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Historic totem to stand tall in Barrie

Lance Holdforth - Special to the Examiner
Submitted - The totem pole stands at the Zweibrucken 3 Wing air base as a monument to the airmen who lost their lives while serving from 1953 to 1969.

Submitted - The totem pole stands at the Zweibrucken 3 Wing air base as a monument to the airmen who lost their lives while serving from 1953 to 1969.

A piece of Cold War history will soon be standing tall in Barrie.

When Rob Warman was stationed at the Royal Canadian Air Force base in Zweibrucken, Germany more than 40 years ago, a 12-foot totem pole was a symbol of Canada on a foreign base.

Now, the Barrie resident wants it to be a symbol of the city he calls home.

"It's very exciting for us and we're certainly pleased," Warman said.

"It's an artifact of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and of the Base Borden Military Museum."

The pole was one of two Haida carvings donated to the German city in the late-1960s.

A 40-foot pole still remains in that city's Rosengarten.

The smaller totem was moved around after the base closed in 1969, and later found a home at CFB Trenton until 2007.

When it was shipped to CFB Borden, it was stored in a base museum under condition it be loaned to the City of Barrie.

"It fell to us to either ignore it or do something, so we decided to do something," Warman said.

As chairman of the Barrie German Twinning Committee, Warman said, because Zweibrucken is Barrie's twin city, the totem is a welcomed part of Barrie's future.

"It's going to enhance the relationship between the two cities," he said.

"The fact is that we haven't had any control over its movement after the base closed in Zweibrucken."

The pole was taken to Christian Island where totem carver Randall King is restoring it after years of exposure, Warman said.

"I've been up and had a look at it halfway through the restoration, and he's an excellent carver and he's doing a great job," he said. "The carver has carved a huge turtle as the base of our totem pole. It will sit in the shell of the turtle when it's presented to The City of Barrie."

Coun. Jennifer Robinson and a committee have been appointed to designate a location for the city's new addition.

"That's the whole reason the committee is being put together. There's no real place for it (totem pole) yet," she said. "It's the committee's job to be able to find where we can place it."

The artifact represents a strong part of both Canadian heritage and military sacrifice, Robinson said.

"I think what it's going to mean for Barrie is an opportunity to learn even that much more about military heritage in our area," she said. "I think it's pretty cool." "Rob has been working on this for 10 years, so it's been a long time and just being able to have that relationship that much stronger and have this placed somewhere of some great prominence would be very cool," Robinson added.

The committee will be meeting at CFB Borden in the next few weeks to discuss possible locations.

The pole will stand as a symbol residents can look up to.

"A lot of people don't recognize the significance of what this can be," Robinson said. "And I think it's a great opportunity to have a visual reminder to start a great conversation."

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