Remembrance Day Memories

Image of Huize Scherpenzeel
The Huize Scherpenzeel where my parents were married in 1940.

My parents were married in a castle. It sounds romantic when I say that. But reality wasn’t at all romantic. The lovely house in Holland where my parents were married had been built in the 13th century by a wealthy family.

The current members of the family had fled in advance of German occupying troops. Perhaps they fled to the interior of Holland, or perhaps, like members of the Dutch royal family, they fled to the safety of Canada.

By the time my parents were married there in August, 1940, the local municipality had appropriated it for a town hall. The upper floors housed eleven refugee families like my mother’s.

The remains of my family's home and post office
The remains of my family's home and post office

After a bomb leveled the house where they lived, my mother never found a trace of her dowry chest, filled with treasured linens for her upcoming wedding. All she recovered was a charred fork with bent tines in the crater where once the family home and local postoffice had stood.

In introducing the recent Remembrance Day program at the library, Paul Blower, Head of Adult Services, said there are few people who remember the war. Our family does.

Ian Raven, Director of the Elgin Military Museum talked about the homefront here in St. Thomas during the war. No one here understood what as happening, and really wouldn’t until the passage of time allowed us to highlight significant events.

Jeff Booth also spoke at the Remembrance Day program, reading letters home from his book, “Opened by Censors”. As he read from the pristine little hard cover volume, I couldn’t help but imagine the fragile bits of worn paper on which these letters had originally been written, decades ago by firelight, while bombs fell and shells whistled by.

During her lifetime, my mother made many presentations to scout troops, church organizations and women’s groups, sharing her memories. The Remembrance Day program gave us an opportunity to honour the sacrifices, and to continue to be thankful that we live in Canada.

Lest we forget.

 – RD

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