Daily farm and house work, sports tournaments, patriotic dances and concerts, major events like the annual Blossom Festival that was established as combination fundraiser and morale-booster: these were some of the ways people in the Creston Valley could take their minds off the war. The rationing, collection drives, and endless fundraising gave them ways to help, to feel they were doing everything they could to shorten the war. But none of that could ever quite conceal the fact that everyone who stayed behind in the Creston Valley was waiting: waiting for news from the front; for a letter from a loved one on active duty; for word about someone missing in action; for soldiers to come home; for the war to end.
The waiting was invariably accompanied by anxiety. The Creston Review, even with its focus on local stories, still carried enough war news to keep the community aware of when the war was going well – and when it wasn’t. Provincial and national newspapers, readily available in Creston, filled in the gaps of the big events but could never provide the personal details that local residents desperately wanted to hear. Letters from the boys at the front were the only way of knowing whether one’s father or brother or son was all right, but letters, often delayed and always subject to censorship, could bring equal measures of relief and worry. Still, letters were never awaited with the same kind of dread as the telegrams delivered from the telegraph office at the CPR station. Those, at best, announced that someone was wounded or missing, and then the anxiety of waiting increased a thousand-fold.
Don and Mary Jackson, owners of Daylight Grocery on Canyon Street, got word in midsummer 1942 that their son, Rutherford James Jackson, was presumed dead after his bomber crashed into the North Sea following a bombing mission over Bremen, Germany. In 1943, Don Jackson wrote to the RCAF, “We still have hope that we will hear in the future that our son is safe.” His mother, Mary, never gave up that hope: for years she believed that he was not dead, but missing and suffering from amnesia, and that one day he would walk into the shop. The store remained on Canyon Street well into the 1960s, and people who remember it recall a rather shabby little shop with a faded box of Corn Flakes in the window. Perhaps Mrs. Jackson changed it as little as possible to help trigger the memory of the son she still waited for.
Waiting was often very poorly rewarded. The experiences of war changed people; the newspapers, in the years after the war, carry a number of announcements of divorce between returned soldiers and the women they’d married before going overseas. We know of one young lady who waited six long years for her fiancée to come home, only to discover he’d married a girl in England because married men were getting shipped home sooner.
And, for the friends and families of forty-two men, all the waiting and worry ended in the knowledge that their loved one was never coming home again.