Alice McMahon

Born just before the Great Depression, Alice spent her teen years at Forks of the Credit, where her father worked for the railway.

March 19, 2019 | | Over the Next Hill

Snapshot: Meet a Community Elder

Alice McMahon is a traveller, a poet, a student of history and a raconteur. At 92, she is old enough to remember the annual rituals of the stovepipe cleanout and changing the storm windows, and when it cost $5 to fill your car’s gas tank.

Born just before the Great Depression, Alice spent her teen years at Forks of the Credit, where her father worked for the railway. By the age of 16, she was working at Victory Aircraft in Malton, helping to build Lancaster bombers for the war effort. On turning 18, she signed up with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, who were, like their British counterparts, dubbed “Wrens.” Serving across Canada as a messenger, Alice was still too young to qualify for overseas deployment when the war ended.

Back home after the war, she attended business college and reconnected with Norm McMahon, who had grown up in Brimstone and had spent the entire war posted overseas with the Royal Canadian Regiment.

The couple produced six children and built their own home at Forks of the Credit. Through the busy child-rearing years, Alice also worked outside the home in administrative jobs and driving a school bus. All the McMahon children eventually went on to university.

After Norm retired, he and Alice retraced his unit’s difficult wartime advance through Sicily and Italy. The highlight was the visit to Rimini, where Norm had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct medal for leading an attack near the heavily fortified airfield. He later took part in the liberation of Holland.

Alice later journeyed to Malta with a group of former Wrens and was touched by the enthusiastic and respectful welcome they encountered. In addition to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Africa, her travels have taken her to England and Scotland, including the Isle of Bute, where Norm had trained as a commando.

Alice McMahon has called Forks of the Credit home for most of her long and eventful life. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

Alice McMahon has called Forks of the Credit home for most of her long and eventful life. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

There’s a saying that marriage is a good thing – if it’s a good marriage. Alice and Norm were together for 47 years of an exceptionally good marriage. In fact, more than 25 years after her husband’s death, Alice still thinks of Norm as her hero.

“Take every opportunity you receive in life; chances are you may never get another,” she says.

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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