War Memorial featuring long-time Tofino resident to be unveiled in New Westminster Oct. 4

A long-time Tofitian will see himself depicted in a War Memorial Sculpture, postage stamp, and $2 coin next week.

On October 1, 1940, a five-year-old Warren “Whitey” Bernard broke out of his mother’s arms and chased after his father Jack who was marching along New Westminster’s Eighth Street with The British Columbia Regiment.

Claude Dettloff, then a photographer with The Province newspaper, captured what has become an iconic Canadian image when he photographed the scene just as Whitey’s outstretched hand was about to reach his father’s.

Dettloff dubbed the photograph “Wait for me Daddy.”

Next Saturday, Oct. 4, a War Memorial Sculpture of Dettloff’s image will be unveiled at a ceremony in New Westminster.

The image will also be featured on a freshly minted Canadian $2 coin as well as a postage stamp, both of which will be unveiled for the first time during the ceremony.

Whitey Bernard, who has lived in Tofino for the past 50 years, told the Westerly on Thursday that he is excited to attend, and speak at, the unveiling.

“I’ve always realized the picture was very popular and it’s the people of Canada that have kept the picture alive because it means so much to so many people and it’s a reality, it’s truth, it tells a story and there’s no hocus-pocus about it; that’s what it was,” he said.

“It captures a moment in time at the beginning of World War II when the guys were all joining up and going away all over the place and families were being broken up and young guys were going off to war.”

Though he was only 5 years old at the time, Whitey’s young mind understood the moment.

 â€œI think a lot of that is in my face in that picture, the anxiety that I knew something was going on and that something was going to happen; the old man was on the way,” he said.

“It’s the photographer that coined “Wait for me Daddy” because he said that’s what I said…It’s a masterpiece of photography, the composition and the fact that he caught the moment and the expressions on peoples’ faces.”

Dettloff’s photograph quickly turned Whitey into a young celebrity.

“It went viral for its day,” Whitey said. “It was super popular right away and they used it, and me, in what they called a victory bond drive.”

Whitey said he soon found himself touring through plants in Vancouver that were building ships and airplanes.

“They had a group of musicians and entertainers that they would put together and they would go around to all the big war plants in the whole lower mainland,” he said.

 â€œThey would go around to the plants and they would put on about a one-hour song and dance show and get everybody in a good mood with all the patriotic songs of the day.

“Then they would unveil a great big blow-up of the “Wait for me Daddy” picture and they’d parade me out in my short pants and my blue blazer and I would make a speech.”

Whitey began participating in the drives when he eight years old and continued on them until he was 10 and his father returned home from the war for good.

“It was probably the happiest day of my 10 year-old life,” Whitey said of the day his father returned home.

He said his father initially struggled with post-war life.

“When he came home he was not the same guy that went away, he was jumpy and had a lot of anxiety; what I guess they’d call post-traumatic stress today…and he came home to a broken marriage and no job,” he said.

“He was a pretty shook up guy but he got over it and went on to have a good life, he remarried and I’ve got a half-brother.”

After Jack Bernard’s second wife passed away, he moved to Tofino where Whitey was living and helped Whitey run the Chevron Canada in Ucluelet and Tofino around 1974.

Whitey said his father also earned a living with carpentry.

“He was one of those guys that could do just about everything,” Whitey said. “We had a really good relationship.”

Jack also proved to be a valuable asset in watching Whitey’s two young children at the time.

“We could leave the young kids with dad and he ran the place like an army sergeant; the kids all loved him,” Whitey said. “There was no monkey business when grandpa was looking.”

His role in Dettloff’s “Wait for me Daddy” photograph has led to a slew of media interviews for Whitey who has consistently made time to talk about it.

“It isn’t really about me, it’s about that moment in time and I’ve always made myself available and done all the things I’ve been asked to do in relation to the picture,” he said.

“I don’t mind talking about it because people are interested in it…I’m 80; I lived through an era that a good part of the population didn’t.”

Whitey said his parents would have reacted differently to the soon-to-be-unveiled statue in New Westminster.

“My mom would have loved the notoriety of the whole thing and being the centre of attention, but I think the old man would have been a little bit more reticent about it,” he said.

reporter@westerlynews.ca