These Love Letters From the 1940s Will Warm Your Heart

He wrote, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of our future and honey, I sure like it.” I knew I had a keeper.

1 / 3
Bill and Jo during their courtship
Courtesy Jo Carlton
Bill and Jo during their courtship.

Love Letters

In September 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. As many young couples did at the time, I rushed into a doomed marriage. The highlight of this time was giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Noreen. After my marriage broke up, my friend Helen insisted we go to a beer parlour. I wondered how this would help us meet men, as the men and women were not allowed to drink together. We then discovered the dance halls of Calgary. I loved this period of time, the women would sit on one side of the dance hall and the men on the other. The music would start and the men crossed the floor and selected a girl to dance.

Helen and I had one rule: we always walked home together. This rule worked until I met the love of my life, Bill, who was in the Canadian Army. I was concerned about his being five years younger than I was, but he told me he was older than his years as he had been through a war.

He’d walk me home, then catch a bus to Currie Barracks. He sometimes missed the bus and had to walk the five miles back to base.

Our relationship flourished. My parents loved him as did my daughter. We got married on October 23, 1948, and he immediately adopted Noreen. We spent the next 69 years together. Losing him two years ago was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. A part of me died with him; however, life goes on and I have.

While cleaning out our home, my second daughter, Joanne, found letters that Bill had written to me during our courtship. It is only now that I have been able to read them again. He truly was the love of my life and I was his.

This marriage advice from the 1950s still applies today!

2 / 3
Bill and Jo on their wedding day
Courtesy Jo Carlton
On their wedding day.

The Early Days

From June 10 to July 2, Bill was sent to the Fraser valley to help save homes during the floods of 1948. I received 11 letters during that time, expressing his love for me. “Gee, honey it will sure be swell to see you again, you’ll never know how much I’ve missed you. I’m just waiting for the day when it will be Mrs. W.H. Carlton, and I can adopt our little girl.”

It was bittersweet reading about his love for me, but I laughed at his antics. Twice he was given CB (confined to base) as he’d been out with his buddies and returned late. His big worry was that he would still be on CB when he returned to Calgary the following week.

His next letters came from Whitehorse, where the army was building and repairing roads. In every letter, he again declared how much he missed and loved me. He always asked about my folks and Noreen. I knew I had a keeper. He wrote, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of our future and honey I sure like it.”

I had a chuckle reading what he wrote about my pending holiday to Banff. “I sure hope you have a good time and don’t let any guy pull the wool over your eyes, especially when you are wearing a sweater.” The only wool I had was my knitting, and my vacation was with my daughter and parents!

3 / 3
With daughter Noreen
Courtesy Jo Carlton
With daughter Noreen.

Enduring Devotion

Sometimes he was so broke he couldn’t afford a stamp, but while he was in Whitehorse, he used his money to buy paper, envelopes and stamps rather than beer. Since Bill always wore a uniform, I insisted he wear a suit to be married in, and even with his lack of money, he managed to buy one. Throughout our marriage, however, we had all we ever wanted—including beer—he was an excellent provider.

Bill was home for only a week before going north to Wainwright, Alberta, for five weeks. His letters expressed the same sentiment written over and over again. “I’d give my right arm to be with you right now. I guess I’m really in love with you honey, in fact beyond the guessing stage, it’s a fact. I love you very very much, darling, and will be the happiest guy in the country when you are Mrs. Carlton.”

For the remainder of his letters, he counts down the days till I became Mrs. Carlton. He laughed when he told me that Noreen, who was seven by then, had written to him wanting to know if he’d be there for my wedding.

His final letter before coming home was written on October 17, 1948. He ended it with, “Say hello to the folks for me and will you, my dear, tell Noreen that I’ll be there for Mummy’s wedding. I love you very much and always will.”

Next, read one woman’s heartwarming reflections on a lifelong romance.

Originally Published in Our Canada

Newsletter Unit