of a sudden it breaks and Boom!
WDK: So, his leg goes down into the water and every thing. And we get down there and he takes his stocks and his --
AKK: Did you hear some choice words? Or was he able to keep it --
WDK: I never knew your father used language like that until we were on our way back after our honeymoon. (Chuckle)
AKK: You mean he went down into the water and he didn't curse? What did he just say ohhh?
WDK: He probably did under his breath.
JJK: I was very concerned because you know it's below zero
WDK: We still had a ways to walk before we were going to get there.
JJK: We had about a quarter of a Mile to get to the cabin.
WDK: So he took his socks off and his shoes. And he put the, it wasn't the brace leg. It wasn't the leg you had the brace on.
JJK: No. It was my left leg.
WDK: And he put everything up by the fire. Then he's talking and telling his jokes and everybody is --. Then all of a sudden, we go (sniff), something’s burning.
AKK: And it was your shoes?
JJK: My socks. (Laughter)
AKK: 0h no! So you had no socks than either. Did you get them out of the fire?
JJK: Oh, yeah, sure, real quick. But they were a little charred. (Laughter)
WDK: So, he didn't learn his lesson. On the way back, you had further to go back to camp. On the way back he does the same thing. I'm saying to Jack, you know, take our hand. "Naaaa, no, I'm fine, I'm fine." Down he goes again. (Laughter)
JJK: I must admit, on the way back I was very concerned, because it was about a mile and 3/4 to go and it was -- cold. And I'm remembering all the stories they tell in the barracks. Where you would sit around and they would tell stories about guys freezing to death. Or losing their feet or their hands and I'm 0h,ohhhhhoo.
AKK: You were saying ‘I'm fine”, but you are like, can we go a little faster? You were leading the charge to get back?
WDK: I have to tell you this too, he was so brave. He always had a hunting knife. We had bears. I mean big, big brown bears up around the dump. They hung around the dump. They didn't bother anybody --
JJK: No, no they were just after the food.
WDK: But, they were there, going through the food. So as long as they were getting enough food they were not going to bother us. He's got this hunting knife and I'm saying to him: "what are you carrying that knife for? Why have you got the knife?" And he said "just in case the Bears come". And I said what would you do, hand me the knife and run? And he said "of course". (Chuckle)
JJK: And then we were going out, pretty much, I guess almost you might say, every night, ahhh -- after a while? And then she went home on leave about December the seventh. And I went on to the plane with her and I said I want to ask you something when you come back. And she said no, no, no.
WDK: I did not want to hear it.
JJK "I don't want to hear". And all I wanted to do was to ask her go to dinner at the Whitehorse inn and talk to her about the vacation. (Chuckle)
WDK: Oh, yeah. I knew what he wanted to ask me.
JJK: And then when she came back, she had seen a few of her old chums. And so forth. And shall we say her liking for me faded a little bit into the distance. And she said she didn't want to go out with me, only on weekends from then on.
WDK: But, why did I tell you that? Because you did say you were serious and you really wanted to marry me.
WDK: And I said no way. So, then the next time he asks me, he said you know I'm Catholic, and you will have to become Catholic. I said forget it, forget it, no way.
AKK: So even though you said no, he still told you -- you had to become Catholic. He didn't really fully except no.
WDK: So when I came back he had grown a beard. And everybody in the office is teasing him: “wait till Wanda gets back, you will have to cut that beard off.” "I will not have to cut the beard off, nobody would tell me to cut the beard off." So he's telling me that all the office is saying this to him. And I said oh really? He said: yeah. So I said no, I won't tell you to cut the beard off. But I won't go out with you anymore. (Chuckle) so he shaved the beard. But he still left the mustache.
AKK: Was that the first time you had a beard? Or did you have one in --
JJK: No, I had one in South America.
WDK: Yeah, I have the picture of him with a bicycle with the beard in South America.
JJK: As a matter-of-fact, I had when I was up in camp. When I was a camp counselor when I was 20, 21 years of age. When I was still in college.
AKK: How come it was so strange to you when I grew one?
JJK: I don't know. (Laughter)
JJK: Down in Trinidad there was a guy who was in construction. He was also a wrestler. And his name was -- something, but he had a beard. And when I had the beard the little kids down there, the natives, when they saw me, they would all call out something, call out the name of the guy.
AKK: The wrestler?
JJK: The wrestler. Yeah they would say that. And when I was in Brazil, they said I looked like Errol Flynn. I had a little mustache you know. And they would go hey, here comes Errol Flynn. (Chuckle) oh yeah, I know what it was, his name was Whiskers Blake (See Wrestler Mentioned above). And the little kids would see me they would say: "whiskers, whiskers, Whiskers Blake; whiskers, whiskers, Whiskers Blake." (Chuckle)
AKK: So you think overall it was a really good experience for you?
WDK: 0h, it was a wonderful experience.
AKK: Were there many people from other countries there? Or was it mostly just Americans and Canadians?
WDK: Mostly Americans and Canadians. There weren't any --
JJK: That's all. We had a couple of Eskimos up there. As a matter-of-fact, I had some Eskimos in my barracks. And every night they used to beat the hell out of one another. And we would get in there and we would separate them. And the next night they would be out there plugging away. And finally we said well let them, the hell with of them. Let them kill one another, you can't stop them.
AKK: What was it? They came from different parts? Or they got drunk do you think?
JJK: I don't know how they got in there, but they probably had something to do with construction.
AKK: No, I mean what -- do you think what it was, why they would start to fight?
JJK: It's hard to say. I really don't know. Because we didn't speak too much. We didn't know their language.
WDK: The Canadians were from all over
And the Americans were from all over the United States. But a lot of
them were from Kansas City. Near
JJK: Oh, yeah because that's where the job corporate offices were.
AKK : The headquarters?
JJK: But a lot from Minnesota, an awful lot from Minnesota.
WDK: Yes, and a lot from New York too -- when you look back.
AKK: So it was really typical of many peoples war experience? In that a lot of people had moved to another part of the country. Then a lot of people would come for another part. It seems to be all this mixing that seems to have gone on during that period.
WDK: Then of course all the soldiers that were stationed up there too.
AKK: How many soldiers stationed around there? What were they doing? Were they guarding? Or --
JJK: I think they were -- didn’t we hear something about 20,000 soldiers? You see they had a lot of camps all around there. And they had about 200 women.
AKK: Was it mostly Canadian soldiers?
WDK: No, no, Americans.
JJK: United States soldiers.
AKK: But this was all Canadian territory? Were they supposed to be guarding the road? They were starting to be, it was supposed to be like a national supply route?
WDK: They were working together. They were Canadian soldiers too. But not Canadian soldiers to the extent there were American soldiers.
JJK: There were a lot more American soldiers up there.
AKK: Were they lightly armed? Or how were they --
WDK: They were trained as well. They were training as well.
JJK: They were engineers, and then they were I guess maybe some infantry men. Because the thought was, there is always the possibility that the Japanese may come through and we had to stop them. Of course they never got closer then Attu (Aleutian chain), which was thousands of miles from we were
WDK: Yeah, but the Russian subs were right there. And even though Russians was --
JJK: Yeah, the Russian subs were there. The Russians were up there too because Whitehorse was one of the places they would ship planes to Russia. They'd come to Whitehorse, to Fairbanks and then I suppose they'd jump over. But I've seen the Russians up there.
AKK: Would the Russians go across? In your camps? Or passing through?
JJK: No, no, I really -- they would just be a couple -- and maybe they just come in for a plane.
AKK: Oh, they'd come in and pick up the planes and fly them across.
WDK: Yes, yes. The airport was there in Whitehorse.
AKK: In Whitehorse, not too far from where you were? So the Americans would fly the plans there, then they would fly over a bunch of Russians pilots, they'd pick up the planes and fly them across.
JJK: Yeah, I think they had the pilots maybe in Fairbanks, Alaska. And then they would fly them over. You know. But I can remember the planes coming through in Whitehorse and I happen to be down at the airfield a couple of times. And they would have to check them out and every thing once they landed. I can still see the mechanics there, the Army mechanics, going out there, taking their gloves off. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. So cold they would put their gloves on again and they'd run back in to get warm.
WDK: Well, they also had those big like-- you probably saw the pictures of them in the depression, when they have them out on the streets with the homeless people? Like the big 50 gallon drums and they would make the fires there.
AKK: Right, with the wood in them. And they would go and get their hands warm because they had to use their hands.
WDK: When I was in the hospital up there, and the pipes went that night underneath the hospital. One of the pipes broke, of the waterpipes. And they had those, it was so cold. And they are out there and I felt so sorry for them. Because you could only stay out about 10 minutes working on stuff and then you had to warm up again.
JJK: They had to dig down through all the dirt, which you know was frozen. And then they had to get to the pipes and get to the leak. And I was in there talking to some of my friends. And I thought to myself, geeze, I'm glad I'm not a plumber tonight. Going under there and do what they could.
WDK: When I look back of over my life, and look at the different sections of it, it would be hard to say what was the most interesting. And yet it was so diverse. It was so different.
AKK: It must have been quite a shock if you thought that's what you're going back to. You are very happy there, you know what it's about, you've just gotten married, you going to go back together and all of a sudden it didn't happen, and it's a whole different thing that you hadn't expected?
WDK: Not only that, he had to get a job before - to keep me here.
AKK: So, it looked like you might be split up?
WDK: Oh yeah, I had a month's visitors permit. Right?
AKK: And even though he was your husband?
WDK: Even though we were married that's all right. When he decided that we were not going back to Alaska we had to find a job here. Then I had to go back up to Canada, to Montreal. To get a visa to come in.
AKK: 0h, because you had come in as temporary. If you had originally knew you were, it would probably been okay. Right?
WDK: Right, but we didn't plan on staying here.
AKK: So, did you go all the way back to Edmonton or you just went over the border?
WDK: To Montreal.
JJK: To Montreal, and when she came back my mother said to her: Wanda what was it like? Oh, she said, It was just a lot of foreigners and me.
WDK: I didn't say that, I was disgusted with how they treated the other -- because there was a lot of Russians coming into the country and a lot of other people coming through. And they treated me very nicely because I spoke English, I was Canadian. But they treated some of those people who couldn't speak English, that were coming across, and they really treated them like cattle. And I was telling Mom about how disgusted I was. And I said: "a terrible way they treated the foreigners" and his mother started to laugh, she said “what do you think you are?” I said you know, you're right, I never thought of that. (Laughter)
AKK: So, they were coming through Canada to come into the U.S.?
WDK: Yes, yes they were coming across the border.
AKK: Some of them were war refugees probably?
WDK: Oh, yeah.
AKK: What year would this has been?
AKK: So the war was pretty much winding down then right?
JJK: 0h no, the war had pretty much another year ago. This was 1944.
AKK: But it looked like -- or people getting a sense?
WDK: Well I don't know. It was on in the Pacific..
JJK: I don't know, they were still fighting in
AKK: And they didn't know that it was just a year to go?
WDK: No, no way.
AKK: It was still feeling like it could be a longtime. By that time had you started to get information about some your friends that had been killed in war?
WDK: When I first came down almost every letter I got was -- somebody else had been killed. And so my friends went over in 1939.
JJK: They went in 1939 and the first group went into
AKK: This is the Canadians?
JJK: That is the Canadians.
WDK: But didn't some of the Canadians
also go in to Africa before that? They
JJK: No, no. They were at the Dieppe, which I think was 1942. And they were just slaughter, massacred. They were all Canadian troops.
AKK: They weren't well outfitted? Or just overpowered?
JJK: They thought it was going to be an invasion. You know, they were going to take these German guys --
WDK: And they were all set up for them when they got there. They were all, how shall I say, the Germans were all dug in.
JJK: They didn't have the experience. But they said they learned an awful lot which helped on D-Day later on. But then a lot of the Canadian boys, they weren't even on the continent when the Germans went into France in 1940. They were still in England. Then they sent the first group into Dieppe where they were slaughtered. And the next group went to Sicily and Italy and they went all the way up the boot. And then of course, there are an awful lot went in on D-Day. The Canadians. And I guess it was on D-Day when, what was his name? The Twins got killed.
WDK: Yeah, the Burkett's (spell).
JJK: She knew twins they were killed
WDK: One of the boys, I had gone with two years in high school. And was one of my best friend. His twin brother and he went over the same time. Moiré was in the hospital and had been wounded. Ronny was in an ambulance going to the hospital and it was blown up. They were both killed.
AKK: So the one in the hospital ended up dying? In the other one --
WDK: Well, they bombed the hospital. And they bombed the ambulance as they were going. If there was a red cross on the ambulance, this was the rules of the war, they weren't supposed to, but they did. Both sides did it. In other words that didn't play by the rules.
JJK: Both sides did it.
AKK: That seems to be coming out more and more. That both sides, especially -- and the Asia thing seems to have been really incredible.
JJK: Oh, I am just reading a couple of books* on it. You can say what you want about the Germans and the Russians but Americans were just as bad. And yet some were great, some of the Germans were great. Some of the Americans were great. They tell the story of one group of Americans in the Red Cross for the wounded got lost and they ended up in the Germans section. And the Germans saw the Red Cross there and they told them to get in there and go back and go this way and that way -- and they got out. So, about an hour later, another Red Cross comes up. And all they did was they stopped and put out a big bundle of stuff, corrugated boxes. And they waved and they walked away. And Germans didn't know what the hell it was. They thought maybe it was a bomb or something. But they took a chance. Cigarettes.
*Get book titles.
AKK: Just to thank them.
JJK: Yeah. I had a friend of mine up in Moosejaw [Canada]. Al Wilson. He was a lieutenant Colonel of the artillery, Canadian. And he was telling me towards the end of the war they were picking up so many Germans but they did not know where to put them. They had no place to put them. So he and another guy, another artillery man were driving along in a Jeep and they saw a lone German soldier walking along, a lieutenant, a young lieutenant. And they told him to get in. He got in there and they tried to drop him off at some prison camps and guys would say nahaaa, we can't take him, please, we got too many now. Get out of here. So they would say: “what are we going to do?” “Well, we will try another one”. So finally, one guy so reached the end of his rope and he said: listen, I'm going to kill the son-of-a-gun. And Wilson said to him: well, wait a second, let's get something straight. I think maybe I've killed thousands of Germans with my artillery, he said, but I have never been guilty of murder. Never! And he said, I'm not going to have anyone murdered in my presence. We are going to get this guy into a camp. So finally he went up to the next camp. And told guys, listen, my partner here is going nuts. He wants to kill this guy. He said, I do want to be a partner to murder. So the guy says, all right, come on, give him to me. With that, the guy [German] turned around, and with impeccable English and said: “Thank you Colonel, I appreciate you saving my life.” In English!
AKK: He could speak English the whole time?
JJK: All the while they are talking
about putting the gun to his brain. He
is just sitting there not saying a word.
But I mean this has happened time after time. They tell of guys, whose brothers were
killed, and a young guy, maybe 18 and 19 -- he would see Germans prisoners of
war and he would just to go up and boom, boom.
That was it. Eddie O'Connor, tells the story, and
Editor/transcriber note: whose Eddie O'Connor? Author or friend of JJK?
JJK: So, you can say what you want, and even in the -- the Japs certainly were savage. But they say some of the Marines were just as savage. Taking their skulls home, you know, for souvenirs and all that sort of stuff. Man's inhumanity to man.
WDK: Horrible, horrible times.
JJK: Stan Chetleborough
(spell) tells the story about after the war, he was in
the Canadian forces going up the East side of
WDK: Sitting on a chair on the lawn.
JJK: Chair on the lawn. And with that a German woman and a Frenchwoman came up. The German was very --
AKK: This was in the last few years?
JJK: This was years afterwards.
WDK: Yeah, this was about twelve years ago.
JJK: And she said are you registered at the hotel? He said no. And the Frenchwoman said: well you should be registered, after all, if you want to sit here. Stan said: listen, during the war I and my buddies, came here and we fought our way. And he said, let me tell you something. And he turned to the Frenchwoman. He said, you know something? If it hadn't been for me and my buddies who sacrificed their life, you, would be taking orders from this woman. (Chuckle). They both walked away. Both walked away. So, there you are.
AKK: A lot of memories.
26. Sailor toasts the King,
JJK: Oh, Yeah. I think of Uncle Tom. He tells the story,
about they were in
JJK: And Howie Thompson tells the story, he reported one Sunday morning to sick bay. He is the Dr. on a destroyer. And this chief petty officer comes in and his face is a mess. Howie says, my God chief, what the heck happened to you? He says, well I tell you Dr.. Last night, he said, I know we're going to the South Pacific. He said, we can get knocked off and that would be the end of us. He said, so I figured I would have a pretty good time the last night in Boston. So he said, I went over and had a few dances. And he said, I'm coming back to the ship and I pass another dance hall. And all of a sudden I decided to have the dance. So I went over to dance and so forth. So they stopped it (not clear the words) and they said we will now play "God save the king". And he said, I said "he better save the son of the bitch, the British Navy never will!" (Chuckle). He [the chief petty officer] said, that's all I remember. [The dance ws sponsored by the British?]
WDK: You got enough for tonight?
AKK: Well, we covered quite a bit. We covered some of your school life. We covered your beginning working life. We covered what was like coming down, across and some of your expectations. I think probably the next time, we cover more what it was like raising the family. Maybe If you think about what was like as a Canadian. What it was like going to one of the American firms here. The fact, it probably helped you, the experience you had with the Americans you had already worked with. Do you think there was many surprises?
WDK: No, not really.
JJK: Now, you're missing out on one thing. Which I think is quite important. The wedding.
AKK: Well we do have a couple of minutes here on this film do you want to talk about what the wedding was like for you?
WDK: Well, it just brought me back to
the memory of me getting the job at Look Magazine.
I had answered different adds, and your father
had already made up his mind that I was not going to work on Saturday. So I had an opportunity to take a job on
AKK: Because he was off on the weekend and he wanted you to be home.
WDK: Right. So, there were six other woman. Wasn't I sent by an agency?
WDK: You had to pay a certain amount to the agency. But anyway, I went in and I had the interview. There were six other girls. They told me there were six other applicants for the job. But to wait. So I waited. And I guess about an hour later somebody came out and told me I had the job. And then Marvin Whatmore, the manager or whatever he was, he was the head of it anyway, he told me it was because he heard how hard-working Canadians were. And he was impressed with my background. And that's how I got the job as the assistant to the bookkeeper. So funny, I can't remember her last name and I can remember her so clearly too.
AKK: Selective memory. And then all of a sudden three weeks from now it will pop in. (Chuckle)
WDK: It happened to me today, I wanted to send a get well card, to one of my friends who we've known for longtime. And Irene came by and told us how bad Kathy was. And I said to your father what's Kathy and Tom's last name? He couldn't remember. I couldn't remember.
JJK: Who was that?
WDK: Kathy and Tom. Remember I wanted the last name? And I said I can't lookup in the Rolodex file because I don't know the last name. So I got the card all ready and all of a sudden it snapped in.
JJK: What was the name again?
JJK: Robinson, yeah.
WDK: I don't know how I would forget that because of the song.[Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson –Simon and Garfunkle, Film “the Graduate”]
AKK: Do you want to say a little about your wedding?
WDK: Not really.
AKK: Okay, so maybe that's enough.
JJK: Save that for the next one.
AKK: How is the process so far?
WDK: It is up to you how it is.
AKK: I mean it seems to be flowing and --
WDK: yes --,
AKK: Okay, thank you.
JJK: What amazed me was how
interested she was in what went on in the farm.
I remember one time going up to old Stirbridge
in Vermont. And they had all the
equipment they used on the farms back years ago. And your mother knew everything that it was, everything. And the same thing when we were up in
WDK: Remember I told him that I thought I lived in two centuries. Well I have now (year 2000)
JJK: That's right. Yeah, we both have. [chuckle]
AKK: Yeah, so have I though!
AKK: Okay, save some for next time.
Note: this is the end of the audio file for September 4th 2000.
Career Planning, 1, 4
School, 1, 3, 4, 5, 22, 25
schoolhouse, 1, 3
Basketball, 1, 4
Foreigners, 2, 20
Visa, 2, 20
Jack, 1, 3, 8, 10, 13, 15, 16
Keefe, 3, 8, 9
Marriage, 1, 15
first, 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 16, 21, 22
Friends & Friendships, 1, 2, 10, 11, 21
Sicily, 2, 21, 22, 23, 24
South America, 1, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16
Marriage, 1, 15
Memory, 2, 26
Place & Nationality
American, 1, 10, 18, 24, 25
Canada, 6, 10, 17, 20, 23
Edmonton, 4, 5, 7, 20, 26
New York, 3, 18
Sicily, 2, 21, 22, 23, 24
South America, 1, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16
Trinidad, 10, 17
Yukon, 1, 2, 8, 10, 12, 17, 18, 19
Places & Nationalities
American, 1, 18, 24, 25
Canadian, 1, 2, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
Picnics, 1, 7
Soldiers, 1, 18
1944, 2, 21
Car & cars, 7
Wanda [see also family], 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 15, 16, 20, 25, 26
War, 2, 21
Atrocities, 2, 22
Soldiers, 1, 18
Accommodations, 1, 11
Cabin, 1, 13
Honey Wagon, 1, 6
Look Magazine, 2, 25
payroll, 8, 10