Maple Creek News
Anne Slade doesn’t knit. But she sure knows a good idea when she hears it.
And when friend May Stock from her quilting group referred to a conversation she’d had in 2016 about the coming 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and how families back home used to send socks to soldiers overseas, a bulb lit up.
“At first I thought they were doing socks for veterans, but they weren’t,” recalls Slade, a Tompkins resident. “So I said, ‘Well, we could do it. Not that I knit, but I’m a really good organizer.’”
Organize she did, quickly getting friend Helen Paul on board, who loved to knit, and spreading the word that dozens of socks would be delivered to war veterans. A hundred pair, to be exact, and with the knitting help of Paul and Stock, Slade started the project 100 Socks for Vimy Ridge.
“During the war, people would knit socks and send them — that’s what families did,” she says. “When you sent a care package, you’d send a pair of hand-knitted socks.”
Hand-knitted socks lasted much longer than the army-issued socks soldiers were given to wear (many going through a pair in a week or less). And when you’re fighting for your survival, you need your feet in good shape.
“Knitted socks were far superior,” says Slade.
Hand delivering knitted socks to veterans decades after those wars ended would be a way to not only show gratitude for their service, but also remind them people at home still enjoy taking care of them long after they finished caring for all of us.
The group wanted support from the Legion in Tompkins, hoping to donate the socks to veterans through it. Now with the help of Dick and Judy Wells from the Legion, and their ability to get the word out nationwide, socks began to arrive from as far away as P.E.I. and Newfoundland.
“They came from all over,” Slade said. “People would just knit a pair of socks and pay the 15 bucks to mail them to us. It was amazing.”
Slade says the group asked for stories to come with the socks, and sure enough, pairs would arrive with notes attached dedicating their foot-warmers to loved ones who’d served. One woman sent a pair in honour of four uncles who were killed and the cousins she never had because of it.
“The stories just grab you,” Slade said. “They’re just overwhelming.”
Speaking of gripping stories, if you want to find a group of veterans with plenty to tell, the Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon is as good as they come. With 40 vets — 35 men and five women — the veterans wing of this nursing home is a living museum of memories and experiences from some of the most important moments in history.
“The staff there is incredible,” Slade said. “The whole place is dedicated to the wars, and the people there were just so kind to the veterans. They would introduce us to someone and be able to tell you exactly what they’d done (in service).
“We gave out 40-some pair in Saskatoon, and these people were just so receptive and so happy that someone was thinking about them.”
Slade says even without socks to hand out, people should take any opportunity they can to speak to veterans of war. Those who served in the Second World War are well into their nineties now and the knowledge they hold holds a much greater impact coming from them, as opposed to libraries or online.
Just at one nursing home, Slade was able to speak to a man who’d served on the front lines in the dental corps, learning that many dentists and hygienists were actually killed helping soldiers with their teeth.
“The stories they tell, oh my gosh, they just blew my mind,” Slade said. “They just had experiences we would never even imagine, so it was so good to talk to them.”
Socks from the campaign were also given to vets in the southwest, with veterans in Regina next on the list.
PHOTO COURTESY ANNE SLADE
Dozens of hand-knitted socks, with Anne Slade ( against the wall), Helen Paul and May Stock, our “volume” knitters.
(Yes, they are still knitting for our next delivery of socks to Veterans).