Shortly after the war began, Hon. J. L. Ralston, Canada's Finance Minister at the time, sought a by-election nomination in Prince County. In his speech in Summerside in December 1939, he outlined in clear terms what war would mean to the average citizen. "Don't let anybody think that he is not in the war." He believed in the patriotic spirit of the Canadian public and Islanders did not disappoint him.
During late 1939 and into 1940, there were many references in the local press to the "Old Country" or the "Mother Country" and the importance of Canada's support in the war effort. Editorials appeared about the need for a united home front.
In June 1940, the Journal ran an editorial reminding readers of the patriotism shown during the last war, pointing out that the World War I guns in Memorial Square had been won by the town for its support of the Victory Loan campaigns at that earlier time. A public meeting in the Town Hall attracted over 100 people to discuss Summerside's role in the war. After much discussion it was decided to wait for direction from Ottawa, but the spirit of wanting to play a part was evident.
In December 1941, the Journal printed an article about the "V for Victory" sign, which had come into regular use in the press and in many other ways. It quickly became a symbol of patriotism and optimism and its use in Canada was encouraged. The local press was quick to print reports of the V sign appearing in unexpected or unusual places.
The pride that the town felt in its patriotism was overwhelmingly demonstrated in the Victory Loan campaigns. Even before the first of the nine loans had concluded, the town glowed in the good press it received from newspapers across Canada. A Journal editorial titled "Summerside Well Over the Top" expressed the solid satisfaction engendered by the town's contribution to the war effort.
As the war continued there was concrete evidence of Summerside's patriotic feelings. Every parade was accompanied by the waving of the Union Jack and public gatherings usually closed with "God Save the King," the national anthem of the time. Popular songs of patriotism were "The Maple Leaf Forever" and "O Canada." Many stores had special displays relevant to the wartime effort. The owner of the Olympia Restaurant, Leo Coyle, decorated its interior walls with flags from all parts of the Commonwealth.
The efforts of Summerside and other Canadian communities to stir patriotism were reinforced by the federal government in various ways. An example is the Reconsecration observance of 1941. The week of 10-17 September 1941 marked the beginning of Canada's third year in the war and was declared by government to be a special time of Reconsecration. Articles and editorials urged citizens across the nation to dedicate themselves to war work by taking the Reconsecration Pledge. Numerous activities under the auspices of the Y's Men's Club included a patriotic program at the Capitol Theatre which was donated for the occasion by the owner Harold Gaudet. Two films about the Commonwealth war effort called "The Fight for Liberty" and "Over All the World" were shown to a capacity crowd.
Canada's first Navy Week was held in October 1941, just a month after Reconsecration Week. Its purpose was to educate the Canadian public on the emerging strength of this branch of the armed forces. Local businesses supported the special recognition for the navy by placing ads that featured drawings of ships and sailors. Articles and editorials also appeared. Two more Navy Weeks were celebrated in November 1942 and November 1943 with the same type of community involvement.
Seven months after the initial Navy Week, the Army was in the spotlight of the press. An editorial in the Summerside Journal announced the "Coming of Army Week" and noted that it would give the public an opportunity to learn about the work of soldiers and a chance to show pride in that branch of the military. The week was designated as 29 June to 5 July 1942 and in Summerside was marked with a daily event. The Journal carried eight pages of articles sponsored by local businesses that submitted relevant ads in support of the army.
After the war ended in Europe, Summerside citizens were able to demonstrate their pride in both the navy and the army. In July 1945, four navy ships visited Summerside so that citizens could get a close-up look at the war vessels. The crews were warmly welcomed.
General H.D.G. Crerar, Commander of the Canadian Army, was given a grand welcome when he visited Summerside in November 1945. Mayor Arnett in his address summed up the local war effort when he said "We, the citizens of Summerside, are proud of the part played by our town during the past six years of conflict."
That pride was certainly justified as you will discover as you explore the breadth and depth of this website.
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