We drove northeast out of Fredericton today to the small town of Minto. Minto was the site of the only Internment Camp in the Maritimes during WWII and they have a museum about life at the camp and those who were interned there.
When we arrived we discovered that the museum was located in the municipal building with several other departments and groups. We thought that this won’t take long then; it can’t be very big. Well, it wasn’t very big, although it did take up the majority of the lowest level of the building, but it had so many interesting items and stories that we were there for about 2 1/2 hours.
The museum guide was a young man named Ryan who is a Biology student at the University of New Brunswick and has worked there the past three summers. He loved sharing the stories and telling us about the many items on display.
He also told us about his first driver’s education lesson. The first thing he was taught was not about stop signs or signalling or anything to do with the rules of the road. His very first driving lesson was how to “correctly hit a moose so as to sustain the least damage.” The lesson was: Moose are tall. Taller than cars. When you see a moose in the road you brake. This will lower the front of the vehicle so if you hit the moose you will connect with the lower legs. This will cause the moose to fall over onto your vehicle where you will likely be seriously injured or killed. So…. if you cannot stop your car in time to avoid hitting the moose – speed up. This will raise the front of your car and you will hit the moose above the knees and knock it away from you. Driving lesson from New Brunswick. The home of many, many moose.
The actual camp was located about 20 km south of Minto in the forest. After we left the museum we stopped there and read the signs. I am going to post them here first because they explain so much about the camp and then I don’t have to type it all.
One side of the big room was information and items specifically from the Ripples Camp. The other side contained things from some of the other camps in Canada. Since the guards were rotated among the various camps in Canada they acquired items made by internees from the other camps they were sent to and many of those have been donated or loaned to the museum.
As usual in museums I took a ton of photos and I am going to post a lot of them here. I will pass along the stories for any items Ryan told us about and that I remember. Otherwise, just lots of photos of things and their museum label so I don’t have to type it all out.
The most severe punishment was 28 days in solitary. The prisoners in this camp were well taken care with food and shelter and an arts and craft building, sports, etc. The work details were comprised of cutting down trees and bucking it up for firewood to keep the huts warm in the winter. There was only a sheet of tarpaper between the inside and outside boards of the huts. They would cut and stack 2500 cords of firewood for each winter that was required to keep the 100 wood stoves of the camp burning. They were paid 20¢ per day in POW money that could be used at the canteen. They were not paid in legal currency.
The prisoners made the birch branch fencing, arbours and benches around the garden.
No prisoners died from abuse or murder at the camp. The few deaths were from illness like pneumonia or accidents.
There was a fellow who enlisted but was turned down due to bad eyesight. He was a piano player and knew 1800 songs from memory, so he decided to provide entertainment to the troops – and he visited all the internment camps. He travelled all across Canada and down the American coast to Hollywood on his bicycle. Along the way he collected pennants from the communities he passed through. There we many of them hanging above this display, plus the pile in the trunk and lots more in storage. Front and center was a pennant from Salmon Arm, BC!
Many of the prisoners were skilled craftsment and they made a large variety of items, some they gave away, some they traded for items in the canteen and some were sold for actual money.
The actual size is the postage-stamp sized one in the lower right.
The peace sign and 007 and LSD were written on the shirt by Poelmann’s grandaughter during the 60s.
The sails are made from shoe leather.
There were several of this type of elaborately carved picture frames. The interesting thing about this one is the back – it was carved from a box of apples that came from the Okanagan Fruit Grower’s Association. They may have even come from one of our family orchards.
John and I immediately recognized the apple box label. I told Ryan I would try find him a good photo of one so he can put it in his display. My cousin is going to check their collection and books for me and send a photo I can pass along if she can find one.
This is a photo of the POW cooks who were all prisoners. They were excellent cooks and the food served to the internees was better than that served to the guards. The local farmers would supply them with whatever they wanted. The food was so good that guards would pay real money to get their meals from them.
There was a prisoner who was an animal trainer and he trained puppies and kittens and would put on circus acts for entertainment. None of the prisoners kept in the camp were actual war soldiers. Even the Germans or Italians were from merchant ships that were in the wrong place at the wrong time – like in one of the Canadian harbours when war was declared. As citizens of nations with whom Canada and Britain were at war they were not allowed to go back and join their nation’s armies to fight. Many of then had no sympathy for the Nazi regime anyway.
After we left the museum we headed back to Fredericton with a brief stop at the site of the camp. We walked along the trail for awhile and came to the location of the sports equipment building, but the black flies and mosquitoes were already attacking in droves so we headed back to the truck.
This is what the camp area looks like today. There are a few foundations of buildings but everything was demolished and the forest has taken over.
Once we got back to Fredericton we went to the Botanical Garden to see some flowers. They have seven specialty beds so we though it would be a nice wander. However the garden is situated in a forest that also has lots of hiking trails branching off in all directions and no signs to show where the gradens were. According to the map at the entrance they were very spread out. We walked for well over half an hour and never found one of them so we took a trail and headed back to the parking lot and then to our hotel.
Tomorrow we drive to St. John and are spending three nights. There are things to see and places to go.