Veterans’ Memorial Park in Penticton is going to see a bigger crowd for a Remembrance Day ceremony today than it has in a few years.
The park will be filled with students from Princess Margaret Secondary, for the school’s own Remembrance Day, in advance of the official service on Nov. 11, which was moved indoors to the Trade and Convention Centre several years ago.
The location was chosen by students, who also planned the ceremony.
“We wanted to get going on it earlier this year so we could make it better,” said McKenzie Ricard adding that instructor Don Grant helped a lot, suggesting they continue taking it to an out of school location, as they did last year, when the Maggie assembly was held on the beach.
They went through a number of possibilities and settled on a most traditional spot, the cenotaph in Veterans’ Park.
The cenotaph, with its lists of names of the fallen, will highlight the importance of why they are assembled, said Joravar (Joe) Gill, another of the organizers. A member of the cadets, Gill said he often reads about the sacrifices soldiers have made in wartime and wanted to help other people remember.
The traditions of a Remembrance Day ceremony are included, like the prayers and minute of silence, but the students are also incorporating music and stories, drawn from histories stored at the Penticton Museum, which they researched with the help of curator Peter Ord.
“It makes it hit home more that they were people just like us that went away,” said Ricard. One story involved Sid Kenyon, who made a sweater out of spare socks while in a POW camp during the First World War.
Once the sweater was finished, Gill said, Kenyon used it as a disguise to escape. That sweater is on display at the museum, which is also where Gill found letters soldiers wrote home from the First World War.
The letters he said, didn’t deal much with the war.
Not only were they censored, but the men in the trenches seemed to want to talk more about home.
“The impression I got was it was a hard life, but they tried to keep everything on the positive side and just tell the family back home, I am fine, everything is going well. They didn’t really talk about the war itself all that much,” said Gill.
“They never really got on the topic unless it was about someone who had fallen.”
There were other stories. Some about the great battle, Vimy Ridge, and others about people who weren’t soldiers, like Edith Hancock, a Penticton woman who served as a “Bluebird,” as the soldiers nicknamed Canada’s military nurses on account of their blue dresses and white aprons.
“When she came back, she started the Penticton Regional Hospital. She started the hospital here, if we hadn’t had her, we might not have had the hospital,” said Ricard. There will be many other stories, woven together with music, which Ricard hopes will share their realization these soldiers are very real people, not just names on a cenotaph.
Grant said the public is encouraged, to come join the school ceremony, which begins shortly after 9 a.m.
“I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised to see the quality of work these guys are doing,” said Grant.