Letter from Kenneth Gill to his parents



Letter from Kenneth Gill to his parents


Writes that he is fine and well but putting on weight. Promises account of Niagara Falls when he has had some photographs available. [Missing page 2]. Writes about journey to Niagara and activities once at the Falls with descriptions. Relates stay at local YMCA, touring local area and trip to falls on Maid of the Mist. Continues with description of local hospitality. Mentions plan to visit a friends relative in Toronto and writes about the journey in detail, activities in Toronto and then return trip to Chatham.




Temporal Coverage



Fifteen page handwritten letter and envelope


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[postmark Jul 6, 42]


Mr. & Mrs. F. Gill.
55 Kyffin Avenue.

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1438901 [indecipherable words]
No. 10.A.05.

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[Royal Canadian Air Force badge]

1438901. L.A.C. GILL. K.

Dear Mum, dad, & all,

Is life treating you well, and are you all free from colds etc? I hope so, because I'm doing fine and keeping well. Dad, I'll bet I can give you at least a stone, don't tell Vera but the scales went round to 13 stones the other day. Don't worry mum my waistline isn't any bigger; up to press; and at least I'm too heavy for a "tail-end Charlie" or Air Gunner.

I know I promised you an account of Niagara Falls before but I held on a little to try and get some snaps done to send with it, but the service here isn't good so I'll have

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bordered by a broad stretch of grass, with a line of trees and shrubs down the centre. The whole highway for 87 miles is lighted & at night presents a wonderful sight. Now I'll carry on.

We stood at the side of the road for three minutes and then a gentleman pulled up for us & asked us our destination. We told him we aimed at Niagara Falls and he said, "Why that's fine; I'm going within 25 miles of there," so in we hopped and had a very pleasant drive for 60 miles. At St. Catherines our Good Samaritan bade us farewell, and again we took up our stance. A car came along practically immediately and we drove with this gentleman right to Niagara & pulled up on the road overlooking the Niagara Falls.

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The whole journey of nearly a hundred miles took less than three hours, and our whole waiting time was less than ten minutes. George and I went down the steep winding road to a point directly opposite the American Falls on the Canadian sight. From one view-point we could see the water from both falls coming over the brink & crashing down onto the rocks beneath. The spray rose to over a hundred feet & though we were over half-a-mile away from the Fall itself we felt the spray. After taking a few snaps we sought a drier vantage point & climbed back up the road to the power house. From here we watched the rainbows made by rays of the sun on the spray, as they rose and fell with the increase and decrease in amount of spray coming up from the

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foot of the falls.

We spent nearly an hour and a half drinking in the [deleted word] beauty of the Falls, until finally the craving of our tummies for nourishment, overcame our curiosity and amazement. Turning back, we climbed up the road and stood for a minute or two watching both falls. A voice from a car hailed us, and a gentleman asked us if we had made arrangements to stay the night. We narrated our experiences, and he drove us to the Y.M.C.A. where we were made very welcome, given a cup of tea & told to wait a minute & they would find us a room for the night.

The lady came back and told us she had arranged for us to stay with a Mrs. Arkell & gave us directions to

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reach the house. The street car took us to the end of the road, and from there we walked down the road to the house we were looking for.

We introduced ourselves to Mrs. Arkell; an elderly lady, but with a twinkle in her eye & a jovial smiling face; and were shown our room.

We washed & spruced ourselves up in general and descended the stairs into the drawing room. Mrs. Arkell was waiting for us with a tea-wagon on which were toast, marmalade, tea, scones, biscuits, cookies & cakes. During our snack we made ourselves more acquainted and had quite an interesting conversation.

After clearing away the pots etc. Mrs. Arkell took us out to the car and we drove round Niagara for nearly two hours. We visited the Burning Well and the Observation Tower, and viewed the Falls again from

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all angles. The Burning Well I have mentioned is supposed to be unique although I wouldn't like to vouch for it's authenticity. The well is fed by a spring, and the water contains some kind of chemical compound which makes it inflammable. It was discovered by some Indian or other many moons ago, or so they say and is the only one of it's kind in existence. However, the observation tower afforded a better view of the falls & was therefore more interesting. From our position we could see both falls at once, and through magnifying glasses we picked out the points were [sic] the barrel attempts were made, the smugglers' scow [?] on the upper rapids, and the Rock of Ages. After a while we climbed down the steep

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road, and boarded the little steamer, "Maid of the Mist". The crew[?] gave us oilskin clothing, which we were thankful for later on, and we were taken right up against the foot of the American Falls, along the bottom of the falls, out past the base of the island and up to the Horseshoe Falls. The spray was terrific & if we hadn't have had oilskins on we would have been soaked. The currents set up by the falls are very strong and it beats me how the little steamer gets up so far, to the Horseshoe Falls especially. I've managed to procure one snap from one of the lads this morning, so it will have to suffice until the others are ready. The view is of the Horseshoe Falls, and you can see what the spray is like. In the middle centre you can see the Power House on the American side, and to the

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left is the old smugglers' scow, the point where the barrel attempts were made are just left of the thin line fall in the middle left of the snap. The route taken by the "Maid of the Mist" is about what I've marked on the snap. You'll be able to see better when I get the other snaps done.

At 6.0 p.m. Mrs. Arkell took us back home and introduced us to Mr. Arkell & to her daughter and friend. Dinner followed at 6.30 p.m., consisting of chicken, potatoes, spinach, peas & thick gravy, we finished off with rhubarb pie, (made especially for us) and coffee.

After dinner we retired to the drawing room for a smoke and a chat. The ladies having previous engagements, left to keep them, and Mr Arkell, George and I went round to his friends house and had a very

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enjoyable evening playing "Pool", the American idea of our "Snooker."

On leaving at 11-p.m. our host asked us, George & I, to stay all the following day & night, and his daughter would drive us back to Toronto in his car, but having promised George's cousin to be back the next day, we had to offer our thanks and withdraw as gracefully as we could. Mr. Arkell took us home in his car & after a cup of coffee we retired to bed, tired but quite happy. The next morning we were awakened by Mrs. Arkell at 10 a.m. and having bathed & dressed we partook of a hearty breakfast of porridge, ham & eggs, marmalade & toast. We left the house and went for a last look at the falls, then returned and packed our bags. After a light lunch we bade our hostess

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farewell and took ourselves off to pay our respects and dues to Mr. Arkell, whom we located at his bank, (sorry I forgot to say, he's a bank manager), and after chatting for a few minutes, we thanked him for his kindness and generosity, and set our backs to the Falls and started off in the direction of Toronto.

We decided to go back by the inland route (we took the lakeshore route down), for the change, & were soon speeding along with an English lady & her husband. They told us that they had just seen their boy off, to his unit, as he had just been called up, so we assured them as to his future welfare by quoting instances of our own life in the service. We drove with these people to St. Catherines, and during

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that time, they pointed out the various landmarks and general aspects of the country, which was very interesting. At St. Catherines we obtained a lift from a commercial traveller, and as usual he had a funny story or two to tell. As we left St. Catherines we started running into the fruit belt and the blossoms were out in bloom. The scent was wonderful, and the many colours presented a marvelous [sic] sight. On each side of the road for miles were the plantations of vines, apples, pears, plums, apricots, & peaches, and the scent made it seem like passing through a perfumery department. The road wound up and round the hills, through woods & across valleys, and still there we were acres of fruitland. At Hamilton we left our traveller, and were picked up by

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two gentlemen in a large saloon car. We told them our destination, and were agreeably surprised to find that they were driving past the end of the street on which George's cousin lived. Settling back in our seats we again watched the fruitlands go flashing by. I can't really give you an accurate description of our journey through the fruit-belt, it's one of those things that have to be [deleted] believes [/deleted] seen to be really appreciated.

We joined the Queen Elizabeth highway again and drove along by the side of the lake to Toronto. We reached the apartment at 5.0 p.m. after a thrilling experience, which cost us nothing except 25c tram-fare, and afforded us nearly two days of luxurious travel and enjoyment, we raised our hats to

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the kind people who had made it possible, and only wished we had the means to repay the compliment.

Mrs. Cameron, George's cousin's mother-in-law, made us a delicious tea & bade us keep silent until Edna & Harold came home for dinner. Over our coffee & cigarettes, (I smoked my pipe) we related our adventure and were acclaimed heroes of the day, on the strength of which we all went to the show and had a very enjoyable evening. The rest of our stay at Toronto was a mass of theatres, dinners, pictures and visits to friends, all of which we enjoyed immensely. Friday [deleted] night [/deleted] morning came around too soon and we had to leave our friends in Toronto and board the train for Chatham.

The journey down took until 3-0 p.m. Saturday from 9-0 a.m. Friday so you [inserted] can [/inserted] guess we were pretty tired when

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we arrived here, although we didn't actually report until 10 p.m. We had a good look round & our first thoughts of surviving at Chatham for 18 weeks were pretty grim, or I should say 14 weeks as we thought then. However now we’ve been here eight weeks, we have other opinions and we'll be sorry to leave.

Well folks, if you're not bored, I'll write a little more.

By now Ron should have landed wherever he is, and there might be a chance of his coming here after all, as quite a few of our lads were issued with tropical kit to come here, and all the lads here wear summer uniforms of khaki. Anyway we'll keep on hoping. I'll write to him tomorrow if I have the

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Well mum I'll have to close as it's getting near time to go flying. Tonight we set off at 10 p.m. and should be back around 1 a.m., so don't worry about me. You know I'm getting quite good, even though I say it myself, and I find my job is very interesting. I'll be able to give you lots of laughs when I do get home, about our early navigation, it's really funny when you come down but not so funny upstairs.

That's all this time, the kites are revving up & navigators being called for.

Give my love to all, & remember me to friends. Keep well & smiling.

Yours till the prop. flies off,

Your loving Son.

Ken [kisses]

David [kisses]

P.S. How do like the photos of the boys? K.



K Gill, “Letter from Kenneth Gill to his parents,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 20, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/35572.

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