Fascinating stories dot pages of past – “We Must Remember Them”

This year, more than any other year, Sylvan Lakers have been focussed on remembering the past, learning how our community started

This year, more than any other year, Sylvan Lakers have been focussed on remembering the past, learning how our community started and how it has progressed.

For those who want to be really immersed in our past, copies of Sylvan Lake News paint an interesting picture from the publication’s inception in 1935 through decades and decades.

It’s with those newspapers readily at hand that we’ve been researching and constructing databases of interesting and informative stories about our community. Some of that information was used in our Centennial section at the end of May. Other stories have been used as we’ve assisted or prepared some of the history boards which have circulated throughout our community this year.

As we approach Remembrance Day this year, we reflect back on some of the information we’ve read and how our community was impacted by war.

Information about World War I is more scarce. Sylvan Lake was a mere glimmer of its current self. Red Deer was the main news centre and tracking those who left farms or businesses is difficult.

But World War II was much more clearly reported in the pages of Sylvan Lake News. Names, events, tragedies and celebrations.

As early as April 1938 a Sylvan Laker, Cpt. J. F. D. Tanqueray, D.F.C., left for London, England. A town planner in Edmonton before moving to Sylvan Lake, he’s credited with designing our Cenotaph which still graces Memorial Park.

Tanqueray was killed on March 21, 1940 while on flying service with the Royal Air Force, becoming Sylvan Lake’s first World War II casualty.

Perhaps the last Laker casualty of World War II was F/L Thomas Henry Cameron, D.F.C. who was killed in a plane crash near Delft, Holland on May 11, 1945, three days after hostilities ended in Europe.

His is an interesting story. Just as the stories of all those whose names filled the paper in between had their own stories — their ambitions and futures extinguished.

The more we’ve read past issues, the more we’ve been impressed with what people went through during those years.

Also illuminated on newspaper pages is the work done here at home.

Those in Sylvan Lake were extremely supportive of Canada’s involvement in the Second World War. Members of the I.O.D.E. sent cigarettes to local men serving overseas; the Red Cross rallied women to knit, sew, and canvass for funds. A scrap iron salvage program collected tons of material. Almost a ton and a half of clothing was collected for a national program that shipped it to families overseas. A group of organizations formed the Soldiers’ Christmas Cheer committee to send Christmas packages to Sylvan Lake personnel serving with the armed forces, reminding them they were not forgotten. Sylvan Lake unit continually went over the top in Victory Loan sales with subscription sales of over $580,000 during the nine campaigns. Paper was salvaged by school children. Rationing was a fact of life. For those of us born years after that dark period it’s an eye-opener. Reading those papers it became evident daily life revolved around what was happening in the war.

The stories continue in the paper long after — a series of articles on 15 veterans who established businesses in Sylvan Lake after returning, appeared in 1946.

While we remember more than 100,000 who died for our freedoms, we also remember the 1.5 million who have donned Canada’s uniforms in time of conflict as well as in roles of peacekeeping. And we must remember the millions more who took work to support them through military industries or supported our country’s efforts at home.

“We will remember them” must remain the rallying call, now and forever.


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