The editor of The Brandon Legionnaire Newsletter contacted me, asking permission to run a story about my book The Sailor and the Christmas Trees. The late John Hanlon of Brandon, Manitoba is the subject of this book which was written for children but is also loved by adults.
In November 1944, John was a wireless operator on the HMCS Royalmount. They were docked in St. John's, Newfoundland. He knew they'd be at sea on Christmas Day, so he and a couple crewmates walked up a hill and cut down some evergreens. John hid the trees on the ship and pulled them out on Christmas morning in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to surprise his crewmates and children who were on another ship in that convoy.
John's gift made that wartime Christmas into a very memorable day.
John told this story to his children, grandchildren, his United Church community, and local Legion members at Christmastime for decades after the Second World War. A church friend, Dexter van Dyke, knew a family friend of John's, Elaine Rounds, and told me about the story. We both knew it would make a great book.
I met with John and his wife Audrey and their friend Elaine Rounds in 2012 to hear the story from them. I wrote the book as though John was telling his story to the reader, and I added a biography of John as well. Catherine Folnovic illustrated the book and family photos completed the biography.
This week, I received a copy of The Brandon Legionnaire Newsletter and was surprised to see not just a story about the book, but a full page showing its front and back covers plus information about my publishing company and details of where the book could be purchased.
A lovely note attached from Linda Wakefield, editor of The Brandon Legionnaire Newsletter, said:
"I wish to extend a sincere thank you for your book - The Sailor and the Christmas Trees. Mr. Hanlon was a faithful member of our Legion Branch. And I spoke with a couple of members who fondly remember him telling the 'Christmas tree story' at the annual Christmas volunteer appreciation afternoon. I for one can remember his booming joyful voice leading everyone in the pre-dinner singalong... So important, Deana that you recorded this beautiful piece of oral history."