By Karen Ingram
Taber Irrigation Impact Museum
As part of Canada’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, throughout summer 2020 the Times is publishing a series of articles on local history, our military past, and the contributions of veterans and citizens.
As soon as war was declared our Taber boys were lining up, anxious to enlist and do their duty. Some were younger than they should have been, some had families that would be put into hardship with their leaving but nothing deterred them.
Enlisting officers came to Taber on a regular basis to sign up any men interested but for some they did not come soon enough. A trip to Lethbridge or Calgary was the other alternative and many made their way there to sign up. It seemed as though nothing else mattered but the burning desire to fight for their country.
The women left behind were anxious to do their bit, they held sewing bees to knit socks, mitts and other accessories to make their soldier’s job a bit easier. Teas were held to raise money to purchase things such as tobacco and razors, fruit cakes were baked in tins and delivered to the Red Cross office where volunteers packed items for shipping to the front. The women could ask that their man receive a package but most were shipped to the bases to be distributed at random.
Ration books were used at home, sugar, butter, flour were all scarce as it was felt that the men at the front needed the basics more than those left at home.
Life in Taber went on, babies were being born, a reminder of the soldier’s love and the last days before they left for the front. School children participated in school concerts that had a patriotic theme. War movie were seen at the theatres and some funds were raised for the women and children left behind with no means of support, they found it necessary to rely on strangers, neighbours and friends to chip in where they could.
Family and friends receiving letters from loved ones shared these with the Taber Times where they could give hope to others that their soldier was still alive and doing well. Some received an envelope in the mail with an official armed forces return address, this was never good as it usually meant the soldier had been killed in action or taken as a prisoner of war.
The Taber Times carried any and all news they got from the front, men were reported missing, captured or killed in action. Tears were shed, prayers were said and eventually the men started to come home.
In May, the first of many war brides arrived. Mrs. Alfred Brooks and her daughter Elizabeth were met at the Purple Springs train by some of her new family members. The community held a shower for her where many gifts were presented. Later that evening the entire group once again made the trek to the train station, this time to meet her husband Sgm. Alfred Brooks. It had been a long five years since he had left home for the war overseas and two years since his bride had seen him.
Early June saw the return of Trooper Sam Dunn, he had been held in a German Hospital Camp since Dieppe on August 19, 1942. Now free he was met at Calgary by his parents and brother. Trooper Dunn reported that he and his fellow prisoners could not have survived without the parcels sent from those at home through the Red Cross.
The people of Taber were busy organizing a Citizens Rehabilitation Committee through the Taber Branch of the Canadian Legion. All local organizations were asked to appoint a member on this committee. The goal was to “handle the placing of returned men in congenial and remunerative work and to assist them in every way possible to become re-established in civil life.”
The Dominion Day Parade held on July 1, 1945, honoured the men who had already arrived home and reminded families whose loved ones were not home yet, that everyone was still praying for their safe return. Floats and decorated cars held many soldiers as they wound their way along the streets of Taber, a service at the Cenotaph Memorial was held immediately following the parade, bands played “O Canada”, “We Will Remember Them” and the Last Post.
Now it was time for the Rehabilitation Committee to get to work. The committee members were up on all the re-establishment credits that could be used by returning soldiers to assist in the purchase of a home or furniture. The soldier would receive $2 worth of credit for every $1 they were able to put up. Others took advantage of the Veterans Land Act to purchase some farm land and re-establish themselves in the community.
Taber started a fund raising campaign to build a swimming pool to be known as the “War Memorial Pool”.