The excerpt below is from the novel “Arse Over Teakettle,” a story about a family struggling to survive during the war years in Toronto. The narrator of the tale is the fictional character Tom Hudson, a young boy who lives on Lauder Avenue, north of Rogers Road. It is a heart-warming tale of a lad trying to understand the complexities of the adult world.
In sexual matters, his search for the secrets of the “big boys” is often amusing. Read how Tom and his friends cope with a hot, humid Toronto summer in the days when there was no air-conditioning.
In the evenings, as our family sat around the dinner table, we heard the news on the radio: Nazi cargo planes are delivering gold bars to Lisbon, as Portugal is a neutral country. Rumours are circulating that Hitler and his generals are preparing to escape to Japan. The Allies fear that they will ship their bullion there, allowing them to live in luxury. Meanwhile, in Germany, the situation is so desperate that the Nazis are recruiting grade eight schoolchildren for war work in factories.
My dad said, “These events are further signs that the end of the war is near.”
The newspapers published the tonnage of bombs dropped on Germany, and in addition, reported that during the previous weekend, twenty-seven Allied soldiers had perished, and one hundred and three had been wounded.
One newspaper declared, Germany is now the middle slice in the sandwich, and you can hear the beef. Another declared, In a world hungry for peace, Hitler’s goose has been cooked.
My dad said, “Hitler needs a goose with a broom handle that would rattle his tonsils.” My mom grinned, but told him to be quiet.
My father’s optimism increased each day. On 25 August, Paris was freed from Nazi occupation.
My dad declared, “It’s great news that most of France and all of Belgium are now free. Another hopeful sign,” he added, “is that General Douglas McArthur is preparing to invade the Philippines.”
Throughout August, the citizens of Toronto continued to shoulder the responsibilities of the war effort. Because it was felt that the end of the war was near, optimism increased as the final days of summer approached.
August’s sultry heat finally yielded to more moderate temperatures. Officials announced that when school commenced in September, more schoolchildren would be attending classrooms in shifts, as the teacher shortage was more severe than the previous year. My mother feared that it might have a negative impact my brother Ken’s and my education. We gave no thought to the opening of school, and even less to the teacher shortage. Although the new school year was swiftly approaching, the endless days of summer remained engraved in our memories. The scholastic world had disappeared from the face of the earth.