Archives for posts with tag: World War II

Marty is a very intelligent cat. Anyone can see that.

Sometimes real things happen that are very mysterious.  You can call it extrasensory perception (ESP), if  you like. When my mother Kathleen Kell, a very intelligent woman,  heard these family stories she just said, “I wonder,” with a faraway twinkle in her eyes. They’re from the lives of the characters in A Book of Kells and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

A Grieving Sailor in a Lucky Port

As 19-year-old Jack Kell left for war in 1916, his tearful father told him he would never see him again. Six months later, Jack got the sad news aboard ship in the English Channel, where he was manning guns and minesweeping, that his father had died. An apple tree limb he sat on broke; he lurched forward and a sharp tip pierced his lung. Kind souls consoled Jack at Portsmouth Methodist Chapel’s Christmas At Home for servicemen, where fatherly Walter Ward also invited him for tea with his wife and family.

A Nervous Mother-to-Be with Good Instincts

Pregnant Kathleen Ward Kell felt a little nervous her first Christmas in Canada in 1928. She told husband Jack she thought it would be best for their baby to be born in a hospital, not a teepee on the isolated reservation where they were missionaries. Her instincts were right. Even the trained nurse and doctor were challenged.


Only startled wild creatures saw the threesome of man, woman and guide pass by in an ingenious, unconventional fashion

It was well worth having made the 180-mile trek that startled only wild creatures as a threesome of man, woman and guide passed by in an ingenious fashion rigged up by Jack.

A Midnight Summons to Duty

One winter night in 1936 Rev. J.A.C. Kell, in a Toronto duplex doubling as a parsonage, woke with a jolt. His mother was calling — she had no phone on the farm — and summoning him. Jack woke Kathleen; they bundled the three little girls up and into their 1929 Ford. His brother Clifton had never recovered from war wounds but, this past Xmas, had got up off the sick couch to give the girls a one-horse, open sleigh ride. From afar, Jack saw the porch light on and his mother’s silhouette at the window confirming him in his worst fears. Now she had only Jack left out of her four men.

A Doomed Captain’s Last SOS

On Nov. 19, 1941, His Majesty’s Australian Ship HMAS Sydney was mutually destructively engaged with the German cruiser Kormoran and lost with all 645 crew members on board. As he went down in the South China Sea, Capt. Joe Burnett sent a mental message to his wife saying he loved her. Enid Ward Burnett got it, and then the official, tragic news. The Toronto Star knocked on Kathleen’s door to ask for her brother-in law’s picture. She sent a Xmas parcel to her bereaved sister, niece and nephews who carried on heroically.

Reader Mary Groome of Wakefield, QC writes, “Thank you so much for writing Kathleen’s Cariole Ride. I enjoyed the history and the examples of courage and love these people exhibited.”

Season’s Greetings & Happy Reading from CozyBookBasics!



A good book cover design stays on message, pleases the eye and provokes a strong emotional response.

A good book cover design stays on message, pleases the eye and provokes a strong emotional response.

While I am no expert in book cover design, as an avid reader my point-of-purchase opinion counts. This is my favorite book cover and it dresses one of the best war books I have ever read and reviewed. It is written by  a colleague in the Media Club of Ottawa who gave me the confidence to set up  a weekly community newspaper — but she has been dead since 2002. My Memorial Weekend blog honors her memory.

The cover designer has limited tools to work with but a good cover packed with emotion and information can have an awesome impact. You the author have to judge whether you’re getting your money’s worth.

Here is why I like this one so much:

Overall It Is Strong and Elegant

  • It has unity
  • Everything on the cover strikes the theme of patriotism and courage
  • The gray background sets a mood of gloom

It Is Pleasing to Look At, with Attention to Detail

  • The picture is a close-up of the author’s face
  • The picture frame shows her efforts were focused
  • The title letters are outlined with a disciplined black, showing this is no light topic

It Conveys a Message

  • The title has only three essential words
  • The plain black news font of the author’s name and the subtitle suggest it is a work of non fiction by a journalist

It has economy and space yet stirs excessive emotions.

  • The colors denote red for bravery and blue for loyalty
  • The colors of the frame are the colors of the British, American French and Canadian (except for the blue) flags
  • The flourish of the title italic script is like a woman’s skirt in the forties.

The back cover reads:
“There have been many memoirs of World War II, but none as remarkable as One Woman’s War Remarkable because, unlike other war memoirs, it is written by a woman — and a marvellously engaging and courageous woman at that. Remarkable, too, because it is a story not of military campaigns and grand strategy, but of the joys and sorrows of life on a civilian battlefield — the battlefield of the French resistance. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Gladys Arnold was sent to Paris by Canadian Press in October 1939, and was the only Canadian reporter to experience the sudden traumatic invasion of France by the Germans in the spring of 1940. Fleeing Paris only days before it was occupied by the Nazis, Arnold returned to Canada passionately committed to the cause of the Free French — a cause which from 1941 on she tirelessly promoted as information officer with the Free French office in Ottawa. One Woman’s War is Gladys Arnold’s vivid, eyewitness account of the fall of France and the growth of the Free French resistance. She was one of the first journalists to interview General Charles de Gaulle, and she brings to life many of the memorable people, French and Canadian, who fought in the underground war. One Woman’s War is a moving, unforgettable portrait of the Free French movement and of an extraordinary era in human history. Elegantly written and emotionally powerful, it evocatively captures the drama, excitement and tragedy of the war years, an era that resonates with the pain and heroism of an entire generation.”  Published by James Lorimer & Company in 1987; republished as an e-book in 2011.

Here is the review I recently posted on Goodreads “Gladys Arnold was a friend of mine in the Media Club of Ottawa.  If you would like to meet an elegant, intelligent, warm single woman who ventured abroad as a reporter for the Canadian Press in world war II, fought for the Free French and was given a French Legion of Honor Award, then read this book. I gave it as a birthday present to my husband soon after she wrote it in 1987 and we both loved it. The original book cover design is my favorite of all time.”

One Woman’s War is on sale in the gift shop of the Canadian War Museum and on Amazon.

Thank you for spending some of your precious time reading this post. Please browse around from tip to toe and, if you like, write some comments.

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A 1939 Canada Grade One/Two Lesson in Gas Chambers Being Bilingual

First Day at School in Toronto, Canada 1939

On Sunday, September 3, 1939 Germany defied a British ultimatum to withdraw its troops from Poland and World War II broke out

Next morning Father sat glued to the radio at our breakfast table in Toronto and solemnly told us, “This is the darkest day in the history of the British Empire.” Outside the window the sun shone brightly, daring to differ.

I danced, not walked, with my sisters up the quarter-mile cinder path along Dufferin Street to Briar Hill Public School for my first day of school on Tuesday, September 5.

Grade One teacher Jeannie McDowell had shoulder-length, loose,  wavy black hair and was a little preoccupied, plump and lopsided. She wore a black sweater coat and brightly flowered dress with a white background. She was colorful and dramatic compared to the housewife mothers I knew.

At first I was seated near the front which was particularly good on the day we had a substitute teacher. She was wearing an egg in her bosom to see if it would hatch and that kept our attention.

We did our sums with a choice of two colors from the crayon box. My favorite combination was purple and green, although some days I was in the mood for yellow and orange, or red and blue.

Miss McDowell loved to have us do art but always insisted we draw a black frame around our creations, as if they were important and permanent.

She didn’t read stories to us; we stood in a line at the front and took turns reading out loud ourselves.

One day she turned solemn, like Father, and told us Jews were being gassed to death in Nazi concentration camps, their bodies burned and turned into soap. I knew from her eyes she was telling the truth and trusting us the way she would adults.  In my heart I decided not to ever join with people who made comments about Jews. This was a decision about who I was, made without my parents’ input. I was sure they would agree but they were too passive.  I felt very grown up, thanks to Miss McDowell.  I thought the Campbell side of our family should stop having its reunions at a camp site on Lake Simcoe with a ‘Gentiles Only’ sign.

Another day, after I had been moved back to the grade two corner of the class, Miss McDowell picked up the chalk to begin writing on the blackboard beside me. We sang O Canada in English every morning but now she taught it to us in French. This was a giant step outside of the curriculum box. For good measure, she taught us La Marseillaise as well.

The Five Teaching Keys

Jeannie McDowell was a very smart teacher.

  1. Her classroom was colorful and fun.
  2. She shared adult facts with us but made us feel secure.
  3. She visualized the future and helped broaden us to be good citizens.
  4. Thanks to her, I started to become my own person.
  5. From art to antisemitism and bird-birth to bilingualism, I learned a lot and felt very stimulated in her class.

Margaret Kell Virany   lover of language and literature, note-taker of Northrop Frye, journalist, editor, author

For More Details of Fascinating Lives, Read Margaret’s Books: Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, a war bride’s answer to a call of love in the wilderness; A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, a 20th century Canadian confession.


Rinso! (Photo credit: Kaptain Kobold)

When I was 11 back in 1944, I lived in the small northern Ontario town of Cochrane. My heroes were Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Princess Elizabeth.

The survivors of that group, Queen Elizabeth and I, shared the thrill two nights ago of  watching the heroic planes of World War II, a Lancaster, four Spitfires and a Hurricane, fly past to salute her on her Diamond Jubilee.

It is D Day once more and what strong memories and emotions are stirred!

What I recall is that wartime rationing was in force and some things, like soap and sugar, could be bought only with coupons. Mother sent me uptown with a coupon for laundry powder. I went from store to store and finally got the only kind I could get, Rinso. As I went down the Main Street, hugging it, a big railway worker three times my size and five times my age confronted me. My momentary fear dissolved when I saw he had what seemed like a very tiny box of Ivory Snow in his hand, making him look vulnerable.

He asked me if I would trade, since his wife needed a stronger product to get his greasy overalls clean. I wasn’t sure it was a good deal, but who was I to argue? We just had three girls and a minister in our house  it was true, and we weren’t greasy. Mother would never know and something about the man’s friendly, concerned face assured me I was being patriotic.

On the home front, my most vivid 1944 memory  is of someone who was not an icon then but is now. My older sister, Enid Mary, was chosen for the girls’ hockey team and her boyfriend  let her use his hockey stick. She was the envy of all of us other girls because he was our star and surely the stick was magic. Our team beat all the out-of-town teams, thanks to his amazing breakaways down the length of the ice. We cheered him on at the top of our lungs.

Enid had met him in grade seven at Cochrane Public school when Miles sat in the desk in front of hers. He told her he didn’t like his name and asked her if she would call him Tim instead. She did, and got her friends to do the same. “He was very determined,” she recalls. “When the grade ten teacher called him Miles, he wouldn’t answer.”

We all knew Timmy would be an NHL star but never dreamt he would one day become the iconic name attached to a coffee and fast-food franchise, Tim Hortons.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon,  Goodreads or my website.

I will be at Britton’s Glebe, 846 Bank St., Ottawa on Sat., Aug. 9, 10
a.m. to 2 p.m. to honor the WWI 100th anniversary. Please drop in  if you would like to chat and pick up a signed copy of my book.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!