Poppy campaign brings in thousands
By Sue Tiffin
Published Nov. 8, 2018
whiteboard set up next to the entranceway and alongside the busy path to
the washroom facilities and dartboards draws the attention of anyone
sitting in the common room at the Minden Legion. On it, a chart of
dates, times and locations is filled with names scrawled in marker,
showing just how dedicated Minden Legion members and volunteers are to
making poppies of remembrance available to the public during this year’s
national poppy campaign.
Ken Krakenberg, poppy chair, refers
to that chart often from the last Friday of October to Nov. 11. He
ensures poppy trays are arranged for the more than 40 people who have
donated their time and effort to sitting or standing at about eight
locations around town. Those volunteers include Tom Lee, Jenn and Rick
Wilson, Rick Ratcliff, Wendy Bolt, Karen Ford and Mabel Brannigan, who
the branch is named for, herself.
“Mabel, she’s drawing a
crowd,” says Krakenberg of the beloved Second World War veteran, who has
been putting in four-hour shifts making poppies available to customers
at Home Hardware in Minden.
In total, about 7,000 poppies are
distributed in Minden, with donations from local businesses and poppy
trays – sometimes $100 bills quietly and humbly donated by being wrapped
within $5 bills – totalling about $17,000 last year. The funds help the
Legion provide financial assistance and support to veterans and their
families. Locally, that means veterans or their families have been
helped with grants toward food, heating costs, clothing, prescription
medication, medical appliances and equipment, essential home repairs or
care facilities, and also that the county’s local cadet unit and
palliative care unit have received funding from the Minden Legion.
work that begins at the Minden branch in July with discussions, carries
into September with an awareness campaign mail-out to members and
officially starts recruiting volunteers at the beginning of October when
the schedule board is set up. Legion members are enthusiastic about the
work they do to help support veterans and the greater community.
very successful because of the people in Minden,” said Al Mayo,
veterans services officer. “They really support the poppy fund and we’re
really proud of it.”
Jim Donaldson, Legion vice-chair, said that’s not a surprise.
a smaller place, a Legion becomes a community, a gathering spot,” he
said. “In big cities, it is not so. Therein is the difference.” He said
that 135 war veterans are buried in the Minden cemetery, and that the
community has a strong connection to the military through their
Even though the Minden Legion has 300 members, many
of those members are seasonal residents who aren’t here to help with
poppy duty in the fall months.
“But we pick up the slack,” said Mayo.
Canadian Tire in Minden, Lee Train is sitting at the entrance to the
front doors. Train volunteers to do poppy duty on an annual basis, in
part honouring his father, who served in the Second World War.
“I swore to my dad that I would do poppy,” he said.
dad served in Holland with the ordinance crew driving motorcycles and
trucks, after lying about his age and signing up at the Canadian
“When I was seven years old, this is how
small my dad was when he went overseas, when I was seven years old, I
could fit in his uniform,” said Train, pausing to greet store customers
as they approached to get a poppy or a pin. “And I used to, I used to
find all his stuff and I wore it in the basement practising to be in the
war when I was a little kid.”
Train said he didn’t learn much
about his dad’s involvement until he was older, and even then he didn’t
hear the whole story of what his dad experienced.
“I think it
was because these guys were really tough,” he said. “My dad didn’t tell
me nothing about the war time until I was probably 40 years old or so.
He only would tell me the good times.”
Born a wartime baby,
Train himself didn’t serve with the military, but did wear a uniform
during his time with the police department. While on the police force,
he would stop in at Sunnybrook Hospital to visit with war veterans,
including a man who had been burnt badly with mustard gas who Train said
spent 10 or 12 hours a day immersed in a solution to help ease
Train’s wife, Adele Espina, received an award of
excellence from the Ontario Museum Association in 2010 for curating an
exhibition recognizing soldiers from Haliburton County who served and
died in the First and Second World Wars, and his daughter is a doctor
serving in the military.
“My dad was so proud of her,” he
said. “We used to take him to the remembrance in Ottawa. She’d be in
full uniform. He was in a wheelchair ... so she’d push him up and he’d
get to the front of the line. He shook hands with some of the prime
ministers, he was allowed to go into the war museum on opening day with
After his dad passed at the age of 86, Train and Espina found two German guns hidden in his attic.
“It would have been interesting to know,” he said. “I know there were some real bad times over there, but they won’t tell you.”
his promise to his dad, who used to do poppy duty for eight or nine
hours a day, seven days a week, Train volunteers for full shifts at
Canadian Tire on Fridays and Saturdays from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
leading up to Remembrance Day when he lays a wreath in honour of his
“I’m sitting here,” he answers, when asked why he does it. “It could be different. I have the opportunity to talk freely.”
Gord Arthur said he volunteers his time with the poppy campaign, “mostly every year.”
week, the 95-year-old Second World War veteran and regular poppy
campaign volunteer declined an offer for a chair from LCBO staff and
said he paid for it the next few days, stiffening right up. This week,
he’s comfortably tucked in to a spot at the end of the counter, pausing
his conversation to say thank you to those depositing money into his
tray, some who choose a poppy or Lest we Forget bracelet, and some who
simply donate. He has tricks to keep a poppy attached to a jacket – an
earring backing will keep it in place – and adheres the poppy sticker
offered as part of the campaign on his front door.
working in an ammunition factory near St. Catharines when he signed up
at 19 to serve before he was called to do so. Arthur went to England on
June 6 with the artillery, just days before his 21st birthday.
didn’t go right in with the first wave,” he said. “We went in firing
the guns and then backed up into the channel. Then, when the infantry
was in, we went back in.”
Arthur was with headquarters and was
fortunate to not have anybody in his outfit killed. He said that
because he was with artillery, he was moving all the time.
“We had the guns on tanks, instead of being pulled along on the ground,” he said. “So we moved quite often.”
It’s part of his life history that, although he doesn’t think of it often, he won’t soon forget.
was frightening,” he said. “Especially when we went back in and seen
all the bodies, that was the worst thing. But other than that...”
blazer is filled with medals, his own poppy – which he has attached
with a remembrance pin – secured over his heart, where it should be
worn, he recommends.
“I don’t talk about it too much,” he
said. “I can’t tell them too much and I don’t want to tell them too
much. It’s something, your own experience. You always have your
experience, and you can’t say anything for the rest of the people but
some people like to talk about it. I very seldom talk about the war, or
the army, or anything. That’s something I’ve done and it’s gone by years
Arthur said he came home at Christmas in 1945 on the Queen Elizabeth ship.
went over on the Queen Elizabeth and came back on the Queen Elizabeth,”
he said, recalling two meals a day on the ship, with fruit or a
sandwich in between for a third meal. “It was rough. It was just the
water. You’d stand on the back of the boat and one time you’re looking
at the sky and the next time you’re looking at the water.”
had just returned from a holiday in England and was at the Rhine, ready
to go across it, when he heard the news that the war had ended.
“The end was just the end, that was all,” he said.
“They just announced it,” he said. “War is over.”
Last year, Arthur said he volunteered for one shift for poppy duty, but this year, he took on three Fridays.
“I could have went more, but I didn’t,” he said, and then, laughing: “I figured I’ve done my job if I go once, even.”
The Kashagawigamog resident said he enjoys coming out.
“It helps the Legion, and not only does it help the Legion, it helps other people,” he said.
Minden Hills, Remembrance Day services will take place at Gelert
Cemetery at 1 p.m. on Nov. 10, and at the Village Green cenotaph in
Minden Village on Bobcaygeon Road beginning at 10:40 a.m. on Nov. 11.
The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War will be marked
with the ringing of 100 bells at sundown in Minden and Irondale