A few years ago, I settled into a basket of letters written by my father to his parents during his time on a Canadian corvette ship in the North Atlantic during World War Two. By chance the first letter I picked up was his missive home after VE Day, May 8, 1945. He wrote the little-known story of the riots in Halifax on that day, and how it became unsafe for a Canadian soldier to be on his own soil.
It became my Remembrance Day column and was subsequently used by a navy newsletter that connects veterans.
Were my father alive today, he’d be 81. He was 19 in 1945 when he witnessed the worst of the war on his own soil.
So much is written about war when November 11 approaches. There are so many stories to tell and our local media will do it well.
I thought it might be useful for Barrie residents to know that we have whole sections of our city which are named after Barrie boys who died in the first and second and Korean world wars.
While many of Barrie’s oldest streets are named after those with a military background (Bayfield, Poyntz, Clapperton, Collier, Owen, Mulcaster, Worsley), some of our newest streets are also named after those who died for freedom.
In 1999, homes were being built in Barrie so fast it felt like house seeds were planted and sprouted up overnight. During that year, 114 streets were named to honour those who served and died in world wars… 75 streets were named in honour of those who died in World War One, 38 after World War Two soldiers, and 1 Korean War participant. While most are in the new ends of town, now and then a little cul de sac is developed in an existing area and bears the name of a soldier. Take Bailey Court, for instance, east of Bayview, north of Holgate in the former village of Allandale. This street was named after Private Stephen Martin Bailey who died September 25, 1917 at 19 years old. He’s buried in France.
Pilot Officer Donald Felt was killed July 26, 1942 at 22 years old. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and is buried in a war cemetery in Germany. He attended Prince of Wales School and graduated from Barrie Collegiate (now Central) in 1939. He entered medical school at University of Toronto which was interrupted by his service during war.
Robert Andrew Leece, first battalion, Canadian infantry died September 28, 1918 and is buried in France. His street is in Barrie’s north end, running off Hanmer St.
Joseph Daniel McVeigh was a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was 25 years old when he died in January, 1945, in Ceylon. He joined the navy in 1944, graduated as a wireless operator and died after contracting small pox. His pleasant, treed cul de sac runs from Cundles St west near Leacock.
Willard Alfred Touchette was 24 years old when he died September, 1916. His name is inscribed at the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, in France where 11,000 Canadian soldiers were lost. Willard also attended Barrie Collegiate and his street runs off O’Shaughnessy Cr, south of Harvie Rd.
There are many, many streets like this in Barrie. They are immortalized in Brad Rudachyk’s wonderful book, Streetwise in Barrie. The book gives the history and the location of every street in this city in 1999 and it was due to the diligence of the author and former mayor Janice Laking, former city planner Ken Peck, former city solicitor Ozzie Rowe and John Struik.
How fitting a tribute to take our families on a trek, to find these streets and pay homage to the people they honour.
As we stand in thanks on Sunday, we can also reach into our hearts and expel the intolerance that we have for so many of the little things in our daily lives. Peacetime is a treasure that each of us can guard. It begins with love on the homefront; it spills over into care for the people we live and work with; it reaches out to those in our community; it broadens to embrace our nation and those who choose it as their new home.
November 11 is to thank the soldiers who died, and the families who lost. But, it’s also a time to pledge peace to, for, and by ourselves. We wear the poppy over our hearts out of love. We can also wear the poppy over our own hearts for commitment.