Did people forget to remember?
Welland-Crowland War Memorial service pales in comparison to those of years past
Does the last “Last Post” loom large for the early Remembrance Day service in the Rose City?
I asked myself that question walking away from Sunday’s golden-leaf-carpeted Chippawa Park.
I hope it doesn’t, but I harbour concern over what may have to be.
Like the recent municipal election in Welland (and elsewhere), the turnout on Sunday past was disappointing. It is safe to assume public interest in many things public and formerly held dear is on the wane, distressingly so. It just could be that apathy is a cancer eating away at this once-cherished part of the common good.
Let me explain my feeling of concern:
Put the flag bearers aside. Put the nattily-attired politicians aside. Put the men and women wearing navy blue legion blazers aside. Put the piper and the buglers aside. What are you left with?
Maybe a few dozen members of the public who came out on that weather-blessed autumn after-
noon to assemble at the iconic Welland-Crowland War Memorial.
A few dozen.
Forty or 50, maybe?
Could the gathering even be called a crowd?
On this day of remembrance, did people forget to remember?
For this onlooker, the live drama that unfolds year after year makes for engrossing theatre.
Though a perennial ‘rerun,’ it’s something that has to be seen regardless.
Actors sharing the open-air stage with the handsome granite memorial forming the backdrop are stars in a bloodless drama that holds its audience in silence.
It shouldn’t come as surprising. The script, the same year after year, is worthy of being award-winning: rich in reflection, appreciation and remembrance.
But still lamented by some is the absence of the full-fledged parade that opened this Sunday before Remembrance Day ceremony.
Years ago, local veterans, branch members, cadets, firefighters, auxiliary police and others in crisp uniforms and buffed shoes marched with solemnity from the shopping plaza parking lot on Fitch Street to the park. There the crowd, a bona fide crowd, awaited their arrival.
As marchers’ ages went up in years, as their numbers were thinned by attrition and weakened legs that no longer could carry them (“the legs are always first to go” it is often heard said), the parade route was shortened and changed. It now starts within the park itself.
This came up in reminiscences with Bob Clarkson, a bugler for years with the Bellerophon band. He and three bugling cronies, cradling horns in the crooks of their arms, waited for their role in Sunday’s service. It is one they hold sacrosanct: a rendition of the mournful “Last Post.”
The service is nothing new to them.
And they were participants, many times in years gone by, in that parade down Fitch Street to the park.
“It was a sight to behold, one that did the (legion) branch proud,” Clarkson reflected.
It added spectacle to substance, all agreed.
When in the program the foursome’s time on stage arrived, they more than rose to the occasion.
From their appointed place near the cenotaph, they played the “Last Post.” Its somber notes were heart-piercing, as looks on faces of onlookers conveyed.
At services such as this, we have our own takeaways.
Another of mine from Sunday’s was the hymn “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”
Softly yet movingly sung by Dawn Cooke, it was a heartfelt plea for the presence of peace in our lives.
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” it began. “Let there be peace on earth, The peace that was meant to be.”
I can hear it still.
Some say peace is more fragile than it has been for years. Let’s hope, and pray, the world condition does not get worse.
I’m never “at war” with myself when it comes to attending a legion service.
I hope to hear Sunday’s two memorable pieces again and again as years go by.
You would, too. But first you have to be there to understand why.
Buglers from the former Bellerophon Bugle Band, from left Dan Williams, Mim Rodrigue, Albert Crumb and Bob Clarkson perform the Last Post at Sunday's Remembrance Day parade and service in Chippawa Park. At right is pipe major Tim Woodhead, who later piped the Lament.
Buglers from the former Bellerophon Bugle Band, from left Dan Williams, Mim Rodrigue, Albert Crumb and Bob Clarkson ready to perform theLast Post. At right is pipe major Tim Woodhead.