Pieces of the past

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A host to treasures from long ago and an abundance of history, the home of Pictou’s Raymond Gregory has the makings of his very own museum.

The military collector has many pieces that he is proud to show and share their extensive history. A selection of artifacts was laid out on his table one day last week, including a First World War-era lighter, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, in a gold case.

The shell seals up to prevent water from getting in but with a thumb flick, Gregory pops the cap open and marvels at the ingenuity of the piece. He shared that the lighter has an extra full tank stored in the bottom and a spot for an extra flint. Such a small piece, soldiers out on the field would have a lighter that would last them a long time, he notes.

Next to the lighter on the table, he showed off a small leather case with a wide pair of glasses from the First World War with the original lenses in the frames. Gregory notes the strangely wide nose piece spacing and referred to a small paper in the case that says the glasses were intended for use with a gas mask, the larger space between the lenses allowed the glasses to sit further back on the face to fit under the mask.

“I got those at the flea market about 30 years ago,” he said. Along with these artifacts, Gregory also showed a box soldiers received from Princess Mary at Christmas time as well as a few medals and tobacco cans made from used ammunition shells and more.

Not only is the inside of his house dedicated to the history of military service but Gregory shows his admiration outside as well.

Each year around Remembrance Day a soldier silhouette kneels on his lawn on Ross Street to pay tribute to the veterans who fought for Canada’s freedom. Gregory shared that he originally saw the silhouette outside a property in Lyons Brook and asked if he could borrow it to replicate the cutout. After he completed his cutout he has put it up each year since along with a few flags on his flag pole and a white cross as well.

“That flag pole out there is going to have three flags on it — it’ll have an air force flag, and it’ll have a navy flag and it’ll have a Canadian army flag, three to represent them all,” he said. “The way I figure, we lost 100,000 in the First World War and we’re still losing people in different theatres of war all over the world. If we can’t give them a week of some sort of remembrance…”

He shared that not only is the silhouette a tribute to the soldiers but it gets people’s attention so they think about Remembrance Day.

“I remember when my son was 16 or 17 years old,” Gregory said. “When I think of (the soldiers who would have gone to war at the same age) I think of him.”

Raymond Gregory stands by his soldier silhouette on Ross Street in Pictou. He puts it up each year for Remembrance Day. (Brimicombe photo)