Wait For Me, Daddy
It's October 1, 1940 and Province photographer Claude P.
Dettloff is standing on Columbia Street at 8th Street in New Westminster,
his press camera up to his eye, preparing to take a shot. He's focusing
on a line of hundreds of men of the B.C. Regiment marching down
8th to a waiting train. Soldiers of the Duke of Connaught's Own
Rifles are marching past. Suddenly, in the view-finder, Detloff
sees a little white-haired boy tugging away from his mother's grasp
and rushing up to his father in the marching line . . . click.
Wait For Me, Daddy becomes the most
famous Canadian picture of the Second World War, and one of the
most famous of all war pictures. And it was a fluke, a one-in-a-million
The mother's outstretched hand and the swirl of
her coat, the boy's shock of white hair and his own reaching hand,
the father's turning smile and the downward thrust of his own outreaching
hand he has shifted his rifle to his other hand to hold his
son's for a moment the long line of marching men in the background,
all this makes an unforgettable image, a masterpiece of unplanned
composition, a heart-grabbing moment frozen for all time.
But Warren Whitey Bernard, who was five
when Claude Dettloff photographed him, doesn't remember October 1st.
What he does remember is October 2nd, when the picture appeared
in the Province and he was suddenly famous.
Today, more than 60 years later, Whitey Bernard
lives in Tofino. Back at the time of The Picture, he and his dad
Jack and his mom Bernice lived in Vancouver, near General Wolfe
Elementary, where little Whitey was in Grade One. (His mom lied
about his age to get him in.)
The picture went everywhere, Whitey
says. It was a full page in Life, it was in Liberty and Time and Newsweek and the Reader's Digest and the Encyclopaedia Britannica
Yearbook and in newspapers everywhere. Whitey's wife, Ruby,
nods. It was hung in every school in B.C. during the war,
she says, laughing. I saw him years and years before we actually
The photo caught the attention of the military.
They were holding War Bond drives, Whitey
says, and they asked Mom for permission to include me in some
of them. They were six weeks long, and so I had to be excused from
school. They had entertainers and put on shows. I remember meeting
Edgar Bergen and 'talking' to his dummies, Charlie McCarthy and
Mortimer Snerd, and there were local entertainers, too: Barney Potts,
Thora Anders, Pat Morgan, and I'd come out at the end in front of
a big blowup of the picture with a fellow dressed up as my dad.
I'd stand there in my dressy blue blazer and short grey pants, they
put me in short pants, and give a little speech, and I'd end by
asking everyone to buy war bonds to help Bring My Daddy Home. That
got everyone all misty-eyed and they'd rush up to buy bonds.
Whitey's dad came home in October 1945 and Claude
Dettloff-now the Province's chief photographer-took a photograph
of their reunion at the CNR station.
Not long after Whitey and Ruby Johnson married in
1964, he got involved in local politics. He was elected alderman,
was mayor for several years in the 1980s and then went back as councillor.
Today, he's retired. His son Steven runs the business that Whitey
started long ago, a small marina, marine hardware and fuel station.
(An excerpt from The History of Metropolitan Vancouver,
by Chuck Davis.)
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