After participating in the serious business side of dominion convention, delegates look forward to some socializing and being entertained at evening suppers and receptions hosted by local Legion branches or provincial commands.
This year the entertainment and socializing was truly royal, thanks to The Royal Canadian Legion’s godson Prince Floris of the Netherlands and his bride, Princess Aimée. “I want to meet as many of my godfathers and godmothers as I can,” the Prince said during the opening ceremonies for the Legion’s 42nd dominion convention, June 21-25, in Ottawa. And over the following days—and nights—he did.
Typical was Nova Scotia/Nunavut Nite, held at Orleans Branch in eastern Ottawa. Inducted as an honorary Cape Bretonner at convention in 2000, the Prince arrived wearing a Cape Breton tartan glengarry—and was given a standing ovation. Before the night was over, Princess Aimée had also been inducted. The couple also joined the Official Order of The Sou’wester in a ceremony that involves knocking back an ounce of black rum, and being anointed with Atlantic salt water.
“They were dressed casually and just blended in,” says Vicki Jones, Cowichan Mid-Island Zone Commander from Nanaimo, B.C. “People were going up to them and talking and taking pictures all the time and it was never discouraged. It was just like they were anybody. I think they were made to feel at home.”
The couple made many new friends at the event which attracted roughly 600.
New friendships are often formed at convention, including that of look-alikes Pat Doyle of Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Tom Aldridge of Ormstown, Que. The pair first met at the 2002 dominion convention in Edmonton, after others, including family members, mistook one for the other. “We all of a sudden got a bad reputation for being stuck up,” says Aldridge.
“I was outside having a smoke and talking away and wondering why Tom wasn’t answering,” recalls Quebec Command Vice-President Norm Shelton. Meanwhile, “I looked over and wondered ‘why is Pat sitting with the Quebec delegation?’” says Doyle’s wife Cathy Kerr. “And how did he get all the way across the room before me, without me seeing him?”
When the pair met face-to-face, “it was like looking in a mirror,” says Doyle. And they don’t just look alike. Both married at about the same time and have three kids. Both drive for a living, and both wear glasses and sport beards.
They order the same type of beer and finish each other’s jokes. They show up at the same convention social events—often dressed alike. This year they were in soft green shirts when they met at an impromptu dinner at a patio restaurant where the Quebec contingent sang a loud chorus of Alouette, joined by fellow diners from other provinces, in honour of St-Jean-Baptiste Day.
When Kerr’s grandson Matthew Doyle was shown a photo of the pair, the youngster concluded that he had two grandpas.
But Aldridge says it’s becoming easier to tell them apart. “I’m a year older and better looking,” he jokes. But how can that be, when they look alike? “He’s got more grey.”
Joe Kelly, a zone commander from Fenelon Falls, Ont., approximately 11⁄2 hours north of Toronto, has collected pins as well as friends at convention over the last 35 years.
This year he was tickled to get his first pin from Newfoundland and Labrador, which joined the collection of 300 to 350 on his vest.
Tony Steenbergen of Brockville, Ont., also numbers his collection in the hundreds—of Legion friends and acquaintances. “I’ve been to over 80 conventions,” counting zone, district, provincial, dominion and international meetings, he says.
Steenbergen says he owes his Canadian citizenship to the Legion. “I joined 21 years ago,” while still a Dutch citizen. It was five years before someone realized he was not a member in good standing due to his citizenship. “So I became a Canadian in 1993.” With Legion friends from coast to coast, he looks forward to making more at the next dominion convention.