A special connection

Winnie-the-Pooh statue.
Photo: Township of White River

Simone

The highlight of our train trip across Canada for me was the small town of White River, Ontario. During the First World War, it was not only men and women in uniform who travelled by train across Canada to serve overseas… there were many animals onboard, too! White River was a popular pit stop along the way to exercise our four-legged friends, especially the horses that needed to be in shape to serve on rough battlefields.

In August 1914, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg, was travelling with his regiment to Camp Valcartier in Quebec when the train stopped in White River. My greatgrandmother Winnie, a young bear cub at the time, had just lost her mother near the town and was in need of a friend to look after her. When Harry stepped out at the station, he saw Winnie and the two became fast friends. He adopted the cute cub on the spot and brought her on board the train as his regiment’s mascot.

After the war, Winnie would become the inspiration for the famous children’s book, Winnie-the-Pooh. To remember the historic meeting at White River that started it all, the town holds a Winnie-the-Pooh festival each August, with the statue of that iconic character as a main attraction. Seeing this cool monument for the first time sent shivers through my fur!

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