Shortly after the Second World War broke out, Orillia sprang to action.
The numerous industries in town, both old and new, were gearing up for war production. Several factories converted to round-the-clock production of military equipment.
The Newsletter and Packet & Times carried weekly front page news on local and international developments of the war.
Starting in April, 1942 Orillia became the location of one of Canada’s Basic Training Camps, known as Basic Training Camp No. 26.
A few days after the Canadian Army announcement, the opening and location of Camp 26 construction started on over 40 buildings to house more than 1,200 soldiers in the area of Brant Street, Park Street, Belmoral Drive, Collegiate Drive, Martin Drive and June Drive.
A citizens committee was organized, including a sub-committee of women organizing a Hostess Club at St. James' Anglican Church to be called The Maple Leaf Club.
Dances, dinner invitations, sporting events, parades, mock battles and sham fights were weekly occurrences around town. Both the residents and soldiers enjoyed the activity that only a progressive town like Orillia could provide.
Local historian Marcel Rousseau has assembled this history into an informative book, Camp 26, which features a collection of more than 80 previously unpublished photos and maps. Included are many Orillia newspaper articles describing the planning, construction and closing of the camp.
Orillia factory staff honour rolls and close to 600 names of Orillia’s fighting sons stationed overseas are also included.
There is no better way to tell the story of our community achievements during the Second World War, than to view the events and to follow the weekly news as it happened.
There is an opportunity to meet the author and buy the book at the Orillia Public Library on Nov. 10 as part of the library’s Remembrance Day exhibit. Rousseau will be at the Mississaga Street library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and encourages people to drop in and learn about a unique chapter in Orillia’s history.