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One Veterans Life

November 11, 2011
Harold Hague

Harold Hague on HMCS Cowichan, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1943

“We want to leave our heritage behind, that’s what were doing now. But we want the youth to know, be aware, that the heritage is theirs to use in the proper way and to remind them that somebody paid a price for all this.”
Harold Hague, The Royal Canadian Legion, Regina Branch, 2005

Harold, or Harry as his friends and family affectionately know him, gave me my first job. He taught me the true value of hard work, although I didn’t know it at the time. I was just a little kid from the big city when I embarked on my first of many solo trips out west. Plucked from my familiar landscape of concrete towers, treed ravines and the rocky shore of the Great Lakes to be plopped in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies. It was as flat as a pancake, there didn’t seem to be any lakes, instead of skyscrapers there were grain elevators, and instead of trees, a patchwork of wheat fields rolled out in front of my feet. I was memorized by the miles upon miles of grain planted in neatly spaced rows directing my eyes to the farthest point in the horizon. There it collided with the biggest, longest, most wide open, all encompassing sky I’d ever seen.

Going the opposite direction was Harold Hague who was born in the village Earl Gray, Saskatchewan. At the age of seventeen he boarded a train that carried him the farthest away from a prairie landscape imaginable. He traveled east through cities and mountains until the wheels could roll on steady ground no more. Standing on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean he looked up to see a ship for the very first time. He had never seen a large body of water before never mind boarding a vessel capable of crossing an ocean of it. Harold had enlisted in The Royal Canadian Navy to help fight in the Second World War. He looked out the porthole on his first day on board and puked his guts out before the ship even left the dock.

The main difference between Harold’s experience and mine was that I had headed out west to spend my summers with my mother during school holidays. The scariest thing in my world was divorce and I hadn’t the slightest idea that war or peace even existed. Contrary to Harry who had traveled into a cold, dark, nightmare that would eventually extinguish an estimated sixty million lives before it ended. He went in, like all soldiers do, never knowing if he would make it back out.

Luckily he did make it out and in 1946 started work at Loggie’s Shoes in Regina Sask. He later became the owner. Harry took me under his wing during those summers when I stayed with my mom. I would go to work every day in his store dusting shoes, emptying ashtrays, vacuuming floors, and stocking shelves. Sometimes I even got to help out with the decoration of the storefront windows – my favorite task of all. I didn’t understand the pain Harold carried in his heart.  He had witnessed first-hand the carnage of Omaha Beach during D-Day operations. But he survived the war and set out to never waste a single day of his life from that day forward.

Loggies Shoes

Loggie’s celebrated its 104th birthday this year while Harold celebrated his 90th. I can tell you unequivocally that this man works harder then anybody I’ve ever known. Not for himself but for the community. Not to get rich but to enrich the lives of others. Harold’s son now owns the store but he still goes into work every single day. In addition to working full time he carries out his duties as Chairman of the Poppy Day Campaign, Chairman of Regina’s November 11th Remembrance Service, and heads up The Memory Project.

Five years ago Harold took note of the dwindling numbers of WWII survivors and the fact that some key players required to carry the message forward were missing from the equation; the young people. He decided to call upon his connections from years of community service and was able to secure the donated use of the Brant Centre; Regina’s facility for hosting large agricultural and sporting events. Now, thanks to his efforts, every year on Remembrance Day they cover the ice in the large arena so that the Militia, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, Cadets, Girl Guides, and Boy Scouts can proudly march in. It is the largest Remembrance Day ceremony in Regina today with six thousand strong (& young) in attendance.

When I called Harry to ask him if he’d mind if I wrote about him on my blog for Remembrance Day, mindful of the fact that he is a very private, humble man, he replied “no problem” and then said, “I’m proud of you for taking an interest.” I asked him if he could send me some information and the next day the fax machine transmitted his resume over. It was five pages long. I was instantly overwhelmed. The first page was his civilian resume; short only because he did not complete school and ran Loggie’s Shoes for the bulk of his life. The remaining four pages listed the countless causes, campaigns and committees that he has either chaired, co-chaired, acted as president or vice president on, or raised money for.  As I read the impressively long list I sank lower and lower in my seat from the shame and embarrassment I felt over my sorry ass excuses to not even make time to exercise. He has done more in one lifetime then I could accomplish in ten. This one man, one veteran, has achieved all this because he knows the value of work, is fully committed to his community, and knows first-hand the price that was paid for his freedom.

Looking at Harold’s life on paper it occurred to me that he has always been a beacon transmitting messages of hope. He started off delivering telegraphs by bicycle for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was a signalman for The Royal Canadian Navy decoding messages back and forth through flags, lights and Morse code. In the shoe store he interpreted messages on the bottom of his customer worn out soles. Every day since the end of the war he has honored the messages of the lives of those that have fallen. He does so by reminding us that someone has paid a hefty price for our freedom. We should value it and use it properly.

Dearest Harry, how can you be proud of me? It is me who is so very proud of you. I’m proud to count myself as one of your daughter’s. I thank you for the lessons you have given me in my life that I can now pass on in your name. I thank you for being the best stepfather a girl could ask for. I thank you for teaching me how to be the best stepmother I could be by following your example. I thank you for loving my mother. Most of all I thank you and all the veterans in the world for giving me my freedom.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Norm Leslie permalink
    November 16, 2011 2:50 pm

    I wish I could have met with Mr Hague while I was living out west. He and My father were signalmen together on the Cowichan

    • November 16, 2011 3:16 pm

      Really? Wow, how interesting. It is so great to hear from you. I have so much gratitude for our fathers and the men who bravely fought with them. If ever you head out west again be sure to stop by Loggie’s. Harold would be so pleased to make your acquaintance.

  2. Norm Leslie permalink
    November 16, 2011 5:46 pm

    We hope to be posted back west around 2014. If I get back to saskatoon I’ll try and make the trip to Regina

  3. November 16, 2011 7:02 pm

    Please do. Did you father and Harold ever keep in touch? Regardless I’m sure Harold would remember him – he remembers everyone, even the name of the Sergent who enlisted him – whom he only met once – 73 years ago. He has some fabulous war stories, he might have a few good ones about your dad. You never know. Anyway, just for kicks I’ll be sure to let him know I heard from you.

  4. Norm Leslie permalink
    November 17, 2011 7:17 am

    Yes please pass on my regards. I remember my dad talking about Harold and a few other shipmates. Now that time has passed I’ve been kicking myself for not writing down all the stories. As for my dad keeping in touch I don’t know if he did. The only former shipmate I remember meeting was a gentleman and his family who lived in Calgary, but that was in 1967.

    • November 17, 2011 9:28 am

      I have passed on your greeting and wanted to let you know that Harold does remember your father. What a small world we live in. If ever you’d like to get in touch with him please let me know and I can give you some contact information (offline). Best wishes to you and your family.

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