Published on May 31, 2012
This photo was taken during the Queen Elizabeth’s first official visit to the province – James R. Chalker and his wife Margaret were the first to greet the royal couple off their plane at St. John’s Airport. Pictured, from left, are Margaret and James Chalker, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip.
Photo courtesy of Tim Chalker
Published on May 31, 2012
Tim Chalker displays an authentic medal and the program from Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. His grandfather, James R. Chalker, was a protocol officer with the Smallwood government, and attended the ceremony with his wife in 1953. Chalker has been in possession of the items since he found them in his grandmother’s old suitcase when he was 15-years-old. They will be on display at the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor for the summer.
Andrea Gunn photo
Grand Falls-Windsor man holds full set of Coronation memorabilia
When Tim Chalker was around 15-years-old he was snooping around in the basement of his house. Amongst cardboard boxes filled with old household items long forgotten, he found a musty suitcase that once belonged to his grandmother.
Inside the suitcase was a large envelope. Curious, he opened it, and was met with quite a surprise when he realized the treasures it contained.
Chalker knew at the time that his grandfather, James R. Chalker, was a protocol officer with the Joey Smallwood government, and that meant when the Royal Family came to Newfoundland, he was in charge of the details. He knew that as a result, his grandfather had hobnobbed with the royals on several occasions, both at home and overseas.
He also knew that both his grandfather and grandmother had attended Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953. What he didn't know was what he uncovered that day was a complete set of memorabilia from the event.
"We didn't know we had this stuff in our possession," said Chalker. "But the way me and (my father) worked it out at the time was finders keepers."
Chalker now lives in Grand Falls-Windsor with his wife, and has had the items in his possession since then. Among them are two full programs from the Coronation ceremony, admission tickets to the events, menus from the steamship they traveled on to get to England, as well as two special medals the couple had to wear during the ceremony.
"It's just such a great snapshot from the period," said Chalker.
Though his grandfather died in 2004, Chalker remembers many colourful stories told to him growing up involving the Royal Family, but said he doesn't have any specific stories from the Coronation itself.
"I think a lot of it is just family folklore more than anything else," said Chalker with a chuckle. "When we showed (my grandfather) the items, it was interesting to see the memories dance in front of his eyes, but as far as stories go, if he told us any, I don't remember."
Chalker said he has done some research on the items he now holds dear as part of his family's history.
He hasn't been able to come across any examples of a person with a full set of memorabilia like the one his grandfather left for him, and he's not sure what the items are worth – but, he said, it doesn't matter.
"I'm keeping them forever," he said. "I want them kept in the family for sure, they'll be a heirloom."
“When we showed (my grandfather) the items, it was interesting to see the memories dance in front of his eyes…” -Tim Chalker
This year, Queen Elizabeth is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, meaning 60 years have passed since she took over the throne as Queen of England. Although her Coronation was held nearly a year after she became Queen – it will have been 59 years since Chalker's grandparents attended the ceremony on June 2 – the Diamond Jubilee celebrations are being held all through the year and into 2013.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla left Canada just last week as part of a tour to celebrate the anniversary.
To help commemorate this important landmark, Chalker has decided to lend the items to the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor to be displayed for the summer.
Museum Curator Connie Penton said she was thrilled when the Chalkers came to her with the proposal, and said the display should be ready for viewing within the next couple of days.
"My staff and I are planning to have afternoon teas throughout the summer in celebration of the Jubilee. The dates are not nailed down yet, but we're planning our first tea open to the public," said Penton. "Then we're planning on getting some seniors groups to come out, bring along any memorabilia they may have, and share some thoughts and memories they may have relating to the Queen, her Coronation, or even the family in general."
With the recent storybook marriage of Kate and William and their subsequent visit to Canada, and now the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, it seems like much of the country has come down with a case of crown fever, the likes of which haven't been seen in decades.
Even with all this new interest in the Royal Family, Chalker said he has a mixed opinion on the buzz surrounding the monarchy.
"I'm of two minds, I think it's a bunch of hogwash, but at the same time I'm fascinated by it," said Chalker. "When it comes to the Royal Family, we have a great history with them in terms of visits to the province. It's certainly important to our history, especially so in Newfoundland and Labrador, because we were the first crown colony in the new world."
The items will be on display at the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor, seven days a week, from 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. except on Sundays from 12-4:45 p.m.