Smoke, Don

Don Smoke was born February 24, 1926 in the Alderville First Nation in Northumberland County, Ontario.  In 1937 the family moved to Cobourg and then Brighton, where Don remembers working on the family farm.  He also had a number of trap lines and remembers that he used to cover a lot of ground along the local railroad tracks.  Don attended several schools, including the Alderville Day School on the Alderville First Nation.  There he experienced many of the same kinds of abuses that were rampant in the residential schools of the day:  denial of language and culture, and at times physical and emotional abuse.  Tom left school when he was 16, taking work at the Edwards and Edwards Tannery in Cobourg – where he played some hockey – before joining the army.  Don joined up in Toronto when he was 17:  he was sent for training at Camp Petawawa and was assigned to the artillery corps.  His older brother, serving as an engineer in Italy, was wounded and on his way home at about the time Don was on his way to Europe.  It so happened that Don learned about VE Day when he was on his way to England – he would not have to put his training to the test in combat.  The men ended up spending time in England, and they were sent to the continent to play a role in the Army of Occupation.  Don spent time in both England and the Netherlands, helping with rebuilding and other postwar matters.  Midway through the summer of 1945 Don and the other men were asked to volunteer for the Pacific War, and Don said yes to this.  He found himself on a troopship bound for Canada in August 1945 and while they were making the crossing the news of VJ Day broke – again Don was spared the brutality of war!  After demobilization, he made his way back home and returned to his job, later marrying and raising a family and finding his way in postwar Canada.