The story begins on the Western Front, in France, 1918. A young British soldier is wounded in an artillery barrage. Brought back to England, he is cared for in hospital by a pretty nursing assistant. He recovers, they fall in love, they marry. In a poor working –class industrial area in the Midlands, near Birmingham, they live and work. He works as a wood finisher and sign painter in a local furniture factory. Their home is an old rented property on a street with poor houses, a small chemical factory, a dirty canal passes through, a gasometer looms nearby, and there are fish and chip shops, pubs, a butcher’s shop, an elementary school on the corner. They have no money! Their first child is born.
Some time in the next years, there is a promise. He will build her a house. In the country. With trees! Oak trees! A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! He paints her a small wooden sign, the kind often used in England to display in front of a house, as a token of his plan.
A second child is born. Another boy. Soon afterwards, the husband contracts pneumonia, sickens and passes away. The wife goes to work as a cashier in a local cinema to support the family. The first child leaves school at 14 to work as an office boy.
The mother treasures the sign. It is a memento, a keepsake.
The second child is a bright little boy, and wins a scholarship at ten years of age to the local grammar school, the pathway to University. A Second World War comes and goes. The district is bombed, but they survive. He wins another scholarship to University, and graduates with a good honours degree in Science. Science teachers are in demand, and from the opportunities open to him, he chooses Canada, a peaceful country!
Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa! Now he is married with a family. They invite his mother to visit in Ottawa. She comes and brings with her the sign, as a gift.
The years pass by. The second child is a girl. The sign is kept casually at home, sometimes in a drawer, sometimes hung on a wall. The girl is interested and learns the story that lies behind it.
Now she graduates from university and enters the hotel business. Toronto, Calgary, Toronto again. Then Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake. A very busy life, full of change, full of highs and lows. But she never forgets her father, and she never forgets the sign and the story behind the sign!
And so to the present! Now she feels ready to fulfill her own ambition. To buy a classical old house, in a beautiful country area, to refurbish and reconstruct it to make a country inn of her dreams. To welcome new friends from all lands to see our beautiful country and enjoy our theatre and culture and hospitality. She asks her father for the sign!
A dream fulfilled. Green Oaks!
In St Davids, Niagara-on- the-Lake, Ontario, Canada