This photograph of Papa, taken in 1940, evokes a time when it was common for a man to wear a vest under his suit jacket, a time when an old wooden floor radio was one of the centres of a household. The photo shows Papa doing what he did several times a day between 1939 and 1945: he is listening with rapt attention to the news of the war overseas, broadcasts that were produced in Britain and delivered to Canadians by announcers like Lorne Greene (“the Voice of Doom”).
Like thousands of families, my parents had fled their homeland in the years leading up to the war, under the growing threat of Hitler’s power and the surge of anti-Semitism. They crossed the ocean to Canada with their two small children and a few meagre belongings, and without benefit of the English language—yet they were among the more fortunate. The more catastrophic human saga unfolding beyond the radio, even as Papa listened, would not become known until after the war ended.
The radio became such a focus of our lives during those years that when the war ended, I asked Papa if that meant they were going to close the radio now, and when he asked me why they would do that, I said, “What else would they have to talk about?”