Since the end of the First World War, Remembrance Day has been about honouring the living and the dead who fought for the hard-earned freedoms that we enjoy today. Its formal name, Armistice Day, recalls the armistice or official cease fire at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. It is also about pondering the horrors of war to foster a sense of diligence to not allow those freedoms to be stolen from us. Depending upon the era, school kids either had the day off to attend ceremonies with family or we engaged in activities as school mates.
Remembrance Day Parades to the Cenotaph at Legion Memorial Park were the norm. This 1959 Marcel Quenneville photo reveals a reviewing stand positioned in front of the former Cornwallis Hotel at 22 Second Street West, enroute to the Cenotaph.
Police and military as well as Cadets, Scouts and Guides were among those in the procession. Whether or not we processed, many of us assembled at the Cenotaph or nearby.
If you’re like me, perhaps you like to “remember” the many blessings or benefits that we now enjoy in this democratic society. As someone with a keen interest in our local history, I call to mind the many changes that our community has undergone for the betterment of society.
We may take for granted clean and abundant drinking water, yet treatment of our municipal water and wastewater came about after the 1950s St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project.
For at least hundreds of years, seasonal flooding had been a serious and widespread problem. Natural streams, such as the Fly Creek, have been diverted underground in many areas, forming part of our modern and continuously evolving trunked sewer network. Gone are many of those hazards.
I hear people positing that things were so much better in the old days, but were they really? Some complain about the downtown portion of the Cornwall Canal having been filled-in during 1971-72 and what an asset it could be today. Many of those same people recognize Lamoureux Park as our City’s waterfront gem, but it wouldn’t exist had the canal been retained. And what about the stench of the stagnant, polluted water as well as the unsightly pond scum in the canal, not to mention disease and needless drownings there.
We may be tempted to romanticize the era of street cars, but gone are the noise, traffic hazards and unsightly tangle of overhead wires and utility poles replaced by underground vaults. And how many of us want to revert to telegraph and forgo the benefits of the online world?
The local section of Hwy 401 was opened in 1963, greatly facilitating east-west traffic across the province while shortening travel times. County Road 2 and other regional roads afford easy access to so many great sites in SDG and beyond. Among them are several places of history and natural beauty, many of which are free or affordable to access.
Some people take joy in the City’s remaining heritage buildings and imagine new and relevant uses for them today alongside the modern conveniences. Yes, there are a great many things to “remember” and to be grateful for.
As well, the Royal Canadian Legion embraces newer ways of helping us to remember. In 2014, the Ontario Command published the first in an ongoing series of Military Recognition Books. Anyone can offer submissions that include a brief account of a friend or family member’s military service. In recent years the Legion has been making available water-resistant coroplast lawn signs and now they’ve come up with a suitable pin to better-secure our poppies to our clothing.
What else can one do? The large findagrave.com website includes memorials to war veterans. Searches can be performed globally as well as by community and cemetery. Why not visit the site to see if the deceased veterans in your own family are commemorated there. If not, a listing can easily be created and it’s completely free. Several hundred area veteran’s graves and memorials have been flagged at this URL, which is periodically updated: https://www.findagrave.com/virtual-cemetery/search/51298234