November 16th, 2018

Meadowlands residents star in Second World War film

By Gillian Slade on November 9, 2018.

It was the world premiere of Medicine Hat's latest film stars at Meadowlands Retirement Residence sharing their memories of the Second World War. Esme Crowther, 91, on screen, came as a war bride to Canada at the age of 17.--NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE


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It was the world premiere of a film starring 11 Meadowlands residents on Thursday evening.

They shared memories of the Second World War to the delight of a packed audience.

“I was never a teenager,” said Esme Crowther (now 91) who was only 11 years old and living in Bournemouth, England, when the war began.

By 17 she’d married a Canadian soldier, had a nine-month-old son, and was heading to Medicine Hat.

“Britain was in a mess. We’d lost three houses with three direct hits,” she explains.

Reel Youth together with Revera Retirement Living decided on a Remembrance Day theme and chose Medicine Hat because of the large German prisoner of war camp here.

Reel Youth, established 13 years ago, launched the inter-generational concept five early on, said Mark Vonesch, director. They advertise online for local young people interested in being part of the process and being mentored by professionals.

Brooke Pfeifer, one of the film makers, says she found it easy to relate to the subjects.

“It opened my eyes to see what life was like for them and how thankful I should be for the life I have, said Pfeifer.”

Crowther remembers sitting and watching aircraft in the sky, hundreds of them, some shot down. One German plane crashed close to them. The pilot took a photo of his mother out of his pocket and then died.

Crowther’s husband died, age of 52, as a result of malaria contracted during the war.

Betty Brodin grew up on the Prairies and remembers a neighbour’s son being killed in the war. Jean Cameron was raised on a farm and her brother took milk each day to a neighbour because her husband was away at war.

Al Gray worked at Suffield handling complex questions about the possibility of nerve agents being used in chemical warfare.

Walter and Ella Manley remembered German prisoners of war going down to the river to swim.

Jan Barnes was a little girl playing in the mud when her mother rushed outside to announce that Canada was at war.

“Let it not happen again,” said Barnes. “Peace on earth and goodwill to all,” was the message from Janice Crawford.

An uncle of Jim Stark’s was present for the D-day landings. A wounded soldier acknowledged he was about to die and asked his uncle to take a ring from him. Three uncles of Ed Hopper’s enlisted in the war.

The film will likely become a lasting legacy of “lived experiences,” said one of the executives from Revera.

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