Not Just Men in Uniform By Alison Bruce
|Sgt Frank Nash, my grandfather|
My mother's stories tended to take a humorous turn -- like when her skirt flipped up when she was practice rescuing a downed fighter pilot. Why The Observer Corps felt that skirts were a good idea for the women who volunteered is beyond me. My mother, and many of her compatriots, made the matter worse by altering the knee-hiding A-line into a knee-showing pencil skirt.
Nana's stories were more about rationing and how she got around it (at least with butter). She did work as a telephone operator, but she didn't say much about that. She also skimmed over stories involving her sisters and their families staying with them. Those tales I heard from Mum and Aunty Yang.
|Aunty Yang NOT in uniform.|
Later, when I was in university, Aunty Yang helped me connect with some of her old ATS friends, so I could interview them for my undergraduate thesis. I also interviewed former member of CWAC (Canadian Women's Army), RCWNS (Royal Canadian Women's Naval Service) and RCAF Women's Division. I even did a mail in interview with an American WAC. No one's story was as visceral as my aunt's.
|Seaman Nelson Bruce|
He and his pals had front row seats for the play. All that was between them and the actors was the orchestra pit, which had been filled in with artificial plants. Not wanting to leave before the play was done, my father discretely (or so he says) relieved himself on a nearby faux philodendron... it being the closest pot to piss in.
Aside from the obvious attraction of a man in uniform, my real interest in military history and culture stems from those stories told at the dining room table.
|RCMP on Parliament Hill|
My mother was the designated reference. The candidate was one of her former Girl Guides. She was a few years older than I was, so I didn't know her well, but when you're the Guide Captain's daughter, you learn all the dirt... or lack thereof... on everyone.
Mum was out when the two plainclothes RCMP constables came to the door. They decided to interview me instead of coming back. This was pretty exciting even though I was more into science fiction than mysteries at the time. I suppose it was a foreshadowing of my future that I asked almost as many questions as they did.