Monday, May 21, 2012

Welcome to Canada

Queen Victoria (Charles Léandre,
Le Rire, June 12, 1897)
In the middle of the last century when I was a wee Willy - oh grow up the lot of you!!!! - today was known as Victoria Day and we celebrated the birthday of a Queen who had been dead for over 50 years. But as I wrote previously it was a time to assert our "Britishness" -  to fly our Union Jacks and show that we were loyal Monarchists through and through.  In 1953 - after the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth - it became the official day for observing the Queen's Birthday (though her birthday is actually April 21), up until then the Monarch's birthday had been a bit of a movable feast.   Now 50 years later it seems to be a day that has lost any Royal significance and has become better known as the "Let's Open the Cottage" weekend.

Back in 1951 as well as Victoria Day we had another occasion to show how true, blue and loyal we were and show it we did.  The young Princess Elizabeth and her husband came to Canada for a visit in October of that year.  For 33 days she toured Canada and included in that trip was a 48-km ride through the streets and boroughs of the Queen's City - Toronto.  As I recall we were given the day off school and little union jacks, red ensigns and buttons that proclaimed our welcome to the Princess and her Prince were distributed.

A few days ago while going through a drawer I came across two of those small buttons - long forgotten souvenirs of a childhood memory.   In all probability my mother had kept them and when I was cleaning out her apartment I found them and as now so then memories were revived and I put them away as a memento of an era that even in 1996 had been long past.  An era when like the young Princess we looked forward to the last half of the 20th century with optimisms and high expectations.

This image is much larger than the buttons we were given in 1951
- the actual button is about 1 1/2 inches across - the 25 year old Princess would have
had to have remarkable eyesight to see this Welcome on my lapel.
Ah well when you are 5 years old its the thought that counts.

Of course I don't remember the exact date or really the details but because it was October we must have dressed warmly for the trek up to the Queen Elizabeth Highway.  A 10 minute walk from our hose the QEW was the major highway (4 lanes! can you believe it?); it had been named after the Princess's  mother and dedicated on the Royal Visit in 1939.  I do remember that my mother and father took Teresa - our next door neighbour and my best friend - and I up to join the crowd that lined the road - our whole neighbourhood was there.  We were all waiting to greet the Princess - flags at the ready, buttons proudly displayed and hearts primed to show our future monarch how much we loved her and her Prince.  The motorcade moved passed us - we waved and cheered and behind the glass a small figure acknowledged us with a smile and a wave.   It was a fleeting moment but I knew then as I am as sure 51 years later that she waved and smiled right at me!

21 May - 1502: The island of Saint Helena is discovered by the Portuguese explorer João da Nova.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I wonder how much those buttons are worth on the Royal Memorabilia market? Of course, they are priceless to you!

FFXIV Gold said...
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