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Creston Valley Goes to War

Skills From Home


A diagram of a Victory Garden. Ads like these appeared in newspapers across the country.

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A 1942 Army recruitment ad emphasizing the need for skilled tradesmen

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Otto Rollag, Wynndel

Many organisations encouraged people to use the skills they already had to support the war effort. The ladies of the Red Cross, for example, were determined to knit and sew their way to victory. Planting Victory gardens, canning food at home, mending and making-do: these were all skills that everyone in Creston had and making full use of them was, according to everything from messages from government to ads from local stores, absolutely essential to defeating Hitler and winning the war.

There were many, many reasons why local people joined the armed forces. Patriotism. Adventure. The desire to defend their country against Hitler and Nazism. A chance to earn a living after enduring ten years of the Great Depression. Economic reasons certainly helped motivate Jim Edwards, who, in 1940, walked from his home in Arrow Creek to the recruiting station at the Erickson train station to enlist because he needed a new pair of boots – presumably, given the economic situation, enlisting was the only way he could get them.

Military recruiters capitalised on these motives. Recruiting ads routinely published the rates of pay and especially highlighted the extra pay available for those with practical skills. Indeed, several ads specifically recruited skilled tradesmen for various services. Otto Rollag of Wynndel was called up as part of the army’s need for skilled mechanics, but got a deferral when the residents of Wynndel petitioned to have him exempted because he was the community’s only mechanic (he did eventually join up, when he received his second call). The Forestry Corps actively sought those with lumbering and forestry experience. At enlistment stations, recruiters often directed young men and women to the branch of the service, or particular section, according to the skills they had – or the skills the military needed at that time. Roy Gilmore, for example, wound up in the Army’s transport division because, when he enlisted in 1940, that’s the only one that had any vacancies.

Meanwhile, organisations were being established throughout the Creston Valley to help young men and women gain the skills the military needed, the Creston Cadet corps and the Voluntary Auxiliary Drivers’ Corps among them. And, beyond, the Commonwealth Air Training Program trained hundreds and thousands of young men and women for service in all aspects of the war in the air.