During this week of Remembrance, it is worthwhile thinking about life a century ago in Canada and in St. Marys. The upcoming seminar, Thursday evening, November 16, at the St. Marys Museum – Voices from 1917 – aims to provide a bit of the flavour of that significant year. 1917 was filled with events that contributed to the shaping of our country today. For instance, the well-documented battles of Vimy and Passchendaele and the bitter “Conscription” election of December 1917 shook the entire country and the impact was also felt on a more personal level in many individual communities such as St. Marys.
Lieutenant William Wright left his work as principal of the St. Marys Collegiate to serve overseas. He wrote letters home to a friend describing first-hand the Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge. He was killed in action four months later. Private William Near, a popular St. Marys boy from a large family, kept a daily record of events during his time on active service. He filled it with details that were important to him – especially recording the letters, postcards and parcels he received from home. He was killed on November 8, 1917. His pocket diary was returned to his parents following his death. The voices of these two St. Marys residents will be heard during the seminar.
As well, there will be voices from politicians – those responsible for making decisions affecting Canada’s role in the war effort. But equally, there will be voices from ordinary people who remained at home, striving to do their best on the Home Front. These people may have decided to invest in Victory Bonds or, if they could not carry a rifle, to pick up a pitch fork and spend some extra hours helping a farmer. A housewife may explain how she tried to prepare tasty food for her family without using ingredients – such as white flour, eggs and butter – that could be exported to Britain to help supplement food shortages there.
Talented readers – friends of the St. Marys Museum – will present these voices and even answer questions about life in 1917. Voices from 1917 takes place from 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, November 16 at the St. Marys Museum. Space is limited and pre-registration is necessary. Cost is $12 ($10 for members.) Call 519-284-3556 for information.