Always a favorite event for our Canadian winter residents, this year Canada Day took on a special meaning as Canadians celebrated the 50th anniversary of their now iconic red and white maple leaf flag at the Bay Point Resort. In addition to the stunning pageantry of the Ceremony of Flags which celebrates the rich and diverse country of Canada with a presentation of the Canadian flag and all the provincial flags. Leading the parade was Joan O'Malley of Ottawa, Ontario. Joan, who has been calling PCB her winter home for the past 12 years, was the seamstress of the original Canadian flag that she proudly carried.
On November 6th, 1964, a snowy Friday evening, Joan's dad called his daughter with an urgent request that would cement her place in Canadian history.
That afternoon, Ken Donovan, an assistant purchasing director with the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission had received a call from prime-minister Lester B. Pearson's office requesting the three flag prototypes under consideration be delivered asap so the prime minister could see them hoisted on poles at his Harrington Lake retreat the next day.
After having 30 of bunting delivered by taxi and hastily silk screening it the proper colors, the flag assembly team turned their attention to finding a seamstress. Joan recalls, "my dad said ‘my daughter Joan has a sewing machine; I'll give her a call and see if she can help us out.' " Five hours and three flags later, Joan was finished and bone weary. "I didn't think we were making history that night," she says, "I thought, ‘Thank God that's over, I'm tired.'" Donavan, however, better understood the significance of the evening. "My dad was excited," Joan recalls 50 years later. He said, ‘Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. Joan is going to sew the first Canadian flag.' "
An interesting side note, the original flags that Joan sewed have all disappeared. She occasionally gets calls from museums asking her to authenticate what they believe to be an original, but so far none has come to surface.
Unlike Betsy Ross, who was compensated for sewing the first American flag, Joan stitched together the first Canadian flag as a favor to her father. "I didn't get paid to sew the flag," she muses, "but I did a free dinner for it 50 years later!" Joan, of course, was seated at table 50.