My Favourite Collection – Sarah Ferencz, Whitby Archives

Whitby Knitting Club Fonds

The Whitby Knitting Club fonds is small enough to fit into one box but the story behind the club and its activities never cease to inspire me. Originally known as the Ten Monday Nighters, the club formed in October 1940 with the purpose of saving money for vacations, weekend trips, and general enjoyment. It wasn’t long before the club’s objectives changed to reflect the climate of the Second World War in Canada and the need for local groups to support the war effort. They changed their name to the Whitby Knitting Club, known locally as the Whit-Knits, and began raising money to purchase wool which they knit into socks for Whitby’s service men and women.

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Group Portrait of Members of the Whit-Knit Club with Lawn Mowers, c.1943

The club held a charter under the War Charities Act for the duration of the War and received funds from the Department of National War Services in order to supplement their own fundraising. The women contributed 50 cents a month in dues and regularly cut lawns, babysat, and organized dances and card nights to raise money to purchase wool. As their funds increased, the standard package sent by the Whit-Knits included a carton of cigarettes, a large chocolate bar, razor blades, and the club’s trademark yellow-banded socks.

The package also contained a standard letter providing the soldier or nurse with the most recent news in Whtiby. The Whitby Knitting Club fonds contains the letters of thanks written by Whitby’s soldiers, officers, and nurses who were lucky enough to receive a Whit-Knit package. The 200 letters span from 1940 to 1946 and are an excellent account of the different military theatres of the Second World War, with letters postmarked from the UK, France, Italy, and the Mediterranean. Although most of the content varies from one letter to another, the constant theme expressed by the soldiers in their correspondence is one of gratitude for the reminder of home.

The records of the Whit-Knits call attention to the vital role women played in their communities to support the war effort. Their actions helped to provide local soldiers, some of them overseas for a number of years, with a sense of home, a pair of warm, clean socks, and a few treats to lighten the mood. This fonds is heartwarming because the letters contain earnest expressions of gratitude from a group of people, soldiers and other service men and women, on whom we often heap praise and thanks for the sacrifices they made in going to war.

Following the end of the Second World War, the Whit-Knits decided in a meeting on May 22, 1946 that they would not renew the club’s charter under the War Charities Act and the remaining funds were to be donated to the Christie Street Veterans’ Hospital in Toronto. The Whit-Knit Club officially ceased operations on December 17, 1946.

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About durhamregionareaarchivesgroup

DRAAG is the professional group for archives and repositories of the local history of Durham Region and surrounding areas.
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