I’m scheduled to go to Ottawa next week to hear John Solheim speak at a breakfast, then sit down with the chairman and CEO of PING to discuss the golf industry and while I always look forward to a chat with Solheim, who is always kind enough to make himself available, I also look forward to the five-hour drive to the nation’s capital for another reason.
The trip will take a few hours longer this time around. About two hours east of Toronto, I will get off Hwy. 401 and head to Picton, Ont., where so many memories from over 50 years ago remain vivid to this day.
The visit to Picton will take me way out of my way for a brief hour or so of nostalgia, but it’s worth it. I don’t know why I’m doing it, but I just know I want to do it.
It was a place where I would renew an ongoing friendship with my pal Larry, who lived next door to my grandparents. I only got to see Larry, maybe two or three times a year, but every time I visited, it seemed like only a day had passed since I last saw him, not the months that had gone by in reality.
We wandered the town and the fields outside of town in a way that would have parents today aghast with our lack of supervision, but this was a small, charming town in Eastern Ontario, not unlike the one I grew up in – and did the same things – north of Toronto.
One of our frequent stops was a corner store called “Scotty’s,” where the proprietor who went by the same name as his establishment would holler the minute I walked in. “Hi Ian, back in town are you? How are the folks?” he would ask.
After dinner, my grandmother would often pull out her harmonica and play a tune and dance a jig to make us laugh. “Wee Dolly” Martin was the character of my grandparents. a war bride from Glasgow, who wound up in Canada after meeting my grandfather in the First World War.
My grandfather would smile at her antics, but not say a whole lot. He was certainly friendly enough and definitely approachable. I remember walking down the street with him and about everyone who passed had a “Hello Fred” for him.
As quiet and as gentle a man as he was, grandpa was no small part of the memories that will come back next week when I visit again. If not for him, those memories may not have happened if not for his contributions, and those of many more, during the war and at Vimy Ridge, where history says Canada became a nation.
When I was playing golf in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France a few years ago, I was wishing to visit Vimy even though I was with a group and couldn’t.
I never heard much from grandpa about Vimy Ridge, but I knew he fought there and I wouldn’t be traveling freely in that country, or even enjoying the memories of youth, if not for what Canadians did at Vimy.
I did, however, see the after-effects of the war in which grandpa was gassed, had the end of his thumb blown off by a bullet and was shot in both knees after lying about his age to go overseas and defend his country.
He was hard of hearing and it got worse over time as did his breathing, although there were other reasons as well for that. He had been a smoker, although he gave that up, and delivered coal for a living.
There were soldiers who had a worse fate than grandpa at Vimy Ridge and throughout the war, but there is little doubt that he carried the scars for the rest of his life, yet rarely spoke of it.
He didn’t need to for traveling in France, I thought of his contributions along with the Canadians he fought alongside as I went to play golf that day, an enjoyment that may not have taken place had they not been successful.
I’ll think of him today and next week when those childhood memories of Wee Dolly, Larry and Picton coming flooding back. My dad served in the RCAF in WW II, even if he didn’t go overseas. I had uncles who did and for that I’m proud of that from a family perspective.
I don’t know what would have happened had history not worked out the way it did, but I do know the difficulties we face in business don’t have the dire consequences of the battles that Canadian forces have fought over the years.
We take on the battles of business because we want to, not because we’re threatened as they were back then. That’s a benefit of what they accomplished so long ago.
And a big reason that Remembrance Day will continue into next week for me.