I found this scrapbook in November of 2014. It was put together by a soldier who designed the decorations for a “civvy street dance” that took place in May of 1945, or around the end of the European theatre of WWII. The scrapbook mostly describes the making of the scene of the dance, but also includes a few clippings and an Canadian Army Art Exhibition booklet.
I’ve always thought this was a pretty cool item. It tells a less known but interesting story, that being the difficulty of reintegrating soldiers to civilian life – particularly after a war as long and painful as WWII. There were plenty of concerns regarding the ability of the soldiers to adjust to their new lives, and many civilians were even anxious that their return would spark an increase in crime and violence given their long exposure to the horrors of the battlefield. PTSD, then known as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock” was known of but not widely understood, and many people didn’t know how to relate to the veteran whose personality was often much changed from what it was before the war.
The “civvy street dance” then would have been bittersweet for many. While most veterans enjoyed being back home, many were also anxious about their future as a civilian. I suspect the dance was made to help ease soldiers into their reintegration, perhaps by providing a taste of the pleasures associated with civilian life. I wonder if this scene is still packed away somewhere, or if it was tossed out long ago to make room for the new.
Here’s a few relevant links if you’re interested in learning more about this part of our past:
1. CBC radio segment from 1944 discussing the complexities of reintegration (link)
2. A look at the government programs created to help with reintegration after WWII (link)
3. A review of a book specifically written on the topic of post-WWII reintegration (link)
4. The Amazon page of the book in question, which appears to have some great reviews (link)
5. A reading about the history of PTSD (link)
Towards the bottom I also included a set of four WWII-era photos I found two summers ago. Two were taken at CFB Uplands near Ottawa, and two were aerial shots presumably taken somewhere over the Ottawa Valley (which happens to be around where I grew up).
I hope you enjoy these scans! If you like this sort of post let me know – I can try to do them more often going forward.
(Does anyone know what a “honey dew shop” would have been? I googled the term but didn’t find much).
The scrapbook ends there. One page appears to be torn out, and the rest thereafter are blank.
This booklet is tied in to the very back of the book. On one of the pages is written a message relating to Bruno Bobak, a well known Canadian war artist. On the very back pages of the booklet is glued a newspaper clipping and a greetings card from 1944. To see a bigger view of any of the photos below, click on the photo and then click the “view full size” button on the bottom right hand side of the screen.