The story of a wooden shoe

Painted wooden shoe

When I was a little girl, this shoe sat in the curio cabinet in my grandparents’ living room. It is a hand-carved, child’s wooden shoe from Holland.

During the Second World War, my Grandpa was part of the Canadian Army. After first serving in Italy, his division was transferred to Holland. While in Holland, he was billeted with a Dutch family in their home.

When it came time for my grandfather to return to his own family in Canada, the family who had housed him wanted to express their gratitude. The father took his daughter’s wooden shoe, painted it with messages for my Grandpa and presented it to him.

Painted on the shoe is “Siddeburen,” the name of the town in which they lived, “souvenier,” “good by [sic], so long,” and “MEI 1945” (May, the month Holland was liberated by the Canadians).

Painted wooden shoe

For many decades after the war, my grandparents stayed in touch with the family, sending letters and cards back and forth over the Atlantic. The gratitude the Dutch people have for the Canadians was made tangible by my family’s connection to this one family.

Remembrance Day is a very meaningful day for me. In addition to marking the end of World War I and an occasion to remember the service and sacrifice of veterans as well as current soldiers, it is also my Grandpa’s birthday.

My grandfather in his World War 2 uniform

A note on the back of this photo in my Grandma’s handwriting says this picture was taken at Avellino, Italy Dec. 29, 1944.

This Sunday on Remembrance Day, I will be thinking of my Grandpa as I stand at the Legion with my family.

The wooden shoe now resides with my Aunt. My grandfather’s medals are with my Dad. Every time I visit, I look at these items and remember.

It is my hope that as Matt and I work on our forever house, we can fill it with meaningful items that show the legacy and tell the story of our families.

8 thoughts on “The story of a wooden shoe

  1. Hi Julia,

    How beautifully done. I was in tears from the time that Grandpa’s picture came up.

    I will see you on Sunday at the Legion. Just to give you a heads-up, a neighbour and a big wig at the Retired Teachers’ Organization (RTO) was supposed to lay the wreath for RTO but cannot. They have asked me to do it and, of course, I said yes.

    My flag is going to last for another day and a half (after two major mendings) and then Grandpa is getting a new flag for his birthday.

    Thank you for your blog.


    Auntie Anne

  2. Beautiful. My grandparents (all four of them!) were in Holland during the second world war, which is the major reason they chose to immigrate to Canada in the early 1950s. My great-grandparents were active participants in the resistance, and my great grandfather even spent 9 months in a concentration camp for his work, so the arrival of the Canadians was particularly important to my family. Thank you for sharing your grandfather’s story!

  3. That shoe is super cool! My dad was also part of the liberating forces in Holland at the end of WWII. He didn’t talk much about the war while I was growing up, but on the 50th anniversary, he and my mum went over to Holland for the festivities. They were billeted with some people they then stayed in touch with, and even visited again, for the rest of their lives. They said that in Holland, even the smallest children know the stories and everyone is grateful to the Canadians.
    Oh, and your grandpa is very handsome!

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