Sid trudges through the falling snow to the tilted outhouse behind his home. The water for his house is still frozen and he has come to rely on the trusty 30-plus year old outhouse. He gets a kick out of using it because the old wooden outhouse is slowly sinking into the ground.
“Someone should take a picture of me trying to get in this thing,” Sid says jokingly.
Sid reflects on the worldwide pandemic that is COVID-19 and our current reality. He said the only other time in his life when he felt stuck was during the War. As many of our readers know by now, Sid survived World War II as a child in the northern territory of the Netherlands.
“I have something to show you,” Sid explains to me one morning after he returns from his saunter to the outhouse. “It’s an old scrapbook by a nurse from the Second World War. She has pictures in here from the First War too, maybe she served in both.”
Sid brings out a massive red coloured scrapbook. He sets it down on the coffee table and I’m able to flip through it. “There’s letters in there and her nursing certificates,” he says. I turn the pages until I come across numerous letters and the nursing certificates of Katharine (Kathleen) Ferris. The scrapbook is filled to the edges with photos of family members, nursing stations, and newspaper clippings of both world wars. “This scrap book is a good source of what happened during the War.”
Because the scrapbook is old and falling apart at the seams, Sid finds an envelope and passes it to me. “Take this with you and see what you can make of it,” he instructs while handing me the envelop. After much straining of the eyes, I was able to make out a letter addressed to Katharine from her father G.S. Ferris, an insurance broker and real estate agent living in Nanton, Alberta in 1940. In one passage he writes: “Bobby Hunt, is now 21, and from his pictures is just Ernie over again. He is in the Air Force and has his wings: he had a good start as he had a course in the R.M.C. at Kingston before the war started and a year’s training with the Transcontinental Air Force. So all he had to do was stay and get his wings. He is doing very well and will be going over soon.”
“I wonder who she was,” Sid says, learning more about the letter and the notes she has written in the scrapbook. Katharine was a graduate from the St. John Ambulance Association and received a special certificate in completing a “Lectures in Air Raid” from the St. John Ambulance Brigade in July of 1940. It appears from the story she tells in her scrapbook that she served in World War II as a registered nurse.
“Maybe one day we can find out more. They [nurses] were on the front lines back then and now,” reflects Sid.