Monday, June 15, 2009

To Strathroy: Back to the Front

Before tearing ourselves away from Pinery Park on Sunday morning we tramped one final trail, the Carolinian. Pinery’s hardwoods – basswoods, ironwoods, hickories et al – are unfamiliar and exotic to us; none more so than the tallest of them all, the tuliptree. We were lucky to be there at the right time, tuliptree flowers were in full bloom, making it obvious how this tree comes by its name.

We set aside wildflowers and birds for a bit and went looking for an echo of The Great War. The town of Strathroy is about an hour’s drive east of Pinery. Strathroy’s happens to be the home town of Arthur Currie, who masterminded the great Canadian victory at Vimy and soon after was promoted to command the entire Canada Corps. In 1914 Currie was a Victoria realtor and local militia officer. By war’s end he was one of the most highly regarded generals on the Allied side. I was keen to see Currie’s boyhood home.

Fellow WWI student John Sargent gave me good instructions on how to find the farmhouse where Currie spent his early years. The old house – which ought to be preserved as a national historic site – is much deteriorated from Currie’s day but I was grateful to see it anyway. I was struck by the similarity between the gently rolling fields and woodlots of this part of Ontario and those of the battlefields of Flanders and France that Currie would come to know all too well from 1915 through 1918. I wondered whether his boyhood experience of the Ontario terrain helped inform his strategies for conducting war on the Western Front. Thank you, Sarge, for getting me to Napperton Road.

We moved on to Toronto. Nephew Michael lives just a block north of the ballfields of Christie Pits. Another set of good instructions led us to his place with little difficulty. The latest member of Mike’s family will attain age 2 in September. I had never met Rex but I’m familiar with his press clippings so I had high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed.

I am not a big-city person but Toronto always impresses me for the diversity of its population. The whole world and all of its culinary delights must be represented there. We enjoyed a fit-for-a-rajah Indian feast with Mike, Alice, Ana and Erica and went to sleep serenaded by nighthawks.

Alan

1 comment:

John P Sargeant said...

Good to "meet" you Alan. I am glad to see you got to Currie's place and even drove in and spoke to the resident. Anyone wanting more information on Currie or wanting to follow the project to raise a statue of him in Strathroy and perhaps even get the Feds to do what they should and make his boyhood home a National Historic Site, just go to The Currie Journal at http://tinhutjohn.tripod.com/