Debate arises over memorabilia at Port Dover fire station
The status and placement of memorabilia related to Port Dover’s firefighting past has been called into question and is the subject of an ongoing dialogue involving Norfolk County senior management, Norfolk Fire and Rescue, and volunteer firefighters serving at Station 2. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Deep emotions in Canada and the United States were stirred this summer over monuments and symbols and how we should remember the past.
Norfolk County has not escaped the controversy now that a debate has erupted about memorabilia that has been displayed prominently for years at Fire Station 2 in Port Dover.
At the direction of new county CAO David Cribbs, a letter was sent to Station 2 recently regarding a flag and a crest that hark to the days when Port Dover had its own fire service.
The letter is not public and its contents are in dispute.
However, Port Dover Coun. John Wells has been given to understand that county bureaucrats want the relics removed or at least displayed less prominently in the fire hall on Nelson Street East.
Wells raised the matter under “other business” at the end of this week’s council meeting.
He noted that Norfolk County displays the mayoral chains-of-office from the former Town of Simcoe, City of Nanticoke and the Township of Norfolk in the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square.
Why, Wells asked, can’t Port Dover firefighters do the same?
“I would like to suggest that we leave these two pieces of Port Dover’s firefighting history where they are,” Wells said. “Why can’t our firefighters be proud of their history alone? They’ve been there since I was a kid.”
Wells and Cribbs discussed the matter after Tuesday’s meeting was adjourned.
Afterward, Cribbs said he and the county’s management team are not trying to erase anyone’s history. Rather, he has made the fostering of a unified county identity a priority of his mandate.
Cribbs said that he has noticed a “parochial” streak since his arrival that he fears could impair Norfolk’s ability to compete against neighbouring municipalities.
“My goal, ultimately, is to have Norfolk County’s identity paramount,” Cribbs said in an interview. “There is no desire to remove items of historical significance. The goal is to have Norfolk County’s identity prominently located in every building and location – as it should be. There is nothing nefarious here.”
For his part, Wells was offered a copy of the county letter but chose not to receive it. He said he is worried that its contents might pitch him into a rage.
Wells said one of the artifacts at issue is a carved image of an old Port Dover fire department insignia. The carving measures about four square feet and dates back about 60 years. The other is an old framed flag produced by a Port Dover women’s group.
He said there is nothing wrong with Norfolk residents celebrating their communities and their past.
Wells said he has served on Norfolk council for 17 years, assuming his role is to represent Port Dover and other parts of Ward 6 to the best of his ability.
“I feel much more sympathy for my community than the rest of the county,” said Wells, who will retire from municipal politics in 2018.
Norfolk Fire Chief Terry Dicks said the dialogue at Station 2 is ongoing and that there will be more to report after senior management gathers with Port Dover’s volunteer complement at a special meeting.
Dicks did not consent to a request to photograph the memorabilia in question.