Peter Nunan a Resident at Southbridge Pinewood in Thunder Bay struck up a conversation one day with Janina Gladish (Recreation Aide) which he often did. This particular day he wanted to share his story of the remarkable moments he had over the years, but not with just Janina but with as many people as he could. This was his Bridge to Dream request.
Peter lived on a farm 2-3 miles outside of Paris Ontario. Often Peter and his good friend Ralph would go to the railway junction where the train would often stop. On this one particular day they knew that Prince Philip and the Princess (now Queen Elizabeth) would be making a short stop at that very spot. Peter and his friend decided to jump the snow fence in order to get on the track where the train carrying the royal couple would soon be. The young men noticed the train was backing up very slowly to get back on their way. The Prince and Princess were standing on the back of the train when they saw Peter and Ralph on the tracks. Peter says he was about 5 feet away from the couple. The four of them had a short conversation when the Prince yelled “jump on!”, and invited them on the train. Peter decided not to climb on the locomotive because he feared the RCMP would “get us” and would not be pleased. At this point a crowd began to gather, but for a few short minutes Peter and Ralph were able to have a private conversation with Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. They were so excited as this was the first time that they had met the Royals.
A second meeting took place many years later at the Old Fort William opening ceremonies in Thunder Bay. There was a group of men including Peter paddling a 36 foot birch bark canoe as part of the festivities of the grand opening. They were senior Ministries of Natural Resource staff at the time. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were guests at the event. They both were in awe of the canoe and Prince Philip heard that there was a boat currently being built on the property by an employee of the park. Employees went to see about showing the Prince the boat, however it was locked up. The prince was disappointed that he couldn’t see the boat and said “It must be something to be locked up so tight.” Later that day the Prince had asked “how did you folks know that the birch bark canoe would float”? The response from the builder of the canoe said, “If this canoe doesn’t float, this will be the first birch bark submarine you will ever see”. The Prince had a good laugh. The Queen was also quite impressed with the large canoe which weighed about 400-500 pounds.
On April 9, 2021 Peter was saddened by the news that the Prince had passed away, but was grateful and felt honoured to have had the privilege of meeting him and the Queen not only once but twice. Peter will always treasure these memories and will continue to share his remarkable moments.
Written by Peter Nunan & Janina Gladish