News Local

Pole will find a home at city hall

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

‘The Little Totem Pole’ is being moved to its new home in Barrie.

Submitted ‘The Little Totem Pole’ is being moved to its new home in Barrie.

Twelve feet of native art with a military history will soon make this city its home.

A Sept. 8 ceremony at Barrie Armoury will dedicate a restored native totem pole to the city, a gift from Zweibrucken, Germany.

The Little Totem Pole, as it’s called, is expected to end up somewhere inside Barrie City Hall.

“We want it undercover because of the elements,” said Rob Warman. “The reason that we had to restore it was the fact it was outside for 38 years. It was in terrible, terrible shape.”

Warman, a member of the city committee which helped organize the totem pole’s restoration, has a long history with the artifact.

He was stationed at the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) base in Zweibrucken with the Little Totem Pole more than 40 years ago.

Zweibrucken was a NATO air base in West Germany, assigned to the RCAF until 1969 and the United States Air Force until it closed in 1991. It’s now Zweibrucken Airport.

The RCAF gave two totem poles, 30 and 12-foot versions, to Zweibrucken. The larger one is still there at Rosengarten Park, in the centre of the city, surrounded by several maple trees that were donated at the same time.

The small totem pole was left at the air base, and when the RCAF left in 1969 and the Americans took over, it eventually ended up in CFB Trenton —where is was erected outside the military museum.

Warman says it endured the Canadian elements from 1969 until 2007, when it was rescued.

First Nation carver Randall King and his wife Lyla spent almost a year restoring it on Christian Island, Warman said. The totem pole was taken to King’s workshop last fall and picked it up in May.

“He did a marvellous, marvellous job,” Warman said.

The money to pay for the restoration was fund-raised privately, he said, locally and from as far away as British Columbia. An RCAF heritage fund in Winnipeg, the Air Force Association and the Sutton Royal Canadian Legion also contributed.

“It’s very tall and very colourful,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “It’s a remarkable piece of native art and a significant part of this area’s history.”

Zweibrucken Lord Mayor Helmut Reichling, in a 2011 letter to Borden officials, agreed to donate the Little Totem Pole to its Military Museum and then have it permanently loaned to Barrie.

“Having the small totem pole on display in Barrie, our twin city, will further enhance the relationship established many years ago when many thousands of Canadian airmen and women served their country while stationed in Zweibrucken,” Reichling said in his letter.

The Little Totem Pole is currently at Base Borden’s Military Museum, but will be coming to Barrie Armoury on Sept. 7 for the next day’s ceremony.

Zweibrucken Mayor Rolf Franzen will make the final presentation of the Little Totem Pole to Lehman, on behalf of the citizens of Zweibrucken to the citizens of Barrie.


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