Canadian military historian once a soap box derby kid.
I am deeply indebted to Wanda Pellerin (Gray) of Dresden for sending me the above photograph of entrants in the Dresden Optimists Club Soap Box Derby of either 1948 or '49. Identified in the Windsor Star photo are (l to r) Peter Manderson, Larry Gray (Wanda's brother), Bill Foster, Jim Tricker and Bob Drlicka. The photograph will have a permanent home in my Memories of Dresden web site..
This also gives me an excellent opportunity to continue featuring on Wrights Lane, Dresden kids that I grew up with and who have gone on to interesting and successful careers. Larry Gray (second from left in soap box photo and above right as he is today) entered himself in the senior category of the Second Annual Dresden Soap Box Derby and his "Super Mouse" creation performed quite well, if memory serves me correctly. He worked very hard to make his soap box machine as sleek and aerodynamic as possible so that it would cut through the Dresden air with the least possible resistance as it sped down the Optimists Club's makeshift derby ramp..
Larry was a motivated sort of young lad growing up in a small community where everyone seemed like family. He is the son of the late Clark and Neva Gray. The family lived on Centre Street. A good student, he was particularly active in Boy Scouts and you just knew that some day he would take a leading role in his chosen vocation. That vocation just happened to be a lifetime commitment to the Canadian military.
Move the calendar ahead 60 years and Capt. Larry Francis Gray is a distinguished retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces. He served as a radio officer, air navigation and information officer before becoming the managing editor for the newspaper of the Canadian Army in Europe, known as The Beaver. He has also been a United Nations military observer and served as part of the Commonwealth Election Team in Zimbabwe in 1980.
After he retired from the RCAF with 24 years of service under his belt, he worked with the Royal Canadian Legion, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, and the Office of the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman. Emblematic of his contribution to Canadian military affairs he received the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, the Queen's Jubilee Medal, the United Nations Peacekeeping Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration.
As an author Larry has published a number of articles on World War One in Esprit de Corps magazine and, with the encouragement of his school teacher wife, has written two books on the war dead from his current home in Carleton Place. His first literary effort in a "Faces and Names" project was entitled We Are the Dead followed by Fathers, Brothers and Sons that gave life to the young men who followed their Great War veteran family members into World War Two.
It is Larry's wish that his published work will interest young Canadians in their long-neglected military history and with any luck contribute to renewed national pride. He became interested in battlefields and war cemeteries during a posting to Germany and in 1986 he developed and led a Legion tour of young people to military sites and cemeteries for the dead of both world wars.
He continues to live in Carleton Place and Stanley Bridge, PEI, with his wife of 50 years, Gloria. His interest in the personal, human aspect of soldiers stories has not waned.
You did extremely well for yourself Larry. Scouter George Brooker and Capt. Frank Brown would be proud of you...So would your mom, Neva.