A Home Away from Home

Sometimes, the church seemed to know just what the COs needed. Between 1942 and 1945, many COs worked for the BC Forestry Service. They fought fires, planted trees, and built roads. The forestry camps were isolated and the work was hard. If the men worked hard and if the camp boss was in a good mood, a few men received leaves every weekend. To give the COs some place to go, the Mennonite churches in the Fraser Valley bought a fairly large house in Vancouver for the COs. Without this house, many of the COs would not have been able to leave camp. It was a Home for CO Fellowship.

“On occasion some of the men in the BCFS for ASW, 1942-1945 obtained weekend leaves and went to Vancouver , a novel experience with one problem: where to stay overnight. The General Conference Mennonite Churches of BC, primarily in the Fraser Valley, purchased a fairly large residence in the vicinity of Fraser and 49th Avenue, to provide a “home-away-from-home” for CO men on weekend leaves. It accommodated approximately ten men at one time and they were permitted to stay for two days."

 

“The January 1944 issue of The Beacon carried the following news release: ‘Centre for Conchies While on Leave. For the information of the men in camps we wish to advise that the Mennonite churches of Vancouver have established a home for the Alternative Service Workers to which they can go while on leave in Vancouver. The home is situated at 555 East 49th Street and is operated jointly by the United Mennonite church and the Mennonite Brethren church. Alternative Service Workers are all invited, regardless of denomination or religions affiliation. We welcome you to spend your leisure time here while in the city.'”

“Henry and Susie Ewert were the house parents. Under their guidance, the young COs were able to enjoy mixed company while on leave. Board and room was free at first, but some recall paying $2 per week. In a recent telephone interview Mrs. Ewert mentioned that on occasion the fellows had to sleep three in one bed. The house is still standing near First Mennonite Church in Vancouver."

“The men appreciated these accommodations very much. The jolly nature of some of the fellows helped make the stay a pleasure.… Many COs appreciated the hospitality and fellowship and thanked the Lord for the Ewerts.” [ASP, 32]

This house was just one of the very practical ways in which families and friends at home supported the conscientious objectors.