Presents for People Who Love the Past

It’s exactly four weeks until Christmas Eve, so here's a short list of shopping suggestions for men and women who are fascinated by the unique, exciting, dramatic, never-to-be-repeated World War Two era.

I’ll start with a model Harvard aircraft, just like the one thousands of young airmen learned to fly in wartime. Training aircraft were distinguished by their bright yellow paint. This model costing $69.99 from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Gift Shop in Mount Hope, Ontario would add a spot of sunshine to the office of any wartime buff. Click Harvard for more info.

This sleek, handsome, eye-catching water bottle was crafted especially for the Aero Space Museum in Calgary. It is made from recycled materials and costs $25. To order, call 403-250-3752.

From Amazon comes this 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Rosie the Riveter. An American icon, she was modelled after a Canadian named Veronica Foster, or Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl. To read my previous post about Canadian factory workers, click: Bombshells and Bomb Girls.

This is $19.99 from Amazon’s Canadian site. Click We Can Do It! for buying information.

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa carries a number of wartime-themed prints and other items in its online gift store. This image called Parachute Riggers was painted in 1947 by Paraskeva Clark. A print can be ordered in three sizes, starting at $24.99. For more information, click: Parachute Riggers.

The online craft store called Etsy carries a number of original 1940s knitting patterns, which can be downloaded for a few dollars. Ladies (or gentlemen), there’s still time to whip up a few vintage-inspired items for that special man or woman on your list! 

Here’s just one example of the popular Fair Isle men’s vest. (I apologize for the name of the black colour, and no, I don't want to start another discussion about Guy Gibson's dog.)

To purchase the pattern, click: Fair Isle Vest.

This snowflake sweater, with matching mittens and a hat with double points called a Dutch cap, is just darling. Remember in the 1940s when girls wore caps with kitten ears?

To download the pattern, click: Snowflake Sweater.

Vintage-inspired reproduction clothing is back in style, and I love this 1940s style raspberry-coloured dress. A website called Blame Betty carries all the accessories, too. You can complete the look with hair flowers, seamed stockings and black pumps. The dress costs just $59.99 and comes in a wide range of sizes.

For more information, click: Blame Betty.

And for the little aviator in your home, what about this kid’s bomber jacket, which can be ordered in a number of sizes from the Vintage Wings of Canada’s online gift shop for $44.99? Click Vintage Wings for information.

I found this on the Chapters website. A company called Red Canoe makes an authentic RCAF Kit Bag, featuring an embroidered logo and lettering. It's made from heavy cotton with webbed straps and twill body. A portion of the proceeds from all sales (it costs $149.99) goes to support the Air Force Association of Canada. For more info, click RCAF Kit Bag.

This is a brand new item from the Royal Canadian Mint, to commemorate this iconic moment in Canadian history. The original photograph was taken in Vancouver in 1940 by newspaper photographer Claude Dettloff. It captured the touching scene of a five-year-old boy named Warren Bernard running after his father, Private Jack Bernard, as he marches off to war through the streets of New Westminster, British Columbia.

You can read more on a previous blog post about children at war, by clicking: Children on the Home Front.

And by the way, I just purchased from my local Canada Post office a whack of these stamps featuring the original photograph to use on my Christmas cards. I still send Christmas cards, although I receive fewer in return each year, but it's something I plan to keep up as long as I can hold a pen.

You can also order a couple of other beautiful commemorative coins. Almost one million Canadian women worked in factories during World War Two, and their contribution is honoured on this limited edition silver dollar.

The Canadian Army is also honoured on this special two-ounce gold coin portraying a Canadian machine gunner in training, worth $250.

To order any of these three coins, click on Royal Canadian Mint.

Supermarine Spitfires have a special place in the hearts of would-be fighter pilots everywhere, and here is a brass-mounted wallpiece that will keep your man's eye on the clock. It costs $44.99 from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. For more, click Spitfire Clock.

The Lancaster bomber received a lot of well-deserved attention this year, when our own Canadian "Vera" was reunited with the only other flying Lanc in the world, "Thumper" in the United Kingdom. To read my previous blog post about this iconic aircraft, click: Love Those Lancasters.

For the Lancaster-lover in your life, gift items abound. The very best gift of all would be a flight in one! Yes, you can book a one-hour flight in the Lancaster shown here, located in Hamilton, Ontario, for just $2,500.

For more information, click: Book a Lancaster Flight.

From the sublime to the ridiculous . . . you have to be a real Lancaster nut to appreciate this gift: a jar of used Lancaster oil! Yep, you can order one from the Lincoln Aviation Centre in England, used oil that comes straight from the bowels of Just Jane, the much-loved Lancaster there, and set it on your mantelpiece. (Just Jane doesn't fly, but you can take a taxi ride in her!)

To order your used oil, click Just Jane.

Maybe you're one of the many people who think the Halifax bomber was every bit as good as the Lancaster, if not better! If so, you can purchase this handsome mug for $25 from the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. Visit their online gift shop for this and other great gift ideas by clicking: Bomber Command Museum.

For the man or woman in your life who believes that Winston Churchill's leadership won the war, you can purchase this handsome set of bookends for 2,300 English pounds and have them shipped to your door. For more information, click: Bronze Bookends.

Or perhaps you would like something smaller and lighter, like this odd-looking Winston Churchill Toby Jug from the same shop in the U.K. The handle of the mug is an RAF flyer.

To order, click: Toby Jug.

If you really want to go all-out on the wartime theme, this company offers a full party package! Here’s the description:

“Guests will arrive through a realistic sand bag bunker entrance, manned by two armed guards. Making their way to the reception area, guests will be presented with drinks by uniformed 1940s officers and cigarette glamour girls.

"To set the scene, searchlights will play across the sky. A newspaper seller will hand out facsimile newspapers. Sound effects include an air raid warning siren. The props include banners of an overhead Spitfire and blitzed London terraced house. Union Jack bunting and 1940s posters will cover the walls.

"On each place setting is a small Union Jack and a song sheet. Food is served on enamel plates with drinks in enamel mugs. The menu is a ration card with dried egg and spam crossed out and replaced by unheard-of luxuries. After dinner, the Ritz ballroom opens with a demonstration of old time dancing followed by some jitterbugging from a lively swing band."

I think you could probably create this theme party on your own! Here's a photo of someone's front door, decked out for the party with sandbags and camouflage netting. To find out more, click: Wartime Party.

I own this Vera Lynn CD, and it has brought me many hours of listening pleasure for just a few dollars. And it would fit perfectly into someone’s stocking!

To order, click: We'll Meet Again.

Finally, I couldn’t pass up the chance to suggest a copy of my own newly-released novel, Bird's Eye View, about a young Saskatchewan woman who goes overseas, joins the air force, and becomes an interpreter of aerial photographs. Here are a few comments from reviews posted on Amazon:

  • I loved, loved, loved this book. It combines several of my favorite topics . . .WWII, women during the war, Western Canadian fiction. I don't think I have ever before read a Canadian WWII novel featuring a female protagonist, and it's about time someone wrote one.

  • So well written that I saw the movie in my mind while reading. War stories are very poignant and this one is no exception - I felt like crying a couple of times. Excellent read!

  • I loved this book and have nothing bad to say about it. I highly recommend it to lovers of WWII historical fiction. You'll laugh, cry, and learn something to boot. It doesn't get better than that.

Bird's Eye View is available at any bookstore. If they don't have any copies left in stock, they can order it within a few days. It's also available from Chapters website, and from Amazon's Canadian, U.S. and U.K. websites, AND it's available as an ebook. To order it directly, click on the book image at the very bottom of the page.

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  • I have a fascinating one-hour powerpoint presentation describing wartime women in uniform, and the little-known practice of aerial photographic interpretation. And I come dressed in my wartime vintage duds! To contact me about speaking at your organization, click: Contact.

‚Äč               Calling All Book Clubs!

  • Book Clubs across Canada have discussed Bird's Eye View. I would love to visit your club, or answer your questions via email, telephone, or Skype. For a list of discussion questions, click: Book Club Questions.

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Greetings

During my research into Canada’s wartime past, I uncovered some fascinating facts and anecdotes. I’ll share them here and welcome feedback and stories of your own.

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