September 1st, 1943

September 1st, 1943

Dear Mom & Dad,

Well I guess it’s time to write again. I’ve only had two letters since I got back but it’s my fault because I didn’t write sooner. Well only 11more days to go and will I be glad. Do we ever work, we are learning more in 3 weeks then I did in two months. I hope we get something out of it, we can’t be doing all this training just to be plain Gnrs.

Well how is everybody getting along? I guess they will all be going back to school by now. Are they ever lucky. This is a swell life as long as you keep moving, but once you stop…?

Well, Demps is gone. I met a fellow today that was with him and he said he was gone. I wished I was with him but I will be seeing him in January I hope. Waugh and I says that if they don’t send us we will just swim across. Waugh cut his finger yesterday really bad too, nearly cut it off. All they did was put a bandage on it and sent him back to work, that’s how important this course is.

How is Mill, June, and Teddie getting along? Do they still like in Toronto? I hope you have more than that ½ a pint in the ice box the next time I come home.

How is Marg, is she still working as hard as she never did? I’ll be glad to see her again, we will all have to get together again.

Don’t forget to send me Ted’s address and tell Bin to send him mine, and tell her to tell him I am near Franklin Park, he will know where that is, everybody knows where that is.
Well, I can’t think of anything else for now.

Will write soon, answer soon.
The East End Kid

[Shannan Note: some really exciting things over the last couple of weeks… the blog finally made its way to Gord’s kids! I knew they were out there, but some old attempts at contact went unanswered. I’ve always had a little bit of concern that when they eventually made their way to the blog, or I made contact, they wouldn’t be keen on the project. Thankfully my fears were just that, fears. The family is happy, engaged, and wanting to help fill in any blanks they can, and I’ve connected with family I didn’t even know I had! It’s given me that little push i needed to get through the craziness of late and refocus on the letters and my genealogy work… I’m getting some really incredible personal and family stories about Gord that are really helping to round out who he was, and it’s become quite clear that this young soldier we’ve started to get to know, asking often after his little sisters and longing for home, grew into a kind and wonderful man, and I feel even more privileged than ever to be able to help tell a little bit of his story.]

May 27th, 1943

May 27th, 1943

Dear Mom + Dad,

Just a few lines to let you know I am okay and getting along swell except a bit lonesome, I’ve forgot what everybody looks like but it won’t be long now. Two days ago I found out that I won’t be home until my furlough is due. I met a fellow who lives a couple doors from Ted and he was all through and getting ready to go home this Sat. then they told him that he had to wait until his furlough comes up. I feel sorry for him because he was all ready to go home.

We just now got back from a two day scheme. I can’t tell you what we did but I had fun. If it was like that all the time I wouldn’t mind being away. I don’t know if I will be able to mail this letter tonight because I’m broke and have to bum a couple of stamps. I was expecting some money from home because you said you would send me five dollars every other week but it didn’t come.

How is Pork, Ray, and Sweetipie? Does she still go to school regularly? I don’t know how to spell that word, but I guess it will do. Tell her I’ll be home for her birthday even if I have to give the C.O. a million dollars to get leave. How did Ray’s leg turn out, I hope it’s okay by now.

Marg hasn’t sent me a picture yet, she better hurry up or I’ll get mad…no, I don’t think I could ever get mad at her again.

How is the big sister getting along anyways, still working hard? Tell her I said thanks for all the letters and parcels she sent me. Tell her to tell Jean H. I was asking about her and hope she’s still being true to me. How is Ted getting along? Is he still around or has he left, he hasn’t wrote to me yet.

Well, I can’t think of anything else to say expect write soon or sooner.

Lots of love to the best mother in the world.
The East End Kid

May 15th, 1943

May 15th, 1943

Dear Mom + Dad

Well here goes again. Remember I said I would write every day, well I’m going to keep that promise until my stamps run out. Well, here is another week-end and I didn’t get a pass this week so I’m going to catch up on my washing, and how I hate washing. I’ll bet I can do anything a girl can do now, and I’m glad  I wasn’t a girl, I feel sorry for them, I  didn’t think it was so  hard.

I wrote to Mill this afternoon, I hope she will answer because I like lots of mail, that’s about all  I care for, I don’t mind being away as long as yous all write.

I feel pretty good today so I think I will go up to the wet canteen tonight and have a few bottles of that stuff they call beer, is  it ever awful but you got to do something to pass the time away.

If you and Marg answer all my letters, I should get a letter every day. Well, how is Daddy getting along? Tell him to keep those shells rolling in and it won’t be long till it’s all over. If everybody worked as hard as he did, the war would have been over long ago.

I guess  I’ve gained about 10lbs since I came here. I guess I’ll be seeing Ted pretty soon, some fun we can have when we get together. I can hardly wait, he hasn’t wrote yet, he better hurry up or I won’t  speak to him when he does come. Right now I guess he’s at home having a good time, lucky guy. Tell him to spend most of his time at home because when he comes here he will wished he had, because I wish I had.

Well I can’t think of anything else to say except write soon or sooner.

Lots of love to the best mother in the world.
The east end kid

May 3rd, 1943

May 3rd, 1943

Dear Mom + Dad,

Just a line to let yous know I am getting lots of mail lately and I can’t keep up but I’ll answer every one that you write. I’m glad Ray is getting along fine and soon will be home. I’ve only got 5 more weeks of this course to go and may  get my furlough then and  then maybe I’ll have to wait until it’s due but I don’t care as long as I get lots of mail and the odd parcel.

Tell Daddy that the five hundred dollar bond he got would be a swell down payment on a farm for after this quarrel between Hitler and Churchill.

Tell Mill I wish her many happy returns of the day, but when is she going to write, I’ll answer letters from anyone.

I don’t think I’ll change very much, expect maybe a little fatter but I could stand a little fat. Ted hasn’t wrote yet, I’ll give him one more week. When you get this letter and start to answer, number every one. Put it in the left hand corner of the first page like this: #1) then I’ll know if there are any letters lost. Number every one.

Well I can’t think of anything else to say except lots of love to the best mother in the world.

The East End Kid

April 12th, 1943

April 12th, 1943

Dear Mom

Well we got back okay and did we ever have fun. My boy friend Pat came  tearing into the bus station just as we got on the bus and he had two bottles with him, did we ever have fun. Everybody was drunk when they came in last night. We didn’t get to sleep till 3 am. I don’t think we’ll be leaving till Wed. night so if you answer this letter as soon as you get it I’ll get it Wed at dinner time.

I hated to leave last night but soon as I met the mob it was alright. Gosh am I ever tired, we went on a five mile route march this morning and we have another to-morrow that’s why I know we’re not going to-morrow.

Has Net gone home yet? Don’t forget to tell Joe good-by for me and Ray to!

I got your picture out on my shelf and it looks nice. Everybody else thinks so too.

I seen Marg for 3 minutes last night.

Well that’s all for now.

Your son,

 Net and Amy

[Shannan’s Note – Net is Amy’s sister, Nettie. The picture above is of Amy and Net, year unknown. I am not sure who Joe is, but Ray is Gord’s younger brother.]

April 4th, 1943

April 4th 1943

Dear Mom

Well I made it back okay, and did we ever have fun. We met a couple of girls from Malton Airport sitting in the back of the bus so we joined them and we sang all the way back to camp.

To-day I’m working in the kitchen washing dishes till 6 o’clock then I go down to the guard as a spare that means if anybody gets sick I take their place but if they don’t I sleep all night, that’s not too bad.

Right now in the canteen all the fellows have got their girls here and a bunch of guys playing the piano and I haven’t even got a girlfriend to write to but I don’t care no more, I’m having lots of fun. Some young kid from town just now came in and he’s playing the drums.

Don’t forget the party next week and tell daddy not to forget to get me the bottle to take away.

We hand our rifles in tomorrow and will that ever be nice.

Well I can’t think of anything else. Write soon.

Your son
The East End Kid
General Gordon

Mom xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sweetipie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Rest xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 Gord and Unknown Woman, Date Unknown

[Shannan’s Note – Since we started in on Gord’s letters he’s been asking after Marg, whom I believe was a friend of Gord’s older sister (and my grandmother), Bin. I haven’t been able to uncover much on Marg or the relationship that she and Gord may or may not have had, but I have a couple of leads that I am following to try and find a little more info on Marg, and who she might have been. I’ll keep you posted. The photo above is of Gord and an unknown woman, date also unknown… My cousin Gail, who has been an incredible help since I started on the letters, mentioned that her mom (Gord’s sister Geraldine or Sweetipie as you may know her) used to say that Gord was a…ahem…popular fellow who didn’t have any trouble finding a different lady-friend in every port or town… Did that get going after a love lost in Marg? Maybe we’ll find out more as the letters and the research progresses, but the romantic in me is just a teensy bit hopeful that it’s Marg in that photo…]

March 29th, 1943

March 29th 1943

Dear Mom + Dad

I’m sorry I haven’t wrote sooner, I didn’t have any stamps or money till yesterday and then I was on duty last night. Well we’re all through our training and are we having it easy, this morning we went out on a route march, came back at twelve, had dinner then went away back in the woods behind the camp and told stories till 5:15 then broke off for the day. On Sun when I was coming back I met one of the guys at the bus station, he drove me back to camp.

The next time I come home it will be my last leave until July so how about a little party, and how is Marg, I haven’t wrote to her yet.

How is Ray getting along pretty good I hope. We have been told where we are going but I can’t say, but it’s a two day and two night train ride.

I’ll try to get home for a couple of hours on Sat. If you can get any stamps send them, they are awful hard to get here. You can tell by the date I started to write this letter a couple of days ago but I didn’t have any stamps.

Well that’s all I can think of for now, see yous Sat.

Your son,

10th Platoon

Gord and his Platoon at their training base in Brampton. 10th Platoon, C Company, 24th Regt. March 1943.

[Shannan’s Note – it’s tough to tell from the photo, but I think  that’s Gord in the front row, second from the left. I assume this picture was taken upon completion of their training]

March 4th, 1943

March 4th, 1943

Dear Mom + Dad

Just a line to let you know that I got the box + registered letter and was I glad.

I won’t be getting my week-end this week because there was 4 Ptn so they tossed for it and I lost so we get ours next week. But I may go home on Sat, but I don’t know for sure.

I’m having lots of fun it’s getting to be a better camp every day.

We went into the gas chambers to-day at 2 o’clock and it’s now 6:30 and I’m still crying.

Boy is it cold here, our rifles were froze this morning. We had our first exam today in first aid and I passed. We have our Bren Gun test to-morrow I think I’ll pass because I had it when I was in the R.C.E.

How is Marg getting along? I hope she is being a good girl, does she come over very often?

You say Mill moved up, when you see her tell her to write, the time goes fast when you get lots of letters. Marg writes nearly every day. Well I can’t think of anything else to say. Write soon.


[Shannan note – this letter threw me for a loop initially…the mention of “gas chambers” had me a little confused because all other things point to Gord not only still being in training of sorts, but likely still being in Canada (the mailing address he provides for return mail to this letter is in Brampton, Ontario and there was a Royal Air Force base there, RAF Wyton). A little bit of research leads me to believe that he’s talking about mustard gas training.

In doing the research for this post, I found a great interview documented on The Memory Project website where a WWII veteran speaks about his experience with mustard gas training. You can listen to that here: . If you find Gord’s story interesting, I strongly suggest spending some time on The Memory Project website.

The Bren Gun that Gord mentions being tested on was the primary light infantry machine gun used by the British and Commonwealth in WWII and the Korean War. Gord also mentions using the Bren Gun when he was in the R.C.E, and all investigation suggests that he is talking about the Royal Canadian Engineers.

Lastly, I’m fairly certain that Gord is kidding when signs his next few letters “Major” unless he somehow managed to climb military ladder faster than anyone in history, also he signs a few future letters as General… 🙂 ]

February 28th, 1943 – Coat Hangers…

February 28th, 1943 – Brampton

Dear Mom, Dad,

Just a line to let yous know I got back okay. Boy am I getting it easy this morning, my boy friends and I had to sweep and scrub the orderly room. It took us about an hour and now we’re through for the day but still C.B. if we weren’t I’d get home but I’ll stay and catch up with my sleep and writing and washing. It’s pretty hard to write here there is 2 guys playing the pianos it sounds alright to.

Don’t forget to send the box because I’ll be looking for it and send me a couple of coat hangers that’s what I need the most.

Well I can’t think of much more to say so good-bye for now, see yous all soon. Will write to-morrow.

Lots of Love,
Your Son,


[Shannan note – The photo above is the whole gang – brothers Gerald (Pork), Ray, Gord, and dad Edward… Also, no blog post tomorrow, I’ve got a full day of family ahead. The Oakwood Kid will be back on Monday – see you then! 🙂 ]


The who’s who…

Last year, when I made the decision to really dig into my family history, specifically into Gord and his letters, I didn’t really have any idea of the scale of work I was in for or how much of a challenge it would be. There are so many little details and facts that I am starting to uncover and finding the best method for managing everything has been a bit of a process – I’m a list maker, a note taker, and a lover of all things Excel. I like things to be organized and neat, and to sit right where they belong. This project has been an exercise in flexibility if anything. I very quickly learned that not everything will fit into a neat little box, there will be portions of this puzzle that might always be missing a piece, and I’ve come to accept that.

As I wind up the tail end of my mini holiday vacation, I’ve really been diving into all of the random scraps of paper and unlabeled photos that accompanied the letters. I’ve spent the last couple of days lost in photos, notes, and research. It’s become apparent that with the first letter post coming up in a couple of days, a cast of characters could be a useful thing for everyone.

I expect this list to grow with time, but these are a few of the key folks that we’ll be introduced too early on.

Gord – the man himself. He’s young, from Peterborough area originally. I have heard a few different things on his age when he joined the military, but official paperwork shows him as 19 in 1943 so we’ll go with that. Later letters are signed as The Oakwood Kid, which is where the blog name was born from. Oakwood, Ontario is where (I believe) his parents moved to around 1944, and possibly where they were originally from – Oakwood is in the Kawartha Lakes area (like I said, pieces are still missing).

Gord’s Mom – Amy – everything I’ve found in all my dives into the family history, and from everyone I have spoken to, suggest that Amy was a wonderful woman. Gord certainly seems enamored with his mom, and I can’t wait to learn even more about her.

Gord’s Dad – Edward – I’m still digging through bits and pieces to try and learn more about Edward. He passed away when my mom and her siblings we’re very young, so there’s not much first-hand knowledge about him around.

Bin – Gord’s sister, and my Grandmother. I didn’t know Bin very well, she passed away when I was quite young, but my mother adored her, and my brother had an incredible relationship with her. Gord was very clearly quite close to his sister, and the rest of his family.

Marg – a friend of Bin’s, and possibly a love interest of Gord’s.

Sweetipie – Gord’s little sister Geraldine (Gerry)

Pork – Gord’s brother Gerald.

Waugh – A friend of Gord’s from back home that he meets up with in the military.