Uncle John S. Friesen
as a Conscientious Objector
at Camp Q5

My Dad missed both being conscripted and taken as a CO prisoner in the Second World War, but it was not the same with his brothers. Here's how Dad tells it in my book, Grandpa's Stories;

Missed the War

Don't know why, but I escaped World War II. I would not have passed the medical because of my broken legs, but I guess I could have ended up as a C.O. in a conscientious objector camp anyway, like John did.

Our brother George joined up.

One day when I was away from home, at work somewhere, a police officer came to take me to such a work camp for men who had refused to become soldiers because of their Christian faith. He found it too long to stand around waiting for me, so he finally left without me. Fortunately, he never tried again.

My brother John did end up at a C.O. camp for a while and he was persuaded by Jehovah Witnesses there to join their study group.

Later he talked our Mom into going along with him. Nobody seemed to be able to talk them out of it, and I think I've never got over my disappointment.

My Uncle John never married, but lived an interesting life because of his interest in inventing, entrepreneuring new business ideas, his years as a Reflexologist (or Foot Dr as he advertised himself), and also his reputation as The Watermelon Man all the way from Swift Current, his home base, to Medicine Hat, and even up to Hague, where he came to sell watermelons from his baby blue VW station wagon in the fall.

I distinctly recall getting phone calls before he showed up from folks in the community who asked, "That Watermelon Man - he's a relative of yours, isn't he? When is he coming again?" His Sugar Baby watermelons were truly as sweet as he bragged, and I ended up selling some of his leftovers a few times.

Uncle John was born November 12, 1917, and died November 18, 1993, of a heart attack in the Swift Current hospital. Afterwards I helped clean out his apartment, and rescued his photos and the odd documents and paperwork, because I thought there might be clues to understanding this sort of 'Black Sheep' of the family. I've begun a scrapbook type of memorial book for the family, but need to finish it up now that I have a scanner/copier.

Meantime, here's a few interesting photos of his. Some of which I would really like to know more about. There's got to be a story behind them!

Camp Q5

Just marked CampQ5, and appears to be in B.C.

cabin friends

Some of his cabin friends, or mates, right? Uncle John is in the white shirt, front right.

John is in the white shirt

He's the one in the white shirt, hands in pockets. Wonder who the others are.

COs lapping water

I think this is him too, lapping water from a stream.

CO dining hall
Their dining hall, I take it. But I can't make out the faces.
CO buddy

Who could this be? Do you know?

His later years

This is Uncle John in his later years. (born November 12, 1917, died November 18, 1993). I saw him from time to time in the 1980s and early 1990s when he would suddenly pull up in front of our house unannounced. Usually about the time his watermelons were ripe and ready to sell.

Watermelon man

This is a clipping he'd had laminated of himself at one of his watermelon patches - I think this one was near Medicine Hat. Clues on the back indicate it was in the Lethbridge Herald on September 9, 1974. (His notes indicate that he tried growing watermelons in various parts of the country to see what soils and weather worked best).

There is a new web site that is gathering information on Conscientious Objectors, or Alternative Service, as they are also known, and they are collecting information and stories about this part of our Canadian history that has been kept silent too long. You'll find that site here at https://www.alternativeservice.ca

I wouldn't mind learning something more about Uncle John's experiences at Camp Q5. If you have stories to share use my Contact form page.

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Ruth Marlene Friesen

Ruth Marlene Friesen
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