Published In The Great North Arrow, November 1, 2022: Remembering For A Long, Long Time

- jim Young

“Lest we forget.” - Rudyard Kipling

Anybody that knows me will know how difficult it is for me to keep my mouth shut. Believe it or not, on more than one occasion it's gotten me into hot water. There is one day each year, however, when I do keep my trap closed, at least for a brief time. From the time I started Grade One at the old Stroud School and like most everyone else I know, I have observed 2 minutes of silence each year on "the eleventh hour of the eleventh mday of the eleventh month."

That comes to about 2 hours of silence over my entire lifetime to think about those who paid the “supreme sacrifice” to protect our freedoms. 

It doesn’t seem like much.

Yesterday, My Shirley observed how remarkable it was that so many people have continued to carry this tradition on in retirement even though there may be no bell to remind us. Nor is it just through organized events such as gatherings at Legions, Town Halls and Church Remembrance Day Services.

Throughout six and a half time zones in Canada at 11:00 am on November 11, housewives will take 2 minutes from their daily routine to stop and remember. Farmers will interrupt their chores. Construction workers will shut down their bulldozers. Carpenters will lie down their hammers. Radio and television stations will broadcast dead air. Factories will shut down their lines. School children will bow their heads. Muzak will cease to play in malls as the shoppers take a brief interlude from their bargain hunting. And for two very short minutes, we will all remember, together.

My Shirley and I discussed, when we were in the workforce, our assembly lines shutting down to observe 2 minutes of silence. It wasn’t just 2 minutes of lost production however. This “2 minute shutdown” often represented about 15 minutes of downtime when you consider the length of time required to get the lines running and back up to full production. 

In turn, the actual 15 minutes of downtime is then multiplied by the number of assemblers, which varied depending on the line, and it was not unreasonable that the company we worked for alone would register many man hours of lost production each Remembrance Day. 

Still it is a mere pittance when compared to the downtime of the soldiers who never returned from war.

But that’s how businesses measure time. It’s not just the actual 2 minutes of silence or the “x” number of minutes of downtime, it’s that number multiplied by each person involved.

Let’s forget the downtime for the time being and concentrate just on the actual 2 minutes of silence spent observing Remembrance Day each year multiplied by all Canadians.

In 2019, the marketing research group IPSOS reported that 90% of Canadians claim “they are honouring Canadians who fell in conflict”.  Although this wouldn’t include preschool children that are included in the population numbers, for the sake of argument, let’s presume 90% of the Canadian Population observe 2 minutes of silence each year.

1919 was the year the custom of observing 2 minutes of silence for Remembrance Day began. Canada’s population at the time was 8,311,000, suggesting that Canadians collectively observed 14,959,800 minutes of silence. That’s the equivalent of almost 29 years of silence, more than the entire lifetime of the average Canadian soldier that didn’t return after serving in World Wars I & II.

By the end of Remembrance Day this year, Canadians will have collectively observed 7,730 YEARS of silence since 1919, representing the entire lifetime of about 300 of the Canadians killed in action during both World Wars. 

There are an estimated 110,090 Canadians soldiers that served in World Wars I & II combined who never returned to their families. 

We have all remained silent for the equivalent of 3.5 weeks, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, for each and every one of them.

They, on the other hand, remained silent for the rest of their lives for us.

- 30 -


Stuff others read

It's Time To Tighten Your Belt

Published in The Great North Arrow, August 1, 2023: Names, Names, Names (Are You A Diminutive Of...)