Monday, November 12, 2012

Stuart McLean, Canadian Flag, 1928 Olympics


Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown CanadaWelcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada by Stuart McLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty years later this book is still a relevant piece of Canadian literature reflecting on the lives of those individuals who live in rural communities.  Working hard to survive and communities these people share with McLean what they love about living in small towns, what endures them to their community members, and the various ways in which they are attempting to survive together as urbanization increases and their rural populations decrease.  From a hockey town in Manitoba, to the historic town of Maple Creek, to the far reaches of a bay town of Sackville, the reader is taken on a soft and melodious journey through the eyes of those who live and work in rural communities.  I wonder if he has written an updated version.  I think McLean should.

The most interesting part for me was the meeting McLean secured with the person who created the Canadian flag, George Stanley living in Sackville, New Brunswick.  He was asked to create a version of a potential flag by a member of parliament as he had strong interests in history and heraldry (a means of identification, usually focused on country or familial commitment).  He based his single maple leaf design on outfits Olympians wore during the 1928 Olympics, the games my grandfather Doral Pilling and his room mate Percy Williams both competed in.  "One of the images I have carried with me all my life is a photograph I saw when I was a boy.  It was a picture form the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam of Percy Williams breasting the tape and winning a gold medal for Canada.  He was wearing a white jersey with a red maple leaf on his chest.  It's an image that has always struck with me."  Recently a book was written about Percy Williams by Samuel Hawley titled, I Just Ran: Percy Williams, World's Fastest Human (http://www.amazon.ca/Just-Ran-William...).  Another book to read especially since the author consulted with my Aunt Arta Johnson who was instrumental in documenting her father's, Doral Pilling's, oral history which included stories about the 1928 Olympics and the athletic tours he participated in as the team returned to Canada.  I also have two cousins who have taken this maple leaf motif from their Olympic uniforms and had tattoos made from them.  Family stories and choices coming full circle.  Thank you McLean for shedding more light on a family story of which I was unaware.


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