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The Home Front - Clanwilliam Manitoba​​
​During World War II, hundreds of home-front groups were formed to provide aid and comfort to those who were in the armed forces or were refugees in foreign countries. Many groups were local volunteer groups for larger organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion and the Canadian Red Cross, The organizations provided guidelines and goals in how each of the small committees could help. With men away from the community in the army, navy or airi force, their numbers were considerably less than the female population in each community. As such, women did the lion’s share of work in groups raising funds and making clothing items and providing a much needed boost to morale in their communities where all were concerned about the welfare of others fighting in far off places. For the woman, the work provided plenty of positive social contact and something to take their minds off of the woes of the world.

The Legion became a valuable resource for returning veterans by offering good advice and information of their options back in civilian life, especially by helping them access government readjustemnt programs.

Our dedicated Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum volunteer Judith Grierson – Treasurer and Adjutant – brought to the museum her copy of the Centennial History of the Rural Municipality of Clanwilliam and Village of Erickson, produced in 1984 as a book thoroughly outlining all things historical happening in that place in its hundred years. Volunteers scoured the municipality for family histories, photo albums, institutional records, newspaper articles etc. to be collated into this book for the edification of residents. Of particular interest to us were the entries relating to home front activities of World War II. We have taken excerpts from the book explaining how local organizations were created and undertook making the world a better place during World War II, It is an amazing example of what this tiny municipality (population 1631 in 1941) achieved for the war effort. The Rural Municipality and Village of Erickson within in borders is about 50 miles north of Brandon Manitoba. This story is even more incredible when one thinks to multiply the results of this place, many times to represent the efforts of every other village, town and rural area across Canaada – that’s a lot of socks and quilts.

We provide to you, a summary of the reported activities in the Battle of the Canadian Home Front as it occurred in Clanwilliam during World War II in addition to supplying 205 men and women to the Canadian Armed Forces of which 20 became casualties.

History by Jocelyne Steele
The Canadian Legion Erickson Branch of the British Empire Service League, was formed in 1939, and received their Charter on June 29th of that year... Membership fees were $2.00 then and per capita tax was .45¢. On Friday October 27th the first joint meeting with the Ladies Auxiliary was held, with the ladies providing lunch… Donations were made to the Red Cross to buy blankets, and to an ambulance fund, also to the local restroom.

On November 11th, 1940, members of the Legion of the Erickson district held their first church parade to the Lutheran church. Visitors were present from Crawford Park, Wasagaming, Onanole, Sandy Lake, Rackham, Hilltop, Scandinavia, Clanwilliam, Rapid City and Minnedosa. About one hundred persons, Legion members and their wives marched in body from the hall to the church, where Rev. Richard Odelberg took charge of the service. During the war years. barn dances, teas, picnics etc. were held to supply money to buy articles for boxes for the boys overseas, ably assisted by the Ladies Auxiliary.

In 1941, a Remembrance Day Service was held by Rev. Thomas Payne. Christmas parcels were sent to service men. The rent paid for dances held in Scandia Hall was $6.00.

The first correspondence in regard to rehabilitation of returned men was received in 1942. The first appeals for help for ex-servicemen came from Comrades Allen Roy Sigurdson and Archie Canada. A motion was made that any members who owned a Legion badge and cap and not wearing them at meetings would be fined .05¢, the money to be used to buy cigarettes for the boys overseas

In 1943, Lloyd Hemmingson joined the branch, the first veteran of World War 2 to do so. Pilot Officer Fred Wickstrom, Pte. Mike Kozak, Pte. W.E. O'Brien, and Sgt. 0. Haralson were reported killed in action.

In 1944 some veterans were coming home and the Legion helped them get re-established in civilian life. In 1944, seventeen new members joined the Legion.

On August 14, 1945, citizens of Erickson and District turned out in masses to the "Welcome Home" social held in the community hall in honor of fifty local servicemen recently returned to the district. Mr. E. L. Johnson, President of the Erickson Rehabilitation Committee assisted by Mrs. R.J. McKenzie and Mrs. Val Bizco presented each of the guests of honor with a small token of appreciation from the community. The "Welcome Home" address was delivered by Dr. E.J. Rutledge, MLA (Member of Manitoba Legislative Assembly). Since the social fell on V.J. Day, a monster bonfire was built on the street close to the hall and following lunch the party gathered around the blazing fire. The evening concluded with a dance with music provided by Mutter's Melody Makers.

On October 14, 1945, guests of honor at Erickson's Second Welcome Home, 41 veterans met in the Lutheran Church, where they were presented with monogrammed wallets and welcome home certificates. Addresses were heard from Dr. Rutledge and Rev. C. Sevig. Again on December 26, 1945, a welcome home in the form of a whist drive and dance was held for 50 more returned personnel who received wallets and certificates. R.J. McKenzie gave the address of welcome and made the presentations assisted by Mrs. Val Bizco and Mrs. L.

In 1946 the members started discussing the building of a Legion Hall. It was decided to get a permit from Riding Mountain National Park to take out 12,000 feet of lumber, at a cost of $15,000 per 1,000 feet. This was done but the lumber was later sold to members W.T. Turner, J. Cutter (J.C. Farm Machine) and to the Elphinstone Legion… A decision was made to look into buying the Hostel from the Park, at a cost of $300.00. The hostel was officially opened June 15th, 1943, and for three summers it was used by service men and women from many Allied countries. Legion and Auxiliary members from Crawford Park, Onanole and Erickson were hosts and hostesses there. The main part of the building was moved on to the property on Main Street, purchased by the Branch. Mrs. O'Neill of Onanole bought one wing and Mr. Doan the other. Comrades W. Miller and P. Vaughan loaned the Branch the money to buy the building, the cheque was sent to War Services March 22nd, and the loan was paid back in 1947. The building was moved by Gordon Hedges, men who worked on getting it ready for use included H. Frederickson, E. Eblin, Gust Bergstrom, O. Olson, Chris Olson, Roy Johnson, who hauled sand and gravel and Jack Hicks who did the wiring. The Ladies Auxiliary gave $ 100.00 toward the expenses. The official opening was held June 17, 1947.

The men served lunch for the Ladies one evening, which has been continued each year since, at the February meeting.

In 1975, the 50th anniversary of the Legion, twenty five hundred tulips were ordered from Holland, the branch gave some to Parkland Home, members and people in the area bought the rest. All First World War members were given Life Memberships,.. A gift of tulips was received from the people of Holland to those veterans who took part in the liberation of their country…

The Erickson Branch No. 143 of the Royal Canadian Legion has a proud record in service to their comrades who need help and to the community...

The support received from the people of Erickson and the surrounding area, in all their endeavors has been the secret of their success. And, as with all Legion branches, they give a great deal of credit to their Ladies Auxiliary. It is hoped all their friends and supporters will soon be helping them celebrate the burning of the mortgage.

by Harriet Hodges
Mrs. William Taylor arranged a meeting to be held in the Municipal Hall in Erickson, the purpose, to organize an Auxiliary to the Erickson Branch of the Legion, on Friday October 27, 1939. The meeting was a success, and on December 11, 1939, they were granted a Charter. The Charter members were:… The meetings were held in the Municipal Hall, and they decided to hold them on Friday nights, the same as the men. The initiation was held on January 6, 1940. The per capita tax was twenty-five cents per member per year, but a few years later it was raised to ten cents per member per meeting, and had to be sent in quarterly. In 1954 they changed it, to having the per capita sent to Winnipeg annually. This amounted to dues being $1.20 per year, an amount that was raised to two dollars a year in Erickson in 1982.

This was during the war, so the members were dedicated to working, for the services. They worked in conjunction with the Red Cross, knitting and sewing. They also wrote letters to the men overseas, and at Christmas time sent them parcels. On June 28, 1940 they voted a donation of fifty dollars to the Minnedosa Ambulance. As there were already women who had lost their husbands in the war, the Auxiliary worked to see that they got an adequate pension, to provide for their children. On January 27, 1940 they had a Birthday supper at Brekke's Restaurant… The Dime Raffle was started in December 30, 1943, the article to cost no more than 35 cents. Mrs. Amanda Holmlund brought the first article, and it was won by Mrs. Grodeski, and netted the sum of two dollars. They had many ways of raising money, such as Silver teas, Galloping teas, Diminishing teas, travelling aprons, travelling grocery baskets, selling homemade lemonade at the Legion dances, Corn roasts at Ditch Lake at which they charged fifteen cents per person and realized the sum of $5.00. They held Social evenings, and at their meetings they had a jar that everyone dropped their pennies into. The members were fined five cents, if they came to the meeting not wearing their Legion beret. The ladies donated flour sacks, that were made into quilts, and raffled. At the Social evenings and teas, Mrs. Ina Burkett would read tea cups for a small charge. On May 3, 1947, and again in 1954 the Auxiliary sponsored a bingo. During the war years the members worked at the Mobile Kitchen and Rest Unit at Riding Mountain National Park, for the Service Personnel. The first Poppy Day Tea was held on November, 1942. They sponsored dances and Masquerades in the Scandia Hall, which they rented for the sum of seven dollars a night. They served lunch at the first Memorial Service that was held on November 10, 1940. During the years of rationing, each member was allowed only one cup of coffee for lunch. That began in 1942. A Tea was held in Newpert's Tea Room. They sold hot dogs, and the sum of $ 16.90 was realized, the expenses were $3.95. They ordered twenty-four Auxiliary hats, complete with badges, at a price of $1.50 each. In January 1946 it was decided to change the meeting day, from Friday to Tuesday evening. The first Legion Hall was the Legion unit from the Riding Mountain National Park, and it was moved to Main Street in Erickson. The first meeting held in it was June 3, 1947. Deer Lodge Christmas Tree Fund began in December, 1947. Charging a silver collection for the lunch at the meeting began on June 7, 1949, money to be used for a Flower and Fruit fund… In December they adopted their first veteran in Deer Lodge Hospital, a Mr. John Morgan. He was sent gifts on his birthday, and at Christmas and the members wrote letters to him, Veterans adopted in later years were Mr. Bujarna, and Mr. H. Pridden…

April 20th, 1916
During the winter months the ladies of the Red Cross Society of Scandinavia were not idle, but had accomplished a fair amount of work. Goods had been handed out to different homes and returned completed to the President, Mrs. E. Waterton. They had been made up
by the following: Mrs. R. Naslund, Mrs. Hodgson, Mrs. E. Hemmingson, Mrs. Fletcher, Agda, Mabel and Mrs. P. Johnson, Mrs. Kalberg and Ellen. Miss Helge Hemmingson was the secretary. Fifty Christmas stockings were made up by Scandinavia, Hilltop and Danvers.

In 1917, the statement from the secretary of the Scandinavia Red Cross stated that contributions by Red Cross Aid for Christmas stockings for wounded soldiers from Hilltop was $16.40 and from Scandinavia $21.10. A Red Cross cushion social was held a Swinburn's farm residence in Danvers.

On January 24, 1924 the Minnedosa Tribune ran an article which read that a relief society had been formed here with Mrs. E . Rutledge as president and Mrs. T .E. Squire as secretary. The society would operate with a view of giving assistance to needy families in the surrounding districts. There seemed to be a great need for an organization such as this, in and around Erickson, and everyone should lend every possible assistance.

At the open meeting called by Dr. E.J. Rutledge, a branch of the Canadian Red Cross was formed at Erickson and a charter had been applied for. Erickson was chosen for the central headquarters for the R.M. of Clanwilliam and the Unorganized Territory to the north. An executive committee consisting of representatives from all organizations, the Municipal council, churches, and schools throughout the district was appointed…  Dr. E.J. Rutledge MLA was appointed chairman of the War efforts organization with L. W. Miller as secretary.,,  Line elevators were responsible for gathering scrap metal. The Units forming the Erickson and District Red Cross were Erickson, Hilltop, Scandinavia, Whirlpool, Danvers, Clear Lake, Onanole, Lund, Westmount, Nedrob, Norland, Rackham, Round Lake, Clear Lake School Division and Clear Creek School Division.

Compiled from the minutes as entered into their journal dated March 2nd,1942 to November 11,1947: The meetings were held in the Erickson Municipal Hall with one regular meeting held on the 1st Tuesday, and a quilting meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of the same month, with Mrs. R.J. McKenzie as President. The reports from the quilt convener, Refugee knitting, Refugee sewing, and Red Cross sewing conveners were given at each meeting. The lunch committee was in charge of all social events that the ladies organized, serving at teas, concerts, bonspiels and auction sales. One entry, lunches at the bonspiel - January 1 6th to the 27th, showed the grand total of $58.10. The established price for the lunch was: pie and coffee - 15¢, or sandwich and coffee - 20¢. In March, two cushions were donated and the raffled proceeds were to go to the Russian Fund. It was agreed at this meeting to buy braces to go with the little boys' trousers that had been sewn for the refugee children. Large pieces of fur were requested by the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve for making fur jackets for the sailors, no fox fur, matted fur or small pieces would be accepted. Bundles for Britain Ditty Bags for the Navy League and "V for Victory" bundles were packed.
1943 was an excellent year as reported by the Erickson and District Red Cross at their annual meeting. $2,726.44 was sent to the Red Cross Headquarters in Winnipeg, $89.50 to the Aid to Russia Fund and $ 117.90 was sent to the Navy League for Ditty Bags… Their report in 1943 showed 525 articles of hospital sewing, 340 articles of knitting, 196 pieces of refugee sewing, 77 pieces of refugee knitting, 86 quilts, 3 baby quilts and 1 blanket accounted for and sent. It was decided to serve lunch at the quilting bee, each bringing their own coffee and sugar, using their own ration coupons. It was reported that 126 lbs., 14 oz. of knitting wool was out, being knitted up into socks, mitts, scarfs, vests, gloves, etc. Mrs. Gusdal reported at the meeting that the Dream Boat quilt would soon be ready for quilting. Mrs. Newman Hall, having made the quilt top, expressed a wish to have it quilted at her home. It was noted in the minutes that lunch slips were sent out to all for teas, etc. rather than phoning, which would indicate that there were very few phones in the area. It was also brought to the attention of the members that a very good blanket could be purchased for $2.75 for refugee relief. Lunch was served at John Carlson's Sale on October 5 , 1943 and the net proceeds were $25.08.

At this point in time, the Dream Boat quilt was completed. A convener was appointed, being responsible for making and distributing tickets for the raffle, to take place at Hillstrand's building. The ladies planned an exciting afternoon of filling Ditty Bags for the Navy League and serving tea. However, this grand event had to be cancelled having met with difficulty in securing workers. So it seemed that the Dream Boat quilt had to be raffled at another date, set for November 6th, 1943.

At the opening of the meeting in November a special hymn was sung in memory of the late Mrs. H. Miller who had been a faithful worker through the years of World War I , the depression years, when the relief society was active and her later years during World War II. Miss Broadfoot, the public health nurse for this area, attended the meeting, approaching the members about having a "brush up" course in health The matter was talked about, material on the subject sent for, but it was not mentioned or brought up again at any meeting.

In 1944, the secretary recorded that they received an appeal for help for Greek relief, for used clothes of all kinds, and need in England for small mats for children to sit on, stuffed toys and toys of any kind, stockings and combs. That summer a motion was made and carried that lunches be served at the Hillstrand building every Saturday night, eight women to work in each group. It is interesting to note that the work of the Women's War Workers didn't close down for the summer months during the war, as was the common practice at the time of compiling this report. It seems that the months of July and August were busy months with the unending meetings, teas, quiltings, sewing, knitting, packing boxes and bales for overseas. There was never an idle moment for these ambitious women. A letter received from Red Cross headquarters stressed an urgent need for more knitted and sewn articles and appealed to every woman to do more in the corning year. The following list from the 1944 Annual report of articles completed and shipped were: 89 quilts, 11 baby quilts, 246 articles for armed forces, 57 articles for civilian relief, and 205 sewn articles. The last event for the year had the ladies serving lunch in the basement of the Scandia Hall on the Poultry Pool packing day with net proceeds of $16.27.

In 1945, the journal records that the ladies agreed to serve at the curling rink during the winter season. The prices for the lunches had been set of 20¢, but as the minutes state, if a smaller lunch was served 15¢ could be charged. The sewing convener reported that pajamas and comfort bags were on hand. A letter from Fairfield woolen mills stated that blankets could now be made for the sum of $2.25 and $2.75. The Municipal Council interviewed the group about using the Municipal Hall for teas during the summer and permission was granted. It was suggested that an opening should be cut through the partition to the kitchen. It was decided at this time that the storeroom needed cleaning up on May 8th at 2 p.m. and five ladies volunteered to do this mountainous job. You must remember that all the Red Cross articles were brought to this station from all the outlying areas. New articles that had been sewn and knit, quilts that had been made, used clothes for refugee relief would come in by the box full and these things had to be sorted, checked for buttons and seams and new articles had to have the Canadian Red Cross label. Needless to say the cleaning ladies had a busy day. In December, two letters were received and read from grateful people in England who had been given quilts made by our group. Can there be any greater reward than a "Thank You" to these fine women who worked so faithfully for the War effort? A Christmas Party for the war veterans was organized for December 28th in the form of a whist drive and dance, lunch being two sandwiches, one mince tart and cookie - 20¢.

In January of 1946, Mrs. N. Hall resigned as quilt convener, and her resignation was accepted with regret. In the recorded minutes, she had held the position of quilt convener from 1942-1946. A total of 297 quilts had been completed and sent away under her able supervision. A letter from Mrs. R. Smith was read expressing thanks for the work done and announced the closing of the books of the Women's War Workers Committee. She also told of the New Women's Work Committee which was being organized to carry on much of the same work
for the Red Cross. All members were in favor of continuing the Red Cross work after summer recess. In October, the ladies held their first meeting after the recess.

In September of the following year, 1947, it was agreed that the meetings be discontinued and any utensils, etc. belonging to the society be disposed of at the Annual meeting. In November it was decided to bring to the W.I. and the Legion Auxiliary the need for continuing Red Cross work. In compiling this report only a few names are mentioned but there were many faithful women who gave their time and energy. The ladies who are still with us remember the ones that have moved to new homes and those who have passed away.

by Agnes Silven
The Hilltop Women's Club was originally formed as Hilltop Red Cross Subdivision of Erickson Red Cross. The first meeting was held October 23, 1940, in the basement of the Hilltop Baptist Church with 19 ladies present. This club was formed at the request of Dr. Rutledge to get a few ladies together to work for the Red Cross… The club was formed to do knitting, sewing and quilting for the boys overseas and refugees. It was decided to meet monthly at members' homes, charging twenty cents for lunch. Fund-raising events were pie and box socials, amateur hours, raffles and plays, admission: adults fifteen cents, children five cents.

At the July 2, 1941, meeting it was decided to change the name of the club to Hilltop and Lund Subdivision. Mrs. Emmy Eden recalls Mrs. Gus Lundman, as President, ringing a turkey bell when the ladies strayed from the business at hand, bringing them back to order. After the war the club was renamed Hilltop Women's Club. They continued raising money and supporting different community projects and charity funds. Over the years most women who lived in the community were members. As some ladies dropped out, new ones joined, and some have remained throughout the years. All the other people in the community, members or not, supported their efforts

by Mrs. Wendell Johnston
In January of 1943, the women of the Westmount School District called a meeting to organize a group that could work more effectively in assisting the Red Cross… Memberships numbered seventeen and included practically all the women in the district. Quilts were made at the monthly meetings and in addition, much sewing and knitting was done at home for the boys in service at home and overseas. Parcels were packed for the local boys in service and these proved to be a very pleasant reminder of the folks back home. Socials in the form of card parties and dances were held regularly and along with bake sales and bazaars, $552 was sent to Red Cross headquarters between the years 1943-1945.

In addition to the Red Cross Group at Westmount, there was a group of men and women working together for the sole purpose of purchasing a piano for the school. They too, organized in January 1943,.. A deal was made with the Winnipeg Piano Co. Ltd. for a secondhand Bell piano valued at $82.50. Whist drives, card parties, box and tie socials were held at the school, and a thorough canvass was made of the District to raise money. Finally after making payments in March, May and December of 1943, and a final payment in February 1944, the piano was paid for. The Club disbanded, the piano stayed in the school until it closed and then the Westmount Women's Group was given authority to put it up for tender. After the war ended, the need for Red Cross work was less urgent and the group decided to reorganize calling themselves "The Westmount Women's Community Circle.