Sepia photographs topped with a Canadian flag and a Union Jack now adorn lamp posts along Hurontario Street, rising as a tribute to veterans, lest we forget.
The images look over Collingwood as a reminder, but they also play a role in looking after local veterans and their families.
The new banners are a joint project between the Downtown BIA and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 63 - Collingwood.
The BIA offered to cover the cost of printing and installing the banners and asked for sponsors to submit the names and photographs of veterans with a special connection to Collingwood. In return for putting their loved ones on a banner, the BIA asked each sponsor to donate $100 to the Collingwood Legion’s Poppy Fund. All the money in the Poppy Fund is used to support local veterans and their families with grants available for food, heating, clothing, prescription medication, medical appliances and equipment, essential home repairs, emergency shelter and, in some cases, comforts for those who are hospitalized.
The BIA announced the new banner program to council on Sept. 6.
Sponsors submitted photographs and donations for 32 banners and the BIA sponsored another 11, bringing the total banners hanging to 43.
According to Penny Skelton, chair of the BIA board of directors, the program is already popular and the BIA is accepting applications for next year’s banners.
“It’s been fascinating to see the reaction by all generations,” said Skelton, adding she’s seen kids looking up at the banners asking ‘who is that?’. “It’s generating conversation, which is what we want.”
Sponsorships for the banners brought in $3,200 for the Collingwood Legion’s Poppy Fund.
“From the Legion side, we are so thrilled,” said Don Wilcox, the Legion’s Public Relations Officer and also the chairperson of the Legion’s museum. “It’s taken off, people are talking about it and that’s what it’s all about.”
The faces on each banner are somehow tied to Collingwood, whether the veteran came from Collingwood, or now has family here.
Irene Pradyszczuk of Collingwood submitted a photograph of her father, Jan Pradyszczuk who served in the Polish army during the Second World War.
Then there’s the Trott family of Trott’s Furniture Fame. Clare Trott served in the infantry in the First World War. His sons Jim and Harry are also on banners for their service in the Navy and Infantry during the Second World War.
You won’t see any more prevalent last name on the banners than Ridgway, that’s because Collingwood sent six Ridgway sons to fight in the First World War, and all returned home.
The banners feature RSM Ernest Joseph Ridgway, Frederick Edgar (Eddie) Ridgway, George Hubert (Bert) Ridgway, John William Ridgway, Thomas (Tom) Ridgway and Lawrence (Laurie) Ridgway. Two more Ridgway boys served during the Second World War and are pictured on the banners, including Joseph, Mervyn, the sons of John Ridgway.
The banners will be put up each year for as long as they last.
Wilcox said it seems to have inspired local business owners to do more to commemorate Remembrance Day. He’s had a few calls from local shops asking to borrow Legion Museum artifacts for their window displays.
To participate in the banner program next year, contact the Downtown Collingwood BIA here, or stop by the Hurontario Street office in person.