Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2010 Edition

George & Thelma with Susan-Jane

They say to write about what you know.  What I know is that Remembrance Day always makes me think of what life was like for my grandfather's generation, with so many men off to war and families left at home.  As someone once said: "by remembering all who have served, we recognize their willingly-endured hardships and fears, taken upon themselves so that we could live in peace."  As museums, we are entrusted with memories through associated objects in our collections.  It's not about the object itself, but the stories that it can tell - the memories it can share.  How better can we honour those who sacrificed so much than to shine a little light on their individual experiences?

I never got to hear Grandpa's stories firsthand since he died when I was just a baby, but as I look through his old photographs I wonder what he would have said about each of the "snaps".  I wonder how he and his buddies went from the horrors of war to playing cricket during some down time.
"on a wing and a prayer"
"spare time: a cricket match between the army & navy"
George & Ralph
What I do know about Grandpa is that he got into trouble a few times during his years of service.  I obtained a copy of his service record, and he apparently went AWOL twice.  According to my father, the first was while he was training at CFB Trenton and Grandma went into labour.  There was no way that he was missing the birth of his first child.  The second time was when he literally ran into his brother Ralph in London during an air raid and accompanying blackout, yelled at the "damn Yankee" to get out of his way, and heard the response "shut up George!"  Time flies when you're catching up at a pub.  I also know that Grandpa had a reputation for being able to "get stuff done"; he was the wheeler and dealer who traded whiskey for plane parts and retrieved drunken superiors from houses of ill repute, first in England and then in Burma.  Apparently the RAF couldn't figure out how the Canadians were keeping so many planes in the air when parts were so scarce.

reminders of home
I imagine that Grandpa would rather talk about these random encounters and shenanigans than about how scary it all was, because I know he had to do some terrifying things that no one should have to experience.  And he, just like so many other young men, carried a leather photo album of his family and friends and thrived on letters from home that promised happy days ahead.
On that note, I think I'll end this with one of my favorite lines from one of Grandpa's letters.  Such a poetic sentiment was surely echoed by many:

"Sunday has rolled around again, the weeks slide by into months, and in a few days, it will be a year since I left, does it seem so terribly long Darling?"

No comments: