Most of you know that I am a Canadian citizen and lived there until age ten when our family moved to the States after my father was transferred with Ford Motor Company.
While I have never been very much of a history buff, I do enjoy seeing those sepia-toned or black-and-white images of significant past historical events. I believe the phrase “every picture tells a story” is more than just a song title – looking at those vintage pictures or the daguerreotype images helps you to understand what life was like back in the pioneer days or Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War. We’ve gained great insight by viewing the images featured across social media this week as we close in on the centennial of the end of The Great War – World War I.
When I was a young girl, in the days preceding November 11th, or “Remembrance Day” as we referred to it in Canada, Mom would pin a red felt poppy onto my coat lapel. That poppy had a black felt circle and the center was attached to a straight pin. It looked like this.
Mom explained that the red represented the blood shed by Canadian soldiers and the black represented death and we wore our poppies proudly in remembrance of the many soldiers that lost their lives. Mom always used a safety pin to secure the poppy tightly to my coat lapel so it did not get knocked off in the school cloakroom. At school, once the morning bell rang, we put our hands over our hearts and sang “God Save the Queen” and we repeated a short prayer after our teacher, who then gave us a history lesson on war and why we honor our heroes. That was a long time ago – for me, more than a half century ago.
I don’t remember what happened to my original poppy but I had it for years. I got another one made of a plastic material that I bought from a double-amputee veteran who was sitting in a wheelchair, on a street corner in downtown Detroit. It was a very cold day in November. He was selling poppies he had made. He was wearing his military hat and had medals attached to an old navy pea coat and a wool plaid blanket covering over his lap and his stumps. I remember he thanked me and I thanked him for his service. I wonder where that veteran is now? I still have my poppy in my drawer. Do veterans still pass out poppies on street corners in the business district these days? I haven’t worked in downtown Detroit since 2003.
There was some confusion about Veterans Day when we moved here because on Remembrance Day, November 11th, it was an occasion to honor the war dead – over here, the occasion to honor the war dead is Memorial Day, with Veterans Day, also November 11th, a time to commemorate living U.S. Armed Forces military veterans. It was the opposite of what we had always known.
I’m still fascinated by how poppies are used in remembrance of those heroes and that is why I enjoyed looking at the photos by British blogger Andy Finnegan about a trip to see the wave of poppies on display at Fort Nelson. I told Andy that I passed Flanders Field in a train enroute from London to Germany many years ago. While I am sorry I didn’t stop at this memorial, what I really would like to see is this wave of poppies that Andy has photographed at the Tower of London. I asked Andy if I could share his posts about the poppies in advance of the centennial event this Sunday and he was happy for me to do so. So this is a double treat: first the recent post in April 2018 visiting Fort Nelson’s poppy display, then be sure to check out the second link embedded in the Fort Nelson post about the poppies at the Tower of London. Please click here
I’m sure you’ll agree that every picture tells a story.
Photos depicting “Flanders Fields” a famous poem about World War I written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and a Remembrance Day Poppy from the Royal Canadian Legion are from Pinterest.
Headlines from “The Detroit Free Press” are from the Lincoln Park Historical Museum Facebook Site