Marianne Van Osch has published two new books this fall, Letters from Bradley Creek and Six Who Served. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Marianne Van Osch has published two new books this fall, Letters from Bradley Creek and Six Who Served. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Local books chronicle life in a different time

Six Who Served and Letters From Bradley Creek are Marrianne Van Osch’s latest book

In Six Who Served, Marianne Van Osch tells the story of six Forest Grove neighbours’ wartime service.

A longtime Forest Grove correspondent and columnist for the 100 Mile Free Press, Van Osch has published several books on local history over the past 15 years. Six Who Served tells the stories of Larry Bakken, Gillis Bailey, Sylvia Collier, John Hood, Lloyd Junior and Jack Hunt, who all served during the Second World War.

“It’s about neighbours in a small community who were all veterans in World War II. Now they never told their stories to each other, but each of them had a very unique story and showed great courage during their service,” Van Osch said. “They were so young, these people, and there’s no relation between their experiences. One was shot in the back, one was a prisoner of war and another was one of the famous land girls. They’re absolutely distinct.”

After getting to know the six, Van Osch decided their stories should be written down on paper. Picking a favourite is impossible, she said, as all were her friends.

But Hunt’s story, especially, stands out. An observation post signaller with the 13th Canadian Field Regiment, he spent much of the war in front of Allied lines relaying intelligence on enemy troop and artillery movement.

During the liberation of Europe, Hunt describes hearing artillery shells flying overhead constantly and being one of the first Candian soldiers to set foot on German soil. Hunt passed away in 2009 but his uniform and a notebook containing wartime poetry are still on display in the Forest Grove Legion.

Van Osch’s one regret is she didn’t start the process earlier when more Forest Grove’s veterans were still around. All the veterans featured in the book have since died and it’s important to Van Osch to keep their memories alive.

Six Who Served has the distinction of boasting her favourite cover design: Van Osch likes the visual storytelling and symbolism of six red maple leaves lying atop a black and white background.

Meanwhile, Van Osch has also published Letters From Bradley Creek this month, a collection of her personal letters sent to Doug Page, a “dear friend” in Ontario, in 1993. It details her first months in the Cariboo and what it was like being an urbanite immersing herself into Forest Grove, where everything is done on “Cariboo time.”

“It only covers a short period of time but it was like being in a movie,” Van Osch said. “I was just overwhelmed by nature, the people and the way of life up there. In those days you went to town once every two weeks. A lot of the characters in it are still going strong up on Bradley Creek.”

As she sent her letters, written on an old typewriter, Van Osch made carbon copies of each letter to serve as something of a diary. Page encouraged her to put them all together in a book and almost 30 years and eight different books later, she took his advice. Writing about herself was the hardest thing she’s ever done but she said it was a process she enjoyed.

Both books are self-published and Van Osch said they won’t be available in any stores. Those interested in picking them up can reach out to her via 250-397-2625.

“I find with all the things I write about that we lived on an edge of society that is never going to be the same again. Down the road I believe young people will be so busy with a world that’s confusing and these stories will be relegated to the back,” Van Osch said. “But further down the road, these stories will become extremely important because they look back on a way of life that stopped.”

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