The Beechwood Cemetery

25 October 1873

The Beechwood Cemetery, located on Beechwood Avenue and Hemlock Road in Vanier, is the largest cemetery in Ottawa encompassing roughly 160 acres of wooded land. It is the resting place for more than 85,000 persons from every walk of life. Leaders such as Sir Robert Borden, Canada’s prime minister from 1911 to 1920, and Ramon Hnatyshyn, Canada’s Governor General from 1990 to 1995 are buried there. Lumber barons, military heroes, sportsmen and poets also rest at the Beechwood Cemetery as do felons and at least one executed murderer. It shady walks provide a fascinating journey into Ottawa’s past as well as a peaceful sanctuary for reflection and contemplation.

Its story begins just a few years after Confederation. Ottawa’s Protestant and Roman Catholic cemeteries in Sandy Hill were fast filling up, and congregations began to look further afield for new burial grounds for their departed flocks. The Roman Catholic Church found a site to the east of Ottawa on the “King’s Road,” now known as Montreal Road. The fifty-acre site was purchased by the Church from a Mr. Bradley. Named Notre Dame Cemetery, the new Roman Catholic burial ground was consecrated at 5:00 pm on 2 June 1872 by Bishop Guigues. An immense crowd, apparently in the thousands, attended the ceremony. Father Malloy preached in English, with “another reverend gentleman” speaking in French, according the Ottawa Daily Citizen.

It was more difficult to organize the Protestant congregations. Many meetings of church representatives were held in the Lecture Room of the Mechanics’ Institute to discuss the issue and vote on alternatives. A sub-committee was formed to visit suitable sites, of which there were many, including even a site across the Ottawa River in Hull. That site was quickly rejected as being vastly too expensive. On the Ottawa side, the sub-committee considered several farms, including the Baine, Blaisdell, and Bradley properties to the west of the city. All were rejected as unsuitable.

Attention coalesced on two particular properties, the Thompson farm in the west and the farm owned by Hector McPhail in the east though church representatives kept an eye out for other potential sites. On the way to examine the Thompson farm, the investigating sub-committee stopped at the Cowley farm on the Richmond Road. Captain Cowley was a well-known steamboat captain and farmer who owned 200 acres of land along the Richmond Road which at the time was in Nepean Township. Although the Cowley site was sufficiently large, the price tag of $175 per acre was deemed to be too high.

Initially, the balance of opinion favoured purchasing the Thompson farm, which was located to the west of the Cowley property close to the Ottawa River. The seventy-two-acre parcel of land could be acquired at a price of $10,000, less than $140 per acre. As well, the Canada Central Railway promised that if the Thompson property was chosen it would run funeral trains to and from downtown Ottawa at a day’s notice. At $10 per trip, a funeral train would be more economical than hiring carriages to bring the remains and mourners to and from the cemetery. 

However, many churches complained that the Thompson farm was too distant, being roughly six miles from the centre of the city, and hence too expensive for the poor to attend funerals and visit their dearly departed. Some clergymen complained that it would be “nigh impossible” for ministers to continue their custom of following the remains of the deceased from the funeral service at the church to graveside if the Thompson site was chosen.

Some congregations were also concerned that removing the dead from the old Sandy Hill cemetery to a new cemetery at the Thompson farm would meaning carrying the bodies through the city. Others were concerned that the prevailing westerly wind could potentially bring smells to the city and that rain water run-off from a cemetery located relatively close to the Ottawa River would eventually pollute the river upstream from where the city drew its water supply.

Supporters of the McPhail farm, located to the east of Ottawa just north of the new Notre Dame Cemetery, contended that this roughly 130-acre site had many advantages, not least of which was its price at $80 per acre ($12,000). While the northern part of the property consisted of swamp land and a gully, there was 35 acres of cleared land and perhaps another 40 acres under cultivation, all of which could be used for burying purposes. There was also another 30 acres of fine timber land. Importantly, the property had the additional advantage of being relatively close to the city, being only one mile from the St. Patrick Street Bridge across the Rideau River and about 2 ½ miles from Sappers’ Bridge downtown. As well, the nearby McKay estate had already constructed a carriage road to within a half mile of the proposed cemetery site. (Rideau Hall, located on the McKay estate, had been purchased in 1868 by the Dominion government as the home of the Governor General.) The Ottawa City Passenger Railway said that if the property was selected, the horse-drawn street car service would be extended to the site. This would make the McPhail farm site easily accessible by the general public.

A team went out to examine the suitability of the soil at the McPhail farm. Seven test pits were dug to a depth of six or seven feet, four in the field and three in the bush. In all cases, the sites were dry with the soil consisting of sand. The men judged the ground to be well suited for burial purposes, better in fact than the Thompson farm site. As well, the bush was not thick; a horse could be ridden through it, they claimed. They concluded that with relatively little expense, walks could be laid out, making the site a beautiful place for a burial ground.

Support for purchasing the McPhail farm as the new Protestant cemetery was almost unanimous. Only the Christ’s Church congregation voted against it. In favour were Bishop’s Chapel, St Alban’s, St Andrew’s, the Bank Street Church, Wesleyan Church, Congregationalist Church, the Baptist Church, and St Bartholomew’s Church in New Edinburgh.  Three Methodist churches, who did not attend the mid-November 1872 meeting at the Mechanics’ Institute, indicated that they would vote with the majority. A committee consisting of Joseph Merrill Currier MP (the builder and original owner of 24 Sussex Drive), John Rochester, and William Whyte, was then appointed to complete the McPhail purchase on behalf of the Protestant churches.

The following week on 19 November 1872, the committee announced that it had purchased the farm at a price of $80 per acre, with a down payment of $3,200, with the balance to be paid in four annual installments at an interest rate of 7 per cent. Possession of the land was immediate with the exception of the buildings which Mr. McPhail and his son could occupy until the beginning of May 1873. The McPhail family was also permitted to collect as much wood as they might need through the winter but were required to take fallen timber first. If they had a need for additional wood, the McPhails would only be permitted to fell trees selected by the new cemetery’s management.

After rejecting the name Rockcliffe Cemetery proposed by Dr. Sweetland, church representatives agreed that the lands purchased would henceforth be known as the Beechwood Cemetery. The cemetery would be used for burial purposes by all congregations that took part in the purchase, as well as by all those who joined thereafter. A committee was struck to draft an act for the incorporation of the Beechwood Cemetery Company. The committee also devised a plan for the management of the new cemetery and to develop the site for burial purposes.

The capital stock of the new company was $20,000 divided into 200 shares of $100 each. The funds raised were used to purchase the McPhail property. The company’s management then laid out and improved part of property in order to make it available for burial purposes, and placed it on the market by May 1873. An adult’s grave was priced at not more than $5, while a child’s grave cost $2.50. The first charge against net revenue from the sale of lots was the payment of interest to stockholders at a rate of 12½ per cent per annum, payable half yearly. One half of net revenue after the payment of interest to shareholders was applied to buying back the capital stock of the company with the other half used to improve the property. When the capital stock of the company was fully repaid, the lot holders became the shareholders of the cemetery. When this occurred, all net income was devoted to the improvement or embellishment of the cemetery. The cemetery was non-sectarian in nature. Moreover, those without religious profession had an equal right to purchase burial plots.

Memorial to Captain James Forsyth, first memorial erected in Beechwood Cemetery, site of the consecration ceremony performed by the Bishop of Ontario, 25 October, 1873, Veterans Affairs Canada, by F. Taylor Vergette.

Through the spring and summer of 1873, improvements were made to the property under the direction of engineer Robert Surtees. The grounds were fenced, and the cemetery subdivided into parcels and lots through which beautiful avenues were constructed, giving the area a picturesque appearance said the Ottawa Citizen. Also constructed were a chapel, a conservatory, a mortuary and stable buildings.

On Saturday, 25 October 1873 at 3:00pm, the Anglican Bishop of Ontario consecrated the Beechwood Cemetery. The spot chosen for the ceremony was the flat area at the foot of the memorial to Captain James Forsyth who died in September 1872. The newly-built memorial, the first in the cemetery, had been erected by members of the 2nd Ottawa Field Battery. The proceedings were unfortunately delayed several times by inclement weather. Although only a small group of people were in attendance at the ceremony, the Ottawa Citizen reported that among the spectators present were J.M. Currier, N. Bate, J.D. Slater and several women.

The bishop commented that most people he knew regarded consecration of land as an act of superstition. However, he believed that the act did a great deal towards producing a proper respect of the dead. Then, the people assembled sang hymn 142: Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His Throne by Matthew Bridges.

From these early days, the Beechwood Cemetery became know as a place to go, not just to visit departed loved ones, but to stroll its shaded pathways and enjoy the serenity of nature. Open to all, the cemetery developed areas for particular communities. One early such group was Ottawa’s Chinese community. At the end of World War I, a military cemetery was set aside, forming the basis of what would become in 2007 the National Military Cemetery. Most recently, the remains of early Bytown residents who were buried in the old Barrick’s Hill cemetery and were uncovered by the excavations for Ottawa’s light rail system were re-interred at the Beechwood Cemetery.

Over the years, the cemetery was expanded and improved. With a growing acceptance of cremation, a crematorium and columbarium were built in 1962. At the end of the 20th century, the corporate structure of the Beechwood Cemetery changed from a private company to a non-profit organization. In 2000, the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation was established to safeguard the cemetery’s future and to increase public awareness of the cemetery’s place in Canadian history. In 2009, Beechwood was recognized by the federal government as the national cemetery of Canada.

Sources:

Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1872. “A New Cemetery,” 3 June.

————————–, 1872. “The Protestant Cemetery,” 23 October.

————————–, 1872. “The Cemetery,” 24 October.

————————–, 1872. “The Cemetery Question,” 1 November.

————————–, 1872. “The Cemetery Question,” 9 November.

————————–, 1872. “The Cemetery Question,” 13 November.

————————–, 1872. “Cemetery Meeting,” 20 November.

————————–, 1872. “Beechwood Cemetery,” 30 November.

————————–, 1873. “The Beechwood Cemetery,” 27 October.

Notre Dame Cemetery, 2022. Notre Dame Cemetery History.

Jackson, Christine, 2016. From Steamboats to the NHL: The Ottawa Valley’s Cowley Family, Historical Society of Ottawa, Bytown Pamphlet #98, March.

Ritchie, Thomas, 2022. The History of the Beechwood Cemetery, Beechwood Cemetery.

The Pius X High School Tragedy

27 October 1975

Warning: this story may be disturbing to some readers.

Perhaps the greatest horror of a parent is something evil happening to their children. Sadly, on the afternoon of 27 October 1975, evil strode into Pius X High School causing mayhem and death. At roughly 2:30pm, Robert Poulin, a Grade 13 student, arrived at the school on his 10-speed bicycle carrying a large, army duffel bag. He entered the building located on Fisher Avenue in suburban Nepean and walked to classroom 71 on the ground floor. There, Father Bédard was conducting a religious instruction class. After pausing briefly at the lockers located outside the room, Poulin calmly took out a sawed-off, pump-action shotgun from his duffel bag and threw open the classroom door. With a smile on his face, he fired several shots into the crowded room. At first, students thought it was a joke. But the awful reality quickly became apparent as shotgun pellets shattered bodies, and peppered the back wall of the classroom. Students threw themselves to the ground or hid behind desks in a desperate attempt to protect themselves. Poulin then backed out of the classroom. In the hallway, he put the shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger, blowing his brains over the walls and lockers. The whole affair lasted just ten seconds.

Robert Poulin, Ottawa Journal, 28 October 1975.

It took several minutes for the teacher and the students to realize that the attack was over. School principal, Father Leonard Lunney, who had been in his office at the time of the attack, rushed to the classroom to find the shattered remains of Robert Poulin in the hallway in front. He told the students that they were safe and ordered another teacher to stand guard over the body and wait for the police. To avoid passing by Poulin’s body, the traumatized children broke the classroom’s windows and evacuated to safety through them.

Six students were wounded in the attack, one grievously. Shot in the head, Mark Hough, age 18, was later to succumb to his injuries after a five-week battle for his life. Also wounded were Marc Potvin (18), Terry Vanden Handenberg (18), Barclay Holbrook (16), Kurniadi Benggawen (16) and Michael Monette (17). Thankfully, they all recovered. The psychological wounds inflicted on the entire class were, however, long lasting.

As Robert Poulin was entering the school, firemen were entering his house at 5 Warrington Drive in Ottawa South. They had been called to the scene by a neighbour who had gone to Mrs. Stuart Poulin’s assistance after the latter had arrived home from shopping to find smoke billowing from her home. In the basement, the firemen make a horrifying discovery. Manacled to a bed was the charred body of a semi-clad girl.

The body was quickly identified as that of a 17-year-old neighbour, Kimberly Rabot, who lived less than two blocks away. Poulin and Rabot knew each other, having been in the same Grade 10 class at Pius X High School before Rabot changed schools three years earlier. Rabot had also gone to Poulin’s house on one occasion to play the boardgame Risk. Poulin had also reportedly asked her out, but she had declined. Kim Rabot, an avid swimmer, had a sunny disposition and abhorred violence.

In the days leading up to the tragedy, there had been little indication in Poulin’s demeanour to suggest anything was awry. To all, including his family, classmates and teachers, Poulin was a quiet, studious kid. His passions were war board games and the militia. He had joined the Cameron Highlanders, and was hoping to go to officer training school one day. Poulin also had a job delivering newspapers. He was, however, a loner with few friends. He typically arrived at school just as classes were about to start and left immediately afterwards. His write-up in his school yearbook was “Rob takes the cake for this year’s ‘Briefcase of the Year award.’” He never showed much emotion.

The Friday before the attack, Poulin had asked his principal Father Lunney about the chances of him being able to leave school prior to the end of the school year the following June. Poulin wanted to work with the militia on security for the upcoming Montreal Summer Olympic Games. Father Lunney assured him that with his marks and record there would be no problem. That Sunday evening, just hours before he snapped, Robert Poulin had played cards with his parents and three sisters. The only thing unusual to occur was that he quit early to go to his bedroom in the basement.

Second from top, Robert Poulin’s advertisement for companionship, Ottawa Journal, 7 October 1975.

Police worked diligently to trace Poulin’s actions in the days leading up to the attack. They discovered that he had purchased a 12-guage, single-barrel shotgun with the serial number L877371 from a Giant Tiger store on George Street in the Byward Market a few days earlier. Poulin subsequently sawed off the barrel in his home’s basement so that it would fit in his duffel bag. He had also placed an advertisement for companionship in the personals’ column of the Ottawa Journal newspaper. The ad ran the first week in October.

On the fateful Monday morning, he left early, ostensibly to go to school. His mother asked if he wanted breakfast but Poulin said he had already made himself a peanut butter sandwich. Shortly afterwards, his mother heard a door slam and heavy steps on the stairs going down into the basement. She did not investigate. The basement bedroom was her son’s sanctum where neither she nor her husband ever went. She later went down to another part of the basement and called out to her son who was in his room behind a curtain. He said everything was fine. All seemed normal. She could hear nothing unusual above the sound of a radio and an operating washing machine.

What came out at the inquest held in early December, was that poor Kim Rabot was also behind that curtain. She had left her home at about 8:00am to go to the bus stop to catch her bus for school. Her brother was with her. Fifteen minutes later, Poulin approached her and said “I’ve something to show you.” She initially refused to go with him, but then relented when he said that he would drive her to school so she wouldn’t be late for class. She went back to his house with him. That was the last anybody other than Poulin saw her alive. An autopsy showed that she had been raped, then asphyxiated with a plastic, dry-cleaning bag and stabbed eleven times.

After killing the girl, Poulin laid a trail of Playboy magazines throughout the basement and doused them with gasoline. His intent was to destroy his home. The police were later to find more than 250 pornographic magazines and books, some of which portrayed graphic scenes of women in bondage. Unknown to his parents, Poulin had rented a post office box for the delivery of the pornography, which he purchased with the earnings from his paper route. He also had a large collection of women’s undergarments.

Amongst Poulin’s other effects in his bedroom, police found a diary, from which excerpts were read out loud at the inquest. While there was no reference to a pending school attack, there were some very disturbing entries. Poulin fantasized about suicide. He also thought about killing his parents and sisters, but changed his mind. He thought death “was the true bliss” and that he didn’t want them to be happy. He also wrote about burning the house down in a way that would cause maximum hardship to his father. As well, he described his sexual fantasies and his fear of women. He ordered an “Everything doll” from an ad in one of his pornographic magazines, but it didn’t live up to his expectations. Not wanting to die a virgin, he considered buying a model revolver to abduct a neighbourhood girl and rape her. If the girl caused any trouble, he wrote that he would kill her because he had nothing to lose since he was planning to kill himself anyhow. Ominously, the police found a list of girls who lived in the area; Kim Rabot’s name was underlined.

Two psychiatrists at the inquest testified that Robert Poulin was “almost two people,” and that his sudden burst of violence could not have been predicted. They also absolved his parents for responsibility for his deviant behaviour. With this school attack coming just months after a similar attack in Brampton in which a student and teacher were killed, the psychiatrists recommended the complete abolition of hand guns, and tight controls on other firearms. They also recommended additional controls on pornography.

The three-man, two-woman coroner’s jury deliberated for six hours. Their main recommendations focused on guns and pornography. While they dismissed calls for a complete ban on all firearms, they urged the government to ban all hand guns and limit sales of other firearms to only people with valid reasons to own them, such as hunters and target shooters. In addition, they argued that there should be a 30-day cooling off period between gun sale and gun delivery. They also called for a complete ban on pornography which they defined as “anything showing or representing the genital parts of the human body.” As well, the jury castigated the media for sensationalist reporting, a charge the coroner disputed saying that the news coverage had been responsible—the public had the right to know. Other recommendations included schools making periodic, random searches of lockers, and for secondary schools to know where all students are within the first thirty minutes of the school day, and to inform parents of any absences within an hour.

Following the tragedy, Mayor Lorry Greenberg initiated a voluntary, “no-questions-asked” turn-in of weapons. More than 178 guns of which 68 were restricted weapons were handed in to the Ottawa Police, including one from a convict out on parole.

The Liberal Government of Pierre Trudeau tightened controls on guns in 1977, two years after the Pius X High School shooting though not as far as the coroner’s jury recommended. Firearms were divided into three categories, unrestricted (rifles and shotguns) and restricted, such as handguns and semi-automatic weapons, and forbidden, such as sawed-off weapons. Fully automatic weapons were prohibited the following year, though existing weapons in private ownership were grandfathered.

While mass shootings, particularly in schools, are rare in Canada, they have occurred on several occasions since the Pius X High School attack. The most infamous was the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal when Marc Lépine killed fourteen women in an attack on feminism. This massacre led to further tightening of gun controls. In 1995, the Canadian Firearms Registry came into effect which required the registration of all firearms, including non-restricted weapons, such as rifles and shotguns. However, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper repealed the “long-gun” registry in 2012 and required all the information collected to be destroyed. While Quebec filed an injunction against the destruction of the data, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the province in 2015.

While there is no constitutional right to bear arms as there is in the United States, gun control remains a contentious issue in Canada. The issue broadly pits rural against urban interests and east versus west. Following the killing of twenty-two persons in Nova Scotia in 2020, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau banned 1,500 different types of assault-style weapons. In 2021, the federal government introduced further measures, including giving cities the ability to ban hand guns. The draft legislation is viewed as insufficient and unworkable by gun control advocates, and is opposed by gun enthusiasts.

Since the 1975 Pius X High School shooting, Canada’s laws on pornography have been liberalized, except in two important areas. Child pornography is prohibited. Pornography that involves crime, horror, cruelty and violence is also illegal.  

Sources:

CBC, 2020. “Trudeau announces ban on 1,500 types of ‘assault-style” firearms – effectively immediately,” 1 May, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-gun-control-measures-ban-1.5552131.

CNN. 2021. “Canada backs away from national hang gun ban and will leave it up to communities,” 16 February, https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/16/americas/canada-handgun-ban/index.html.

Ottawa Citizen, 1975. “Rob – ‘a quiet lad’ says it all,” 27 October.

——————, 1975. “Two dead, six wounded,” 28 October.

——————, 1975. “Relationship with militia ‘psychopathic,’” 28 October.

——————, 1975. “Seconds of terror related by witness,” 28 October.

——————, 1975. “Still no legislation enacted to toughen gun control laws,” 28 October.

——————, 1975. “So precious, so loving,” 29 October.

——————, 1975. “Three of St. Pius injured to go home this weekend,” 29 October.

——————, 1975. “Kimberly stabbed—coroner,” 29 October.

——————, 1975. “Mayor invites Ottawans to turn in their guns,” 30 October.

——————-, 1975. “Poulin looked ‘INSANE,’” 2 December.

——————-, 1975. “Poulin inquest,” 2 December.

——————-, 1975. “Kim didn’t like to hurt feelings,” 2 December.

——————-, 1975. “Poulin’s Diary,” 3 December.

——————-, 1975. “Poulin almost 2 people,’” 4 December.

Ottawa Journal, 1975. “Student guns down classmates,” 28 October.

——————-, 1975. “His best friend was his bicycle,” 28 October.

——————-, 1975. “Poulin told Kim: ‘I’ve something to show you,’” 29 October.

——————-, 1975. “Robert’s room his castle,” 2 December.

——————-, 1975. “Pornography surprise to father,” 2 December.

——————-, 1975. “Porn, gun control a necessity – jury,” 5 December.

The Anishinabek

Time Immemorial

and 7 October 1763

Canada is widely viewed as a young country, its history stretching back no more than a few hundred years to the arrival of French and British settlers to its shores. But this is a very blinkered view of things. The territory that we now call Canada was not terra nullius when the Europeans arrived, far from it. It was instead populated by a diverse group of Indigenous peoples with their own cultures, traditions and languages from the Pacific Ocean in the west, to the shores of the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Great Lakes in the south, and to the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Pre-contact population estimates vary widely, but modern estimates place the population of the Pacific Northwest alone at as much as 500,000.  One, therefore, wonders what the population of the entire territory that was to become Canada might have been. Sadly, European traders and settlers brought diseases, such as smallpox, to which the native population had little or no resistance. Whole communities were virtually wiped out within a short period of time. By 1867, the Canadian Indigenous population had fallen to about 125,000 souls, out of a total Canadian population of about 3.7 million, and was to continue to fall for decades after.

Algonquins, 18th century watercolour, Wikiwand

Nobody could live in the Ottawa region until the glaciers of the Wisconsin glacial episode had retreated sufficiently to expose the territory. This occurred roughly 11,000 years ago. Recent archaeological work has found traces of humans dating back as much as 8,000 years. Excavations at several locations along the Ottawa River have uncovered many artifacts fashioned by the Laurentian people of the Archaic period. These included the discovery of spear throwers on Allumette Island in Quebec close to Pembroke, Ontario. These implements enabled hunters to propel spears with greater force than relying on muscle power alone. Also found were tools made of stone and bone, knives crafted from slate and copper, scrapers, harpoons, fish hooks, awls and finely-made needles, the latter requiring a high degree of sophistication to manufacture. On Morrison Island, also close to Pembroke, hundreds of grinding stones were found along with axes, drills, and adzes. These early residents were highly skilled and had a strong artistic sensibility. Many bone articles had been delicately engraved.

The archaeological record also shows a continuous human presence right in the National Capital Region since those early days, reflective of its strategic position at the confluence of three major river systems—the Ottawa which flows into the St. Lawrence and from thence to the Atlantic; the Gatineau which extends northward for almost 400 kilometres; and the Rideau which, via a series of portages, provides access southward to the Great Lakes. These waterways were major transportation and trade routes for Indigenous peoples, and continued as such well after the arrival of European settlers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Indeed, the Rideau Canal built in the late 1820s traced the well-travelled Indigenous route from Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River.

Indicative of the importance of the region as a trading centre, archaeological digs in the National Capital Region have uncovered an extraordinary range of material brought many hundreds if not thousands of kilometres. These include quartzite from central Quebec, different types of chert (a type of rock) used for making tools from the Hudson Bay, Illinois, and Ohio, ceramics from south of the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, and copper from the western edge of Lake Superior.  Today’s Leamy Lake Park appears to have been a key stopping point with evidence indicating continuous seasonal occupation of the delta at the mouth of the Gatineau River for over 4,500 years. There, Indigenous people from all over stopped to meet, trade, and enjoy the rich bounty of natural resources to be found there.

Ottawa First Nation family, J.G. de Sauveur, Engraving, 1801, Library and Archives Canada, 2937181.

Other excavations, pioneered by Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt, a prominent Bytown physician, identified in 1843 an “Indian burial ground” on the northern shore of the Ottawa River. He uncovered the remains of twenty individuals in communal and individual graves. Also found at this site were ashes from cremations. Recent investigations during the twenty-first century have confirmed the location of the site as Hull Landing, immediately opposite Parliament Hill, now the location of the Canadian Museum of History.

We also know that the Chaudière Falls was a site of considerable spiritual significance to the Indigenous peoples of the region. In 1613, Samuel de Champlain described in his journal the “usual” ceremony that was celebrated at that site. He wrote that after the people had assembled, and a speech given by one of the chiefs, an offering of tobacco on a wooden plate was thrown into the roiling waters of the cauldron to seek the intercession of the gods to protect them from their enemies.

It was Samuel de Champlain who popularized the name for these Indigenous peoples—the “Algoumequins” a.k.a. the Algonquins. But the people knew themselves as the Anishinabek, sometimes translated as true men, or good humans.

Following first contact with Europeans at the beginning of the seventeenth century, many eastern First Nations became embroiled in the seemingly endless conflicts between European powers for political and economic ascendency in North America. The semi-nomadic Algonquins, who were superb hunters and trappers, became key partners with the French in the European fur trade. They supplied pelts from their own extensive territories in the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Valleys, or acted as middlemen for the Cree to the north. In exchange, the Algonquins received firearms that they used to defend themselves from their traditional rivals, the Iroquois First Nations, who were important allies of Dutch settlers to the south, and subsequently the English.

These European struggles culminated in the long conflict between England and France in the mid-eighteenth century, called the Seven Years’ War, which ultimately led to an English victory and France’s loss of its North American colonies with the exception of the important fishing centres on the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon located in the mouth of the St. Lawrence close to Newfoundland.

When Montreal capitulated in 1760 to English forces, the English agreed to a French condition of surrender that their Indigenous allies could remain in their traditional territories and would not be molested. Three years later, in June 1763, France ceded its North American territories to the English under the Treaty of Paris.

On 7 October 1763, King George III issued a Royal Proclamation outlining how his new territories in North America would be administered and how relations with the Indigenous communities would be undertaken. The Proclamation stated: “And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest and the Security of the Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians, with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having ceded to, or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.”

Another provision of the Proclamation forbade private purchases of land from Indigenous peoples, with this right reserved to the Crown. This provision set the basis for the negotiation of future treaties between the Crown and Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

Notwithstanding this 1763 Royal Proclamation, Europeans quickly settled on Indigenous territories. Following the American War of Independence, which ended in 1783, the Crown gave grants of land to Loyalist refugees coming north to Canadian territory according to their rank and service. These grants were given without the consent of the First Nations.

Here in the greater Ottawa area, Loyalists received grants of land on the Rideau River, including at such places as today’s Merrickville, Burritt’s Rapids, and Smiths Falls. Grants of land along the Ottawa River from Carillon westward to Fassett on the north shore in Quebec and at Hawkesbury in Ontario were also handed out.

In addition, European settlers began settling on Indigenous territory in the National Capital Region in 1800 with the arrival of Philemon Wright in what is now the Hull sector of Gatineau. Initially hoping to farm, settlers almost immediately began to exploit the seemingly inexhaustible supply of pine for sale in the United Kingdom and later the United States. Settlement accelerated with the building of the Rideau Canal and the naming of Ottawa as the capital of Canada in 1857.

The clearance of vast tracks of land for farms, lumbering and urban development irrevocably altered the landscape of the Ottawa Valley. By the 1920s, less than four percent of the original, old growth forest was left. For the Algonquins, who had lived for untold centuries in harmony with nature, their way of life was also irrevocably changed. As no treaty had been made with the Crown, the Algonquin First Nations had been marginalized on their own territory. Canada’s capital continues to sit on unceded Algonquin territory in contravention of the 1763 Royal Proclamation.

Territorial claims of the Ontario Algonquins, Province of Ontario

Today, there are ten recognized Algonquin First Nations with a total population of about 11,000. Nine Algonquin communities are in Quebec—Kitigan Zibi, Barriere Lake, Kitcisakik, Lac Simon, Abitibiwinni, Long Point, Timiskaming, Kebaowek, and Wolf Lake. The tenth, Pikwakanagan, is located in Ontario. There are three additional Ontario First Nations that are related by kinship—the Temagami, the Wahgoshig and the Matchewan.

In October 2016, the Algonquins of Ontario reached an agreement-in principle-with the federal government and the government of Ontario to settle all land claims covering some 36,000 square kilometres of land in the watersheds of the Ottawa and Mattawa with a population of 1.2 million. Algonquin territorial claims in Quebec were not covered by the agreement. The agreement-in-principle is viewed as a major milestone towards reconciliation and renewed relations. If ratified, the agreement would lead to the transfer of 117,500 acres of provincial Crown land to Algonquin ownership, the provision of $300 million by the federal and provincial governments, and the definition of Algonquin rights related to lands and natural resources in Ontario. No land will be expropriated from private owners. The agreement would be Ontario’s first, modern-day, constitutionally protected treaty. As of time of writing (2021), a final agreement had not yet been reached.

Sources:

Algonquins of Ontario, 2021. Our Proud History.

Belshaw, John Douglas, 2018. “Natives by Numbers,” Canadian History: Post Confederation, BC Open Textbook Project.

Boswell, Randy & Pilon, Jean-Luc, 2015. The Archaeological Legacy of Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt, Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 39: 294-326.

Di Gangi, Peter, 2018.  Algonquin Territory, Canada’s History, 30 April.

Hall, Anthony, J. 2019. Royal Proclamation of 1763, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 February 2006.

Hele, Carl. 2020. Anishinaabe, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 16 July.

Ontario, Government of, 2021. The Algonquin Land Claim.

Neville, George A. 2018. Loyalist Land Grants Along the Grand (Ottawa) River 1788, Bytown Pamphlet, No. 103, Historical Society of Ottawa.

Pelletier, Gérard, 1997. “The First Inhabitants of the Outaouais; 6,000 years of History,” History of the Outaouais, ed. Chad Gaffield, Laval University.

Pilon, Jean-Luc & Boswell, Randy, 2015. “Below the Falls; An Ancient Cultural Landscape in the Centre of (Canada’s National Capital Region) Gatineau,” Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 39 (257-293).

Trick Or Treat!

31 October 1860

If it’s October 31st, you can count on hordes of ghouls, witches, fairy princesses and Jedi knights to come knocking this evening on the doors of homes across North America, shouting Trick or Treat, and expecting their pillow cases to be filled with bite-size candy bars and mini bags of potato chips or cookies. Ottawa is no exception to this seasonal shakedown with the number of children who come knocking each year varying according to the weather, the demographics of a particular neighbourhood, and parental concerns about what their kiddies might get in their sacks. For 2020, we have to add COVID-19 to the list of considerations. While some have predicted the demise of the tradition, it is likely to be with us for a long time to come, especially if candy manufacturers have anything to say about the matter.

The event is, of course, Halloween, a festival mainly celebrated across North America, and to a lesser extent in parts of the British Isles, on the last day of October. Unlike Christmas or Easter, it is not an officially recognized holiday. It is, however, catching on in other countries owing to marketing and television.

While it’s a secular celebration these days, the origin of the name is Christian—All Hallows’ Even, with “Even” being the Scottish form of “Eve.” This is the day in the Christian calendar that precedes All Saints’ Day on November 1st and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. Halloween, sometimes spelt Hallowe’en, is a time when supposedly the veil between this world and the hereafter thins. Some believed that the recently dead came back to revisit their homes and loved ones.

While Christian in name, the festival appears to have long roots. Some folklorists say it originated in celebrations of Pamona, the Roman goddess of fruits and orchards. Others place Halloween’s roots squarely in pre-Roman Celtic times, and are related to the celebration of Samhain, which marked the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest. With the days getting shorter, this was a time associated with death and the supernatural. Evil spirits that might haunt the living could only be warded off by bonfires and other propitiatory rituals.

Advertisement for Halloween nuts, Ottawa Citizen, 30 October 1880.

In subsequent Christian times, Samhain morphed into the celebration of “Hallowtide,” which coincided with the commencement of the autumn slaughter of livestock. According to Nicholas Rogers, who wrote the definitive book on Halloween, this was also an occasion for merriment when young men played football with animal bladders. It also marked a time of misrule, when ordinary behaviour was upended, with masked and costumed people parading through the streets demanding “tribute” from passersby.

These Halloween traditions were brought to North America by the wave of Irish and Scottish immigrants who flooded into the United States and Canada during the second half of the nineteenth century. According to Nicholas Rogers, there was little or no reference to Halloween in American almanacs prior to that time.

The first reference that I could find to Halloween being celebrated in Ottawa occurred in 1860. An article in the Ottawa Citizen in November 1860 reported that on 31 October of that year a celebration of “the anniversary of this ancient festival” was held by a number of citizens who “partook of an excellent dinner provided by ‘mine host’ of the Grand River Hotel, Mr. James Salmon.” Songs and speeches followed the meal, “and formed an entertainment [that] seemed to be enjoyed most heartily by all present.” (The Grand River Hotel was a hostelry located at the corner of Sussex and Clarence Streets, frequented in particular by farmers coming into the city to sell their products at the Byward Market.) A few years later, the Caledonian Society held a Halloween Festival at which forty-three people competed in a poetry competition. “Maggie,” presumably the name of the poem, won first prize. A “gold medal certificate of honorary membership and a complementary address” were given to vocalist Mr. Kennedy and a locket and chain to Miss Kennedy.

By the 1870s and 1880s, Halloween was widely celebrated in the nation’s capital. The celebrations seemed to divide into three distinct activities. For adults, there were galas and balls held in the major hotels. Scottish groups such as the Caledonian Society and the Sons of Scotland were prominent hosts, as were fraternal organizations, such as the Ancient Order of United Workmen. (The A.O.U.W. was an American-based group that provided social and financial support for its members in the event of sickness or death.) In 1883, the Governor General’s Foot Guards hosted a gala ball at the Drill Hall. More than 600 people attended, with a program of dance music provided by the Guards’ Band and that of the 43rd Regiment. This was a dress event with the Guards resplendent in their crimson uniforms and medals.

Cartoon depicting traditional Halloween hijinks. Notice the toppling of an outhouse in the upper left, author unknown, Ottawa Journal, 30 October 1921.

For youngsters, Halloween became second only to Christmas in terms of fun and excitement. Halloween parties, complete with jack-o-lanterns, corn stalks, witch decorations, and orange and black streamers, were held in homes across the city. Nuts and apples, not candy, featured prominently at the parties. A favourite activity was bobbing for apples, or trying to bite apples suspended from strings without touching them. Girls tried their hand at divination to predict who they were to marry. There were many techniques. One was to enter a dark room backwards holding a lit candle and to look over your shoulder into a mirror. It was said that the shadow cast by the candle in the mirror provided an outline of your future spouse. Another favoured divining technique was to throw apple peelings over your left shoulder and to try to read the initials of your future spouse in the shapes the peelings made on the floor.

Roasting chestnuts over a grate and popping corn were other methods of fortune telling. Two chestnuts burning slowly side by side on the fireplace grate augured a happy marriage, while two that popped suggested strife. While waiting for corn to pop, youngsters chanted a spell that went something like:

“Fire, fire burn your best,

As my fortune there, I test,

Every kernel popping white

Makes my fortune fine and bright,

Every kernel scorched and black

Sets a goblin on my track.”

For male teenagers, Halloween became a time of juvenile hijinks.  At a time when behaviour was strictly controlled and entertainment limited, Halloween was the one day in the year when society’s strictures were eased and boys could cut loose. With masks ensuring anonymity, youth took to the streets and caused mayhem. Shooting peas at windows and at passersby was de rigueur. If it provoked somebody to give chase, all the better. Upsetting outhouses and raiding gardens became clichés of the festival. In 1875, boys took of the gates to the home of Alderman Rocque on Rideau Street and threw them into the middle of the road. Fences in the neighbourhood were torn down while gate handles were daubed with red paint. The following year, vandals blocked Bank Street with pulled down fences, stumps, boards and commercial signs. Out in the country, things could get worse. In 1875 in Masham, Quebec, cellars were plundered, stables were ransacked, and potatoes set aside for the winter were stolen.

Cartoon that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, 30 October 1909, author Grue.

In 1881, rowdy boys upset a pile of bricks outside of the Opera House just when the audience was exiting. The Citizen complained that it was lucky nobody had tripped and hurt themselves. The newspaper demanded that the boys be prosecuted if they could be found.

But nothing beats the experience of poor Mr. Alphonse Frappier, a retired real estate agent, of Eastview (now Vanier) in 1921. While he was sleeping, boisterous youths broke into his home and dumped him out of bed. His bed was then taken outside and placed on top of a nearby telephone pole. The following year, Frappier demanded and received police protection.

Halloween 1919, the first after the end of the Great War, was particularly boisterous with the streets filled with partyers. Like today, elves, witches, princesses and tramps abounded. However, in keeping with the times, children also dressed as Red Cross nurses and soldiers complete with wound stripes and long service ribbons. Most of the mayhem that year was petty stuff—windows shelled with peas, door bells rung, and a few gates removed. There were however numerous hold-ups by boys dressed as baggy-trousered bashi-bazouks—irregular Ottoman soldiers noted for their indiscipline and for raiding civilian populations. The Citizen reported that the bashi-bazouks let their victims go after extorting “small ransoms.”

To keep order, police force in the region were put on full alert for the night. During the mid-1930s, police leave was cancelled and all of Ottawa’s twenty-five patrol cars were out keeping watch on the crowds of revellers on city streets, ready to respond in the event of complaints of rowdiness. Private cars owned by police were also pressed into service. On the Quebec side, a 9 pm curfew was strictly enforced for children under 16 years of age. In Hull, the start of the curfew was announced by the hooter going off at the city’s waterworks. Despite such precautions, widespread property damage was reported in 1935, including the breaking of 40 street lights in the Glebe and Ottawa South where youths untethered the pully wires that suspended the globes. There were also three false fire alarms.

It’s hard to say when door-to-door “trick-or-treating” started in Ottawa. Certainly by 1912 it seems to have become an accepted part of the Halloween tradition. A Citizen article that year reported that many home owners in the city placed jack-o-lanterns in their front windows to invite costumed children to come and share the apples. Note that children came to collect apples rather than candy. While candy featured in Halloween parties, handing out candies at the door seems to have started in earnest only after World War II, encouraged by the confectionary industry. However, even then apples continued to be the traditional treat, no doubt much to the chagrin of many pint-sized ghosts and ghouls.

Apples largely disappeared from the Halloween tradition in the late 1960s and early 1970s owing to fears of sabotage. In 1967, it was reported that an Eastview girl had been given an apple with needles pushed into it. In 1972, there were reports of apples injected with crushed glass or booby-trapped with razor blades. Candies too were not spared. An eight-year old Ottawa boy was reportedly hospitalized in 1968 after he had eaten candy-coated pills that looked like Smarties. Similar stories in the press across the continent led to another Halloween ritual—the parental checking of kiddies’ loot. Of course, this required the occasion taste test just to make sure.

Ottawa children began to collect money for the United Nations’ International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in 1955, five years after the programme started in the United States. That first year, instead of being furnished with the characteristic orange UNICEF collection boxes, children used milk cartons donated by Ottawa dairies to collect change door to door. In July 2000, the Canadian government proclaimed 31 October National UNICEF Day. In 2006, UNICEF collection boxes were retired in favour of in-school fundraising. Three years later, collections raised by Canadian children had surpassed $100 million.

Today, Halloween remains a popular festival. While it continues to be a much-anticipated event for young children, it has also become a popular celebration among adults just as it was more than a century ago. According to Nicholas Rogers, 65 per cent of American adults participated in Halloween in the early 2000s, not counting handing out candies at the door. Fortunately, the traditional mayhem wrought by young males had largely subsided.

Sources:

Ottawa Citizen, 1860. “Halloween,” 2 November.

——————, 1875. “Juvenile Depredations,” 1 November.

——————, 1875. “Masham,” 10 November.

——————, 1876. “Blocked Up,” 1 November.

——————, 1881. “Rowdy Boys,” 1 November.

——————, 1882. “Halloween,” 30 October.

——————, 1883. “Governor-General’s Foot Guards’ Ball,” 1 November.

——————, 1886. “Complaint,” 1 November.

——————, 1887. “Annual Anniversary, A.O.U.W.” 31 October.

——————, 1892. “2’nd Annual Halloween Concert, Sons of Scotland,” 31 October.

——————, 1893. “Halloween Pranks,” 1 November.

——————, 1912. “Hallowe’en Celebrated,” 1 November.

Ottawa Journal, 1900. “Dunking For Apples,” 31 October.

——————, 1900. “Halloween At The Normal,” I November.

——————, 1900. “Hallowe’en Favors,” 29 October.

——————, 1902. Hallowe’en; Its Customs,” 31 October.

——————-, 1909.  “Halloween Hints and Some Ideas for Entertainment,” 30 October.

——————-, 1912. “Hallowe’en Night, 2 November.

——————-, 1919. “King Revelry Reigned For Halloween,” 1 November.

——————-, 1922. “Broad Sense Of Humor Is Shown In Eastview,” 19 October.

——————-, 1935. “Every Policeman In Ottawa on Duty For Hallowe’en,” 31 October.

——————-, 1935. “Wide Celebration Brings Complaints Of Much Mischief,” 1 November.

——————-, 1946. “More Candy and Apples in Ottawa Stores for Hallowe’en Ghosts and Goblins,” 30 October.

——————-, 1953. “Lively Hallowe’en Moderate Fuel Bill,” 31 October.

——————-, 1955. “Shell-out For UNICEF At Hallowe’en,” 22 October.

——————-, 1967. “Eastview Girl Given Apple With Needle,” 3 November.

——————-, 1972. “… And for human ghouls,” 28 October.

Rogers, Nicholas, 2002. From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Oxford University Press.

UNICEF, 2019. Halloween Fundraising, https://www.unicef.org/support/14884.html.

The Ottawa Nationals

11 October 1972

Back before the Ottawa Senators were reborn in the early 1990s, Ottawa was briefly home to another major league professional hockey team—the Ottawa Nationals.  And when I say briefly, I mean briefly. The team was in existence in the nation’s capital for less than one season before the franchise moved. But for a few short moments, Ottawa was at the centre of a hockey revolution that witnessed the birth of the World Hockey Association (WHA), the upstart professional hockey league that for a time challenged the National Hockey League’s (NHL) domination of major-league professional hockey in North America.

In the 1972-73 season, the WHA launched a new 12-team league located mostly in smaller cities in the United States and Canada. While the NHL had doubled in size from six teams to twelve in 1967, and had added two more teams in 1970, WHA backers thought there was still unmet demand for high-calibre professional hockey. Not surprisingly, the new league faced many obstacles before the first puck was dropped. The absence of appropriate rink facilities was a major handicap that doomed the chances of many cities to acquire a franchise.  The wonderfully named Miami Screaming Eagles plunged to earth when plans for a new arena fell through. The franchise folded, later becoming the Philadelphia Blazers. The Calgary Broncos also vanished before playing a game, only to be resurrected as the Cleveland Crusaders.

Ottawa wasn’t a first-choice city for a WHA franchise. Doug Michel, who had purchased the “Ontario franchise” for a WHA team, had wanted to locate in Hamilton. However, the story goes that Hamilton Mayor Vic Copps couldn’t come to terms with Michel over the construction of a new arena. Reportedly, Copps wanted the team to sign a 10-year contract for $500,000 per year before he would build a $5 million arena. Michel countered with $200,000 per year, but it was not enough.

Instead of Hamilton, Michel brought his franchise to Ottawa, and in mid-February 1972 the Ontario franchise became known as the Ottawa Nationals. The following month, the team came to terms with the Central Canada Exhibition Association (CCEA) to play at the Civic Centre, the home of the Ottawa 67s, the city’s Major Junior A team. It was agreed that the Nationals would guarantee the Central Canada Exhibition Association $100,000 or 15 per cent of the gate, whichever was greater, for each year of a 3-year contract. The amount of the performance bond would decline through the season as money was paid to the CCEA. The CCEA would also receive 15 per cent of television money for games broadcast from the Civic Centre. The Nats wanted a 3-year contract even though potentially the CCEA couldn’t honour it as its lease for the city-owned Civic Centre expired in April 1973.

Despite being playerless and coachless, the Nationals launched a season ticket campaign with prices ranging from $3.50 per seat, or $136.50 for the 39-home game season, for C level seats to $6.50 per seat, or $253.50, for ice-level, AA seats. The team hoped to sell roughly a third of the season tickets to corporations. By the end of March 1972, they had sold 275 seats. They didn’t sell many more.

Logo of the Ottawa Nationals, 1972-73.

The logo of the Ottawa Nationals was described as a combination of both traditional and contemporary features, a product of eight artists who came up with 400 different designs. The winning logo was a red “O” and “N” with a superimposed white maple leaf, with a blue border in the shape of a hockey arena, slightly slanted in an “on the go” fashion.

Having got a city, an arena, and a logo, the next step was to find players and a coach by the start of the 1972-73 season. The Nats, indeed the entire WHA, hoped to sign roughly one-third of its players from the NHL, a third from graduating Juniors, and a third from universities and Europe.

To gain credibility, WHA teams began signing star NHL players whose contracts had expired, offering huge multi-year salaries. Bernie Parent, the star goal tender from the Toronto Maple Leafs, signed a contract with the Miami Screaming Eagles (later the Philadelphia Blazers) for reportedly $750,000. The entire league chipped in to acquire the legendary Bobby Hull for a $2.5 million contract over ten years, of which $1 million was paid up front. Derrick Sanderson, the flamboyant centreman from Boston, signed with Philadelphia for an eye-popping US$2.6 million. The Nationals too had their eye on a number of star players, including New York Ranger Brad Park. Team owner Doug Michel thought Park was worth at least $250,000.  Michel also began talking to Toronto star Dave Keon.

Needless to say, NHL owners were furious with what they saw as talent poaching. It definitely hurt them in the pocket book. The average NHL salary in 1972 was only $32,500, equivalent to roughly $200,000 in today’s money. (The minimum NHL salary in 2019 was US$650,000.) The advent of the WHA meant that the balance of negotiating power had shifted dramatically in favour of players. To stop the hemorrhaging of talent, the NHL tried to tie players in legal knots, arguing that under the reserve clause of their contracts they could not sign with a WHA team even if their NHL contracts had expired. This attempt ultimately failed in court.

Despite the Nationals’ best efforts at finding talent, it wasn’t until June that the club signed its first two players—Bob Leduc (28 years old), a centreman who had played with the Providence Reds of the American Hockey League, and Ron Climie (22 years old), a right-winger from the Kansas City Blues of the Central Pro Hockey League. Neither were household names. A few days later, the team signed Garry Hull, the less-known middle brother of Bobby and Dennis Hull, to a conditional contract—conditional that he could make the team. Gerry Hull had played in Dallas in the Central Pro League in 1970 before leaving hockey to manage a farm near Milbrook, Ontario. Ottawa sportscasters were not impressed. Jack Kaufman of the Ottawa Citizen said the team was “scraping the bottom of the barrel in an effort to fill rosters.”

Advertisement for the Ottawa Nationals, just weeks before training camp was to start. It was hard to sell season tickets without knowing who was playing. Ottawa Citizen, 2 August 1972.

Stretched for money, Nats’ owner, Doug Michel, sold 80 per cent of the club to Nick Trbovitch of Buffalo, NY in July.  With an apparent cash infusion into the team, the Nats began signing players, negotiating contracts first with two former Oshawa Generals Juniors, Mike Amodeo and Tom Simpson, and then with Bob Charelbois a four-year veteran with the Phoenix Roadrunners in the Western Hockey League. They were followed by NHLers, Wayne Carleton, who had played with Toronto, Boston and California, Mike Boland of the L.A. Kings, and Guy Trottier from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Among the last to sign were veteran goal tender, Les Binkley, formerly with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and coach Billy Harris, a friend of the team’s general manager, Buck Houle. Harris was the former coach of the Swedish national hockey team.

The Nats also thought they had corralled Dave Keon for a cool $1 million, multi-year contract. However, after accepting $50,000 from the team, which Keon said was a negotiating fee and the Nats said was a down payment on his salary, Keon re-signed with the Leafs. This set in motion law suits that were to last for years to come.

Training camp started mid-September in the Hull arena. Forty-seven rookies were in camp trying out for the team. The former NHLers didn’t arrive until October 1, the day following the expiry of their NHL contracts. That night, without any practice as a team, the Ottawa Nationals took to the ice at the Civic Centre for their first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Blazers. In front of a crowd of just over 7,000, said to have been generously reported, the Nats were downed 3-1. Ottawa went on to lose all five of their pre-season games.

The WHA launched its first official league game at the Civic Centre on 11 October 1972 with a game between the Ottawa Nationals and the Alberta Oilers amidst all the whoopla one would expect. The game was carried live over CBC television. Congratulatory telegrams were received, including one from Prime Minister Trudeau, bagpipes swirled, and special souvenir programs handed out. In a pre-game show, peewee hockey players circled the rink, throwing WHA orange pucks into the stands.  The WHA had originally tried using orange pucks to distinguish the league from the NHL. This was a bad idea since the orange dye reportedly affected the pucks’ solidity. When the frozen pucks were hit during play, they became distorted, sometimes turning potato shaped. Goalies also had a hard time seeing them. The colour was changed to a dark blue. But the orange pucks made for nifty souvenirs.

Lobbing pucks into the stands turned out to be another bad idea. The crowd of only 5,006 fans, half of whom were minor hockey players who had received free tickets, began throwing the orange pucks back onto the ice. Naturally, the peewee players returned fire. Matters deteriorated when balloons, which were fastened to poles, didn’t release properly; the knots suspending them were too tight. Two poles fell over when attendants tugged, bringing down their bagged balloons onto the ice which led to a free-for-all as the peewee players began popping them. Finally, an announcer had to tell the kids to get off the ice.

The opening face-off was timed with the drop of the puck in Cleveland where the Crusaders were taking on the Quebec Nordiques. After a countdown from fifteen to the launch of the first WHA season, Ottawa lost the draw. The night didn’t improve for the Nationals. Four minutes into the first period Ottawa’s defenceman Chris Meloff got a two-minute penalty for using an over-sized stick. Les Binkey, the Nationals’ net minder, had lost his in the corner. Meloff gave him his stick and skated over to retrieve Binkley’s. After he picked it up, he tried to take a pass and was called using an illegal stick. It was that kind of night. The Alberta Oilers took the game 7-4.

For much of the season, the Nationals struggled. Attendance, which was never strong, dwindled. At best, the team drew three to four thousand fans, well short of the 8,000 needed for the team to break even. By the end of February, 1973, after losing twenty of twenty-four games, the team was solidly in the basement. Surprisingly, however, the Nats rallied through March, and somehow snagged themselves a playoff berth. 

Off ice, however, matters went from bad to worse. Mid-March, the team failed to provide another $100,000 bond to the CCEA for the upcoming 1973-74 season, while still owing $50,000 on the 1972-73 season’s guarantee. The club said that it didn’t have to post a bond for the new season since its contract was with the CCEA had been voided when the City took back control of the Civic Centre. The City of Ottawa saw this as a technicality and demanded the bond before being willing to negotiate new terms for the club’s use of the Civic Centre. There was talk of locking the Nationals out of the arena.

Before the playoffs started, the Nationals packed their hockey sticks and headed for Toronto, a move facilitated by the club’s purchase by John Bassett Jr., part owner of Maple Leaf Gardens, for a reputed $1.3 million. The Nationals played the first two games of their best of seven Eastern Division semi-finals in Boston against the New England Whalers. After losing both games, the series resumed at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Nationals’ new “home” ice. Only 4,879 fans watched the Nationals win game three. The Whalers took the series four games to one. And that was the end of the Ottawa Nationals.

The following season, the Nationals were rebaptized the Toronto Toros, and played the year out of Varsity Arena. Owing to poor attendance, the Toros decamped to Birmingham, Alabama in 1976, playing as the Birmingham Bulls. The team folded for good in 1979.

After several years of on-and-off again talks of a merger between the NHL and the WHA, the two leagues finally came to an agreement in time for the 1979-80 seasons. The WHA ceased operations with four WHA teams—the Edmonton Oilers (renamed in 1973), the New England Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets—joining the NHL.

Sources:

Internet Hockey Data Base, 2019. Ottawa Nationals [WHA] all-time player list, http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/display_players.php?tmi=7327

Klein, Cutler, 2016. “From six teams to 31: History of NHL Expansion,” NHL, https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-expansion-history/c-281005106.

Statista, 2019. Average annual player salary in the National Hockey League in 2018/2019, by team (in millions U.S. dollars), https://www.statista.com/statistics/675382/average-nhl-salary-by-team/.

Ottawa Citizen, 1972. “Hockey Rumors aboud,” 12 February.

——————, 1972. “Ottawa WHA entry ‘land’ Keon and Park,” 14 February.

——————, 1972. “Pro hockey makes Ottawa comeback,” 18 February.

——————, 1972. “Hangup for Nationals just ‘legal falderah,” 16 March.

——————, 1972. “Bright future?” 15 May.

——————, 1972. “Eight-year minor leaguer one of first two Nats,” 2 June.

—————–, 1972. “Nats sign Hull, not Bobby,” 14 June.

—————–, 1972. “Marcelin more important,” 22 July.

—————–, 1972. “Mike Amodeo, Tom Simpson and Bob Charlebois joining Nats,” 26 July.

—————–, 1972. “Carleton and Nats agree,” 3 August.

—————–, 1972. “Nats sign Guy Trottier for cosy WHA ‘house league,” 28 August.

—————–, 1972. “Binkley joins Nats,” 7 September.

—————–, 1972. “Nats offer ‘million’ but Keon not coming,” 8 September.

—————–, 1972.  “Nats seeking legal advice on $50,000 paid to Keon,” 15 September.

—————–, 1972. “’Hungry’ Nats begin training,” 19 September.

—————–, 1972. “A court case,” 20 September.

—————–, 1972. “CBC WHA negotiate TV deal,” 20 September.

—————–, 1972. “Blazers spoil Nats’ start,” 2 October.

—————–, 1972. “Nationals beaten – fans missing,” 12 October.

—————–, 1972. “An odd first,” 12 October.

—————–, 1973. “Kirk’s three put Nats in playoffs,” 30 March.

—————–, 1973. “Face-off near for city, Nats,” 30 March.

—————–, 1973. “Nationals shifting to Toronto,” 3 April.

Ottawa Journal, 1972. “Expect word soon on WHA,” 1 February.

——————-, 1972. “CCEA and WHA team agree on three-year contract,” 18 February.

——————-, 1972. “Maybe not fair, but still some skeptics,” 19 February.

——————-, 1972. “Ottawa, Nationals, CCEA close deal,” 21 March.

——————-, 1972. “Ottawa Nationals make plans official,” 25 March.

——————-, 1972. “Oilers, Nationals unveil WHA tonight,” 11 October.

——————-, 1972. “Opening night no success story for Nats,” 12 October.

Princess Elizabeth

10 October 1951

In early July 1951, Clarence House, the London home of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, issued a statement that the Princess, the heir presumptive to the throne, and her husband would be making a country-wide tour of Canada in the autumn. The announcement was totally unexpected. The invitation for the Royal Couple to come to Canada had been made by Lester Pearson, the Secretary of State for External Affairs, who had been touring Europe on behalf of the Canadian government.

The news that the glamorous young princess and her dashing naval prince, then captain of HMS Magpie, would be coming to Canada sent the country into a frenzy. It was to be the first Royal Visit since the wildly successful 1939 Royal Tour made by the Princess’s mother and father just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Like that earlier visit, the Princess and Prince would be making a month-long, coast-to-coast tour of the country, mostly by train. As well, a short side trip to the United States would be arranged. This would be Princess Elizabeth’s first major Royal Tour and her first visit to North America.

The tour was almost cancelled at the last moment owing to her father becoming gravely ill. As watchers of the television mini-series “The Crown” may recall, King George, who was an inveterate chain smoker, had lung cancer, though at the time the nature of his illness was not revealed. In mid-September 1951, a medical bulletin reported “structural changes” in one of his lungs. A few days later, surgeons removed the lung at Buckingham Palace in a make-shift operation room. In the days immediately after the surgery, Princess Elizabeth quite naturally wished to stay by her father’s side. Canadian Prime Minister St. Laurent said that her Canadian tour, which was scheduled to begin on 2 October, should not go ahead if it were to upset the King’s peace of mind.

However, with the King steadily improving, the tour proceeded, albeit a week late. Also, instead of coming by ship, the couple travelled by airplane across the Atlantic. The blue and white BOAC Stratocruiser had been outfitted with new engines and equipped with a special cabin for the Princess and Prince. The four-engine propeller aircraft had a cruising speed of 300 mph and a cruising altitude of 18,000-24,000 feet. There was an eleven-member crew aboard, of whom two were Canadian—the co-pilot and the navigator. Owing to rough weather, the plane couldn’t make it all the way from London to Dorval, but instead stopped briefly at Gander, Newfoundland. The aircraft arrived at Dorval at 11.40 am on 8 October, but waited on the runway until noon, the official start time. The Royal couple was greeted by Viscount Alexander, the Governor General, Prime Minister St. Laurent, Transport Minister Chevrier, and Veterans Minister Lapointe. After taking a walking tour of the airport perimeter to stretch their legs in front of 25,000 spectators, the Princess and the Prince boarded their train for Quebec City, which was the official start city of their Canadian tour.

The Royal couple was met with a thunderous welcome in the “old capital,” where they were greeted by tens of thousands of spectators, the crowds held back by the Royal 22nd Regiment. At a state dinner the following evening, Premier Duplessis gave homage to Princess Elizabeth, saying “The great majority of the people of the province of Quebec are Canadians of French origin. They have for centuries been faithful to the Crown recognizing it as a symbol of authority and freedom.” Princess Elizabeth replied “When I first set foot on Canadian soil…I knew myself to be not only amongst friends but amongst fellow countrymen.”

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their tour of Canada, October 1951, Library and Archives Canada, 4301669.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived in Ottawa from Quebec City at 10am on 10 October 1951 by a CNR train, stopping at a special station at Island Park Drive, just as her parents had done twelve years earlier. The 30th Field Battery fired a 21-gun salute on their arrival. According to the Ottawa Evening Citizen, “It was love at first sight.” The newspaper went on to gush “A radiant and beautiful woman, she was the story book princess come to life,” and “as for the Prince, tall, blond, handsome, he was a man’s man.” Meeting them at the station, were the Governor General, members of the federal Cabinet and their wives, members of the diplomatic corps, the speakers of the Senate and House of Commons, and 25,000 cheering Ottawa residents. Also present was Charlotte Whitton, who had just been confirmed in her seat as Mayor of Ottawa a few days earlier after the untimely death of her predecessor Grenville Goodwin. Mayor Whitton, an ardent royalist, gave a proper curtsey when she was presented to the Princess. The Evening Citizen described Whitton as “Ottawa’s bachelor-girl mayor—the only civic woman of a big Canadian city.”

 Unlike twelve years earlier when Princess Elizabeth’s parents had arrived in Ottawa, it was a brilliant, sunny day. Adding to the blaze of autumn colours were the red, blue and white bunting and flags that decorated buildings and homes, the one noticeable exception being the Soviet Embassy on Charlotte Street. The biggest Union Jack in the world, more that five stories in length, covered the face of the Holden Manufacturing Company on Albert Street. This was the third time the flag had been displayed, the first to celebrate the 1939 Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the second to mark the end of World War II.

Princess Elizabeth giving a speech, Royal Tour, October 1951, Library and Archives Canada, 4301668.

The Princess and Prince were whisked along to Confederation Square through packed streets thronging with cheering Ottawa citizens and visitors in a motorcade that went along the Driveway to Elgin Street.  They stopped on the way at Lansdowne Park where 14,000 children were assembled to greet them. There Mayor Whitton, accompanied by city councillors, presented the Princess with the keys to the City. Little three-year old Sheila Hamilton, daughter of Alderman Wilbert Hamilton, presented Princess Elizabeth with a nosegay of pink carnations and roses.

Exiting from the eastern gate, the motorcade made its way to the War Memorial. 50,000 people waited in Confederation Square for the Royal couple. Some had been there since the previous morning on the pavement to get the best viewing. At the Memorial and in front of veterans from three wars and members from all armed services, the Princess laid a poppy wreath in honour of Canada’s war dead.  Also present at the ceremony were a number of disabled veterans and Silver Star mothers who lost a son in either the First or Second World War.

After a private lunch with Prime Minister St Laurent and his wife at 24 Sussex Street, the new, official residence of Canadian prime ministers, the Princess and Prince took a tour of Hull crossing to Quebec on the Alexandra Bridge named in honour of Prince Elizabeth’s great grandmother. At Hull’s Council Chamber, in the presence of Acting Mayor David Joanisse, and lay and ecclesiastical officials, the couple signed the city’s “golden book.” The motorcade then returned to Ontario via the Chaudière Bridge for a tour of Parliament Hill. With the Royal Couple ahead of schedule by ten minutes, poor Prime Minister St. Laurent missed giving them a tour of the House of Commons, the honour falling instead on the Speaker. St. Laurent caught up with the Princess and Prince for the tour of the Senate chamber.

While in the Centre Block, the Royal Couple proceeded to the Railway Committee room where Princess Elizabeth presented to the National Gallery of Canada, represented by Vincent Massey, an embroidered floral carpet made by her grandmother, Queen Mary. The carpet, actually a tapestry according to the Princess, had been purchased by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE). In 1949, Queen Mary had donated the carpet to the British Government to help raise much need foreign currency. It was a way of doing “her bit” to help the British economy. The carpet went on display, first in London, then in 23 cities through the United States and Canada before being purchased by the IODE.

Princess Elizabeth and Queen Mary’s Carpet, Railway Committee Room, Centre Block, Parliament Hill, October 1951, Canadian Georgraphic

Princess Elizabeth noted that her grandmother was most happy that the carpet had found a permanent home in Canada, the place where she had many happy memories of her visit in 1901. (The carpet remains in the possession of the National Gallery of Canada. Sadly, due to its fragile condition, it is not on public display.) Before leaving Parliament Hill, the Royals played tourist and ascended the Peace Tower to get a view of the Gatineau Hills in their full autumn glory. The Princess was overheard to say to her husband that the view was better than that from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

While on Parliament Hill, Prince Philip broke away to talk to Filip Konowal who was standing in the House of Commons corridor. The prince had spotted the Victoria Cross ribbon on Konowal’s coat. Konowal, who was a janitor on Parliament Hill, had won the Empire’s highest award for gallantry in 1917 at the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens, France.

The hectic day of touring and shaking hands ended with a visit to the National Archives, where there was some brief excitement when a photographer’s light bulb exploded close to the Princess. Fortunately, the bulb was behind safety glass which protected the Princess from being showered with glass splinters. She took the incident in her stride, and reassured the apologetic journalist.

A state dinner at Rideau Hall that evening ended the day. The Princess spoke over CBC radio. She said that it had been “her cherished dream” to come to Canada where she felt “very much at home … still in the family circle.” Speaking in French, she said that French-Canadians were faithful to their language and culture, faithful to their religion, and faithful to the Crown of Canada.” She also spoke of the sacrifice Canadians had made to support “the threatened liberty of Britain and to restore the violated liberty of France” in the war. She called Canadians “the knights-errants of our tragic modern world who were always ready to ride abroad redressing human wrongs.” She added, “I know that wherever the weak are oppressed or justice set at naught by lawless power, Canada will be always at the forefront of the defence.”

The highlight of the Royal couple’s second day in the nation’s capital was a civic luncheon held in her honour at the Chateâu Laurier Hotel. Hosted by Mayor Whitton, the meal featured dishes sourced from across the country—oysters from Nova Scotia and PEI, Salmon En Bellevue from Newfoundland, elk from Alberta, wild rice from Manitoba, and a seasonal salad from the Pacific coast, topped off by a maple bombe from Quebec, BC candied fruit and Ontario cheese fleurons. One thing absent was wine; it was a non-alcoholic affair. Smoking was also not permitted.

After a short address, Mayor Whitton presented the couple with an illuminated scroll bearing the signatures of all of Ottawa’s aldermen and councillors. To the Princess, she also presented a $1,000 cheque in a hand-tooled leather wallet for the Princess’s charities. To the Duke of Edinburgh, she gave into his safe-keeping and rationing a heavy oak box of maple sugar for little Prince Charles, age three, and Princess Anne, age one. 11-year old Eric Goodwin, the son of late Mayor Goodwin, presented the Royal Couple with a blue windbreaker for Prince Charles, while Nicole Tardif, the daughter of city councillor, Paul Tardif, presented two bunny blankets for Princess Anne.

Following lunch, the Princess and Prince were taken to the old Commissariat building located at the foot of the Rideau Canal where they dropped into the new Bytown Museum recently opened by the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, the forerunner of The Historical Society of Ottawa. They were the first signatories in the museum’s guest book.

Princess Elizabeth square dancing with Prince Philip, Rideau Hall, October 1951, Library and Archives Canada, 3401052.

Afterwards, they given a boat cruise on the Ottawa River on the Wausau, dubbed the “Royal Barge” for the event. Two RCAF boats preceded the Royal Barge while two RCN boats followed it. A flotilla of twenty-five pleasure boats supplied by the Ottawa Power Boat Association accompanied them down the river. Many other unofficial craft watched the procession. As the Wasuau passed under the Alexandra Bridge, their Highnesses took a salute from the Ottawa Sea Scouts. To provide an example of the forestry industry at work to the Royal visitors, two rafts of pulpwood were towed passed the Royal Barge in the opposite direction, the logs destined for the International Paper Company in Gatineau and the E.B. Eddy Mill in Hull. The firm that had organized the rafts, the Gatineau Boom Company, had earlier that day swept the Ottawa River of floating logs and other debris that might have impeded the Royal boat tour.

That evening, after an informal buffet supper at Rideau Hall, the Princess and Prince joined in an old-fashion square dance with eighty guests, organized by Viscount Alexander who was enamoured with the dance form. Square dances were apparently a common event at Government House. For the dance, the Princess wore a dirndl skirt while the Prince donned a plaid shirt and blue jeans. To get them into the swing of things, the couple had a half-hour square dancing lesson beforehand.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip left Ottawa shortly after midnight, heading for Cornwall, Brockville, Kingston, Trenton and Toronto on their next leg of their trans-Canada tour which was to take them to Victoria in the west and then back to St. John’s, Newfoundland for their return to England by ship. In a final broadcast to Canadians from St. John’s, she said that parting was difficult. While she was happy to rejoin her family and children, she was “also leaving a country which has become a second home in every sense.”

Less than three months following the conclusion of her tour of Canada, Princess Elizabeth became Queen, her father, King George VI, dying on 6 February 1952. Queen Elizabeth has made 22 official visits to Canada, the last one in 2010.

Sources:

CBC, 2011. Princess Elizabeth’s 1951 royal visit of Canada, 30 June.

Canadian Geographic, 1951. Message of Welcome To Their Royal Highnesses, https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/sites/cgcorp/files/images/web_articles/blog/royals.pdf.

Colin Churcher’s Railway Pages, 2017. Royal Trains and Royal Occasions, https://churcher.crcml.org/circle/Royal_Trains.html.

Ottawa Evening Citizen, 1951. “Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip To Tour Canada From Coast To Coast,” 5 July.

—————————–, 1951. “King Steadily Improving,” 8 October.

—————————–, 1951. “Rough Air Detours Royal Plane”, 8 October.

—————————–, 1951. “Canadians Rejoice In Safe Arrival,” 9 October.

—————————–, 1951. “Old Quebec City ‘Surrenders’ To Elizabeth And Her Consort,” 9 October.

—————————–, 1951. “Sun Crowns Welcome!,” 10 October.

—————————–, 1951. “King Gaining Strength Daily, Princess Tells Her Hosts,” 10 October.

—————————-, 1951. “Princess Laden With City Gifts,” 11 October.

—————————-, 1951. “They Go Cruising Down The River,” 11 October.

—————————-, 1951. “Princess Presents Famed Royal Carpet To Gallery,” 11 October.

—————————-, 1951. “200,000 Glimpse Royal Pair In Ottawa And Hull,” 11 October.

—————————-, 1951. “Flash Bulb Explodes Near Princess,” 11 October.

—————————-, 1951. “Royal Visit Highlights Of Ottawa And Hull,” 11 October.

 —————————, 1951. “Square Dance Tonight At Government House,” 11 October.

—————————, 1951. “Princess Says ‘Cherished Dream’ Had Come True,” 11 October.

Ottawa Journal, 1951. “Princess City’s Guest Today,” 11 October.

——————-, 1951. “On Cruise And At Luncheon,” 11 October.

Royal Voluntary Service, 2017. The WVS and Queen Mary’s Carpet, https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/about-us/our-history/heritage-collection/heritage-bulletin-blog/the-wvs-and-queen-marys-carpet. Thought Co., 2018, Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Visits To Canada, 8 August, https://www.thoughtco.com/queen-elizabeth-visits-to-canada-510580

The Canadian Club of Ottawa

9 October 1903

Rudyard Kipling, the early twentieth-century British author, once quipped that in Canada “there is a crafty network of businessmen called Canadian Clubs. They catch people who look interesting, assemble their members during the mid-day lunch hour, and, tying their victim to a steak, bid him discourse on anything that he thinks he knows.” Since 1893, Canadian Clubs across the country have done just that. And in the process, they have helped to inform Canadians about the big issues of the day.

W. Sandford Evans, Archives of Manitoba

The Canadian Club movement began in Hamilton, Ontario in late 1892 when W. Sanford Evans and four other men met in the office of Charles R. McCullough. Evans, native of Spencerville, Ontario, ran Dr. Stephenson’s Children’s Home and Training School for Christian Workers in Hamilton. McCullough, who was born in Bowmanville, Ontario, was the principal of the Hamilton Business College. The other men present at the meeting were James Ferres, John T. Hall, George D. Fearman, and Henry Carpenter.

The six agreed to establish an organization whose purpose was to encourage the study of Canadian patriotic history, literature, arts, and resources. There would be no party politics, and their organization would be open to all men regardless of creed. They also agreed that speeches would be the focus of the new organization. In February 1893, a provisional organizational structure was formed with W. Sanford Evans as the Club’s first president, and Charles McCullough as Secretary. The following year, the Canadian Club was incorporated.

Canada was ripe for such an organization. Although the Imperial connection to Great Britain was strong, Canadian nationalism, especially among those born in Canada, was beginning to stir. Under Prime Minister (later Sir) Wilfrid Laurier, English-French differences were being ironed out (or at least papered over), settlers were pouring into the country, and the economy was strengthening. Canadians were beginning to feel their oats. While proud to be British subjects, and proud to be part of the British Empire, there was nonetheless a striving for a distinct Canadian identity, however difficult to define.

From Hamilton, the Canadian Club movement slowly spread across the country. Sandford Evans established the Toronto Canadian Club when he moved to that city in 1897. Galt was the third community to boast a Canadian Club, followed by Ottawa in 1903, St. Catharines, Winnipeg (organized by Sandford Evans when he moved to that city from Toronto) and Dawson City in 1904, Montreal and Orillia in 1905, and Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Portage La Prairie, London and Perth in 1906. Canadian Clubs were later to formed in other centres as well as in many major U.S. cities.

Charles R. McCullough, Ottawa Journal, 25 January 1908

The Canadian Club of Ottawa was organized at a meeting held on the 9th October, 1903 in the reception room of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association. Despite inclement weather, a large enthusiastic crown of gathered in the room. Like existing Canadian Clubs, it was stressed that “Canadian” included “every Canadian regardless of creed or ancestry.” There would be no politics, and any subject that would “tend to divide the feelings of the members” would be excluded. The Club’s purpose was “unity, pure and simple.” Lieutenant-Colonel Sherwood was unanimously elected first president. Elected first vice president was William Lyon Mackenzie King. King’s name was put forward by John MacMillan, the principal of the Collegiate Institute. MacMillan said King was “a young man who would take a prominent part in the club.” At the time, King was the editor of the Labour Gazette and deputy minister of Labour. Mackenzie went on to great things, becoming Canada’s prime minister in 1921.

Lieutenant-Colonel A. P. Sherwood, Topley Studio, Library and Archives Canada, 3426639.

To cheer on the new club and to give pointers on how to run it was Mr. Bruce Macdonald, the principal of St. Andrew’s College in Toronto and the President of the Canadian Club of Toronto. The constitution of the new Ottawa Club was modelled on that of its Toronto sister organization. It was agreed that the club would meet every two weeks, and invite speakers “as a form of entertainment and instruction.”

At the organization meeting, the Reverend Dr. W.T. Herridge and the Reverend Father O’Boyle both gave addresses to underline the non-sectarian nature of the new club. Herridge said that the object of the Canadian Club of Ottawa was to encourage patriotism—”not the patriotism of flag wavers or stump speakers but common-place patriotism” shown by the way every man went about his work. Father O’Boyle added that “Canadians should have as their ideal the building up of a national brotherhood.”

The founding list of members of the Canadian Club of Ottawa was a veritable “who’s-who” list of the city’s elite. Notable among them were Thomas Ahearn and Warren Soper, Ottawa’s technology barons, George Perley, the lumberman, George Burn, the general manager of the Bank of Ottawa. Thomas Birkett, Ottawa’s member of Parliament, Otto Klotz, a future Dominion Astronomer, and Achille Frechette, translator for the House of Commons.

Sanford Evans, then living in Winnipeg, telegrammed his congratulations and best wishes to Ottawa’s Canadian Club. He added, “Let us have a Canadianism broad, deep, intelligent, sane and aspiring, uniting all, no matter what politics or creeds we hold.”  Ottawa’s Mayor Cook, also sent his congratulations having been being unable to attend the meeting.

Two weeks later, the Canadian Club of Ottawa hosted its first luncheon at the Grand Union Hotel. More than 250 men attended the inaugural event to hear Major-General the Earl of Dundonald speak on a new military program for Canada. Dundonald had served on the Nile Expedition that had attempted to relieve the forces of  General “Chinese” Gordon at Khartoum in 1885 as well as in the Boer War. In 1902, he had been appointed General Officer, commanding the Militia of Canada. The general argued that a militia consisting of trained civilians, which could be temporarily embodied for short periods of time, was to be preferred over an expensive standing army of professionals, or an army composed of conscripts.

Ottawa’s Canadian Club was established against the backdrop of some controversy in the Canadian Club movement. The Alaska Boundary dispute had just been settled in London. To the disappointment of Allen Bristol Aylesworth (later Sir) and Sir Louis-Amable Jetté, the two Canadian members of the international tribunal, Lord Alverstone, the Lord Chief Justice of England, had sided with the three American commissioners on the determination of the boundary of the Alaskan panhandle. Believing that Canada’s legitimate rights had been set aside, Aylesworth and Jetté refused to sign the document. Regardless, the agreement became law.

Many Canadians felt unjustly treated by the British in the negotiations. To the consternation of some members of the Canadian Club of Toronto, the club’s president and certain officers reportedly discussed the possibility of Canada leaving the Empire. When Aylesworth spoke to the Canadian Club of Toronto on the negotiations after his return from London at the beginning of November 1903, the atmosphere at the luncheon was tense.

Lady Drummond, 1907, Women’s Canadian Club of Montreal, Library and Archives Canada, 3607494.

Later that month, the Empire Club of Canada was established in Toronto along similar lines as the Canadian Club but with more emphasis on the “Empire” part rather than the “Canada” part. The founders of the new club stressed, however, that they were not in opposition to the Canadian Club. As there was a long waiting list to join the Canadian Club of Toronto, another organization offering a luncheon speakers’ series was warmly received. The Globe newspaper said it was the “latest organization to advocate imperialism,” and will “advance the interests of Canada and the united Empire.”

One thing that was noted very early on was the exclusion of women from virtually all functions of the Canadian Clubs. In late1907, two Women’s Canadian Clubs were formed almost simultaneously in Montreal and Winnipeg. In December of that year, at the Montreal luncheon chaired by Lady Drummond, Lord Grey, Canada’s Governor General, set out his plans to celebrate the tercentenary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in what was to become Canada. In Winnipeg, a luncheon hosted by Mrs. W. Sanford Evans featured two speakers, the Hon. T. Mayne Daly of Winnipeg and John Kendrick Bangs of New York. Daly was a former federal cabinet minister and had been appointed police magistrate of Winnipeg in 1903. Bangs was an American author and humorist.

Here in Ottawa, a Women’s Canadian Club was organized in early 1910. Its first president was Mrs. R.G. McConnell. Madame Lamothe and Mrs. Clifford Sifton were elected vice presidents. Sir George William Ross, Premier of Ontario from 1899-1905, delivered the first address to the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club in December 1910, held in the assembly hall of the Collegiate Institute. Ross spoke on the subject “What every Canadian should know.”

Both the Canadian Club of Ottawa and the Women’s Canadian Club of Ottawa are still going strong after a century or more of service to the Ottawa community. One change from their early days, both organizations are open to all regardless of sex. The two clubs meet regularly through the year at the Château Laurier Hotel, bringing speakers of national and international note to the nation’s capital.

Sources:

Canadian Club of Ottawa, 2020. https://canadianclubottawa.ca/.

Farr, D.M.L. & Block, Nico. 2016. “Alaska Boundary Dispute,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/alaska-boundary-dispute.

Globe, 1903. “Welcome Aylesworth,” 22 October.

——-, 1903. “A Lunch and Talk Club,” 20 November.

——-, 1903. “Empire Club of Canada,” 26 November.

——-, 1903. “Retain Imperial Bond,” 4 December 1903.

Henry, Wade A, 1994. “W. Sanford Evans and the Canadian Club of Winnipeg, 1904-1919,” Manitoba Historical Society, Number 27, Spring, http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/27/evanscanadianclub.shtml.

Ottawa Citizen, 1903. “Canadian Club Formed,” 10 October.

——————, 1910. “Ladies Form A Canadian Club,” 5 December.

——————, 2017. “Over A Century Of Service,” 18 September.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1903. “Organization Of The Canadian Club,” 10 October.

——————————, 1903. “The First Canadian Club Dinner a Great Success,” 26 October.

—————————–, 1908. “History Of Canadian Club Movement Since Its Inception In 1893,” 25 January.

——————————, 1910. “The Social World,” 9 March.

——————————, 1910. “Social Affairs,” 30 November.

——————————, 1910. “Women’s Canadian Club,” 1 December.

Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club, 2020. http://ottawawomenscanadianclub.com/.

Victoria Daily Times, 1903. “The Just Rights of Canada Ignored,” 20 October.

General Tom Thumb and Countess Magri

4 October 1861

The first, global, celebrity entertainer was the dwarf General Tom Thumb, a.k.a. Charles Stratton. Born in 1838 in Bridgeport Connecticut, Stratton was discovered at age four by Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum, the future circus impresario and then owner of Barnum’s American Museum. At only twenty-five inches tall, the child, who reportedly had weighed a hefty 9 ½ pounds at birth, had not grown since he was six months old. Barnum, always on the look-out for the odd and the unusual for display in his museum, which was a mixture of a menagerie, theatre, lecture hall, and sideshow, had stumbled upon a winner. The child was quickly signed to a contract and taught to dance and sing. Little Charles put on his first performance at the American Museum at the age of five though billed as an eleven-year old.  His stage name was General Tom Thumb after the fairy tale character of the same name. Precocious and talented, Stratton was an instant hit. Barnum made a fortune as New Yorkers flooded into his museum to see General Tom Thumb.

“General Tom Thumb” dressed as a Scottish clan chieftain, c. 1861, author unknown, Wikipedia.

After wowing New York audiences, Barnum took him and his parents to London, the centre of the world in the nineteenth century. His London debut occurred in February 1844 at the Princess Theatre in London. Following a performance of the comic opera Don Pasquale, Stratton came on the stage singing Yankee Doodle Dandy. He later entertained the audience dressed as Napoleon and performed in a number of “tableaux” as Hercules, Ajax and Sampson. But the act loved best by the crowd was his performance as Cupid, complete with little wings.

His reception was not quite up to the adulation received earlier in New York. But that was soon rectified following multiple audiences with Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family, including the three-year old Prince of Wales. It seems Stratton became a hit after he pretended to fend off one of the Queen’s barking spaniels with his miniature sword. Performances throughout Britain were followed by a tour of continental Europe.

General Tom Thumb first ventured northward to Canada in 1861. It was a good time to perform outside of the United States; the U.S. Civil War had begun in April of that year. At the beginning of October, the troupe came to Ottawa, staying at Campbell’s Hotel, which would be purchased by M. Gouin two years later and renamed the Russell House Hotel.

General Tom Thumb was in town for a two-day gig at Her Majesty’s Theatre located on Wellington Street just west of Bank Street. There were two performances on each of the 4th and 5th of October 1861. Ticket prices ranged from 10 cents for children under ten to 25 cents. Reserved seats were 25 cents each. School groups were admitted “on liberal terms.” Along side General Tom Thumb were the English comic actor and baritone, Mr. W. Tomlin, the American tenor, Mr. W. DeVere, and the pianist Mr. P.S. Caswell. On display at the theatre were the gifts Stratton had received from royalty during his European tours. Interestingly, the advertisement in the Ottawa Daily Citizen warned people to beware of a General Tom Thumb impersonator who worked for Robinson & Company’s circus.

Advertisement that appeared in the Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1 October 1861.

The spectacle began before the actual theatre performance, with General Tom Thumb driven from Campbell’s Hotel to HM Theatre in a miniature carriage drawn by “Lilliputian” horses. He was also “attended by Elfin coachmen and footmen.” The reporter who covered the event for the Ottawa Daily Citizen described Thumb as multo in parvo—a great deal in a small space. He opined that Stratton had “fully carried out the universal reputation he has acquired.” He praised the performers acting, singing and dancing abilities, and specifically singled out Stratton’s self-possession as an actor and a readiness of wit. He also had “perfect manners and form.”

There still appeared, however, to be some doubt in the reporter’s mind of whether he had watched a performance of the genuine General Tom Thumb. He added that “there was every reason to believe that this one is the ‘original’ Tom Thumb, but whether or not, both he and his ‘aides’ perform a perfect array of rational and attractive entertainment.”

General Tom Thumb returned to Ottawa three more times, in 1864, 1876 and lastly in 1883. On all three occasions he was accompanied by his wife Lavinia who he had married in 1863. The 1864 performance included members of their wedding party—Commodore Nutt, also referred to as the $30,000 Nutt in reference to the value of his three-year contract with P.T. Barnum, and Lavinia’s sister, Minnie Warren. The notice for their show advertised that the “four smallest human beings of mature age” weighed a collective 100 pounds. For part of their 1864 performance, General and Mrs. Thumb wore their wedding costumes. The couple danced and sang. General Thumb also dressed up as Napoleon and a Scottish clan chieftain.  Commodore Nutt appeared as a drummer and a sailor with a hornpipe. As with Thumb’s 1861 shows, on exhibit at the HM Theatre were the jewels and other gifts that he had received on his European tours.

The Fairy Wedding, Souvenir Photograph, 1863, Commodore Nutt, General Tom Thumb, Mrs. Tom Thumb, and Minnie Warren (left to right). By this point, the General has already grown a bit. Author Mathew Brady, Wikipedia

In 1876, General and Mrs. Tom Thumb performed over two days at Gowan’s Opera House. Their act was much the same as that of their previous trip to Ottawa, but this time they were supported by Major Edward Newell, another dwarf under contract with Barnum. Newell was the husband of Minnie Warren, Mrs. Tom Thumb’s sister. Minnie was sadly to die in childbirth two years later.

General and Mrs. Tom Thumb’s 1883 Ottawa performances took place in May of that year, with shows at the Grand Opera House. By this point, the General had actually grown to a still tiny 2 feet 11 inches. He had also grown stouter. The Ottawa Daily Citizen commented that both he and Lavinia were “getting on in years.” Still, the General’s act was described as very amusing. Mrs. Stratton was described as “as charming as ever.” Along with the General and his wife, other members of their troupe included dancers, a ventriloquist and a lady whose odd act consisted of “highly educated, trained canaries.” What these canaries did was unfortunately not reported.

This was to be the general’s last trip to Canada’s capital, and indeed virtually anywhere. He died two months later of apoplexy (most likely, a stroke) at his country home in Middleborough, Massachusetts. He died a prosperous man, leaving his wife a substantial home and a motor yacht. His estate after expenses was valued at $16,000.

His widow, Lavinia, continued in show business. In 1885, she married “Count” Primo Magri, another dwarf who was actually shorter than General Tom Thumb. The newly-weds went on tour together, along with Magri’s supposed brother, “Baron” Magri. Like all things in show business, especially anything connected to P.T. Barnum, truth and fiction were blurred. The titles of nobility were likely fake.

Count Magri, Countess Magri, and Baron Magri, c. 1885, Swords Brothers, Wikipedia

The Count and Countess Magri made two trips to Ottawa, the first in 1887 and the second in 1896. Both were successes. In the first production, the Count and Countess arrived at the theatre in a tiny carriage pulled by two ponies. The pair sang duets, while the Count and his brother Baron Magri duelled and entertained the audiences with comic sketches. They were accompanied by a magician who put on conjuring and ventriloquist act. Much the same act was repeated in 1896. This time, however, Lavinia, Countess Magri, also gave a lecture on her forty years of travelling. The Citizen journalist reported that the lecture was very interesting and pleasing, and that the Countess had “a wonderful talent as a speaker.”

Countess Magri, a.k.a Mrs. Tom Thumb, a.k.a. Lavinia Stratton, died in 1919.

The life of Charles Stratton clearly has an ugly side. Put on public display at a very tender age, he was exploited by P.T. Barnum. His career was also based on his dwarfism. There was also an element that was almost perverse. In 1879, it was estimated that one million women had kissed him.

However, his life also had many positives. At a time when “freak shows” were popular, General Tom Thumb was always portrayed sympathetically, as was subsequently his wife. He might have been small, but he was a genuine showman and entertainer. Stratton also became a wealthy man, and had a standard of living that relatively few could aspire to during the nineteenth century. When Barnum experienced financial difficulty, Stratton came to his rescue, and became his partner. In the end, it’s not clear who was exploiting whom.

General Tom Thumb was buried in Mount Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His wife, Lavinia, chose to be buried at his side. P.T. Barnum, who died in 1891, is buried just a few yards away.

For a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of General Tom Thumb, see the two-episode BBC documentary “The Real Tom Thumb, History’s Smallest Superstar” to be found on Curiosity Stream.

Sources:

BBC, 2014. “The Real Tom Thumb, History’s Smallest Superstar.”

Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1861. “General Tom Thumb,” 1 October.

————————-, 1861. “General Tom Thumb,” 8 October.

————————-, 1864. “Her Majesty’s Theatre,” 17 May.

————————-, 1879. “Kissing,” 13 May.

————————-, 1883. “Opera House,” 9 May.

————————-, 1883. “Grand Opera House, 15 May.

————————-, 1883. “Death of General Tom Thumb,” 16 July.

————————-, 1884. “U.S. Doings,” 11 November.

————————-, 1885. “American Dashes,” 7 April.

————————-, 1887. “Roller Rink Opera House,” 30 September.

————————-, 1887. “Amusements,” 4 October.

————————-, 1896. “Mrs. General Tom Thumb,” 20 October.

————————-, 1896. “Music Hall,” 24 October.

Shirley Temple and the 7th Victory Bond Campaign

21 October 1944

Canada was in its fifth year of war and Canadians could finally see light at the end of that long, black tunnel. In June 1944, Allied forces had landed on the beaches of Normandy and had successfully breached the Nazi defences of Festung Europa. By October, American forces were fighting on German territory around the Rhineland city of Aachen. The liberation of the Netherlands was underway by the 1st Canadian Army and other Allied units. In the east, Soviet forces had occupied Romania and Bulgaria and were on the outskirts of Warsaw (where they temporarily stopped, waiting for the Nazis to put down the Warsaw Uprising led by the Polish underground Home Army). While Hitler’s so-called thousand-year Reich was in its death throes, there was still much fighting and misery to endure.

Shirley Temple and 7th Victory loan

Certificate that could be framed and hung in a business that met their Victory bond sales objective, November 1944

In late September 1944, Finance Minister Ilsley announced Canada would raise a minimum of $1.3 billion in the Seventh Victory Bond—$700 million from large corporate investors, and $600 million from individuals. This was an increase of $100 million from the minimum set for the Sixth Victory Bond campaign earlier that year. (The Sixth campaign actually raised slightly over $1.4 billion.) The interest rate was 3 per cent on the long-term bonds, maturing in 1962. There was also a series of shorter term bonds issued at 1.75 per cent with a maturity of 4 years. The slogan for the Seventh Victory Bond was Invest in Victory. Its logo was the flaming sword patch of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, in France.

The Victory Bond programme had begun in 1941, following two “Victory Loans” in 1939 and 1940, respectively, which netted the government roughly $550 million. Small investors could also buy War Savings Certificates on the payroll plan. The Victory loans, bonds and certificates were used to finance the war effort and to soak up the cash that was going into the pockets of Canadians. Despite price controls and high wartime taxes, there was a justifiable fear that with the economy operating flat out, inflationary pressures would rise unless Canadians saved.

Following their introduction in 1941, Victory Bonds were sold every six months with as much hoopla and razzmatazz as possible to generate interest. Sales teams were organized in communities across the country with objectives for general and payroll sales. To help raise their profile, Hollywood stars were also enlisted through the Hollywood Victory Committee. Film stars such as Spencer Tracy, Charles Boyer, Walter Pidgeon and Joan Fontaine made appearances in Canadian cities to help boost bond sales in between movie shoots. Percy Faith, the Toronto-born but U.S. based conductor, handled the music for Victory Bond campaigns.

Shirley T and surrender

Advertising poster for the 7th Victory Bonds Campaign, October 1944

On announcing the terms for the Seventh Victory Loan in late September 1944, Finance Minister Ilsley said that the government’s increased borrowing needs reflected “the intense activity on all battlefronts.” Graham Towers, Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of the National War Finance Committee, explained that in earlier years, just the navy and air force had been fully engaged. Now, all of Canada’s armed forces had been committed “to the struggle at sea, on land and in the air.” As well, war supplies were being used up faster than expected. “The tremendous operations which have begun so successfully on the continent of Europe must not be limited, nor men be sacrificed, for lack of firepower, equipment, or other supplies.”  Concerns about inflation were also strong. “Canadians have been told, over and over again, that all-out war production is possible only if they give maximum support to Victory Loans. And, this is very true. Without this support we would be in the grip of inflation” leading to “despair, discontent and social turmoil sweeping the land.” He warned that even after the war, inflation will remain a concern as soldiers are demobilized and industry is converted to peacetime operations.

To help launch the 7th Victory Bond campaign came Shirley Temple to Ottawa, accompanied by her parents, Gertrude and George Temple. Shirley, born in 1928, had been a child film star from the age of four when she appeared in Baby Burlesks in 1932. She hit the big time two years later when she starred in the film Bright Eyes, the story of a bachelor aviator (James Dunn) and his relationship with his orphaned goddaughter (Shirley Temple). The film was specially made to showcase her talents. Her musical number On the Good Ship Lollipop became hugely popular. In 1935, she won a special Juvenile Academy Award for her contributions to cinema. Also that year, in The Little Colonel, Temple performs the staircase dance with the legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in the first inter-racial dance number. Little Shirley Temple’s dimples and smiles were the needed tonic for a Depression-weary nation. She became the top box-office draw in North America for four years in a row.

By 1944, Shirley Temple was no longer the ringleted little girl of her early movies. She was now 16, and was making the transition from a child actor to an adult performer. On contract with producer David O. Selznick, Temple wasn’t allowed to sing or dance in order to provide some distance from her earlier screen persona. In July 1944, the movie Since You Went Away was released by Selznick International Pictures. A war-time drama set on the U.S. home front, Temple plays the adolescent daughter of a mid-western housewife (Claudette Colbert). Jennifer Jones plays Temple’s older sister. The movie garnered eight Academy award nominations and won one for best music at the 1945 Academy Awards.

Shirley T with PM LAC C-029451

Shirley Temple with Prime Minister Mackenzie King, 21 October 1944, in front of the Parliament Buildings, Library and Archives Canada

Temple arrived in Ottawa from California after stops in Toronto and Montreal to boost sales of Victory Bonds in those two cities. There, she was accompanied by an up-and-coming Canadian actor, Alexander Knox, who had made a name for himself in the Darryl F. Zanuck movie Wilson. Knox played the lead role of Woodrow Wilson in the docudrama. The movie went on to win five Oscars in the 1945 Academy Awards. In Montreal, Temple showed off her linguistic abilities by being interviewed in French.

Shortly after her arrival in Ottawa, two enterprising boys managed to get Shirley Temple’s autograph. After being stopped by Mounties from approaching her when she was at Union Station, the two darted down the tunnel to the Château Laurier Hotel. Although challenged by a porter, they managed to sweettalk their way onto an elevator. After knocking on the door of the Temple family’s suite, they talked to her father, George Temple, who introduced them to his daughter.  After a couple of frantic moments trying to find a pen with ink, the two boys obtained her autograph.

Shirley Temple movie 21-10-44 OC

Shirley Temple’s latest movie, Since You Went Away, opened at the Elgin Theatre on 23 October 1944, two days after she opened the 7th Victory Bond Campaign, Ottawa Citizen 21 October 1944.

The official launch day for the Seventh Victory Bond campaign was 21 October 1944, a chilly, overcast Saturday in Ottawa; sales of the bonds had already commenced among Canada’s servicepeople. The highly choreographed event started at 12.15pm when Shirley Temple, wearing a full-length mink coat, came out of the door of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Mayor Stanley Lewis, members of King’s Cabinet, and Graham Towers. Prior to stepping outside, Temple and Mayor Lewis had exchanged “short snorters” with each other—dollar bills with their autographs on them. She had also bantered with the Prime Minister, asking him if he had memorized his speech.

The film star and government dignitaries were greeted by a roar of thousands of spectators standing on the greensward in front of a dais set up at the base of the Peace Tower. Shirley Temple’s name was chanted and spelled out by students from five Ottawa high schools—Lisgar, Glebe, Commerce, St Patrick, and Ottawa Tech., who were assembled in roped-off areas. Each school held up a placard with its name on it. Cheerleaders jumped and cavorted, exhorting their compatriots to shout their school yells. The students were there to greet both Temple and five servicemen, one from each school, who had returned home from the battlefields abroad. Also on the dais were nine returning servicemen, one from each of Canada’s provinces.

After the programme of the afternoon’s activities had been announced, the first of the local returning servicemen was introduced—Private Bert Draper of the High School of Commerce. He was followed by Pilot Officer Peter Pennefather of St. Patrick’s and F.O. Don Cheney of Glebe Collegiate. Cheney had flown over Germany eleven times, had bailed out over enemy territory and had somehow made his way back to Britain. F.O. Lorne Frame followed. He joined in the Tech.’s school cheer. The last returnee, Lisgar’s F.O. Garn Wright was introduced over national CBC radio.

A number of short speeches followed with Prime Minister King underscoring the great financial challenges still ahead of the Canadian people. He also paid tribute to the returning servicemen and those who have long awaited their return. Finance Minister Ilsley commented that the “repats” “had experienced the grimness of war first hand” and “would be the first to warn Canadians against any idea the war would end soon.” Mayor Lewis followed saying: “We who waited and watched in safety must accept the responsibility that was placed on us to shorten the war and support the men who fight for us.” Justice Minister Louis St. Laurent provided similar sentiments in French.

Shirley T. HMS Myrmidon by Mrs CD Howe Harry Rowed National Film Board of Canada LAC

Launch of HMS Myrmidon by Mrs. C.D. Howe. The 1,000th ship built in Canada since the beginning of the war, 21 October 1944, Harry Rowed, National Film Board, Library and Archives Canada.

Then came the climax of the day’s events—the launching of nine ships from shipyards at ports across the country. The nine servicemen from each province were placed in front of a bank of microphones, where each in turn spoke over the air to a loved one—a mother, sister or sweetheart—in one of Canada’s ports. After some personal banter, the servicemen in turn gave the signal to their loved one to launch a ship. After each launch, the bells on the Peace Tower rang out.

In all, four cargo ships, a transport ferry, a maintenance ship, an ocean-going tug and two Algerine minesweepers were christened and released into the waters of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. The ninth ship, one of the minesweepers, was the 1,000th ship constructed in Canada since the start of the war. It was launched into Toronto Harbour by Mrs C. D. Howe, the wife of the Canadian Munitions Minister, on the instruction of her son Lieutenant William Howe of the Royal Canadian Navy.

At the end of the elaborate ceremony, Shirley Temple’s car was mobbed by well wishers, both young and old, as it made its way slowly down the east drive on Parliament Hill towards the Château Laurier Hotel.

The Seventh Victory Bond campaign was a great success, raising $1.52 billion. There were two more Victory Bond campaigns to go, with the Ninth taking place in November 1945 after the end of the war. In total, the nine issues of Victory Bonds raised $12 billion. In 1946, the Victory Bonds were replaced by Canada Savings Bonds which remained a popular investment vehicle for small investors well into the 21st century. Sales of Canada Savings Bonds were discontinued in November 2017.

Shirley Temple made a second, successful wartime movie for David O. Selznick, called I’ll Be Seeing You released in late 1944. However, her later films fell flat. She married John Agar in 1945 at only 17 years of age. The marriage didn’t last, the couple divorcing in 1950. Temple married Charles Black that same year. On her marriage day, she announced that she was retiring from film. She was only 22 years old. This did not mean the end of Shirley Temple, however. She appeared on a number of television shows during the 1950s and 1960s. Active in the Republican Party, for which she unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1967, she became a career diplomat. President Nixon appointed her as a delegate to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations in 1967. She subsequently served as the US Ambassador to Ghana, Chief of Protocol in Washington D.C., and US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, her time as ambassador coinciding with the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989. She died in 2014 at the age of 85.

 

Sources:

Fullerton, Douglas H. 1986. Graham Towers And His Times, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

Globe and Mail, 1944 “Nine Launchings Open Victory Loan Campaign,” 23 October.

Montreal Gazette, 1944. “Temple, Knox On Air Here,” 16 October.

Ottawa Citizen, 1944. “Ottawa Students and Shirley Temple Open 7th Loan Drive At Hill Ceremony,” 23 October.

——————, 1944. “Boys Get Autograph of Shirley Temple,” 23 October.

Ottawa Journal, 1944. “Students Introducing Repats To Shirley Temple,” 20 October.

——————, 1944. “Shirley Temple In Person,” 21 October.

Windsor Daily Star, 1944. “Towers Shows Need For Success Of Seventh Victory Loan,” 17 October.

———————–, 1944.  “Loan Started With Colorful Ceremonies,” 23 October.

 

 

 

Ottawa’s Champion Hose Reel Team

2 October 1880

The crowds had started to gather at the train station hours ahead of the arrival of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway train from Prescott, anxious to get a glimpse of their “boys.” On board was the Chaudière No. 1 Hose Reel team, the newly crowned “Champions of America” who were returning from an international meet held in the small town of Malone in upstate New York.

Arriving at 6.30 pm, the team was met by an official welcoming committee that included Fire Chief William Young, head of the Ottawa Fire Brigade. At that time, the Brigade consisted of eighteen professional fire fighters located in five stations, each equipped with a two-wheeled hose reels that could be pulled by one horse, or manually if necessary. Also present were Aldermen Lauzon, Coleman and Heney. Outside of the train station, a hook and ladder truck along with No. 1, 2 and 3 hose reels were drawn up in preparation for the parade through the streets of Ottawa. After the customary greetings, a procession formed up, starting with the team’s reel which was decorated with flags and bore a banner strung between two brooms with the word “Champion” written on it. The time being long past sunset, the parade was lit by torches. On their route to the City Hall on Elgin Street, the “boys” were cheered by crowds of Ottawa residents and supporters.

ottawa fire department
Hose Reel being drawn by horse outside of Ottawa’s No.1 Fire Station, undated, Topley Studio, Library and Archives Canada, PA-013103.

At City Hall, in the absence of the Mayor, Alderman Lauzon welcomed back the champion hose real team of America. He said that after the team’s earlier defeats at Canton and Potsdam, New York, the victory showed what perseverance can accomplish. The victory was being “hailed with pleasure throughout the Dominion.”  Alderman Coleman remarked that the win “added another to the long list of trophies won by Ottawa representatives.” Somewhat more tangibly, Alderman Heney promised that as soon as the City was in better financial shape, the fire brigade would get a pay raise.

Hose reel racing was a very popular activity during the late nineteenth century, with competitions organized among fire departments across North America.  Agricultural shows often hosted hose reel races, offering significant prize purses to attract the best teams. With serious money to be had, team members were often professionals selected for their speed or brawn to represent a particular fire hall rather than true fire fighters. Betting on these races was fierce.

In a typical hose reel race, a team of up to 18 men competed to draw a 450-pound reel cart carrying 350 feet of hose yards to a fire hydrant. They would then attach and lay 300 feet of hose, break the couplings and screw on a nozzle. Typically, a total of 400 yards would be run from start to finish. The races were timed. A good team could complete the course in a minute or less. Sometimes, two or more teams would race side by side. In early competitions, a team would push the hose reel cart along the track by hand. In later events, the men were tied to the carts, allowing them to put their entire bodies into the push, leaving their arms free. This was a dangerous sport. If a team member couldn’t keep up, he risked falling and being trampled by his team mates or run over by the hose reel cart. Serious injury could result.

Ottawa Hose Reel team 1880
The Chaudière Hose Reel Team, Champions of America, 1880, Topley Studio. Back Row: Cyrille Crappin, W. Cousens, Peter Duffy, “Boston” Ed O’Brien, W. McCullough; Middle Row: Andy Lascelles, Sam Cassidy, Chief William Young, Johnnie Shea; Front Row: J. Newton, Johnnie Raine, and Bob Raine. Missing: W. Grand, B. Leggo, W. Palen, and F. McKnight. Ottawa Citizen, 25 February 1925.

The Chaudière Hose Reel team was formed in LeBreton Flats in 1880. There were in fact at least two hose real teams in Ottawa at this time. At the Fourth Annual Fireman’s Picnic held in early August of that year, the Chaudière Hose Reel team faced the Union Company Hose Real Team which was captained by Cyrille Crappin, a legitimate fire fighter, who belonged to the “Queen Company” stationed at the Nicholas Street Station. At the Fireman’s picnic, organizers had expected that hose real teams from Prescott and Ogdensburg to compete in the same event. But at the last moment, both teams pulled out leaving only the two Ottawa teams in competition. The Chaudière team won the $75 first prize, with the Union team taking home the $30 second prize. Divided among the participants the prizes didn’t amount to much, though it was nice pocket money. This was about to change.

After that early August competition, Crappin joined the Chaudière team. Already a fast team with all its members noted runners—Peter Duffy reportedly ran the 100-yard dash in 9 4/5 seconds—the addition of Crappin took the Chaudières to a new level. He had competed in a number of professional foot races over the previous several years, invariably winning. Most famously, he had defeated a field of a dozen competitors from Montreal, Toronto and the Mohawk First Nation of Caughnawaga in a four-day racing event. Race participants ran continuously for four hours for four consecutive days. Whoever ran the furthest won the competition. The race took place in Powell’s Grove on Bank Street, opposite the Muchmor race track. The hotel located in the Grove sponsored the race. Crappin emerged the victor, having run 119 miles.

With the extra speed and endurance brought by Crappin, the Chaudière Hose Reel team was ready to take on all challengers. Chief Young of the Ottawa Fire Brigade said that he had “from $100 to $1,000 that says that Ottawa can produce a hose reel team…that can beat, and make better time than any hose reel team belonging to any part of the Dominion of Canada.” In September 1880, representatives of the St. Lawrence County Agricultural Society of Canton, New York, who had heard of the Chaudières’ prowess, came to Ottawa to invite the team to compete in Canton’s upcoming hose reel meet. The purse was US$250—a considerable sum of money in those days, equivalent to over US$6,000 today.  The Chaudières came in second at the Canton competition behind the Relief Company of Plattsburgh, New York. A few days later, at another meet in Potsdam, New York, the same thing occurred—the Chaudières fell short against the first-place Relief squad. According to hose reel race aficionados, while the team had the necessary speed to win, it lacked an expert coupler. This deficiency was filled by Johnnie Shea who became the new captain of the Chaudière Hose Reel team. Shea hailed from Burlington, Vermont where he had been the coupler for the renowned Barnes Hose Reel team. At Postdam, he asked if he could join the Chaudière team.

After their return to Ottawa with Shea, the Chaudière Hose Reel team practiced on Parliament Hill in front of a large crowd of onlookers and fans to prepare themselves for their next competition to be held in Malone, New York. This time, the purse totalled $450, of which $225 went to the winning team. The Ottawa team arrived two days ahead of the competition which was held on Friday, 1 October on the track of the Franklin County Agricultural Society. They had to borrow all their equipment—the reel from the Blake Hose Company of Swanton, NY, couplings from Chief Engineer Drew of Burlington, Vermont, and the hose from the Blake Hose Company and the Frontier Hose Company of St. Albans, Vermont.

The Ottawa team was met at the Malone train station by the Chief Engineer of the Malone Fire Department and members of the Active Hose Company of Malone. Owing to their late arrival, all the restaurants in the town were closed. Fortunately, the foreman of the Active Hose Company supplied an excellent meal to the hungry Chaudière team who stayed at Hogle House hotel. Owing to rain the next day, the team practiced indoors in a rink. Prior to their arrival, betting had strongly favoured the Relief team. However, once it was known who was on the Chaudière team, the odds shifted heavily in favour of the Ottawa team.

At 10 am Friday morning, six hose reel teams formed up in order of their turn to race—Chaudière Company No.1 of Ottawa, Blake Hose Company of Swanton, NY, the Relief Company No. 2 of Plattsburgh, NY, Washington No. 1 of St. Albans, Vermont, Chamberlin No. 1 of Canton, NY, and the Frontier No.2 of St. Albans, Vermont. The Chaudières and Reliefs came in first tied at 59¼ seconds, necessitating a tie-breaking run. The Ottawa team offered to run the tie-off as a direct race against the Relief squad instead of against the clock. But the Plattsburgh team declined. Betting odds were 2 to 1 on the Ottawa team.

There was considerable excitement among the 8,000 spectators as they waited for the drop of the umpire’s flag. As the Chaudières raced to the finish line, disaster almost happened. A boy who had been running alongside the Ottawa team was apparently pushed “violently” by one of the Relief’s team members into the way of the Ottawa team nearly tripping one of the members. The Ottawa Citizen reported that “fortunately this despicable action did not accomplish what was evidently intended.” Instead,  at the finish line, “Shea caught the coupling as it came over the reel…and broke it in a twinkling, with a team member quickly screwing the pipe on “in a masterly and satisfactory manner.” Their time was a phenomenal 58 seconds, easily out classing the Relief Company team who ran next. To great cheers, the Ottawa team drew their reel through the streets of Malone to their hotel. It was reported that the team “carried brooms to show that they had swept the day and also a rake to show the had racked in the cash.”

After their victorious return to Ottawa. Mr. Topley of Topley Studios took the team’s picture in their “full running costume.” Topley had planned to take the picture outside on Parliament Hill, the site of the practice runs. However, inclement weather forced him to take the photograph inside.

The Chaudière Hose Reel team competed the following year in Malone, and won their second American championship, again against the Relief Company of Plattsburgh, NY, taking home the $225 first prize. As a follow-up, the team was slated to race side-by-side with the Wentworth Hose Reel Team of Malone for a $100 prize. Controversially, the Malone team refused to race unless the course was shortened from 400 yards to 300 yards, citing an implicit agreement. The judges ruled against Malone. With the Wentworth Hose Reel team still refusing to run, the $100 was awarded to the Chaudière team. Subsequently, the Franklin Gazette, the Malone newspaper, reported that the Wentworth team was disbanded for their unsporting behaviour.

The success of the Chaudière Hose Reel team may have gone to members’ heads. The Montreal Gazette reported that the team was not willing to compete in any tournament where first prize money was less than $500. By 1882, the Chaudière Hose Reel team appears to have disbanded. In August of that year, Cyrille Crappin, the running star who had helped to bring victory to the Chaudière team in 1880 and 1881, was once again part of the Union Hose Reel Team that was competing in a race for a prize of only $50. There was no mention of the great coupler, Johnnie Shea.

Sources:

Franklin Gazette (Malone), as reprinted in The Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1881“Hose Reel Racing,” 8 October.

Malone Palladium, as re-printed in The Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1880. “Hose Reel Contests,” 9 October.

Montreal Gazette (The), 1880. “Dominion News, From Ottawa, 3 August.

—————————-, 1880. “Dominion News, From Ottawa,” 24 September.

—————————-, 1880. “Dominion News, From Ottawa,” 28 September.

—————————-, 1881. “Dominion News, From Ottawa,” 16 August.

Ottawa Daily Citizen (The), 1880. “The Firemen’s Picnic,” 6 August.

———————————, 1880. “A Champion Fire Brigade,” 13 August.

———————————, 1880.  “The Chaudiere Hose Reel Team,” 28 September.

———————————, 1880. “Return of the Victors,” 4 October.

———————————, 1880. “Photographed,” 5 October.

———————————, 1881. “Hose Reel Competition,” 28 September.

———————————, 1925. “These Were Champions of Champions,” 28 February.

———————————, 1925. “Cyrille Crappin Brought Home The Bacon; Wonderful Distance Runner Of Seventies; Won a Great Victory in Sixteen Hour Race,” 28 February.

———————————, 1925. “Great Pete Duffy In Action,” 25 April.