We need to be mindful of those who are serving today and their brother’s in arms that have fallen to continue to make our nation what it is — a land of opportunity and choice.
They are stories our generation is called to continue to tell as the days of our grandparents are being laid to rest. It’s these legends that will stick in our minds; it’s the faces, not the statistics.
My Grandpa Bill signed up to serve in the Second World War, at the signature of his mom’s hand as he was only 17 years old. Grandpa was a prairie kid from central Alberta who hadn’t known the water. He headed to Calgary to train with HMCS Tecumseh, leaving his younger brother Glen to run the farm; their dad had died a year earlier.
The next year, the farm was going to be left to a hired man when Uncle Glen would sign up.
Grandpa Bill was a gunner in the Navy, on the triangle run in the North Atlantic on a corvette.
The ship was only 100 feet long and there were 100 plus men on it.
I wish he was still here so I could hear more about everyday life on that great creature that lived on the water.
I know Grandpa’s very favourite meal on that ship was Red Lead and Bacon. Canned stewed tomatoes cooked up in bacon grease with little bits of bacon in it were a delicacy.
Grandpa Bill also learned about rum in this time of his life. A big barrel of it sat on the ship. Grandpa had a bad cold, and never having had a drink before didn’t know the appropriate amount of rum to take to finish that cold off, so filling his whole mug up, he woke up in the morning with the cold gone; but he could ring out the sheets he had slept on.
Grandpa made special friends in that time of his life, too.
Ted Forshner would go on to guide with my Grandpa for Uncle Glen for years to come and we’d so often hear of dear Jonny Bonhamm.
Our family never realized his actual name was Jean Louise Bonhamm, as a man from Quebec’s name would be, not Jonny. Jonny’s family didn’t know Grandpa’s real name either, he was always talked about as cornflake. It was Jonny that relieved his fears in their biggest storm out on the Atlantic.
As Grandpa sweated bullets each time the ocean swelled against the ship, and it leaned so far it threatened to topple over, Jonny came to the rescue.
Jonny was a wise old man to Grandpa Bill’s young 17-year-old mind, and so when the 25-year-old talked to Grandpa, he listened.
Jonny assured him the ship wouldn’t sink; it would act just like the clowns filled with air that children knock over, and no matter how hard they hit, they will always pop up.
It wasn’t until they were both old men, sitting around my grandparent’s kitchen table that Grandpa learned that Jonny, in spite of his calm demeanour was just as afraid, and told Grandpa the first thing he could think of to alleviate some fear.
For all the hardship and the lonesome days away from his family and farm on the flatlands, this was the highlight of my grandfather’s life.
Those were his glory years. He spoke of them with fondness and with pride in his voice.
Every year, on Remembrance Day a cousin from Ontario would phone Grandpa to thank him for serving for our nation, and for our people.
Now that Grandpa’s gone, he phones my mom and my aunties. We are all still proud of our Grandpa who served.
We need to keep these stories alive to keep it fresh in our mind what has been given to us. It’s up to us to record these stories and to pass them along.
Please join me this month, in a month of remembrance to write these things down.
I’d love to feature someone’s story for the next few weeks on my blog, littleprairiebaby.blogspot.com.
Lest we forget.