Sentimental Journey

David Meakes February 21, 2018


October 1, 1943

RCAF HQ, London, England


After almost three years in the Canadian Army in Great Britain, I was transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force for aircrew training back in Canada. In the three-week period from October 8 to October 30, 1943, I was at a repatriation depot near Liverpool, England. After bouncing off a previous shaky romance, it was there in a Manchester, England, pub that I met my future wife, Joan Doe. For sure, it was an inappropriate time to decide that I wished to spend the rest of my life with her. But I did! I fell in love with the concept of love and NOT love of Joan. At that time the hormones were sizzling and it took most of 12 years to understand the difference. So, immaturely, from Canada, I sent her an engagement ring about a month later.

In my formative years, in my family culture, that meant I had given a promise equal to marriage vows. So, when discharged from the Canadian Military in July 1945, I was impelled to immediately begin a working trip to return economically to the United Kingdom to get married. In today’s world, another ill-fated wartime romance could be predicted. I didn’t have a clue! Prior to my being discharged, I had learned that I could sign up on a ship from Montreal to take cattle or horses to Europe.

During WWII, the song “Sentimental Journey” was very popular. The lyrics to verse 1 were as follows: “Going to take a sentimental journey, going to put my mind at ease, going to take a sentimental journey, to renew old memories.” These words were factually true.

From Lestock, Saskatchewan, Canada (north of the Montana–Canada border), my brother Frank helped me to contract with a cattle dealer to monitor several boxcars load of cattle being shipped by train on a six-and-a-half-day trip to Toronto. I was allowed to travel in the caboose with the freight train crew of four or five. There were to be 11 changes of both crew and cabooses in those six and a half days.

Sometimes, connections were not synchronized, and so I stayed in a local hotel room for only two or three dollars. A couple of the conductors (crew bosses) were angry at me for “mooching a free ride.” Though they were right, I nevertheless remained and did what was needed for the cattle dealer. I could watch wildlife, country scenery, and city scenery from the back platform of the caboose or from the caboose’s lookout, where you could look in every direction. It was an interesting trip, seeing the rugged scenery of the north shore of Lake Superior at relatively slow speed.

On Sunday, August 26, seven days before General MacArthur signed the Japanese surrender agreement, the Chinese community of Toronto could not wait. China had suffered many years of occupation by the Japanese. The Toronto Chinese celebrated early with an immense, colorful victory parade. I paid for my train fare to Montreal later that day.

For more stories of the follies of war, grab a copy of my book, Perspective: The Golden Rule. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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    David Meakes

    David Meakes

    David Meakes is a Canadian-born World War II veteran. He is ninety-five years old and a retired podiatris... read more

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