When members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry stopped in Brandon yesterday, one of their stops was the veterans’ memorial at 11th Street and Victoria Avenue.
For several weeks, PPCLI has been marking its centennial with a baton relay from Edmonton to Ottawa. They’re marking the 100th anniversary by retracing the route of their initial marshalling for service, on the eve of the First World War, in 1914.
As you’ll read in today’s paper, they arrived in Brandon yesterday — part of two-day stay in the area, including Sunday in Shilo. The team set up a centennial display in both places, including a mobile museum and children’s inflatable obstacle course.
The baton itself contains the names of 1,866 people who were members of PPCLI and died during active service.
A centennial is, of course, notable. And we applaud the men and women who are relaying this baton all the way from Edmonton to Ottawa.
But we were also struck by the fact that this is the second ceremony in just a few days in the tiny strip of park on the 1000-block of Victoria Avenue.
On Friday, a plaque was unveiled just down from the Veterans Memorial to commemorate another centennial.
That plaque was one of 100 scheduled to be unveiled across the country last week, marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the War Measures Act in 1914, which authorized so-called “enemy aliens” to be interned in prison camps.
Many of those people were immigrants whose birthplace just happened to have gone to war with England. Here in Brandon, hundreds were jailed for nearly two years at the city’s winter fair arena.
Official government records of the First World War internment were, regrettably, destroyed in the 1950s. But it is generally looked upon now as a black mark in our country’s history.
The winter fair arena was torn down around 1970.
Afterwards, that lot was home to a Safeway grocery store, with attached bank and liquor store.
Now, of course, it is the still-new-looking home for the Brandon Police Service.
But the police don’t have nearly as many “customers” as Safeway did, so the parking lot in the front was a little too large.
It was an excellent idea to turn the front strip of it, along Victoria Avenue, into a small park.
It was an even better idea to create a Brandon Veterans’ Memorial.
Unlike most small towns around us, Brandon doesn’t have a public cairn or obelisk to mark our contribution to the First and Second World Wars. There is a large memorial, the Cross of Sacrifice, at the Brandon Municipal Cemetery, but it was funded privately in the 1920s (apparently, city government at the time declined to contribute) and is now maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
It has also been left up to private groups to create what other memorials exist in Brandon, in particular the trio of memorials in front of the Brandon Armoury, which is just across the street from the veterans’ memorial.
Interestingly, the “park” that the Brandon Veterans’ Memorial and the internment memorial plaque is in could be considered almost private space as well, since it was carved out of the police station parking lot.
The new parking lot at the Dood Cristall YMCA in downtown Brandon will also feature a “pocket park,” including a landscaped grassy areas, a basketball hoop and fitness equipment.
It’s a welcome trend, and there are hundreds of parking lots that could use a little more green here and there.
It’s also increasingly clear that there is a lot of our civic history that is poorly commemorated, or is not at all.
It shouldn’t take much to turn a few parking spaces in the far corner of every lot — you know, the ones that are only ever filled on the Saturday before Christmas, but also happen to be right next to the sidewalk —and turn them into something more pleasing.
One of the things that could be considered as more pleasing would be a small memorial of some sort. As the successful Brandon Veterans’ Memorial and internment memorial show, they don’t have to be large to be meaningful.
We note that this is likely something that could be done by any organization with a large parking lot. There are no shortage of worthy historical events that deserve recognition.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 26, 2014