Colour-Coded Quarantine and a Boy at Play

British evacuee child, Keith Alan Freeman made the best of his wartime quarantine experience.

His story starts with words that I hope children today will echo when they grow up and think about these challenging days.

“It must have been tough for my mother and aunt but my memories are of having a wonderful time,” Alan wrote.

“We had tricycles with fixed wheels (the pedals drove the wheels directly without a free-wheeling chain) so you braked by stopping pedalling.

“We had roller-skates which were great on the sidewalks but in those days the wheels were made of steel or iron so they weren’t as comfortable as modern ones. We had yo-yos at which I became very proficient.

“We got ill frequently of course and were often in quarantine. For instance, when we got Scarlet Fever we had to have a bright red foot-square card stuck on the front door and weren’t allowed out and no-one was allowed in. Measles was a yellow card, German Measles a green one, I think, and Mumps another colour, possibly blue.”

In between bouts with childhood diseases and quarantines Alan remembered buying liquorice sticks at the corner store and chewing on them all the way back to their log cabin, ending up with black hands and teeth.

One memory stuck out as his favourite.

“We found an old water-logged rowing boat which we used to paddle around in until it sank when we would drag it ashore to dry out again.”

Colour-coded quarantine and a boy at play. The value of play, especially during hard times, cannot be undervalued so cheers to Alan and to all of you fort builders and princess pageant judges. Play on.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (S2012.2037.1)


Carrie-Ann Smith

Carrie-Ann Smith is the Vice-President of Audience Engagement at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. She joined the Pier 21 Society in the summer of 1998 and has watched the organization evolve from an idea into an interpretive centre, and now a national museum. Though she has occupied several positions at the museum, collecting and sharing stories has always been her favourite thing to do—it still is.