Nanaimo, June 3, 1916.
My Dear Mother:-
I generally do my writing in my roomy and my well-aired office up at the school, but tonight I find myself in here where conditions are not quite so conducive to a flowing pen. Since the coming of warm weather I have spent but little time in this room. It is more of a winter place than a summer one and I prefer the school for work and the tennis court for recreation.
In your last letter which easily came up to your average for interest, you were able to pronounce conditions as quite healthful and promising. The boys were agreeably busy and expected to be. I was glad to hear that both for the regular reason and for another one which is the main object of this letter. Since I left college I fell out of the habit of writing you very often; indeed most of my letters home from this island have been upon money matters and perhaps ‘twas just as well as things must be now for some time.
I am almost sure that you have anticipated for some months now what I am to make certain here; viz. that sooner or later duty and necessity would call upon me to drop out of my position for a time in order to get into a uniform along with better men who have already done so. Your account of the visit of the recruiting officers together with several other influences directed at me about the same time made me sure at last that I am the logical one of the family to represent them with the colors. I have passed the age when such an enterprise has any fascinations for me. In fact the thought of the drudgery, discipline and routine of the soldier’s camp life fills me with loathing. I anticipate nothing pleasant in the whole undertaking so am not bargaining for disappointments. On the other hand I may be agreeably surprised in some respects. To maintain my self-respect and that of my family, to accept my share of responsibility as a Canadian in the present time of stress, in short to retain my manhood I must go. One cannot be criticized, however, for choosing the most congenial body of men with whom to live and fraternize for perhaps years and at least months, so I have enlisted with the British Columbia Company of the Western Universities Overseas Battalion – 196th is its designating number. A great many of Howard’s fellow students will be in the ranks as well as teachers as old and older than myself. Some of the tip-top men in the profession are privates in that Company.
I have just returned from Vancouver where although it was a holiday, I was able to be examined and attested. Judging from recent reports from men who failed to “pass the doctor” I had some fear that my hollow chest, varicose veins, slender legs and flat feet might count against me, but it is some satisfaction to have been pronounced “fit” after being stripped and gone over fairly closely. I did not tell him about my weak kidneys nor the muscular rheumatism which as you know has often proved a weakness. The training and dieting that I’ll receive ought to be proof against trouble from either source.
My next problem is to get away from here before the end of the term for the Company expect to leave Vancouver right away in order to amalgamate with the other three Companies of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta at some training camp either in Manitoba or farther east, perhaps at Niagara in Ontario or at Pettawawa Quebec. If I cannot get away before June 30th I’ll have to follow the Company alone or with a few others in the same predicament, which Major Brock was careful to point out to-day would be a decided disadvantage.
I have every reason to expect that the School Board here will grant me leave of absence during the remainder of the war and give me back my position upon my return, but to get away from my Entrance Class now at this stage of the work is another consideration.
The arrangement that would best suit me would be that of obtaining permission from the Department to let Birch take the principalship again while I am absent. He could continue my work and there would be no loss from changing methods and reorganization. That matter is not in my hands, however, and I can only suggest it.
Before reporting for orders whether at the end of the month or before I hope to pack up all my belongings and take them home to remain in your care while I am a soldier. My time there will be very short and perhaps the shorter the better. As I started to say at the beginning of this letter and got switched off, it was perhaps providential that you have seen little of me during the last seven years – I’ll naturally be missed less than any of us boys would be. At the same time you’ll all be able to hold your heads a trifle higher knowing that our family like all families worthy of the name are represented in the army. Someone had to go. We expect to live in this country in the future and I’m sure that privilege is worth fighting for.
Lastly there is a word to say re business arrangements. I could not have joined any sooner than I have without deranging my expenditure of income. As it is I am depending on my July salary to afford me a little extra money for meals while in England where the boys complain of “Poor Eats”. I have three months salary coming, three dollars in my purse and one dollar in the Bank. Against that there is a note of $110 to be met, a dentist’s bill of $40 and a month’s living. The thing that is bothering me most is the obvious necessity of dropping Alice altogether. I had hoped to get a few month’s salary ahead in order to provide for her maintenance at Normal next year. But do not worry, the boys may have to raise money for her now and again but I have advanced about $20 to Howard and am writing asking him to pay it over in that way. In case his success does not continue as commenced he’ll be responsible anyway to the above extent and can re-imburse the boys as soon as fortune favors him.
When home I’ll will that property over to you in case I should prefer to remain in Europe; the insurance also is receiving my attention. Hoping that you’ll be able to take the necessary attitude under the circumstances and hoping to see you all soon.
I remain as ever,