Remembrance Days, Haliburton circa 1950
By Eddie Burke
Remembrance Days in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s in Haliburton were solemn affairs. We were much more subdued and more participatory than we are today.
The memories of the wars were recent and had happened during the lifetime of most everyone in our populace; it didn’t happen 70 years ago – or a hundred.
Many among us remembered a lost brother, a son, a father, an uncle or a husband and the tears were real and the speeches were poignant and meaningful.
Everyone had a fresh appreciation of the carnage, the waste, the destroyed lives, the futures and possibilities. Poppies were everywhere; everyone wore one, everyone remembered.
Back then, when I was between eight and 12, I clearly remember the ceremonies on the 11th of November with the cenotaph crammed to capacity.
It was imposed on me; my father’s restaurant was two doors up the street. For half or all the day, every school was let out, all businesses closed and a great multitude, probably a few hundred, solidly packed Highland and York streets in the area of the cenotaph.
Some quietly paraded down Highland Street to the marker at the monument. Most everyone attended; suffering every kind of November weather, cold winds, near blizzards or freezing rain, to salute those who never returned from the disasters of two world wars.
Speeches from the town dignitaries and others, some of whom had been “over there” and had seen terrible things, every one of them would implore or plead with variations of these same few words: “For God’s sake; no more war, forever!”
Then The Last Post was trumpeted, followed by two minutes of silence. Ignoring the sniffling, the genuine grieving and the tears, it was as true a silence as one could get.
At the wreath-laying, every business on Main Street and each tourist lodge, every volunteer organization, every widow, orphan, every relative, friends of deceased, placed flowers in the memory of someone loved, someone they cared about who had served and was suffering or had been killed and had never returned.
One Remembrance Day I witnessed Becky, our chief cook of my Dad’s restaurant, shrouded in black, touch an errant tear as she placed a wreath at the cenotaph.
Her husband Max never returned from the front. Killed in action the note said.
I learned later, that after many months of training, after learning how to shoot and march and set up a skirmish line, Max was killed as soon as he set foot on French soil and never fired a shot in anger.
Becky lived to become a respected elder, a distinguished lady, an avid member of our Legion and the Ladies’ Auxiliary; as far as I know, she never failed to attend the rites of Nov. 11.
She never remarried, she never forgot; she remembered.