MACLEAN’S REPORTS

Where, O where are the heroes of yesteryear? Don’t ask

KASPARS DZEGUZE November 1 1968
MACLEAN’S REPORTS

Where, O where are the heroes of yesteryear? Don’t ask

KASPARS DZEGUZE November 1 1968

Where, O where are the heroes of yesteryear? Don’t ask

IF YOU COULD actually reduce human behavior to simple statistics, the way those public-opinion-survey people always pretend to, every thousandth person you saw marching along any busy street in Canada would be wearing a Centennial Medal.

Last year the Ceremonials and Protocol Branch of the Department of Secretary of State (which certainly sounds like an outfit that would hand out a lot of medals) handed out a lot of medals. Twenty-one thousand Centennial Medals, in fact.

So where are they now? And where are the reluctant heroes who ought to be wearing them?

The best way to find out seemed to be to track down several of the individuals belonging to various military, labor, industrial, educational, scientific and cultural organizations

who had been invited to nominate worthy recipients from among their ranks. (Somehow it seemed a little too “inside” to bother with members of city councils, provincial legislatures, and the federal parliament who got onto the list as what you might “automatic” heroes. I made one exception there though, in Gilles Grégoire, MP, whose Centennial-year heroism apparently consisted of sitting in the House and advocating separatism. He told me he planned to sell his medal as soon as he could get it evaluated.) Mordecai Richler, the novelist and screen writer, had no notion he was being so honored until the medal arrived in the mail. Thinking some friend must have sent it as a gag, he gave it to his son. Now he doesn’t know where it is. “It certainly hasn’t changed my life,” he points out.

Chantal Beauregard, a leading female personality on the CBCs Frenchlanguage radio station in Toronto, confesses she, too, was “a bit stunned” by the honor. “I wondered, ‘Am I being put on?’ ” However, she has mellowed since, “it seems like a joke when anyone else gets it, but when it’s your own, it’s kind of nice.” Arnold Edinborougli, publisher of Saturday Night magazine, says he’s “very happy" to have his medal and thinks more medalists would feel the same except for the fact that “we’re going through a phase in which extraordinary people are being knocked.” Kildare Dobbs, another of the extraordinary people, has done some medalknocking himself in his Toronto Daily Star column. He insists he can’t recall having performed any “valuable service” to Canada (though he did, during his days with Macmillan publishing company, edit the memoirs and speeches of the late GovernorGeneral Vincent Massey). Dobbs recently surmounted the ribbon of his medal with a bar bearing a skull and crossbones. “It looks quite sharp,” he reports, “on my Mexican shepherd’s jacket.”

Jan Rubes, the Canadian Opera basso, says he wore his medal “everywhere” during a recent visit to Czechoslovakia. “In Canada I would wear it to the opening of the opera season. It’s the reward that an opera singer gets. Pop singers get money.”

Lois Smith, prima ballerina with the National Ballet, thinks the whole medal thing is “a bit old fashioned.” But she may wear hers — after she’s had it refashioned into a pendant. Herman Geiger-Torel, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, keeps his letter of award framed on his office wall while the medal sits at home. But his explanation has a ring of proper protocol to it: “I don’t think one wears the medal. It’s not an order.”

Since that leaves approximately 20,993 Canada medalists unaccounted for, I have a suggestion for Ottawa: Ninety-eight years from now, when it comes time to strike a bicentennial medal, call it the Order of Canada Medal. Then maybe the people who get it will feel obliged to wear it and we’ll be able to tell our valuable citizens from ordinary run-of-the-mill taxpayers. KASPARS DZEGUZE