Sunday 17 May 2015

Victoria Day Weekend

May 24th is the date we Canadians set aside to honour Queen Victoria (born May 24, 1819 – died January 22, 1901), the ruler of the British Empire during the time Canada became a country. Well, actually a federal ruling in 1952 declared that Victoria Day is celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25th, and so this year, Victoria day is on May 18th, but I digress. Thanks for the long weekend Vicky!
I don’t know very much about Queen Victoria, although I am sure I learned much more than I wanted to in grade school history classes. Like most things I learned during that period, time has worn away the finer points and just left the nubs of information. I’m good with that.
I did look forward to Victoria Day each year because in my circles it was also known as Firecracker Day. Small explosions are far more important to a little boy than some dead queen. It seemed that there were fireworks displays all over the city. Probably all over the country, but the important thing was there were fireworks where I lived. May 24th weekend was also the unofficial start of summer, school was nearing an end and all of the plants were sprouting. Did I mention there were firecrackers, burning school houses, sparklers and other such stuff that we would buy at the neighbourhood store and set off in our own yards?

From what I remember, it is also the start of cottage season. It was the weekend you would go to the cottage and get it in shape for the summer. The dock would be repaired if needed and the cottage would get a new paint job after a long, cold, snowy winter. Friendships that had been forgotten all winter would be rekindled and we would start exploring all over again.
 Image result for OPENING A COTTAGE
When Louise and I first came to Alberta we fell in with a group of friends that went camping every May 24th weekend down in Waterton Park. Waterton is right along the BC, Alberta, Montana border, just inside the mountains. You would drive through the prairie with mountains to the west until just before arriving at the park where a iffy road would take you into the mountains. It was and is a fairly rugged park, but back in those days rugged is what we were looking for. I have so many great memories from those days.
 Image result for WATERTON PARK
The weather was more often than not unpleasant, but we dressed for the cold/rain and there was plenty of wood for the fire and of course tarps to keep the rain off. Sometimes the lakes hadn’t lost their ice coating, but that only affected the fishermen in the group. It was the first weekend the park was open and the deer would just wander around the campground nibbling on the sweet new grasses that were sprouting. We even have a picture of Louise holding out a cup of water and the deer drinking from it. Every now and then the wind would die down and the sun would come out. Pretty cool times.
I don’t know why we stopped going to Waterton, I suppose age and the desire to be comfortable on the long weekend had something to do with it. We drifted away from the people and if we were to camp, it was much closer to go to Banff and area. We also had some kids that came along and it was easier to not go for a few years. We did go back with the kids when they were a little older, but it wasn’t the best weekend trip. The first thing that happened was when Arwen tried to feed the deer she got a hoof for her troubles and didn’t want to get out of the car again. We forgot to bring our sleeping bags and had to make do with the extra bags we brought. We woke up to a few inches of snow, some cold kids and two parents that wanted to sleep in their own bed that night.

There are no more firecrackers - it's illegal to buy them now, no more Waterton camping - the 3 hour drive just doesn't have the same appeal it did back then, in fact, no more camping at all because it is far too crowded on the roads and in the campgrounds. It is seldom called Victoria Day weekend now and is more often referred to as “The May 24th Weekend”, May Long or May Two Four (in Ontario, "two four" also refers to the size of the cases of beer and many of those cases were bought for the first weekend of the summer).

It’s still a holiday and the hard working people of our country need some time to spend with family.

Queen Victoria by Bassano.jpg

1 comment:

  1. So glad that you posted here your article about Queen Victoria. Yup! The generation now can easily forget the history about Queen Victoria and what she contributes to the society while she was ruling the whole nation. I don’t know more about her, but I heard some of what she did. I think in a way, Canada really honors to have her at her era. -Dorothy of top essay writing services