There are some events in our lives that are remembered “as clear as a bell”, even after many years. One of those events, for me, was Victoria in Europe (VE) Day, May 8, 1945.
I was a lad when WWII ended. We lived in Point Edward, a village at the north end of Sarnia, Ontario. The St. Clair River is on the west side, Canatara Park and the beach along Lake Huron on the north side. The Blue Water Bridge passes through the town to Port Huron, Michigan, on the U.S. side.
Many ships, mostly Corvettes, were built in Great Lakes Yards and we would often see them passing under the bridge on their way to war. As well, we would see American Thunderbolt fighters from Selfridge Field, just north of Detroit, flying out over Lake Huron to their firing range. You could hear the sound of their guns. It was a great time and place for a kid to grow up, especially if you were interested in all things war.
VE Day was a celebration time for our town. The war in Europe was over and the whole world seemed to breath a sigh of relief. Point Edward held its own parade. The troops were still overseas, so there were no marching soldiers or sailors, just the local folk.
The Town Council invited all the children to join the parade with decorated bicycles. The Cubs and Scouts, Brownies and Guides were in uniform. One float had women in white dresses, the IODE (Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire), and equally notable was the Red Cross entry, featuring doctors and nurses, also in white.
Out in front was our scraggly Town band, led by our one police car. Most impressive of all was a 115′ Fairmile (MTB) motor torpedo boat on a long flatbed trailer. (They were built of good Canadian wood, at Mac Craft Industries, just a few blocks from our house). The Town fire truck brought up the rear. The parade ended on our main street in front of the library, the Fire Hall and the edge of the public school yard.
Some of the older boys had made a full effigy of Adolf Hitler and hung him on a telephone pole. When the parade stopped they set fire to it. Any wonder that the image is burned into my memory! Pretty heady stuff for a 10 year old.
What I didn’t understand at that age was that underneath the apparent joy of that day, there was deep sadness. Several of the families in our village had lost sons and daughters. These were young people whom we knew. They had become part of the huge price that our country paid in that conflict.
Over 40,000 Canadian lives were lost in WWII. That was our contribution to the peace of the world.
Lest we forget
Rev. Chuck Beaton, Chaplain