How one village went from invasive black bears, to mascots, to Winnie the Pooh, and onto a Soccer Team...
It's surely no news to locals when they hear about the roaming black bears in the Valcartier region. These forest creatures are known to come around every once in while and from time to time they get a little too close for comfort. It's not surprising that even today our local Indispensable newsletter warns us of these guys. Black bears have been around the territory forever... With all of these new housing developments, we're actually the ones encroaching on their turf... Can we really blame them?
CAMP VALCARTIER MASCOTS
''It wasn't uncommon for soldiers to have mascots or pets attached to their units in addition to a regimental mascot. It was no different in Sam’s battalion but he took it to a new level. It seems while at training camp in Valcartier, Quebec, he and his fellow soldiers came across two abandoned cub bears. Without hesitation he adopted one of the cubs which became so attached to him that he was photographed with it in 1916. Unfortunately, his superiors decided he could not take the bear with him overseas. While on furlong before his departure for England, Sam and the bear cub made a trip to Boston where he presented the animal to then Mayor James Michael Curley for a permanent home in the Boston Zoo. It is said Sam’s mascot lived out his days in that location.''
YES... YOU READ RIGHT! CHRISTOPHER ROBIN'S WINNIE ACTUALLY LIVED IN VALCARTIER FOR SOME TIME! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!
Upon the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Lt. Harry Colebourne of The Fort Garry Horse, a Canadian cavalry regiment, volunteered his service. On 24 August, while on his way to Valcartier to report to the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVV) as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he purchased a young bear cub for $20 at a train stop in White River, Ontario. Colebourn named the bear "Winnipeg", "Winnie" for short, after his home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnie accompanied him to Valcartier and all the way to England, becoming the mascot of the CAVC and a pet to the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade Headquarters. Before leaving for France, Colebourn left Winnie at the London Zoo because he couldn't bring the pet onto the battle fields.
Winnipeg's eventual destination was to have been the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, but at the end of the War, Colebourn decided to allow Winnie to remain at the London Zoo, where she was much loved for her playfulness and gentleness. Among her fans was A.A. Milne's son Christopher Robin, who consequently changed the name of his own teddy bear from "Edward Bear" to "Winnie the Pooh", providing the inspiration for his father's stories about Winnie-the-Pooh.
"So when Christopher Robin goes to the Zoo, he goes to where the Polar Bears are, and he whispers something to the third keeper from the left, and doors are unlocked, and we wander through dark passages and up steep stairs, until at last we come to the special cage, and the cage is opened, and out trots something brown and furry, and with a happy cry of "Oh, Bear!" Christopher Robin rushes into its arms. Now this bear's name is Winnie, which shows what a good name for bears it is, but the funny thing is that we can't remember whether Winnie is called after Pooh, or Pooh after Winnie. We did know once, but we have forgotten..".. --Introduction to Winnie-the-Pooh
The bear was Christopher Robin’s inspiration for calling his own stuffed bear Winnie. In the first chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, we see the following:
"When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin. "Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't know."
"But you said---"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.."
For a short video about Winnie the Pooh's story click here.