New West set to celebrate Wait for Me Daddy photo's anniversary

Artists are interpreting the Wait for Me Daddy photograph in a myriad of ways as part of the 75th anniversary of the famous photograph.

A number of arts, cultural and heritage events are set to take place this fall to commemorate the anniversary of the photograph taken by Province newspaper photographer Claude Dettloff on Oct. 1, 1940. As soldiers marched down Eighth Street, Dettloff captured the image of five-year-old Warren “Whitey” Bernard as he broke free from his mother and reached out to his father as he marched past.

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“It’s a very important photo, not just for New Westminster, but for Canada. It goes beyond our city. It really reflected the sentiments of the war, not just the soldiers but the family legacy – the love, the separation of war. It triggers sentiments that are very much alive today, with war and conflict that goes beyond World War Two,” said Biliana Velkova, the city’s arts coordinator. “On that day, that photographer took that one shot, yet he captured something that keeps on giving. Even today, we are still talking about it.”

The city will hold a ceremony in Hyack Square on Saturday, Oct. 3 that commemorates the photo and unveils a plaque and new features at the Wait for Me Daddy monument that was unveiled last October.

“We are calling it Wait for me Daddy Redux,” Velkova said. “We are focusing on celebrating the 75th anniversary. It also has a really strong cultural slant. We wanted to work with local artists of all disciplines.”

Events set to take place on Oct. 3 include a youth performance directed by Jen Derbyshire, a children’s performer and theatre director, in which local students will reflect on the different ways families separated in the war communicated with each other and how that’s changed since the Second World War.

New Westminster composer Brian Garbet has written an orchestral piece based on the Wait for Me Daddy photograph that will be premiered at Anvil Centre. When city staff began looking at the type of cultural ventures they wanted to commemorate the photograph’s milestone, they read a newspaper story about Garbet, who had done an original classical musical composition called Wait for Me Daddy.

“We actually teamed up with the University of Calgary and their wind ensemble and engaged them in performing the Wait for Me Daddy piece as part of our program on Oct. 3. It’s a fabulous piece. It’s actually a 40-member ensemble. It’s really the biggest cultural event we have done at the theatre so we are really excited,” Velkova said. “They are also bringing two other pieces from their repertoire that speak to similar themes behind the photograph. The piece is a classical piece, but it has more of a contemporary slant to it.”

Brief Encounters, a Vancouver-based artistic collective, whose mandate is to work with artists from different disciplines, will present pieces based on personal stories of people who lived through war or conflict.

“We are merging those storytellers, with these artists who are going to be illustrating their stories through an art form,” Velkova said. “It’s really exciting.”

The free performances will take place on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Anvil Centre Theatre.

In addition to the Oct. 3 events, photographs of soldiers and the Bernard family are on display at city hall and the Queensborough Community Centre. A walking tour of important Second World War sites in New Westminster is taking place on Sept. 12, a “human book” event is taking place at Century House on Oct. 10 and a program has been underway to preserve grave markers in Fraser Cemetery.

The City of New Westminster was successful in getting two grants from Canadian Heritage that it could use for the Wait for Me Daddy project - a $143,500 grant toward capital costs related to the statue and Hyack Square and $48,200 to help local artists, performers and educators participate in commemorative events based on the themes of the Wait For Me Daddy photograph, including family separation, war conflict and loss.

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