Remembering "a duty to serve" on Canada Day
By Michael J Morris
Those were the days when I always made sure I was up to hear the sound of the cannon being fired at seven a.m to mark the beginning of the Dominion Day celebration, organized each year by Branch Number 5 (Ontario) of the Royal Canadian Legion in my home town of Chapleau, Ontario. The name was later changed to Canada Day.
In those growing up years, veterans from World War I and World War II, took responsibility for the celebration, and what a great day it was. The vets, all ordinary men and women, citizens of the Canadian village all, came home and made their communities a better place to live, work and play. Lest we ever forget!
Many readers know that my father Flying Officer Jim Morris did not return from World War II. He was killed on active service in the RCAF in July 1943, so yes, there is a special place in my heart for our veterans.
Such was Dominion Day for a child who had to get his costume ready and tricycle decorated for the annual July 1 parade that marked one of the highlights of the year for me in the years following World War II that I still recall the celebrations like they were only yesterday.
My Mom, and my grandparents would help me get ready for the parade and off I would go for a day packed with activities for our entire community.
Leading the parade of course was a Legion Colour Party and the Chapleau Town Band that was in existence over 100 years . J. M. Shoup, a veteran of both World War I and II, principal of Chapleau Public School and township councillor would get us all organized for the parade and later the children's races at the beach. I was also proud to see my grandfather Harry Morris, a veteran of World War I, and one of the first group of members of Branch 5 formed in helping out at the activities.
Near the end of the war, Dr G.E. Young, a local boy who had come home to practise medicine, using his own money, had created a truly wonderful beach area on the banks of the Kebsquasheshing River, and it was the scene of swimming and canoe races, as well as canoe tilting contests.
Dr Young's beach was complete with change rooms, wading pools, a nicely grassed area and each year he had truckloads of beach sand brought to refresh it. Dr Young practised medicine for 50 years in his home town and I guess I took it for granted there would never be a family doctor shortage. Times do change.
As an aside, Dr Young had a British Columbia connection. His mother was from Creston, and in 2004, he made his last trip west, and we went to the cemetery there to visit the graves of his grandparents.
In the afternoon of July 1, games of chance would be underway while the Town Band would give a concert in the bandstand at the beach area, while over at the ball field there was always an exciting ball tournament. My favourite team was always the Legion.
By the end of the day I would head home tired but happy looking forward to my summer vacation, cruising around Chapleau on my tricycle, and playing with my friends at the Big Rock, the beach and down the lake.
In those years, there was great pride associated with the Dominion Day celebration. Sadly, I don't see that much enthusiasm now for Canada Day. In many communities, including Cranbrook, there has been some difficulty in recent years finding a sponsor. This year, thanks to the good folks at Connect Church, there will be a celebration starting at five p.m. at Moir Park.
There aren't too many of those World War II vets left across our vast and magnificent land, and none from World War I. I remember all I knew very fondly, and I am sure you do too from wherever you were brought up. In war and peace, they made their communities and our country a better place for everyone. Why? As Mr Shoup once said, they had "a duty to serve". What about us?
Happy Canada Day!
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Full disclosure: I am not now and never have been a member of the Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society; however, I did conduct a workshop for its members for which I was paid.