Back in 1918 the greater Victoria area consisted of the city of Victoria, the districts of Saanich and Oak Bay and the township of Esquimalt. Today there are 13 neighborhoods within the greater Victoria area. And back in 1918 the total population was about 50,000,
During the Great War about 600 of these metro men and women lost their lives in battle in order that we could live in peace back home.
The earlier blog told of the first authorizing of the road in 1918, (the first of its kind in Canada,) and its opening in 1921 with the first ever tree planting on the Memorial Avenue of a London Planetree that year. Three most prominent generals would also pay their highest of respect to the fallen with 3 more plantings on different dates the following year. In 1976 a plaque in site was erected on site honouring the generals, who in turn were honouring the deceased.
The original plans called for about 800 trees along both sides of Shelbourne. With each there was to be a small iron fence circling the base of the tree and within, a small plaque bearing the name of a deceased soldier, sailor etc. But over the years the plaques got stolen. Only 2 were apparently still in place in the 1960's. A third had been saved after it was found in a ditch by students if the St Michael's school. It was given to the Head Master whom handed it over to the folks at Saanich archives.
Some of the trees died after being poorly maintained while hundred fell way of the buzz saw for road expansion. There is a wonderful story about school children that planted five new trees not far from the San Juan crossing and yet another where Gordon Head students...10 year olds.. took up a petition in 1969 pleading with Saanich to stop cutting these trees down... and Reeve Hugh Curtiss did.
Now it is time to introduce someone else... He's more than 7 times the age of the Gordon Head students but he is so proud of what they and so many others have done to rally around his efforts to develop short term and long term plans for the Memorial Avenue Committee. As Chair Ray has created an Action Plan known as the Street of Unfinished Dreams program of this committee known as the Street of Unfinished Dreams. This of course being the renewal of pledges to get the proper trees, back in place, and a plan in place to ensure proper maintenance in the years to come.
And Ray knows something about tree maintenance. He has worked around trees since the early 1969's and holds credentials as a retired Registered Professional Forester.
Ray is also a walking encyclopedia of the Canadian Great War battlefields of the Western Front. He is also a well talented researcher in genealogy. It is thru these that I met Ray several years ago. I quickly learned that when he spoke regarding any of these topics , it was wisest to simply pay close attention and learn from a master. Thus, l have been able to learn from his experience in all three areas.
On asking about his WW l interest he tells me that he lost both grandfathers in battles in the Western Front. But like many things in life it takes time to pick the roads you travel. Over the past few decades those roads led to the battlefields Canadians would last draw the breath of life. His two grandfathers included.
Over the past five years if not more, Ray has honed in on the Memorial Avenue project, has gathered the support of many groups and individuals, laid out plans of what to do, when and how and started making the rounds to dozens of organizations and meeting after meeting. I was lucky enough to travel with him on a handful of these and was so impressed to see and hear his presentations of what should have been done, what needs to be done and what after actions are necessary to bring life back into the Shelbourne area of Saanich and Victoria.
As a direct result of his efforts, Saanich has tweaked his ideas and both have come to agreement of the breathing of life back in to the Memorial Avenue.
Ray's committee and Saanich's have combined efforts to come up with a wonderful image or symbol to be mounted at about 30 cross roads along Shelbourne Street that identifies it as also Memorial Avenue. The folks in the area do not have ro worry as the Shelbourne name will continue to be used, but signage will include both names.
Part of the action plan is to also install interpretive signs at several locations along the route. These will explain various stages of the Memorial Avenue over the years and of course many of the battles Canadians lost their lives in during the war.
Below are the 4 signs....
The Interpretive panels are also expected to be mounted before month's end.,. and at several locations along the route. Saanich tells me that financial backing for part of the program has come from the good folks who do such great work at Heritage BC. ( https://heritagebc.ca/ )
Next Saturday, September 29, a formal ceremony will take place near Mount Doug park to officially unveil the road signs and interpretation panels. Here is the formal poster...
Please try to get out on Saturday, and when there find Ray and shake his hand. He has earned it !