Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28th, 2012

The Cawston Board of Trade continued to be a source of activity and enterprise in the community, but not the only one as other organizations attracted many of these young veterans,  both socially, economically, and to satisfy a wish they seemed to have, to enter with vigor and enthusiasm into the life for which they had been spared.

Tom Brokow calls this generation of men born between 1900 and 1929 the 'Greatest Generation' - they were not perfect, but they had a wonderful zest for life, and circumstances had made them humble and grateful for all that life had to offer.  Some had memories of the first World War, and all of them went through the Great Depression when there were job losses without the benefit of UI - some had lived in Work Camps and had taken part in the desperate protest  March to Ottawa which ended so drastically in Regina.  Probably a few 'rode the rails', but many of the veterans on the Cawston Bench were young men who had entered the services straight from High School.  Charles had just turned twenty-one when he piloted a Lancaster over Europe, responsible for a crew of seven amidst all the flares and ack-ack from the anti-aircraft guns.  Responsibility was their 'middle name'.

They carried this quality into their post-war lives;  worked hard to support their families and their community;  had absolutely no sense of 'entitlement' but instead the honour of being excellent and ethical citizens came naturally to them and they offered their volunteer services wherever they were needed.  

Well, they weren't perfect, but they certainly did their bit...along with pretty well all the men of this generation in the Similkameen.

And their wives!!!

The Elks, the Royal Purple, the Masons and the Eastern Star gained new members, and flourished as service organizations as well as contributing to the social life of the community.  Before the advent of television evenings spent in comradeship with like minded lodge members were very welcome, and the time spent in the company of friends preparing for dinners or dances or rodeos or special events added a certain zest to life as well as a feeling of contributing to the welfare of others, especially children.

The Elks' Rodeo is still the main attraction on the May Long Week-end (formerly known as Victoria's Birthday), and every one takes part.  Such excitement in the early days around our house, and in all the other houses on the Bench where there were children.  I went faithfully until the last child finally was able to go on her own, lugging along the movie camera and all the little ones in their cowboy hats.

Now our great grandchildren go and take part in the big parade.

along with Great Grandpa at the front of the float

and have fun at the rodeo while their mothers try to keep them corralled!

It was a golden age of fraternalism and ritualism  and good works that seems to have lost its appeal among younger people, although I have read, to my dismay, that youthful gangs indulge pathologically in passwords, secret handshakes and other signs and symbols.

Charles was Organist for a number of years in the Elks Lodge, and many of the veterans on the Cawston Bench went through the Chairs, some ending up as Exalted Rulers (I believe the term used more endearingly was 'exhausted rooster'), or Masters in the Masons.

In my mind's eye I have pictures of hard-time dances, of afternoons spent making sandwiches with other Purple Ladies, of looking forward to a night out with friends at Lodge meetings, and trying to remember the Password for the evening's meeting, of the 11o'clock ritual at Elks' affairs and the work and excitement at Rodeo time.  And there lingers too, in my mind, the feeling of trust and friendship between members, where a phrase (since abandoned) in the oath promised to look out for other sisters and 'apprise her of approaching danger".

I guess the way we were looks quite quaint now, - antiquated I suppose -  but we were young and enthusiastic at the time.  The Lodge has dropped many of its ritualistic ways, and there are very few amongst us that don't have silver hair, but there is still a certain order about it that is very civilized and we still do worthy works among the children, especially for those among them that are deaf.  And we still cherish the friendships of those who are with us now, and those who live in our memories.

It was all a part of the Fairview Heights community and a way of contributing and recharging our own lives.

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