53 years later in time, Gene was awakened from his sweet reveries by the raucous screaming of two bad-mouthing, blue jays in the branches of the tree under which he sat, and he looked up to see what was going on, but couldn’t make out the reason for them shrieking at one another in such a dreamy place. He stretched himself and then got to his feet to relieve his stiffened muscles and looked across the park at that house of memories and decided to walk over to take a look at the foot bridge, which had been built across the Speed River sometime during the years after the war, to unite the two parts of this beautiful, verdant preserve. Even while walking, he felt as if he was still in a semi-dream state, and his entire life with Chris had been somewhat like that; a time of delight with a constant sense of being on a singular level of happiness where the occasionally harsh, daily realities of life could be dealt with in tranquility, without having a dispiriting effect on the joie de vivre and contentment of their togetherness.
As he walked toward his rented car which was parked in front of that house, he remembered the day when he had stopped there in Uncle Ernie’s car. That day had been particularly notable, for it was VJ Day, 15th August, 1945, and Guelph, and indeed the whole of the civilized world, was celebrating the cessation of major hostilities. It seemed almost too much to comprehend at the time. Peace, world-wide peace was a fact! The future looked so bright! He had found some difficulty in getting the car back to Ernie’s lot through the joyous, celebrating crowds, and then for him and dad to get home from the garage.
After supper Herb, with Jennie and the baby had somehow got him to the CNR station for his return to Toronto to report in and to resume the process of being discharged from service. VJ Day meant that his discharge would be a date-certain, and things would now move along at an even faster pace to attain that conclusion!
He had to hang out in Toronto for a few days, being fed and sleeping in his comfortable, horse stall bunk while waiting on the slow progress of administrative paperwork, and during that time he was able to visit his Aunt Florence and Uncle Art at their home in Leaside. Florence was his mother’s older sister. Art was office manager of Silverwood’s Dairy. Florence didn’t know where her sister was residing, and because of some difficulties had not had a close relationship with her for many years. She was very sympathetic toward Gene’s dad.
Art took Gene with him to his office a couple of times and, after hearing Gene’s plans for an education, suggested he visit the University and some of the local Colleges to get acquainted with their entrance requirements and curriculum, which Gene did within the week, as time permitted.
By the 22nd of August, Gene had been given instructions on the various programs to be put in place for veterans, as proposed by the Federal Parliament, and had opted for the education program as alternative to the Veterans Land Act, which would have provided him a small land holding, with monetary assistance for building a home on the property. Whereas, the general aim of the education program was to pay for tuition expense, coupled with a small monetary benefit each month until completion of the approved curriculum. In addition, each veteran would receive a War Service Gratuity in the form of one, lump sum cheque, calculated on the basis of rank, service overseas and length of service. These benefit programs had been set up and confirmed by Parliament, but the administrative details had to be worked out, and would not be known until later in the year. Notification would be through the Department designated for handling veteran’s affairs. Meanwhile, Gene was given an unlimited pass from duty, with a projected time of discharge from service as sometime in early October, 1945. All communication would be to his home address in Guelph, although he had to report to Toronto twice each month for pay-parade, and to maintain his bunk and locker in the “Horse Palace”.
This was very good! Now he could go to Windsor, take several hundred deep breaths, and then set out for that address, where he expected to get the answers to the many fears and feelings that plagued him. Then he could find out if his yearning for acceptance by his “special” girl was to be gratified, or if his worst fears would be proven, and rejection would be his lot once more.
So, on the morning of the 23rd, Gene caught the early train to Windsor. It was an approximate 6 hour trip on the CNR, covering a distance of about 240 miles, through varying terrain. The rolling hills and beautiful farmland through Guelph to London was a sweet scene of home for him. West of London was unfamiliar territory, and he was quite surprised to see the picturesque quality of the land east of London give way to flat farmland all the way through the industrial city of Chatham and continuing right on to the Detroit River, which was north and west of Windsor.
To his amazement, the path of the railway across Kent and Essex counties was on billiard-table type flatness in topography. It was pictorial and distinctive in its own way, as it all appeared to be rich loam, relatively rock free farmland, packaged with long, straight fencing, containing large rectangles of varied color, such as the greens of market-garden crops and the gold of wheat and other grain. The beauty of it all was further adorned with the jewelry of neat, well-kept farmhouses and buildings, all garlanded with groves of trees and fence-line shrubs. The clear atmosphere was rain-washed and glistening that day, under a blue sky which was background for scudding, cotton-ball clouds. It was particularly impressive!
As the train moved into the Windsor area, it gave view to cottage subdivisions on the south shore of Lake St.Clair, and then, the pastoral town of Tecumseh, and southward near to the Detroit River, passed the great industrial works of Ford Motor Company and the Hiram Walker Distillery, and on the bank of the river into the very heart of the Windsor downtown waterfront.
It was an eye-filling and pleasurable beginning for this long envisioned quest. He felt good as he collected his luggage and got off the train, and he hoped this delightful start was a portent of even better things ahead, during this venture into an unknown future.