Off to War… and Home Again!

My grandmother (Bubby) worried all through World War Two, while several of her children and their spouses served in the armed forces. I think it’s fitting this year – the 70th anniversary of that terrible war’s end – to pay tribute to them, my brave aunt and uncles.

Edie in uniform
My mom’s youngest sister, my Aunt Edie, proudly poses in her uniform, after joining the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

Edie’s mother (my Bubby) was, let’s say, less than pleased after she enlisted in 1942. Edie was always the headstrong one; she joined up as soon as she was old enough, just – the way I heard it – coming home one day and announcing, “Hey Ma, guess what…”

(She also managed to meet, fall in love with, and marry an American soldier who was not Jewish… another difficult pill for my traditional grandmother to swallow. But as things turned out, it wasn’t long before she fell in love with him too – Leonard “Mac” McKinley. Eventually Mac and Edie had three kids.)

By enlisting, maybe Edie was inspired by her (slightly) older brother, my Uncle Mel. Here he is, cutting a dashing figure next to his car in 1942.

mel next to car 1942
Mel, soon off to battle in the Air Force. I love the jaunty angle of his cap.

Actually, I’m just assuming that’s his car – he’s practically leaning on it! Mel was a bombardier; many years later, he never wanted to talk about it when I – his curious niece – asked him about his experiences.

Here is another of my mother’s sisters, Gertie, alongside her husband Jack in his navy uniform in 1943.

Gert + Jack in Navy uniform
Notice the cigarette in Jack’s hand; so many servicemen smoked. A sign of the times, a sign of stress…

Jack was an American. After the war they raised their brood of four on Long Island and later in Florida.

Finally, in 1945, all of my forbears made it back from the war. Here are some happy photos of their homecoming.

Eventually, together with Mel’s five kids, my three uncles and aunts with their respective spouses brought a total of 12 children into the world. I am so very grateful they all came back in good health, and gave me 12 cousins to boot!

20 thoughts on “Off to War… and Home Again!

  1. Thanks Ellie, I think the war was difficult for my dad in many ways. He met the Landis in England, Ralph and Phyllis. I like to pretend I was named after her although I was named after some Uncle I know absolutely nothing about.

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  2. Funny, I obviously read this last year. Did I not notice, or decide not to comment, on the fact that technically, my father “Mac” McKinley was indeed Jewish. the relationship may have been saved by the fact that Dad’s mother’s family were German Jews. I have Jewish 2nd cousins on that side of the family. And they both remained friends with the Landes family for decades. I even met Phyllis when I went to England with my folks.

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      1. I am not sure why she mentioned them. I did in response to that. I guess Mel and Edie both got to know them during the war. Unless they already DID know them, or they were relatives somehow (they were Jewish as well). although, if so, I might expect to remember knowing that. i’m not sure which spelling is correct.


  3. The Landis family, I always thought it was spelt with an “i”, but I could be wrong. Used to invite Canadian Jewish service men and I guess women to their home. I think especially on Jewish holidays. Their friendship really meant a lot to my dad.
    They came to visit us at least once in Canada.

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