1940 - 1944
"There was a feeling of snow in the air on that December evening in 1940. John Cook, my singing teacher, had prepared a Christmas Carol service at Kensington Church, and had suggested that I attend. To be honest, I wasn't too keen to go, but to please him I decided to do so. The memory of their gift has remained with me each Christmas through all the years between. As I took my seat my eyes soaked in the warm, dark wood of the interior. The choir took their places, John took his seat at the organ ... The choir was by no means "world class", but they gave their all, and that made all the difference. As I walked home through the softly falling snow my mind was filled with the remembered sound of those carols which had spanned the years so perfectly and come to rest in my heart. They symbolized for me the true meaning of Christmas.
Making the rounds
View from Mt. Royal
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes a recording by Peter Ewart. Press play () to start listening.
In the early 1940's there was the Art 'scene' in Montreal, a brief romantic attachment with an aspiring ballerina of Russian descent, Mount Royal, daytrips for skiing in the Laurentians and views of the north river from the train, Sunday walks to Victoria Square to see paintings by Eric Riordon, Frederick Waugh and others, and Peter's first live concert at Plateau Hall. He enjoyed exhibition ballroom dancing with Arthur Murray, and even worked for a short time as a teaching partner at the school. At the CPR, Roger Couillard welcomed his willingness and his expertise and he began his career there, working as well at Taylor Advertising, A.E.S and with Speirs-Miller. He was really in the flow of things.
In February of 1941 Peter's father, while running for a streetcar, suffered a significant heart attack. After this event - most likely the consequence of rheumatic fever in his youth - the doctors recommended bed rest and a reduction in physical activity. Clarence reluctantly obliged, and the pace of his outdoor activities slowed. With failing health, the canoe he loved was no longer an option, so it was sold to a local person for $40.00. (After almost thirty years, that canoe was still as good as the day Clarence had bought it. Even the expertly fashioned patch that he had made for it on his wedding day in 1917 had stayed effectively on for the life of the canoe.) See A Most Unusual Honeymoon More time was spent with Edith, and they became very good companions over the course of the next two years. Clarence still enjoyed reading and music
and gardening, and he took an interest in Peter's career as it began to unfold. Never much of a one for effusive remarks or compliments, however, he remained an analytical and exacting figure in Peter's life. In the spring of 1944, confined mostly to home, he constructed a small wooden platform and mounted it just outside the bedroom window in order to coax two robins into building a nest there. He succeeded. Enthralled with their activity, he exerted what energy he had trying to capture the development of the babies from hatchlings to the day when they finally found their wings - one of the last projects he undertook before his death in July of that year. He was 55 years of age. Peter was 26.
Wartime had brought a desire to enlist and serve in the war effort. In 1943 Peter had joined the RCAF and worked in the manning depot at Lachine, P.Q. (Province of Quebec). That year he also attended wireless school in St. John, New Brunswick. His basic training completed, he waited for a posting to #1 Wireless School in Montreal.
St. John, 1943
In 1944, with the milestone of his father's death behind him, and with World War 2 intensifying, Peter tried repeatedly to qualify for overseas service. However, his art training was a factor in keeping him in Canada where recruiting authorities felt he could assist in other ways. In 1945 Peter was sent to the RCAF base in Calgary and trained as a wireless operator. Then he was stationed at the Airforce base at Pat Bay on Vancouver Island, and finally at Spider Island, up the coast just northwest of Ocean Falls (southwest of Bella Bella).