Following In My Grandfather’s Footsteps has led me to a veritable treasure trove in the trunk my father has lugged around for more almost 50 years.
There is nothing more alluring to a teen than something taboo. For me, it was my father’s trunk. As far as I was concerned, it held all the family secrets. And one, in particular, fascinated me: my grandfather’s 9mm police handgun.
I fished it out on a regular basis to impress my high school mates. It was an old Smith and Wesson and the slide was broken so it would come off when you racked it – which wasn’t so impressive. But it was still a prized possession that elevated my social ranking among friends.
It was the coolest thing in the trunk as far as I was concerned. That was until a few weeks ago when I moved my folks out their home and the trunk landed in my living room. Through all those years of rummaging, I didn’t pay much heed to the rest of the trunk’s treasures. Until now.
The handgun is long gone as my father turned it into the Langley RCMP during one of those gun amnesties in the 90s. However, I am discovering the trunk is a veritable time capsule of family history.
Before he had children, my father lived an interesting life. (After children, he’s just dad). My grandfather was an army man, so it was a proud moment when his son joined the Royal Canadian Air Force after high school in 1958. His uniform is one of the treasures I discovered in the trunk. It’s complete with his cuff links, wedge hat flashes and embroidered crests. It smells musty but the tunic and trousers are one pressing away from being parade ready. I am sure I was as proud to discover it as his father was to see him in it.
Following his time in the air force, my father landed a job in the Canadian arctic, working on the Distant Early Warning Line. The DEW Line, as he referred to it, was the most northerly radar lines in Canada and was meant to detect Soviet bomber during the cold war. He has some great tales of polar bear sighting and enduring frigid conditions. He also came back with a few pieces of arctic history, including an Inuit soapstone carving, fur parka, gloves and soft-soled mukluks. That is truly Canadian.
These are little treasure with no great monetary value, but they are pieces of Canada and speak to my father’s role in it. We all make minute impressions on this country and it’s interesting to discover how my father factored into 150 years of this nation.