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Iris Johnstone

This story is submitted by Elaine Stoesz, an Area Counsellor in Saskatoon. It is from Iris Johnstone of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan.

"I – Iris Thornton, married Clifford Johnstone in April 1943. I lived in Alberta, was 17 years old and had never been far from the farm. Clifford was in the Navy and was stationed at Cornwallis Naval Base in Nova Scotia. His leave was up so he went back to find us a place to live. I followed in June by train.

I had no knowledge of indoor bathrooms, as ours was "the little shack out back". When I went to the bathroom on the train I could not find the toilet. There were sinks lined up along the wall and a full length mirror but no toilet. I was about to give up when some other lady came in, walked up to the mirror, turned a latch, pulled it open and there it was.

I finally reached the East Coast at Saint John, New Brunswick, and had to cross the Bay of Fundy to Digby, Nova Scotia. I have a problem with motion sickness, and the Princess Helene, as the ship was named, did not look too appealing to me.

On board ship, we were all lined up and given a talk, reminding us we were sailing under wartime conditions. We had to wear life-jackets and were given a number so we could locate the right life boat station if necessary. I was scared silly. We were soon moving, escorted by two planes. The wind was blowing a hurricane, the ship rolled from side to side, the luggage was sliding back and forth across the deck. I don't think I have ever been so sea sick.

I was told later that the Bay of Fundy was the second roughest water in the world, they did not have to prove it to me.

We lived in one room of a two-storey house. Every bedroom was rented out to Servicemen and there we cooked, ate, and slept, and shared the bathroom down the hall with four other couples.

I was alone most of the time as Clifford was out to sea a week or 10 days at a time, then home for three or four days. During one of these times, they had a practice air raid but being a greenhorn, I thought it was the real thing. Sirens screamed, the landlady came pounding on all the doors saying "Lights Out." The whole town was blacked out, while planes roared overhead. I sneaked down the stairs to the living room where most everyone was gathered, and waited for the bombs to drop – shaking in my shoes. The rest teased me, saying they did not know who was the most scared, me or the dog."

Iris (Thornton) Johnstone
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