Mary (nee Hodgkinson) Rideout in Toronto, 1943. On the back, it says “watching for my ship to come in.” (Maple Ridge Museum archives #P03913)

Mary (nee Hodgkinson) Rideout in Toronto, 1943. On the back, it says “watching for my ship to come in.” (Maple Ridge Museum archives #P03913)

LOOKING BACK: The struggles of dating during the Second World War

By Melissa Rollit/Special to The News

It’s that time of year again, Valentine’s Day, and in what is becoming a bit of a tradition, we have yet another love story from the past to share.

This year’s story takes place during the Second World War and follows the life of the late Mary Rideout (nee Hodgkinson).

Mary enlisted in the Women’s Royal Canadian Navy Service (WRCNS) in late 1942.

It had been her ambition since high school to join the navy, however it wasn’t until 1941 that women were able to become full-time service members.

She worked as a bookkeeper, mainly in charge of figuring out the monthly pay of enlisted soldiers.

She was first stationed in Toronto, and this is where she met her future husband Ken Rideout, who was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

On a late Sunday afternoon in March 1943, Mary was waiting at the WRCNS barrack gates with her friend Doris. Both women had dates planned for the evening. Doris’ date, Phil, was meeting her at the barrack gates, and Mary was meeting a sailor at a dance club downtown.

Unfortunately for the sailor, Phil arrived at the barrack gates with his friend Ken, who talked Mary into forgetting about her date.

The four service members spent the evening downtown, visiting the Royal Ontario Museum.

Ken was not stationed in Toronto, so at the end of the day he suggested they correspond, to which Mary agreed.

Decades later, Mary still felt a little bad about standing that sailor up.

Mary and Ken sent letters to each other during the course of several months. And in November, she made plans to go to New York City for New Year’s Eve with her friends from the WRCNS.

She wrote to Ken to let him know what her plans for the holidays were and was excited to receive a letter back from him supposedly with his holiday plans.

She was shocked when she opened the envelope to see her own letters returned to her with no explanation. Thinking that this was some bizarre version of a ‘Dear John’ letter, she was initially bewildered and hurt before deciding to move on.

Her confusion only grew when, around Christmas time, she received a bakelite compact and Du Barry face powder from Ken, the man who had just written her off.

With her impeccable manners, Mary knew that she had to send a thank-you note but decided that he could stand to wait a week or two for a response.

Off she went to New York, where she had a grand time celebrating New Year’s Eve with highlights such as seeing Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey perform live. When she returned, she sent a thank-you letter to Ken expressing her confusion since he had ended their correspondence.

Apparently, Ken was just as bewildered. He had written her a letter and never heard back.

As it turns out, when he had answered her letter in November, he had mistakenly placed her letters in the envelope instead of his own. In fact, years later he found his lost letters to her amongst his service papers.

They continued to date, and saw each other in person six more times before their marriage in 1944.

They were married for 44 years before deciding to go their separate ways.

– Melissa Rollit is the curator of the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives



LOOKING BACK: A historic love story with an unhappy ending


LOOKING BACK: Musty hidden letters reveal forbidden love affairs

Is there more to the story? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Heritagehistorymaple ridgeValentine's Day

Be Among The First To Know

Create a free account today, and start receiving free newsletters.

Sign Up with google Sign Up with facebook

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.

Don't have an account? Click here to sign up