According to the Royal Canadian Legion, 19 million plastic poppies were sold for this year’s Remembrance Day. That means 19 million of us were moved to honour and support Canadian veterans by buying a poppy. (Or, just as likely, 8 million of us bought two poppies, as these items come with slippery pins and are notorious for their high replacement factor.)
Of all those who did purchase poppies, the luckiest have got to be the men, women and children who stopped by a train-station tunnel in Burlington, Ontario. Those folks were fortunate enough to meet 80-year-old Bill Reid, a veteran with a voice that resonates.
Baritone Bill can sing, and he’s not shy about it. The retired high school principal used to perform with the Hamilton Opera Company, so he knows how to belt the tunes. And he likes the acoustics of the train tunnel. He chooses World War II-era soldier’s hits like “Gee, Mom, I Want to Go Home” and “Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant Major.”
He constantly interrupts his own singing to greet passersby and thank them for their support, then chuckles – he has a jolly chuckle – about losing his place in a song or forgetting the lyrics altogether. He smiles at everyone, even provides an added-value pinning service.
Regulars remember Bill from year to year, make a point of buying from him, and admit they’re touched when they see him. If my math is right, this is Bill’s 16th year crooning old army songs as he makes a sale.