Eileen Elms and Carol Walsh, both residents of the old town site, officially cut the ribbon to open the Gander Heritage Trails.
©Josh Healey / The Beacon
GANDER, NL - Eileen Elms navigates the streets of her past, occasionally leaning on her niece, Lynn Hammond, for support.
They are making their way through the newly opened Gander Heritage Trails, and although the houses are long gone, the layout is familiar.
Elms is one of three residents from the old town site who helped unveil the Gander Heritage Trails. Together with Carol Walsh and Dr. Peter Blackie, they ushered in a waiting crowd.
For Elm, who moved to Gander in 1942, the invitation to cut the opening ribbon was a highlight.
“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” she said. “It really is an honour.”
Paddy Penney, office coordinator for the Gander Heritage Trails, said that he was encouraged to see a large crowd for the opening.
“We’ve been anticipating this for a while. This all started way back in the fall of last year,” said Penney.
Penney noted that a scavenger hunt had been organized for children and that the trails now feature historical information boards as well as a mobile app for guided tours.
With the ribbon down, groups of children excitedly ran to fulfill their scavenger-hunt requirements.
However, Elms and Hammond headed to a marker slightly off the beaten path.
They arrived at a cluster of oak trees, marked by a sign that reads: “These beautiful oak trees are the result of two acorns that were planted by Joan (Chafe) and her sister Eileen (Elms) in May 1943.”
Elms explained that her sister brought the acorns back from Nova Scotia and said she still remembers what the town was like all those years ago.
“During the war, it was a very unique life. We were living in the middle of a war-time military base,” she said.
Although the base and those early homes are gone, the cluster of oak trees and Elms’ memories remain.
Penney said that it is the preservation of memories, like Elms’, that stands out to him.
“It just shows the importance of Gander’s history,” he said.