The First World War Memoirs of Samson J. Goodfellow, Part 2: Training (and Boxing)

I’m posting the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, a few pages at a time…

(Read Part 1.)

The Supply Column wanted 400 Drivers and 200 Loaders. The Ammunition Column required 200 Motor Drivers and 200 Loaders.

We did all types of drilling–physical culture–and when it rained the Government had rented an Old Church Hall on Elm St. between Trauley St. (now Bay St.) and Yonge St. where we did all types of physical culture: Boxing, Wrestling, Indoor Racing, etc.

I was in my element, as I had joined the Toronto West End Y.M.C.A. while I was apprenticing and I boxed the Lightweight Champions of the World such as Battling Nelson, Al Woolgast, Joe Gas and other Americans at Church Street Labor Temple when they were wanting a workout before appearing on the stage at the Burlesque Star & Gaiety Theatre.

Most likely they pulled their punches, but I used to feel that I held my own. I certainly learned a lot.

Their managers called on my Mother to get her consent for me to go to New York to train as a Boxer but Mother said, “No, I don’t want my boy to have a broken nose or cauliflower ears.”

Mother admonished me not to run away. I said, “I won’t.”

We stayed around Toronto until we were ready to go overseas and left Toronto, Wednesday, April 19, 1916.

Mother was at the station with her friends to see me on my way.

The order was given to board the Passenger Train. As I was the Corporal in charge of the first Coach, I gave orders for the men to hurry and get on the train.

I went to my Mother to kiss her good-bye and she said, “Sam, I will never see you again.”

“You will Mother, I will come back.”

“Yes, You will come back but I won’t be here.”

Mother had fallen on the sidewalk in front of a Butcher Shop on Bloor Street. The fool of a Butcher had thrown sawdust on the slippery ice. Mother dislocated her hip; was taken to the Western Hospital and had to have an appendicitis operation.

Mother was a very religious Presbyterian and seemed to have great insight and foresight. I remember well when at the Battle of the First Ypres encounter, Mother said to me, “Something has happened to Jimmy. He is dead.”

That was true. In later years I read his name on the Menin Gate Monument.

James Martin, my Mother’s favourite nephew, his Father, had been a Liverpool Police Inspector and was killed in a Riot. Then his Mother, my Mother’s sister, came to Canada with her four children and being that type of a family, the two boys enlisted in the first contingent P.P.C.L.I.

We left the station at 11:40 p.m., travelled east and reached Montreal at 9:30 a.m. where we were inspected by a Brigadier General; then a route march through the City and left Montreal at 2:00 p.m.

When we got back on the train I said to myself, this is a great country we are passing through. All the men in my coach were very happy; where they got the liquid I didn’t know so as long as they behaved themselves it suited me.

Got up early and hard at it all day, placed on duty as usual. They must think I am an iron man or perpetual motion. I was then put on guard again all night. I had 3/4 hours sleep every two hours.

We reached St. Johns at 10~00 p.m., Friday, April 21, 1916.

No one was sick in my carriage except some had a big head from over indulgence; but they got over it after they got some food in their stomach.

I did not mention that this was a troop train which had other units such as the Strathcona Horse and 63rd Battalion, etc.

While on duty, it came to my ears that there was several cases of Spinal Meningitis on the train.

On Saturday, April 22, 1916, I was on duty, Orderly Corporal; got three meals for the boys, Reveille was at 4:00 a.m.

The 63rd Battalion was left on the wharf as the Spinal Meningitis was in that Regiment and were waiting for medical attention. After awhile, they found an empty shed and slept there waiting for doctors.

I asked my section Lieutenant to relieve me of my stripe, no luck.

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