Salt Spring Islander recalls childhood encounter, letter

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By Sherry Hickman

Today Queen Elizabeth died, Sept. 8, 2022. I have always had an interest in the Royal Family; I was born in 1943 when King George was the King, and my father was in the Navy fighting in the Second World War to help defend the Dominion of Canada and the Monarchy.

As a young child, I would cut out any pictures of royalty that appeared in the Vancouver Sun — the only newspaper we got back then. I especially loved everything about the princesses — and eventually the Queen and her children.

In 1951, when Princess Elizabeth and her husband The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) made a visit to Canada, arriving in Montreal and travelling across the country, I was eight years old and followed the story as closely as I was able, asking my parents a myriad of questions that they patiently answered. My parents, myself and my baby brother were living in Campbell River on northern Vancouver Island at the time.

I was excited when I heard the Princess would be coming to Nanaimo, B.C. — but how I was I to get there to see her? The old Island Highway was a narrow winding road and we had a 1940s Ford sedan that lumbered along. I belonged to the Campbell River Girl Guides — we were called Brownies, as we weren’t old enough to be Girl Guides yet. When I found out our Brownie pack was going to travel to Nanaimo to see the Royal couple, I was over the moon,and could hardly sleep until we got there.

We stood along the sidewalk in downtown Nanaimo and watched the Princess go by, waving to us. I ferociously waved my little “Union Jack” flag, and saw the Princess look directly at me and smile.

As soon as I got home, I carefully printed a letter to the Princess, telling her how beautiful she looked, and that she looked right at me. I wondered if she remembered the little girl with a lot of ringlets in her hair, wearing a Brownie uniform and waving the Union Jack?

I don’t know how my mom figured out an address, but we mailed my letter and on Nov. 7, 1951, I received a letter from Princess Elizabeth. Of course it was typed up by her Lady-In-Waiting, but I felt her speak directly to me. Our newspaper, The Campbell River Courier, took my picture holding the letter and published it with a story. Elizabeth was crowned Queen on my ninth birthday: Feb. 6, 1952. Of course, I believed that was intentional too.

There may only be a few people on Salt Spring Island who have received a letter from the Queen; funny enough I think my brother-in-law, Andy Hickman, is one of those people!

Sheri Hickman (nee Sherry Dyck) moved to Salt Spring in 1971, met her husband here and they raised their family on the island. She reports she now has eight grandchildren.

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