Young member appreciates past
People who attended last year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in Ayer’s Cliff may remember an interesting sight: a young man dressed in an authentic World War I uniform, standing at attention beside the cenotaph. That young man was Lorne Waid Junior, of Georgeville, who is one of the Ayer’s Cliff Legion’s youngest members.
“I joined about three years ago,” explained the twenty-five year-old in an interview at the Legion Hall on Rosedale Avenue. “I was with a friend of mine, Josh Bowen, when his father, Madison Bowen, showed up and put two forms down in front of us and told us to join. So we both joined the Legion. I had an interest in the Legion and I was always a big history buff.”
A collector of militaria, Lorne soon became the historian for the club. “It’s a position that I fell into, initially to look after the artifacts and photographs, to preserve and catalogue them.” And now, thanks to this enthusiastic historian, members and visitors to the Ayer’s Cliff Legion get to see some of those artifacts and historic photographs more often. “I do a rotational display of military artifacts for each monthly meeting. I’ll set up a table from both the Legion’s collection and my own,” explained Mr. Waid.
“The internet’s a godsend to do research,” he continued. “I found an obscure book written in 1917, Men of Today, that profiles men from the Eastern Townships. There are so many groups that are into this kind of stuff on the internet.” Lorne sounds proud of the Townshippers of the past when he talks of their involvement in the war: “Between 4 and 5 % of Townshippers went to the First World War. People were different back then: they didn’t question when the King put out the call and every little town in the Townships had a recruitment office. Of the 117th Battalion, one third of those were of French Canadian descent.” Reverently picking up an old photograph of a group of young soldiers, he said: “A photograph like this is gold. They’re all local people, members of the Sherbrooke Fusaliers.”
According to Mr. Waid, the Archives Canada website holds a wealth of infor- mation for those interested in military history or investigating their own family military history. “Prior to 1918, the service records are all public. Service records are very complete. Sometimes they’re not perfect but they are a record of everything that happened to the individual once they joined the military. World War II records are very good, World War I records are a little spotty.”
Lorne’s exposure to military history began at a young age. “My father was a history buff and I heard family stories that went as far back as the Civil War. I heard war stories from my grandfather and from Ted Rogers, a friend of the family. I remember him telling me it was great when he joined the army in the Second World War: he got three meals a day!”
When Mr. Waid, who works in the construction business with his father, first joined the Ayer’s Cliff Legion, his knowledge about renovating was put to use before his knowledge of military history. Following the flooding of the Legion Hall’s basement three years ago, volunteers were needed to repair the damage and, as Lorne put it jokingly, “I made the mistake of putting my hand up once during the meeting.” Branch president Susan Fletcher-Doust commented: “Lorne was a tremendous help, putting in countless hours of work to help repair the damage.”
And all that work led to some interesting discoveries. “We found pictures in boxes and bags when we were doing the renovations. We found the old Magog Legion flag and their former Charter; it became like a treasure hunt. It would be a crime to leave stuff like that in boxes, forgotten.” Picking up a photograph of soldiers, Lorne added: “I don’t know these people but they existed. They all gave up their lives here to go fight, some may have even died.”
During this year’s week of Remembrance, Lorne will be creating several historic displays. “I’ll be setting out a big table with artifacts and photographs for our Remembrance Dinner. I’m also going to set up a display at the hall for the older students of Ayer’s Cliff Elementary and visit the students of Princess Elizabeth School, in Magog. I remember when I was a student at Princess Elizabeth. We would be visited by twenty-five or thirty veterans on Remembrance Day. We’re the last generation who remembers meeting so many veterans. Now we have only four World War II veterans left in our club.”
If you have any old war photographs, badges, uniforms, letters or other artifacts that you would like to entrust to the Ayer’s Cliff Legion for safe-keeping and occasional display, you can contact Lorne Waid Junior at 819 843-9795 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lorne Waid Junior, the historian of the Ayer’s Cliff Legion, organizes, catalogues and displays the branch’s important artifacts and photographs at monthly meetings and special events.