In February 1941, Rebecca took the Oscar for the best picture of the year 1940; it starred Joan Fontaine, produced by David Selsnick and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Then there was Citizen Kane, co-written, directed, and starred in by a 25-year old radio star, Orson Welles. And, the Maltese Falcon, it is represented to be one of the all-time greatest film-noir detective mysteries and John Huston's incredible directorial debut. It revolved around a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye, Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart). The cigarettes: Old Gold (every moment you spend with Old Gold will be even more pleasant than before) and Lucky Strike (Why is it that men who know tobacco best, smoke "Luckies"). The automobiles: Oldsmobile had hydro-matic drive, "No Clutch to Press! No gears to Shift! Just Step on the Gas and Go!" In Life magazine we see "cellophane," a trade mark of E. I. Dupont de Nemours & Co. being advertised as something housewives want for their baked goods, "protection and freshness and cleanliness, plus visibility."
In the background, World War Two was advancing at a pace. Germany had made amazing progress during the first year of the war. Hitler's armies had driven to the borders of Spain; down through the Brenner Pass and Italy to buck up the shattered Italian army; across Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria to the Turkish border. In the meantime the Battle of the Atlantic continued. The German U-Boats were taking their toll on the convoys coming to England from Halifax, Bermuda and Freetown.
The terrible parlour game being played in the homes of Halifax; indeed, in all of America and England was what would Hitler be doing next. There were a million German soldiers on the western front, but miles away from Britain, across the Channel; another million and a half on the eastern front: all were fresh from victory on the continent, eager, well armed and ready to jump at a word from the fuhrer. Was Hitler going to invade England? Well, maybe. But what Germany's highly mechanized army needed was oil; and she had but a years supply on hand. Should it commit herself to the historically difficult military objective of crossing the moat to castle England? Well, maybe. But, in the process of invading England, she was going to have to cut into its fixed stock of oil, at a rate she could not predict. Or rather, first, should Germany put its efforts into establishing a German rail-line to Bagdad; and to do it by a pinzer movement of his armies through Egypt and Turkey. In such a move, she would not only secure oil supplies; but, at the same time, block up the eastern end of the Mediterranean by capturing the Suez canal. Thus positioned, Germany could then take a little time and proceed to go in any direction she should want to take. Two bystanders looked on wondering if it were possible for them to stay out: the United States and Russia.
In March of 1941 came one of the most patriotic heroes of them all, Captain America Comics No. 1 from Timely All Winners Comics #1, teaming Captain America, Submariner, and The Human Torch. So too, in that year on March 14th (it was a Friday) my mother was wheeled into the delivery room of the Halifax Infirmary on Queen Street (recently torn-down) there to give birth to her seventh baby: your hero. I remember my mother saying "The Happy Gang" was just coming on the radio. It was a CBC production and came on at twelve noon. The show adhered to a rigid formula, beginning with the sound of knocking on a door, followed in turn by Bert Pearl's question "Who's there?" the collective response -- "It's the Happy Gang!" and Pearl's invitation "Well, come on in!" The group then sang the theme "Keep Happy with the Happy Gang." (My mother saved my Baby Tag.)
That is all I can say about it. I have no memories of my entry into the world, indeed, nothing registered with me until the summer of 1945 when an event occurred that made my first retained memory, a memory that we will explore in one of the chapters just coming up.