From the moon landing to war to the invention of Post-It notes, computers, smartphones and the microwave, there’s no doubt that Roy Shopland, 97, has seen a lot throughout his life.
Now living at Creekside Independent Living in Vernon, there’s only one thing he wants to see every day: his 100-year-old Union Jack Flag.
The Union Jack Flag is the national flag of the United Kingdom, which also represents an official or semi-official status in some other Commonwealth realms. In Canada, it’s ceremonial flag by parliamentary resolution and known here as the Royal Union Flag.
“My mother brought it from England when my parents moved here in 1918,” said Shopland. “She wanted to bring a little piece of home [England] with her.”
Three years later, Shopland was born.
“I was born May 26, 1921, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and my sister came three years later. Then, when I was eight, my Mom and Dad decided that they had enough of the Prairies and we moved to Vancouver.”
Years later, he met his wife through their church and they married in 1945. Four years later they had their first son Ralph in March of 1949 and, two years after, they had their second son Eric.
Meanwhile, the Second World War began and, at 25, he decided to do his part for his country and volunteer for the Canadian Armed Forces.
“I thought about the Air Force but I’m allergic to heights so that wouldn’t have worked and so, eventually I settled on the Navy.”
He was 25 when he enlisted and served for a total of three and a half years.
He served as an HMC — Chief Hospital Corpsman, Navy Designation Rating — for the Submarine service in Bermuda for about a year before being transferred to Esquimalt, Victoria.
“My mom prayed every Sunday I was gone for those in peril on the sea,” he said, explaining how close his family was. “After the Navy, my dad would always say, ‘You volunteered for the Navy so don’t be volunteering for anything else.’”
So, Shopland took up a career in the liquor business. Ironically, he said, he doesn’t drink alcohol.
“I never drank a drop. When I was in the Navy, it would be noon and we’d be at sea and they’d be having rum. I tried it once and just never much liked liquor — and I was the same with smoking. I just never liked it. ”
He was in the liquor store business for 35 years — which is how he found himself relocated to Vernon in 1962. He retired at age 62 and has lived here ever since.
Shopland eventually inherited the flag when his mother died at the age of 84. But, he said, it wasn’t until about three months ago when his sons decided to get it framed.
Now, proudly displayed on the wall opposite the front door, it’s one of the first things you see when you enter Shopland’s apartment. If you look closely at the flag, sprawled across the edge in legible ink are the worlds: World War 1 1914-1918.
For Shopland, he said it symbolizes remembrance — of his mother, his country and his time serving Canada.
“In my will, I’ll be giving it to my sons to share,” he said. “That’s important to me.”
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