Jean and Irving Kaine, my maternal grandparents moved with their two daughters Doris and Helen to Dunnville, Ontario from Grimsby just before the outbreak of the Second World War. These quiet rural towns were located on the Niagara Peninsula about an hour and a half west of Toronto however life in this bucolic area was to undergo a drastic change during the war. There were a couple of ways in which the Kaine family became involved in the war effort even though they were far from the action overseas. Irving was the minister at Knox Presbyterian Church and in that role supported the servicemen at the soon to be established Service Flying Training School (SFTS) that was used to train fighter pilots. Starting in late spring of 1940, working farmland near Dunnville was turned into an active airfield that was to become the site of five hangars, three double runways, 50 huts, a drill hall, a canteen, a fire hall, and other buildings. The site was chosen because it was not near controlled air space and was close to the open water of Lake Erie. This was one of 19 SFTS in Canada run by the RCAF as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). The No. 6 SFTS was the first Service Flying Training School to be built especially to train Air Force pilots. A total of 2,436 pilots from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States earned their wings here between February 1941 and November 1944. What an exciting time it must have been for this small town of about 4,000 people to host an air force base and all the folks that came with it.
My aunt Helen recalls being regularly enlisted to throw rice at the hastily arranged weddings that her father, Reverend Kaine, conducted before the servicemen were posted overseas. In a recent conversation with my closest childhood friend Carrie Drake, I discovered that her mother, Ysobel Carter was posted to the base at Dunnville during the war. While Ysobel did not marry her service man Arthur Vernon Drake during her time in Dunnville and meet Irving at a wedding ceremony, Carrie told me that the churches in local communities often hosted social evenings and other events for the enlisted folks so perhaps the paths of our families crossed years before we grew up across the street from each other in Windsor, Ontario.
Another way that the Kaine family contributed to the war effort was their hosting of a “war guest”, Margaret Burrell from Darlington, England. War guests were British children sent away from the major cities to keep them safe from the bombs.They were sent to the English countryside, Canada, the U.S. and Australia to live with host families. Margaret was 5 years older than Doris and Helen so was probably a role model for them and of some assistance to my grandmother, Jean, in her busy occupation as a minister’s wife. Margaret and the family maintained a lifelong connection after she returned to England with regular letters and cards being exchanged. Jean and Irving visited Margaret and her husband when they took a trip to the United Kingdom in 1952.
This patriotic service of hosting a war guest for Britain may have been what sparked Jean’s real affection for the monarchy, in particular for the Queen Mother. In addition, she may have felt a sense of kinship with the Queen Mother as they both had daughters of similar ages. I was very touched when I came across a response to a letter Jean had written when I went to London, England to work in social work in the late 1970’s. I admire the confidence that my grandmother had to write the letter and the generosity of the Lady in Waiting to the Queen Mother to respond. I am grateful that in addition to a love of fine china, I inherited Jean’s desire to make and nurture connections with others.