July 1, 1917 Dominion Day

UrNBbm4July 1, 1917

Today was Dominion Day.

Since it was the 50th anniversary of Confederation, Shannon thought it would be a good idea to have a celebration on the summer dock by the lake. Normally, the big celebrations only happened on Victoria Day, but Shannon read in the papers that Ottawa was marking Dominion Day as a special occasion and there were celebrations happening in Ottawa. Not be outdone by the capital of the Dominion, Shannon decided to have his day long pageant, which was a bust on Sovereign’s Day.

The plan was simple, but the burden of effort fell on Annie. First, an outdoor dinner at noon was to be held on the summer dock, then followed by a canoe regatta. Initially, the dinner was to be held on the verandah of Mowat Lodge, but since there were no screens, and the horse stable was close by, there would be problem with the flies. So the decision was made to relocate down at the dock. This meant hauling down tables and chairs over 200 yards, so we loaded up Shannon’s wagon and brought it down to the dock. We set up the tables and seating for about twenty.

We also brought down two fireless cookers. Shannon had procured these earlier in the spring. Fireless cookers had become the fashion since the rise in cost in fuel. Earlier in the morning, Annie had first heated beans on the stove (soaked overnight) and started a large pot roast. When these were well on their way about( about 10am) she transferred the contents to the cookers and we brought them down to the dock. The principle of the fireless cooker was simple and elegant. The pots were inside an insulated box of fire stone and asbestos. The box was then filled with hot cinders from the stove, and the cooking continued. The best thing about the cookers was that we could retrieve the hot food without traversing the 200 yards back to the Lodge. In addition to the hot menu, Annie had prepared rhubarb sauce, bread and butter sandwiches and rice pudding with raisins for for dessert. It was going to be a fine dinner.

The sun was out, it was cool and the wind was brisk, but not so brisk to blow everything off the table. The wind was also strong enough for regatta. We planned to use the canvas canoes that were outfitted with sails.

To start the dinner, Shannon had asked a favour of me. Earlier in the week, the papers had published a song that was to become the new national anthem. It was titled ‘O Canada’ and was going to be used officially open the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Ottawa. It was also going to be performed at the Westminster Abbey religious service to honour Canada’s contribution to the war. So Shannon asked me to practice the song. I didn’t have my mandolin, so I borrowed a guest’s Gibson. The melody wasn’t hard to learn. I found it rather plodding, but I guessed it was an appropriate difficulty level for those who didn’t sing. Similar to Amazing Grace – not the most beautiful song on its own, but when sung together as a group, it had power.  I asked Charlie Scrim to make copies of the lyrics. He wrote out ten copies of the lyrics.

O Canada, our heritage, our love
Thy worth we praise all other lands above
From sea to see throughout their length
From Pole to borderland
At Britain’s side, whate’er betide
Unflinchingly we’ll stand
With hearts we sing, “God save the King”
Guide then one Empire, do we implore
And prosper Canada from shore to shore.

We sang the song at the start of the dinner. The effect was not only powerful it was magical. I played through the melody two times, then I sang it solo for everyone to get comfortable with the lyrics. Then we sang it together. We looked at each and realized that this was to be the song of Canada. The after silence was a golden moment. Shannon began to unload the fireless cookers and the ones with baked beans fell off the side of the dock into the water. We had the pot roast for Dominion Day and the shore minnows had baked beans for the rest of the week.

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