Ronnie’s moment of fame

Ronnie Egan wears her beret and Women’s Royal Navy Service identification in May 2015.

About a month ago, a CBC television reporter from Nova Scotia emailed me with a request. Being sufficiently old-fashioned about these things, I decided to phone him to offer a verbal (rather than texted) answer. He said he and a camera operator had just returned from an assignment in downtown Halifax. He said they had just shot video of the demolition of the Discovery Centre. I didn’t immediately get it.

“You’d more likely remember it as the Zellers store,” Dave Irish said. “It’s a building with much history. … I’m hoping to speak to you about Ms. (Ronnie) Egan saving it.”

Citizen duty

MEIN_KAMPF_EHe felt compelled to act. He could not hold his tongue. He sensed that if he didn’t step in and say something, all the evils of the past might be repeated. That’s why during a neo-Nazi meeting in the Netherlands about 1960, Heiman de Leeuw demanded entry to the meeting as well as a voice to express his concern.

“You don’t deserve to be living in this country,” he told the supporters of fascism assembled in the hall. “I refuse to keep silent.”

Canadian Enigma connection

IMITATION_GAME_POSTERSeventy years ago, Europeans sensed the end of the Second World War was near. VE Day arrived May 8, 1945. A generation later, historians and moviemakers are still discovering how Victory in Europe was achieved. At Bletchley Park, an estate just two hours from London, England, details of the Allied intelligence victory continue to emerge. Last year, the movie The Imitation Game depicted the secret world of Enigma, Alan Turing and war work at Bletchley.

In the March 2015 edition of Zoomer magazine, read Ted Barris’s account of the Canadian angle on the code-breakers who hastened victory.

Leading change with kindness

June Callwood worked as a professional freelance writer for 66 years. "It's All About Kindness," a new book, offers reflections on her care and concern for others. Photo by David Henderson.

On days such as Victoria Day, and its anachronistic connection to life in 2012, I wonder about how change happens. Is it just the passage of time that helps us recognize that monarchs are people too? Is it just greater access to information that brings down a Berlin Wall? Is it just mellowing that makes a Toronto mayor realize gay lifestyle is a fact of life? Well, yes, time, knowledge and acclimatizing help. But change happens because some push to make it happen. Or, as writer June Callwood observed during a 2002 lecture:

“The profession of journalism enjoys its finest moments when it speaks against oppression and greed.”

It was a wonderful life

Late on June 6, 1944, Lt. Garth Webb (standing at centre) and his 14th Field Regiment artillery crew paused to reflect on the highs and lows of their D-Day experiences.

The day before the big opening the French police built a security fence around it. Workers set up wooden benches for an audience of 5,000. Rain left the glass and titanium-clad building on the Normandy beach glistening like a polished jewel. And inside the museum itself Canadian army cadets removed the pins from nearly 44,000 poppies – the pinless Remembrance symbols would be dropped from an aircraft during the ceremony – symbolizing the number of Canadians killed in the Second World War.

“I was on this beach 59 years ago,” Garth Webb said during the opening of the Juno Beach Centre on the D-Day anniversary in 2003. “And it’s just as big a thrill to be here today.”

Walking back to history

Veteran Barclay Craig celebrates a birthday and a victory
Barclay Craig (waving from truck) celebrates a victory and a birthday during VE Day parade in Apeldoorn, May 9, 2010.

Canadians were featured prominently that day. Grateful Netherlanders lined the streets, at first, in an orderly fashion. They waved, cheered and tossed tulips – the first blossoms of that bittersweet springtime when six long years of war came to an end. They celebrated the end of Nazi occupation in their country and embraced their liberators. It was May 8, 1945, Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Among those liberators marching in the Apeldoorn parade on the receiving end of all that adoration was a young lieutenant from Arnprior, Ontario. Barclay Craig remembered being told it would be a half-hour parade.

“It was actually the eve of my 25th birthday,” he told me this week. “The Dutch were so excited to be free again, they crushed in around us in the parade. I never shook so many hands in my life.”