As Remembrance Day approaches, a group of students at G.W. Graham are using theatrics to ensure local Chilliwack veterans are honoured for their service in the Canadian Forces
“It’s really such a wonderful day,” said Jim Harris, former president of the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society. “Every year there’s a different theme and this year it’s the 100-year anniversary of the World War One armistice.”
For nearly two decades, students at G.W. Graham, led by teacher Damon Fultz, have organized a tea to honour local veteran and acting members of the Canadian Forces for their service. But it’s not just about the food; students also perform an original play created by their teacher.
“Fultz has been with us since the beginning,” explained Harris. “He does the whole package: he does the research, writes (the play), and does the music. He did story interviews (with vets) within days of their dying.”
Since beginning the Remembrance Project in 2000, Fultz has interviewed more than 80 veterans and their families. Using the information collected, he’s produced more than a dozen scripts about the experiences of Canadian soldiers on the war front, with stories spanning the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Peace Keeping assignments, and missions in Afghanistan.
“Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and to honour the survivors, those (who) fell, and the families who mourned them, Graham Theatre is premiering (its) newest production: Soldier Boys,” said Fultz.
“The first show I did was a World War One show, and so is this one, (so it’s like coming full circle),” continued the experienced teacher.
However, Harris says he wasn’t sure if this year was going to happen after the CFB Historical Society got word they’d have to leave the Masonic Hall, where they’d been for 20 years, as it was being torn down.
“We have to be out by December first,” said Harris, who admitted the impromptu need to move made this year’s event more difficult. “But then G.W. Graham offered immediately to (have it here for free) … so maybe it will become an annual thing at the school,” as this is the first time the school’s ever physically hosted the event.
Although the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society has found a new place to house its 30,000-plus artifacts, its new 1,700 square-foot home won’t have enough room to support performances such as this.
That said, Harris says the Society will continue to support projects like this for as long as it can through member support and donations. “There’s a costume in this play that was worn by Paul Gross in Passchendaele: a member’s daughter did wardrobe for the movie (and saved the costumes for us).”
It’s great to know people, he joked, but even better are events like this, which he says are good for maintaining a connection between our past and present.
“Kids are a long way from understanding (what we went through during our service),” said Harris, who spent years as a bomb disposal technician. “But I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful they haven’t had to go through the (stuff) we’ve gone through.”
And “it’s really cool to see the younger and older (generations mixing),” added Fultz.