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Transcript of Postcard
John Wilson Pearce
My grandfather was Anglican and was a member of St Mary’s church. St. Mary’s church was built in 1854 and the architect was Sir George Gibert Scott. It was built with Sandstone and has beautiful stain glass windows. Inside there is a mural created by Gordon Ransom during the war in 1944 to represent a rush bearing ceremony. It is 26 feet long and contains 62 people in four scenes. The 62 people lived in Ambleside during that time and one of them is my grandfather. The rush bearing is a ceremony in July every year in which people celebrate the ancient tradition of replacing the rushes on the church floors. In modern times it is a community celebration and people decorate various objects with the rushes. The mural is painted as a tribute to the ceremony and my grandfather recalled having to stay very still and quiet for days while it was painted. He loved being a part of it so much that he did his best to stay still at aged 9. The mural has become a celebrated symbol of the town. A postcard was made of the mural and very few people leave Ambleside without a postcard with my grandfather on it. This means his image is in homes all over the world.
It said that William Wordsworth, the poet lived in Ambleside and wrote his poetry surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the countryside. I can imagine how inspired he must have felt by his surroundings. I can picture him carrying his writing supplies and walking to one of his favourite spots to create his masterpieces. The wondrous scenes that Ambleside provided as a backdrop for his poems, would supply endless material to get creative juices flowing. The grass seems greener than anywhere else and the skies and lakes seem more. blue. Everything is more vivid. Everything is in technicolour. It would be a poets dream setting. When I read poems that describe vivid and lush scenery, my mind sees Ambleside. I wonder if Wordsworth's creations would have been the same if he had not been inspired by Ambleside.
My grandfather was born in Ambleside. He roamed the fields and swam in the lakes. His fondness for the countryside didn’t waiver and he returned to visit his homeland many times. He brought his own family to share in this wondrous scenery and although my grandmother had never visited before, she stated that on her very first trip to Ambleside, she felt like she was home. Ambleside has picturesque beauty. It is postcard worthy beauty. The combination of blue lakes and green fields and hills makes it an idyllic setting for "anything nature." It oozes peace and tranquility and is a place for the nature lover to breathe in the rejuvenating air and marvel at the sight of the lakes and the velvet green pastures and hills. It is steeped in history as people have roamed through the breathtaking Lake District for hundreds of years. It is even home to a famous poet.
The town of Ambleside is very quaint and the architecture is ancient, most buildings made from stone. Although a small town it had many stores and
cobblestone streets. My grandfather’s parents owned a store so he knew all the townspeople. He could walk short distances to visit his friends in their
parents shops and he could walk to school. He played a lot of sports but mostly sports that the kids his age or his parents would organize. My grandfather
had a large circle of friends and everyone in the town was very friendly and thought of each other as relatives even though they weren’t related. My
grandfather would often speak of cousins and aunts and uncles that were of no blood relation of any sort. It was especially apparent when the boys of
Ambleside had to go off to war. These boys were the sons of the entire town. My great grandfather owned a store in Ambleside but even then, the family
was not considered well off financially. When he had to go off to war, my great grandmother tried to keep the store going but she couldn’t and finally had
to close it down.My grandfather said he loved the streets of Ambleside and the old architecture. It was one of the things he missed when he lived in
various cities in Canada and one of reasons he loved visiting places that were steeped in history and had the history in the walls.
While Ambleside can conjure up many warm memories for my grandfather, it can also bring some painful ones to the surface. My grandfather describes the war years as scary and dark and he meant “dark” literally. At night, during the war, families in England were not allowed to keep the lights on. They needed to spend nights in the dark because the bombers could see the lights from their planes above and knew there where the villages were if the lights were on. If the enemy bombers saw lights on they would bomb them in hopes that they would bomb the whole village.
My grandfather grew up in Ambleside at an unfortunate time and had to endure World War II. It was a terrifying and sad time for many families especially for those who lost a loved one. My great grandfather survived the war but he had contracted Tuberculosis while he was away in the trenches fighting and he died shortly after returning home. My grandfather always said that at least they got to see him again and say goodbye and a lot of families didn’t get that chance. My great grandfather’s death left the family grief stricken and penniless. My great grandmother was panicked and afraid. She wanted a nice life for her boys. Little did she know that in a few months an opportunity would come along that
would change all of their lives forever.
When my grandfather landed in Canada he expected to meet Uncle Jack. Instead of meeting Poppa personally, Uncle Jack sent someone to meet my grandfather to give him a train ticket. My grandfather was then met at the train station by a driver who drove him to a huge big house in Montreal. Any excitement that my grandfather had about a relationship with Uncle Jack soon disappeared. He was very generous but he wasn’t going to be the father figure my grandfather had hoped for. After a few weeks Poppa was shipped off The Royal Military College. For a little kid from England moving to a French speaking part of Canada was a huge adjustment. Also it was very strict at the RMC and he wasn’t used to having much authority. He had a lot of stories about his mischeviousness. He got into a few scrapes at RMC but surprisingly, Uncle Jack would always help him out. He began a shortlived but successful boxing career while at the RMC which I feel underlined this feisty phase in his life. He was very grateful for his time at this school and for his education. He met many of his life long friends there and he was indebted to Uncle Jack.
Shortly after graduating, Poppa met my grandmother. He had 3 children; my dad and my two aunts. He started to work for the Canadian Automobile Association in Ottawa and then transferred to Peterborough. He and my grandmother began to travel all over the world because of his job. They travelled to Russia, they kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, they chipped off pieces of the Berlin Wall. They were a big part of my life and I am lucky to have so many memories with them. When my grandfather retired, he and my grandmother bought a house in Florida and we would visit every Easter. He was very generous with his time and he organized a charity golf tournament every year to raise money for various charities. When he was home in the winter, he volunteered at Hospice in Peterborough helped many families through extremely sad times. These experiences foreshadowed his own illness and his subsequent need for Hospice care himself.
World War II was a horrible war just like all wars. It ripped many families apart and it was a terrible blow to my grandfather. When he was a very young boy his family lost his father to the war effort when he was stationed in France. His father wrote letters home about life in the trenches. He tried to be upbeat but he longed to be home with his boys, his wife and his store. When the war ended he had contracted Tuberculosis and died shortly after returning home. This left his family without a father and a breadwinner. His mother was desperate for her sons to have a nice life. She began to research options and one was leaving England for a new life in Canada. An Uncle had made an offer to bring one son to his home in Canada and educate him, His mother picked her youngest son, my grandfather. Uncle Jack bought my grandfather a ticket on a ship that would cross the Atlantic and take him on the scariest but most exhilarating adventure of his young life. My grandfather might have embellished a little but his trip across the Atlantic fascinated me. He described his bunk and meals and the personalities of all the people he met. He told me of some scary nights when the ship hit bad weather and he was worried they would sink. He told me learned a lot about growing up on that trip, and about bravery. I imagine he was scared out of his mind on that ship but he dug very deep into his soul to survive physically and emotionally. He taught me that anyone can face anything if they put their mind to it. He always had a new story about something that happened on that ship to help me if I was ever nervous about a test or a competition or a track meet. I loved his stories and the twinkle in his eye when he told me.
At the end of my grandfather’s life, he was just as brave as when he was a young boy facing his father’s death and his trip across the ocean. He was diagnosed with ALS, which is a neurological disease which causes muscle loss to the point where he could barely walk, eat or breathe. His mind was still functioning as it ever was though and even though he found it difficult to talk, he still found a way to tell me stories. I am so grateful that I asked to hear about his life and that he made it so fun to listen to. I was lucky to be old enough to enjoy him and learn from him before he died. There was always a life lesson from him every time I saw him. He never treated me like a baby or a child. I always felt I was an equal; a real person even though I was very young, I was as much a part of the family as anyone else. I also felt like he was my friend. He also made me feel protected and confident in myself. I spoke at his funeral. I don't know how I got the courage to do it. I think it was because he taught me to be brave and strong. Some kids don’t get to know their grandparents at all. I feel very priviledged that I got a lot more than that.
I miss you Poppa,