Baker, James

Letter
Date:
December 8, 1943
To:
Mom and Dad
From:
Jim
December 8th, 1943
Chatham, NB.

Dearest Mom and Dad,

No, of course you don't owe me anything for the wool! But I expect I owe you or Burt something for the badges and I will settle my debts next time I am home. I mailed your Xmas parcels home last weekend, but I am still wondering what to get for Burt and Stan. There is so little to select from out here in this little isolated country town. It is a little town only about 2300 people in both towns, Newcastle and Chatham which are really twin towns on opposite sides of the Miramichi. Isn't that a lovely name? It has the same poetic resonance that characterizes all Indian names, as we well know. The country abounds with Indian names as beautiful as our own, some even more beautiful. Kouchibougaonae, Buctouchie, Magaguac and many others. They are all familiar pinpoints on our routes around here and they give even the most prosaic-log ‘a lilt and charm' that quite lifts above the realm of routine navigation. How can one help but be impressed by poetry when one reads, "KOUCHIBOUGOUAC BRS 182 REL PLOT 002T?" Such are the things that make life down here interesting. This country has a beauty and charm all its own, but it certainly has the most atrocious weather I have ever experienced to make up for it! There is a quaint and romantic history and tradition in this place, we can see it in the faces and hear it in the conversations of its inhabitants. They are for the most part fishermen or lumbermen and even though they are now middle-aged and past their prime, the stamp of outdoor life and the vigor of nature is in their talk and in their carriage. The stamp of a hard life in on their faces and hands too, never have I seen such character in hands as I have observed down here - particularly amongst the women. You can read there the whole story of their lives, the back-breaking toil, the tragedy of unremitting work with but few of the rewards we have come to expect from life. I sometimes wonder when I contrast our way of present life with the hardship and toil these people have known - whether we are perhaps growing soft, and then I remember our years on the farm and I am comforted to think that my people have known the hardship and bitterness of unremitting toil too and therefore, have earned whatever comforts they may enjoy now. But this is a cruel, harsh land and privation is sore upon it! The industries have closed because of American competition or because of lack of shipping with which to export their goods. And what good are ships without markets? For these people make furniture, doors, pit-props and a few other rough lumber goods, and also ship's timbers. There are no markets now for these things and so there are no longer industries, nor are there young men! Both the war and the lack of work has driven them away. This is a country of girls. I have never seen so many of them, and they are simply man-crazy! There is one town north of here - Bathurst, where some of the boys go and they have told me funny stories of the girls up there. It seems there are only nine boys in the whole town of nearly 2000 people and so when our boys go up there with their 48ers, they are simply mobbed the minute they step off the train! It is nearly the same downtown here except that each girl has her steady boyfriend from the port - steady that is for 20 weeks when he graduates - goes away and the girls start charming the new class just moved in. Recently we had a bit of excitement, three ships came in to port all at once, a most unusual occurrence. My friend (whose charming daughters I have already told you about) who is the harbour master here, naturally had to show every courtesy to every captain and all their officers. Unfortunately, two crews were mainly Scandinavian (Norwegians, Swedes, Danes and Icelanders) while the other was Greek, and they had hardly a word of English between them. And the girls - as I have said before, are remarkably attractive and charming. So you can imagine what a time they had for a week! I was down there several times during that hectic week and many an amusing story I could tell - except that is rather embarrassing to Margaret, the youngest and prettiest of the three sisters. I guess I must have rescued her at least 4 times from rather delicate situations.

Many thanks for your thoughts about Mary, Mom. I have honestly tried with every word I know to make Mary see how I felt about these parties without actually offending her, but it is so hard to talk frankly to anyone on paper without hurting them, especially if you feel as strongly as I do about the subject of controversy. I do so wish I could see her and talk to her the way we used to do. We were so close together once - it seems so long ago now, though it is only a year ago. It seemed we were more like brother and sister before I came to love her as passionately as I do now, we talked for hours on many of the problems that beset us both. We both loved the same things, responded to the same impulses, knew what the other was thinking without the crude necessity of speech. We could sit for hours and never say a word yet never lose contact with each other - for somehow, we knew what the other was thinking, or feeling. But it is so hard to retain that feeling when we are so far apart and have only letters to keep us in contact. I try so hard to put concrete words on paper and it looks slightly ridiculous - even self-conscious there. So that is why I may be only imagining these things, maybe she too cannot put her feelings in writing for as she said in her last letter "Please don't think me an awful soaker because all I write about is parties. They are really not as bad as they sound and after all, I do like to write about the good times I have had and not all the bad times I go through, though ‘God knows' there are enough of them." So perhaps it is not too bad after all. I guess four years of strain, darkness and danger are beginning to tell, and who can blame them of it? Certainly I - who was there for 31/2 years of it, cannot. I was glad to get out of there, but will be infinitely gladder to get back again. That may sound strange and may hurt you a little Mom, but I can't help it if that's the way I feel. It's not that I love you and Dad less, but that I love England and Mary more. You both have a place that no one or nothing can displace. I have grown to realize only lately how much I love my parents, before, I suppose they were taken more or less for granted as things that always were and always would be there to fall back on in times of trouble or emergency. But now I find they are also there to love as well as to give help when it is needed, and it has been a great discovery.

I have been in hospital the last two days with flu. Everyone in camp seems to have it, some worse than others. I went up on my flip the other day and when I came down - I couldn't get my ears clear, so the MO. thought I had better come in for a few days. It has been glorious to be able to sleep all I can. In fact, I have been asleep nearly 30 out of 48 hours. I expect to get out of here today and back to work again. I expect to be about two weeks behind in my flying though, and that is a tremendous burden to catch up. Well, I suppose that's all for now.

Love to all as always,

Jim



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