‘Wait for me, Daddy!’ photo’s Jewish story

It may be the most famous Canadian photo of the Second World War.

It has been eighty years since the Vancouver Daily Province published a front page photo of this five-year-old boy breaking away from his mother’s grasp to run after his soldier father.


“Wait for me, Daddy!” photo. Official postage stamps issued in 2014. Photo courtesy Eric Campbell

Rifleman Jack Bernard was marching off to war as part of a parade by the B.C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) down Eighth Street in New Westminster. The date was Oct. 1, 1940. The iconic photo of the Bernard family saying goodbye captured the emotions of sacrifice and separation that Canadian families endured during the war. 

The photo would eventually be featured in Time, Newsweek and Life magazines and used to fundraise for the war effort. While over the years the B.C. Regiment historians have identified the six soldiers in the parade, the identity of one of the other 1,100 soldiers in line in that photo has not been been discovered, until now.

Six spots back, and with the strap of his weapon tight across his uniformed chest, is a serious looking soldier whose family is certain it is Harry Campbell. The soldier’s wife, Sophie Campbell, can be seen directly across from him, behind the little boy’s mother.

How did Campbell, a son of Jewish immigrants to Montreal, and his wife, wind up on scores of commemorative coins, stamps, sculptures and posters? And why hasn’t their story been more widely known until now?

“We’ve had a lot of trouble,” said Lt.-Col. Archie Steacy, CD, now 91, and the president emeritus and a former commanding officer of the B.C. Regiment. To make a positive determination, the regiment requires official paperwork from the families, including the soldier’s wartime discharge papers, the military service number, and photos. “People have sent us stuff. It’s wrong.”

Canadian Jewish soldier Harry Campbell

Now that Campbell’s records, photos, and family corroboration have come to light, Steacy is excited.

“We’ve never been able to identify him before,” Steacy said from his home in North Vancouver.

“I always knew, since I was fairly small,” said Lawrence Campbell, Harry’s only son, during a telephone interview Saturday.

Lawrence, now 73, and living in Kaslo, B.C., wasn’t born until after the war ended, but he has seen this picture “for years and years.” His late father Harry, like most of the Kaslo veterans who lived in the small West Kootenay village, “never really talked about it.”

“The fellow walking erect, that’s my Dad,” Campbell insists.

According to the regimental historian, the band led the parade on that day, followed by the Headquarters Company with the colonel and adjutant and other senior officers, and then there was a gap in the street. Next was “A” Company. The first soldier is Harry Campbell, according to his family.

When Campbell marched down New Westminster’s Eighth Street with his regiment that fall day on the way to war, he was already famous in his own right. Harry was a star centre for the New Westminster Salmonbellies, a professional lacrosse team. Thanks to his skills scoring goals as well as his penchant for fighting, (104 penalty minutes in the 1937 season), Campbell helped propel the team to win the 1937 Mann Cup, the Canadian lacrosse championship. The victory sparked spontaneous bonfires, parades and overall raucous celebrations in the Royal City 83 years ago this month.

New Westminster Salmonbellies 1937
From the Newspapers.com website. Harry Campbell is third from left, in the second row.

For defeating the eastern team Orillia Tigers in the best of five tournament, Harry received a gold watch, a framed certificate, and a souvenir lacrosse ball. Sportswriters commented on Campbell’s four assists, noting that he “physically collapsed after Game Two”, and highlighted his trademark technique of swinging his lacrosse stick at opponents.

“He had all the side teeth knocked out, and 3,000 stick marks in his head,” said his son, Lawrence, describing his father’s role on the team partly as a “goon”. “They didn’t wear helmets or masks in those days.”

Other lacrosse teams in the area tried to recruit Harry, including the Adanacs. Aside from his stint with the Salmonbellies, Harry also played for Richmond, before the war.

Campbell came west sometime around 1936 from his native Montreal, where he had played professionally for that city’s Montreal Maroons lacrosse team for two seasons. His career started in 1926, with Verdun. Harry, born in 1907, also was on Montreal’s inaugural Young Men’s Hebrew Association Jewish junior lacrosse team.

YMHA Lacrosse team
Harry Campbell in 1926-27 season with the YMHA Junior Lacrosse team. (Courtesy Lawrence Campbell)

As one of five boys (and two girls) in a large Jewish immigrant family in Montreal, Harry learned to be tough. He was a Golden Gloves boxer. His older brothers used their fists brawling against opposing gangs who they felt were antisemitic.

“His older brothers would go out and ‘hang a whooping’ on French Canadians,” Lawrence said.

The brothers’ reputation in the city’s boxing circles led to an invitation to serve as sparring partners when heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey had a stop in Montreal. They wisely declined.

Sometime around 1936, Harry decided to try his luck in a sport other than lacrosse. He hoped to work as a lifeguard, in Australia. As fate would have it, one of the passengers on the same train to the west coast was a Winnipeg woman headed to Hollywood to try to become a star. According to family lore, Harry threw a snowball at Sophie Trasiewick when the train stopped in Banff. He knocked her hat off, and the two fell in love. She was eighteen. He was nearly thirty. A pregnancy happened. The couple was married in 1936. A daughter, Ardyth, was born in August 1937.

Love and Marriage

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Harry joined the B.C Regiment. His enlistment papers put the date in April 1940. By this time, the family had settled in Vancouver. Sophie’s father John Trasiewick owned a restaurant in nearby New Westminster. Trasiewick would babysit when needed.

On the day in October 1940 when the famous “Wait for me, Daddy” photograph was taken, Sophie Campbell left young Ardyth behind, and went to say goodbye to Harry.

You can see Sophie in the photo, right behind Beatrice Bernard, the woman in the foreground, according to Lawrence.

coin
Wait for me, Daddy! coin Royal Canadian Mint, 2014.

“Something caught my mom’s eye there,” Lawrence believes, looking at his copy of the photo. It shows his mother looking to her left as she walks beside her husband. “She was a good looking person, there. They were very happy and together.”

Ardyth, then three, missed her moment in the spotlight.

“My sister once told me she wished she was in the photograph, but she had to stay with Grandpa,” Lawrence said of his older sister, now 84.

“I grew up knowing that was my mother [in the photo] because she told me,” confirmed Ardyth Fenn, a retired teacher living in Calgary. “I remember that picture so clearly.”

Going overseas

Harry had wanted to be among many of the soldiers in the B.C. Regiment who would eventually be sent overseas to fight in France and Holland. Indeed, he had applied to join the Royal Air Force in London as early as 1935, but had been politely rejected.

When the regiment left New Westminster that day, the men were sent to Nanaimo for training. After eight months there, they shipped east to Niagara. But going overseas for Harry was not in the cards.

soldiers on a ferry in Canada Second World War
Harry Campbell, second from left, waves goodbye aboard a ferry, undated. (Courtesy Lawrence Campbell).

Harry couldn’t pass the medical requirements. Although 5′ 8 1/2″ and a “really stocky” 200+ pounds, according to Lawrence, his father had received a severe shoulder injury in a fight during one of the lacrosse games. It wasn’t healed properly and as a result, his shoulder would dislocate.

Instead, Sophie and Harry spent the rest of the war years posted to Ottawa, where she worked as a civilian in the war effort, possibly as a nurse with polio patients. Harry was a signalman, doing signals and cryptology.

It might have been while the young family was living in Ottawa that Harry took the opportunity for a fast visit to Montreal, to see his parents and siblings. By then, three Campbell brothers were in uniform. Their mother urged them to get a photo taken.

Three Campbell brothers from Montreal
Family photo of three Campbell brothers from Montreal in the Second World War. From left: Lionel Campbell, RCAF medic; Solly (Shia) Campbell, Black Watch sniper; and Harry Campbell, Canadian Army signals. Photo taken in Montreal. Undated. (Courtesy Eric Campbell).

Three Brothers Served

Lionel Campbell was in the RCAF, posted to the hospital at the base in St. Hubert, Quebec. Selwyn or Solly, known as Shia, was the youngest of the family. He was called up. After joining the Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch), a Montreal unit, Shia was sent overseas to serve as a sniper.

It’s not known if Sophie and their daughter made the trip to Montreal to visit Harry’s family. Lawrence says his Jewish relatives didn’t accept his mother because she was a Roman Catholic. She tried several times to convert to Judaism but this idea was “met with resistance” from the Campbells, Lawrence said.

At the war’s end, Harry and Sophie moved back out west. Harry kept his hand in the lacrosse world, and was hired to coach the Native Sons Club in Nanaimo, in 1952.

He also worked for several years in Kitimat, B.C. at the Alcan Aluminum smelter. His identity card says he was on the company’s police force. The family bounced back and forth between there and Vancouver. Lawrence was born in 1947, and a third child, Charmaine, came along in 1955.

In 1960, Harry and Sophie bought a resort hotel in Kaslo, B.C. on the shores of Kootenay Lake. Kaslo was once a mining and logging town but became known for tourism in the picturesque Kootenays region between Kamloops and Banff, Alberta.

Kaslo hotel
Kaslo Hotel advertisement, 1962. (Newspapers.com)

Divorce

“The Duncan Dam was just going through, they thought they’d make a killing,” Lawrence said of his family’s Kaslo Hotel venture. A 1961 treaty between Canada and the United States on water management of the Columbia River led to the construction of several dams including the one north of Kaslo.

It was around the time that this ad (above) ran in the Spokane, Washington newspaper’s 1962 holiday guide, that the Campbells’ 25 year marriage fell apart. This was not unusual for many couples who had endured the turmoil and separation of the war.

Even the Bernards, who had figured so prominently in the “Wait for me, Daddy!” photo, would divorce well before the war ended.

“The war certainly messed her up,” Lawrence said, referring to his mother’s post-war struggle with alcoholism.

After their divorce, Sophie remarried. Harry Campbell did not. He spent the rest of his life working in the hotel in Kaslo, where he made a lot of friends and was well known, especially among the rough and tumble truck drivers and lumberjacks who came to the hotel bar to drink.

Harry’s Jewish pride

Although Harry wasn’t an observant Jew, he admired the State of Israel. He respected how the Jewish nation carried out retribution for the 1972 murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian Black September terrorists at the Munich Summer Olympics.

For his part, Harry would carry out his own type of personal justice when facing racial slurs from customers or locals.

“A lot of people if they called him a Jew, they wouldn’t be standing around for too long,” said Lawrence, who spent his teenage years living in one of the rooms of the Kaslo Hotel. “He flattened one guy here.”

A year later, in 1973, Harry died suddenly of a heart attack “on the floor in front of me”, Lawrence said. His father was 65.

obituary

Jewish funeral rites

While Harry’s relatives in Montreal wanted to have the body brought east to be buried in the family plot in the city’s Baron de Hirsch Jewish cemetery, Lawrence felt Harry should remain in Kaslo. So Harry’s family sent sister Bella, and Lionel’s teenaged son Eric, on an unforgettable journey across five provinces to participate.

“I remember it like yesterday,” recalled Eric Campbell, now 66, a retired curator for the Montreal Aviation Museum, in an interview. “They closed the city. There were 700 people. The place was packed.”

Aside from the size of the crowd, the funeral itself was certainly unusual. Although it was held in a church and a Catholic priest officiated, the organizers invited Eric, then 19, to recite the traditional Jewish funeral prayers.

Eric Campbell
Eric Campbell, at his Montreal home. (Supplied photo).

Eric had received some training from the staff at Paperman’s, the main Jewish funeral home in Montreal, before flying out to Kaslo with his aunt for the funeral. He was less than pleased that he also had to get a haircut. At the time, Eric’s uncle Solly “Shia”, also a war veteran, “kissed me twelve times because I was doing something special.”

Lawrence welcomed the opportunity to observe the Jewish mourning rituals, including the symbolic cutting of a necktie, and the method of shovelling dirt onto the casket in the cemetery.

“I pulled out my Magen David (necklace with the Star of David charm) and a mezzuzah (silver case with sacred Jewish prayer scroll inside),” Eric said, remembering feeling the weight of his family’s expectations on him. He thought to himself, “We have to do some Jewish in this place!”

When the burial at the hilltop Kaslo cemetery was over, and the Royal Canadian Legion representatives had finished their remarks, everyone went back to the village for refreshments. Eric remembers being surprised at one of the items on offer at the big buffet table.

“Bella and I ate bagels,” he said.

Harry’s legacy

Recently, Eric Campbell’s Facebook page showed a new post of the famous photo of “Wait for me, Daddy!” That was when he revealed that his uncle was one of the soldiers in that photo.

“My uncle was a bit of legend, he was like the go-to guy,” Eric explained, referring to his uncle’s ability to get along with people, whether it was at the bank, the hotel, or the Legion. As for the photo that made the Bernard family household names during the war, Eric says his relatives’ story now seems equally deserving of a place in history.

“When you dig into it, it’s very interesting,” he said.

Lawrence Campbell with members of his band in Kaslo, 2017.
Lawrence Campbell, (left), with members of his band during a benefit concert in Kaslo, 2017. (Janice Banman photo).

Lawrence had also hoped that people would been interested in his father’s story long before today. He did send the information to a magazine a few years ago, but never heard back from them. It might have been hard for the editors to follow up, as Lawrence doesn’t use either a cellphone or a computer.

Now that his father’s story is receiving some attention, Lawrence says looking at the image he has seen so often makes him think about war, and the sacrifices which all those other men in that New Westminster street would make.

“All these people going off…all these young soldiers walking like this. It just never ends and you wonder how many of them never came back,” Lawrence said.

According to Lt.-Col. Steacy, the B.C. Regiment’s historian, 125 men were killed during the Second World War, including six who died in training accidents.

Remembrance Day

Harry Campbell photo from Find a Grave
Grave of Harry Campbell, in Kaslo, B.C. (Courtesy Karen Bartlett from Find a Grave.com)

There are no outward signs on Harry Campbell’s grave in Kaslo to show what religion he was. This has always been a sore spot for his Montreal relatives, who had hoped a tombstone would be erected with a traditional Star of David and some Hebrew engraving. However, it felt right to Lawrence, who said his parents did not raise the children to be any religion.

Ironically, twenty years ago, Lawrence felt pulled to investigate his own spirituality. He became a lay minister in the United Church.

For two decades, Lawrence has been officiating at funerals, and acting as the chaplain for the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies at the local Royal Canadian Legion. Every year, Lawrence drops a poppy on the war monument at Kaslo’s Vimy Park near the shores of the lake, and also on his father’s grave.

Recently retired from his official clerical duties, Lawrence plans to pay tribute to his father’s service again this year, but as a private citizen.

In Montreal, his cousin Eric Campbell has a shrine of sorts in his house already decorated with poppies for Remembrance Day. There is his copy of the famous “Wait for me, Daddy!” photo, and the portrait of his father and two uncles in uniform. An aviation buff, Eric had once considered following in their footsteps when he was old enough to join the military. Lionel and Shia pleaded with him not to.

They told Eric “We fought the war so that you don’t have to,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *