REMEMBER: Soldiers’ Stories – Welcome Home (4 photos)


Houses of war began to be built in Barrie in August 1945 around Peel and Codrington streets with the purchase of farms in the area

For decades now, Barrie has worked to maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing. Some times were worse than others.

One of the most difficult times came immediately after World War II.

Their lives were put on hold for months or years, the returning soldiers wanted some sort of normal return. They wanted to marry their sweetheart and find a small house to raise a family.

This is the Veterans Land Act (LAV), which was passed by the Canadian government in 1942 to address the shortage of suitable housing for veterans and their growing families.

This legislation was inspired by the Soldier Settlement Act of 1919, which was intended to help veterans of the First World War. This particular system has only been a partial success. The program burdened beneficiaries with excessive debt and pushed most into agriculture that not all ex-combatants were equipped to handle.

The 1942 law improved upon that of 1919 by allowing long repayment periods, choices between agriculture, fishing or smallholdings, loans for livestock and equipment, loans for building houses and lesson on how to build a house.

Although he set to work reclaiming soldiers’ quarters almost as soon as the war was over, Barrie was still trying to catch up with demand. The first project began in August 1945 with the purchase of Charles Newton’s 35-acre farm that bordered Peel Street. Somers Farm on Codrington Street, some 18 acres, was also purchased.

Within a year, all the houses of war were sold and the demand for more was growing. In 1946, 1947 and 1948, the city broke its own building permit record compared to the previous year.

In 1949, large families lived in tiny apartments when it was estimated that 450 additional houses were needed just to reduce the backlog.

The desperate situation led the city to turn to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for help. By mid-1949, enough land had been secured to build 50 rental homes on Gunn Street.

The idea behind these small, one-acre properties was that a veteran could improve himself and his family by using the land to their advantage.

The Barrie Examiner described the expectation: “There is no intention that the veteran will earn his living on an acre of land. He must have a job in Barrie and the acre near the outskirts of Barrie will allow him to increase his living by raising chickens, a cow, and having a large garden. Fruit trees can be planted and other crops can be grown on a small scale. “

The houses were small but comfortable, most of one and a half storeys, usually four or five rooms each, and rented for a monthly rate of about $ 37.

Douglas McGibbon was 20 years old when he enlisted to serve in World War II. Her father was the son of a successful Penetanguishene lumberjack and her mother was Judge Hewson’s fourth daughter.

In 1942, halfway through his military training, Sgt. McGibbon of the Armored Corps contracted a severe case of mumps and spent over a month recovering at Camp Borden Military Hospital. The day after his release, McGibbon took a trip to Orillia with an Army buddy, which ended in tragedy, ended his military career, and nearly ended his life.

With his friend at the wheel, the car pulled off the road on Highway 12 near Brechin, seriously injuring McGibbon and killing another passenger. Sgt. McGibbon suffered a broken leg above the knee and several head injuries. An eye he nearly lost in a hockey game as a youth was in danger again, but he was eventually saved.

He spent the following year at Camp Borden military hospital. From there McGibbon got work with the Bell Telephone Co. and became very active in the Barrie branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. In 1957, he was branch president.

He and his wife, Marion, raised a family at 172 Gunn St.

This is just one veteran story among many tied to the Barrie Houses of War.

Each week, Barrie’s Historical Archives gives BarrieToday readers a glimpse into the city’s past. This unique chronicle features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to please the historian within all of us.


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