From the past we learn to look forward. Nothing echoes this sentiment more than the new exhibit at the Flatiron Museum in Lacombe.
Titled Lest We Forget: Our Brave Hearts 1914-1918, the centennial exhibit is a reflection on the effects of the First World War on the Lacombe region.
“Our exhibit is a celebration of bringing together our regional museums,” said Lacombe and District Historical Society Executive Director Marie Peron. “It’s been a collaborative effort to bring together artifacts and information that highlight the war effort not only overseas, but also the impact locally here at Lacombe and what it meant to live in our community during the First World War.”
The Lacombe Legion, the Blackfalds Historical Society, the Mirror and District Museum, the Bentley Museum and the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum all contributed artifacts or information in order to make the exhibit a regional reflection.
“It was remarkable,” said Peron of what life was like a century ago. “Our community at this time was just growing. They were just finding their footing.”
She said the First World War began just a mere 10 years after the Flatiron Building, the venue for the exhibit, was built. Local residents were still hauling water from the communal pump located in front of the building. Boards were used to navigate the streets where sidewalks would later on be placed.
“There was a huge impact on our community at that time,” said Peron. “We were just growing and maturing and then all of the sudden, there was a huge change in our community of Lacombe.”
Peron added the exhibit is also a testament to the people who lived here, their efforts to rally and help the war effort.
From 100-year-old newspapers that detail the start of the war, propaganda posters, uniforms, wooden crosses sent from overseas marking a soldier’s death and a large quilt, the exhibit is truly a walk into the past with each item telling its own unique story.
“It’s our responsibility to keep those stories alive so they are not forgotten.”
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr was in attendance at the opening reception on July 23rd and said he was thrilled to see the exhibit has a local element to it.
“This is important for us,” he said. “What you have put together is an important historical, cultural and educational exhibit. I think it is important to remember not just for sentimental reasons but because our society, democracy, our prosperity and our freedoms were in more ways determined by the ideas and the values that we fought for in the Great War.
“The truth of the matter is trouble in far away places actually does affect us. We live in a global village.”
Orr read a Soren Kierkegaard quote that reflected perfectly on the idea behind the exhibit: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
“It is only when we look back on these types of things that it give us the perspective and the understanding to make the right choices to live fully,” said Orr.
Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law said many Lacombe County and area residents left their families and friends to fight in the war.
“Many were longtime families within the County as a whole who went and fought, whether they were from the rural or the urban areas,” she said.
Law said she hopes we can use the lessons learned 100 years ago to approve and build upon our future.
“There are no longer living survivors from this war,” said Law. “It’s through the groups and individuals here and through exhibits such as this that help us remember history and keep the stories alive.”
City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie said the exhibit demonstrates what those of the Lacombe and district area contributed to the Canadian war effort.
“We also salute their bravery,” he said. “We honour their heroism. We remember the 66,000 soldiers who gave their lives during the battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.”
Christie said we owe a lot to the people who lived in the area a century ago.
“From where we stand today, at the Flatiron Museum and Interpretive Centre, it is a unique architectural landmark in our City and the perfect venue I feel to allow us to look back, to learn backwards and celebrate the history of Lacombe and District,” he said.
Peron also shared one of the unique stories that partners with the exhibit. Around a century ago a group of women in Lacombe formed the Lest We Forget Club, in an effort to raise funds to build the cenotaph and put up the memorial garden and park that is now in front of the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
“The Lest We Forget Club women, on Halloween, they all dressed up like gypsies and they did tea leaf readings,” she said. “They wanted to raise funds to plant trees, build the cenotaph and the garden, and they raised $3,000, 100 years ago.”
The club members constantly found unique ways to raise funds and pay tribute, ensuring we do not forget, she said.
The Lest We Forget: Our Brave Hearts 1914-1918 exhibit will be up in the Flatiron Museum for the next year until July 2016.