Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Thursday, October 12, 1939
It is Columbus Day in America. Very appropriately my “papers” arrived from America today. I now have all the necessary affidavits, from Harold and from Charlie, with which to approach the American Consul and ask for a visa. I have not mentioned them to Ted, as there did not seem to offer a propitious moment.
A very dear letter from Charlie was enclosed. He said that for eight years it has been his ambition to offer me a home in America. What I did today was to write to the United States Lines Office in the Haymarket, and ask for a sailing list.
Friday, October 13, 1939
It is Arthur Thompson’s birthday. Had he lived I think he would have been 53 today. Had he lived, I wonder if he would have grown as peculiar as his brothers?
Continuing my preliminaries, this morning I telephoned Dr. Mauro and asked her whether she would give me duplicate statements to the effect that I was an honest and respectable person, etc. She agreed immediately, and told me she would leave them for me in her office at midday, which she did, and for which I am truly grateful. Last year I asked Father Bishop for these. He agreed to give them to me, after Mr. Thompson had been informed. This was quite all right with me then. Now, this year, I am quite certain I don’t want any Catholic to stand as sponsor for me. I will re-enter the states as I first went in: as a Protestant Englishwoman, and a member of the Church of England. (Confirmed in the Protestant Episcopal Church of America.) If I am really able to separate my life from Ted’s life, I will certainly separate myself in total from Ted’s church.
Then, this afternoon, I went round to Victoria Road and had some fresh passport photos taken at Madeline Myles.
Tonight I asked Ted for some money to pay for my coat, which will be ready tomorrow. I have still not told him of the arrival of my affidavits. I think he thinks I have abandoned the idea of going to America! I don’t know when I will tell him. When I collect my passport photos I shall then have all the items the Consul demands before they will consider the request for an Immigration visa. Charlie writes me that he has sent in an official request to Washington asking for a special preference permit for me, and that Bill Berry and Ruth Eason witnessed for him on the affidavit he had to send there.
Saturday, October 14, 1939
There is news today of the sinking of the Royal Oak. Her compliment of men was approximately 1200; so far, only 370 are known to be survivors. This is worse than the loss of the Courageous. On Thursday of this week Mr. Chamberlain, speaking in Parliament, scorned Hitler’s so-called peace offer of last week. Since Thursday the war has intensified. So it will go on, of course. Probably on the Western front it has not yet really begun. We are told that we have transported to France one hundred and fifty-eight thousand men and twenty-five thousand vehicles without a single casualty. This week’s news is most seriously concerned with Finland. Russia has already swallowed Latvia and Estonia, and sent messages to Finland that she wished to negotiate concerning airbases and airports in Finland. Finland’s answer was to mobilize. Finland insists on being free Finland. Every day the news gets worse and worse, madder and madder. Europe is the place to get away from.
Monday, October 16, 1939
This morning Artie received notification that he must report for the Army Militia, at Victoria, on Wednesday the 18th.
Tuesday, October 17, 1939
Artie cleared up at the office yesterday morning and has been clearing up around the house ever since. He has been to see the R.A.F. Officer, because he was passed and accepted for a pilot, but he is told he must report to the militia as called; perhaps a transfer can be arranged. He has not been called for the air before this, because they have been taking men who have been serving in the Civil Air Guard. He was shown his name as tenth on the list to be called, and was given a letter to this effect, to be given to the receiving officer tomorrow, at Victoria. It does seem silly to put him in the Militia, when they know he is “passed” for the air.
Wednesday, October 18, 1939
Artie left with Ted this morning. Tonight he phoned us that he is in the London Scottish Branch of the Gordon Highlanders and can be addressed: Company D. 59 Buckingham Gate. I was so miserable and restless after he went that I went to town myself, leaving Mrs. Shaw to carry on in the house, and get Ted’s dinner and tea for him.
I went straight to Hammersmith. Found Polly sitting by the fire, looking gloomy as hell, so took mother out forthwith. Took her over to the co-op to buy a pair of black slippers, and there in the shop told her of my plans and prospects for going to America. Naturally she was surprised, but just as naturally she was more interested in my immediate purchases than in my immediate news. I bought three hats (a russet velvet beret, a rose velvet turban, and a black felt-tricorne). I also bought three scarves to go with them, and four pairs of gloves, besides the black slippers. Silly purchases, but I had to do something! Then we went back to the house, and Mother made some sandwiches for me, and we had tea. I left soon after four o’clock. I decided on my way over I wasn’t going to travel through London in the dark. London is now so ghastly awful, already a city of the dead.
Saturday, October 21, 1939
I was surprised at teatime by Cuth and Artie walking in together. I was expecting Cuth for a weekend visit, but not Artie. They had met at Liverpool Street and traveled out together. Artie was in what is known as “Battle Dress,” including a huge khaki overcoat and a tin hat. All the fellows had been sent home, and to stay the night, mainly, it would seem, so that they might bring home their entire private clothes and belongings. All the same, as I go about my preparations I begin to feel sad. I will not let this sadness conquer my resolution to go. Ted could come too if he wished.
This morning, began to make a short list of some of my books, which Miss Coppen might be interested to buy. This gave me a sick feeling. However, the US Lines people inform me that I must procure an exit permit, and be ready to hand over my keys at the dock to the customs officials, as all baggage is now being examined before leaving the country. Anyhow, I couldn’t carry books with me. It is better to get a little money for them if I can; but parting with my books, my specials, is like parting with my life’s blood. However, better no books and America, than all my accumulated possessions in England forever. Indeed, I will be satisfied if I can get to America with nothing more than my life. To get home alive to America, Oh will it be possible?
Sunday, October 22, 1939
In a private talk with Cuthie today he said he thought it would be better for me to stay in England. “I’d think you’d be better off here,” he said. “Over there it’s rotten. You’d always be sitting on somebody’s doorstep. That would be horrid. Here you are your own boss, and maybe Dad will be different now we’ve gone.”
Maybe he is right. He talked on some more about America, as he experienced it last year, and he kept on saying, “You wouldn’t like it there, Ma. For a while it would be all right, but you wouldn’t like living with any of the fellows. Better stay with Dad, I think.”
Well, whatever the situation there would be, I don’t know; but I’m certain that Cuth is positive I wouldn’t like it, and that he wants me to stay here. Anyhow I have not yet heard from the Consul. I wrote to the consulate, asking for an interview, with the object of obtaining an immigration visa, last Sunday, the fifteenth.
Thursday, October 24, 1939
I am going to the movies with Ted this evening. As we were returning, we were surprised to meet Artie, with Edna Renacre, at the bottom of Eastern Road.
Artie said he had been trying to burgle the house, but couldn’t find a crack anywhere, to force an entrance. We all had a meal together, and then he had to leave for the nine seventeentrain. He is in Old Chelsea Barracks, he says, amongst all the old red-coated pensioners, but he does not know for how long. He said he went to see his grandmother last night, and he will go again on Thursday. On Friday he is to be moved down into Kent somewhere. So Ted and I have arranged to go to Hammersmith also on Thursday, and say goodbye to him there.
Thursday, October 26, 1939
Before we were out of bed this morning the telephone was ringing. It was Artie on the wire, saying he had longer leave than he expected, and he would be out to Romford about teatime. So he could have a hot bath, clean socks, etc., I had to send a wire to Mother, telling her she would have no Thompson visitors today. When he came, he brought Edna Renacre again, whom I thought a nuisance. He had to leave for the train, as he had to be at the Barracks before ten. They go down to camp somewhere near Canterbury tomorrow for eight weeks intensive training. Perhaps they’ll have leave for Christmas, but this is not promised them. He has had no word from the R.A.F.
Friday, October 27, 1939
I am writing to both Gladys and Aileen. I wrote to them about two weeks ago, telling them about my decision to go to America. Today I wrote to tell them I had reversed my decision. Yesterday I received a parcel from Joan, containing a lovely embroidered tea cloth from her as a parting gift, and a silk tea cozy from Gladys. Somehow or other the reception of these gifts clarified my mind for me; I found I knew I wasn’t going. I still have heard nothing from the Consul but now I don’t need to hear. My mind is clear and steady; war or no war, husband or no husband, I’m going to stay here.
Ted did say something about me going in the week. He was asking what my plans were, and I told him I had not yet heard from the Consul. He was nice. Said he wanted to do what was the right thing for me, what was best for my happiness, but if he helped me to go it would still be against his wishes. He did not want me to go. Hadn’t I better think it over some more? Wasn’t I too impulsive? “Think about it some more, Lady, before you do anything rash, or anything that can’t be easily undone.” He kissed me with tenderness.
He was kind to me too on Sunday. The boys left here about five o’clock, to go to tea at the Pullan’s, where there was a party, as Will was also home on leave. Cuth called a taxi, and as I watched them driving away, both in uniform, I felt I would die and I began to cry. Ted came over to me, and sat by me on the sofa, and put his arm around me, in comforting. Oh, why can’t he always be kind? Why can’t I remember his kind moments? Anyhow, I know now that I have decided to stay with him. I can’t run away. We are married: for better for worse, till death do us part. God help me.
Sunday, October 29, 1939
It is The Feast of Christ the King. Had it been a fine day I would have gone to mass. But it was a pouring wet morning so I didn’t go out. Yesterday the new Pope published his first Evangelical. It will be known as Summi pontificatus, it’s offering words. It analyzes “the radical and ultimate cause of the evils in modern society.” This has led, step by step, to the present calamity of war. The condition of these errors is to be found in “the denial and rejection of a universal form of morality” through loss of belief in the Divinity of Christ and in God.
The two fundamental errors, “the forgetfulness of the law of human solidarity and Divine Charity” and “the divorce of civil authority from every kind of dependence on the Supreme Being.” The civilization of the West cannot be restored, argues the Holy Father, except by the restoration of “the unity of doctrine, faith, customs and morals inculcated by the church.” I agree. When the intelligence of the church speaks, I can assent to it, and though I have no feeling of faith, I can, with my head, acknowledge it as good and true. Ted’s obstinacies, Mrs. Jude’s superstitions, shouldn’t keep me out of church, of course, they don’t. They only keep me away from mass! I am a Catholic, willy-nilly. I can’t help myself. So God help me!
© 2011 Copyright Victoria Washuk
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