Tennis Comes to Ottawa

13 June 1876

Tennis has a long pedigree, dating back to the Middle Ages, with its roots in a ball game called jeu de paume, played indoors using the bare or gloved hand. By the 1500s, racquets had been introduced, and the game became popular in the courts of England, France and Scotland. King Henry VIII was a fan of the sport, playing at his favourite palace of Hampton Court. It was also at about this time that the sport became known as “tennis.” However, the game was far different from the modern sport. Among other things, players could bounce the ball off walls. This version of tennis is today known as “real tennis” or “royal tennis,” and continues to be played by a small number of devotees.

The Indoor Tennis Court at Rideau Hall acting as a supper room, 1876. The decorated room was used for both the February 1876 Fancy Dress Ball as well as for the March 1876 theatrical performances. Topley Studio, LAC 3325566.

Modern tennis, sometimes referred to as lawn tennis, became popular during the early 1870s in Britain. It quickly crossed the Atlantic to the United States and Canada. The Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, which is still going strong, was established in 1876. Here in Ottawa, the earliest mention of tennis being played in the capital also dates back to 1876 when Governor General Lord Dufferin had an indoor court built at Rideau Hall.

The court was also used for special events. In late February, 1876, the newly-built court was decorated for diners attending a Fancy Dress Ball. For the event, which was the social highlight of that winter, the upper part of the court was festooned with rose and white bunting. Along its sides were placed twelve large shields on banners, including those of the United Kingdom, the Royal Arms, the Dominion Arms, the Arms of Canada, and the Arms of each Province. Each was surmounted by a Royal Crown. The Arms of Blackwood, Hamilton and Temple, which were the quarterings of the Governor General, were surmounted by an earl’s coronet. A week later, the court, still so decorated, was again used as a supper room for guests who attended an evening of theatrical performances that starred none other than Lady Dufferin herself, as well as her brother Lord Hamilton.

Besides the Governor General’s family, it’s not clear who initially used the tennis court. Most likely, friends played there too as Lord Dufferin appeared willing to allow others to use the facilities. On 13 June 1876, his secretary, E.G.P. Littleton, sent a letter on behalf of Lord Dufferin to E.A. Meredith, the Chairman of the Civil Service Board, making the court available to the gentlemen of the Civil Service while the Governor General was in residence at La Citadelle in Quebec City. He wrote that Lord Dufferin was “desirous of giving every facility to the members of the Civil Service to make use of the Tennis Court at Government House during his absence.”

While the Governor General’s primary wish was “to provide a healthy recreation during the summer” to members of the Civil Service, he did not want to preclude men who were not members of the Civic Service from becoming members. He also instructed that a committee be formed to make the necessary arrangements regarding such things as the hours of play and the supply of balls. The latter must have been a major issue before such companies as Slazenger, Dunlop or Wilson began mass producing tennis balls. They were probably handmade as are balls used today in “real tennis.”

Out of this “generous act,” as described by the Ottawa Daily Citizen, the Vice-Regal Tennis Club was born. A few weeks later, the Club was opened to gentlemen who were not members of the Civil Service.

It’s not clear how long the Vice-Regal Tennis Club was active; references to it quickly disappear from the columns of the Ottawa Daily Citizen. It’s possible it only operated that one summer, or only when the Dufferins were in residence in Quebec City.

Prior to their departure from Ottawa in 1878 at the end of Lord Dufferin’s posting to Canada as Governor General, a children’s bazaar was held in the tennis court for the benefit of the children of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New Edinburgh where the Dufferin family worshipped. Among the items sold was a watercolour painted by Lord Dufferin and a “handsome cushion” worked by Lady Dufferin.

If the departure of the Dufferins meant the end of tennis in the capital, the drought did not last long. In November 1879, the Ottawa Racquet Club was established to provide “a much desired and long wanted means of winter recreation.” Lord Dufferin’s successor, the Marquess of Lorne, became the patron of the new club. The Marquess of Lorne, later known as the Duke of Argyle, was married to Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Francis Clemow was the president of the new club. There were 45 founding members. In addition to tennis, members could play handball and racquets in the indoor court located at the corner of Gloucester and Metcalfe Streets. A ladies’ morning was set aside for women tennis players.

In early 1881, a ladies’ tennis tournament was held over a period of several days at the Racquet Club. Thirteen women from as far away as Montreal, Toronto, Quebec City and Halifax participated. Lord Lorne donated the prizes. There were two viewing galleries for the event. Club members and ladies were admitted free to watch the games, while non-member men paid 25 cents.

Court conditions must have been challenging as there was no heating and it was mid-winter. Not only was the lighting undependable, it was reported that the cold was so intense one day that the balls were “too dead to encourage long rallies.” How participants dressed was not reported.

First prize in the competition, “a pretty silver looking-glass,” went to Lily Fleming. In second place was Ethel Schreiber, winner of a “tasteful ink stand.” The third-place winner was one of two Almon sisters of Halifax. Miss Almon, her first name was not reported, won a silver bracelet adorned with a silver racquet.

The popularity of the matches led the Ottawa Daily Citizen to hope that this “really excellent game will gain popularity and become both on the lawns and various courts of Canada a national amusement.” The newspaper went on to say that the sport promoted healthful exercise and should be encouraged. It added that the fact that women could readily play gave the sport an advantage over other pastimes.

The Club House and members of the Ottawa Lawn Tennis Club at Cartier Square, circa 1890, Courtesy of the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club

The Citizen was spot on. Later that same year, on 24 October 1881, the establishment of the Ottawa Lawn Tennis Club (OLTC) under the patronage of Lord Lorne and Princess Louise took tennis in the capital to a new level. There were thirty-five founding members. Women were allowed to hold associate memberships, but were restricted in terms of when they were allowed to play. The Club’s first grass court was located at the corner of Elgin and Cooper Streets.

A ladies’ tournament was held in March 1883 under the auspices of the OLTC at the Drill Hall on Elgin Street. There were four indoor courts. Although the tournament was governed by the 1883 rules of the All England Lawn Tennis Association, play off of the walls was permitted similar to “real tennis.” As with the earlier tournament at the Racquet Club, Lord Lorne provided the prizes. Lily Fleming again took first prize—a “handsome broach” consisting of golden crossed racquets with a tennis ball hanging from a chain in the centre.

In 1888, the OLTC moved to a new clubhouse and grounds close to the Drill Hall at Cartier Square, a location it occupied until 1902. After two more moves, first to Patterson Avenue from 1903 to 1906, and then to 3rd Avenue in the Glebe, the Club, now called the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club, found a permanent home in 1922 on Cameron Avenue on the banks of the Rideau River where it remains today.

Tennis Group, May 1884, Marquess of Lorne and Princess Louise are seated to the centre right of the picture, Library and Archives, Canada.

By the 1920s, tennis was thriving in Ottawa with as many as 29 clubs in the Ottawa District Lawn Tennis League. However, there was a cloud over Ottawa’s tennis community. Club membership was via invitation, and members of Ottawa’s Jewish community were not welcome. These were the days of rampant anti-Semitism in Canada which, while often unspoken, was very present with bars on access to universities and clubs, including Ottawa’s prestigious Rideau Club.

The Tent Room, formerly the indoor tennis court, at Rideau Hall, Government of Canada

In a fascinating article that appeared in the Globe and Mail, Barry Padolsky recounts the history of the Tel Aviv Tennis Club (TATC), established in 1936 to give a venue to Jewish tennis players. That year, the TATC, supported by a group of prominent members of Ottawa’s Jewish community, purchased the financially troubled Riverdale Tennis Club on Russell Road (now North River Road). After the war, with the elimination of discrimination in Ottawa clubs, the fortunes of the TATC declined. In 1958, the Federal District Commission, the forerunner of the National Capital Commission, expropriated the Club’s land to make way for a park, consistent with the recommendations of the Greber Report to beautify Ottawa. There is no monument to the existence of the historic Tel Aviv Tennis Club except in the memories of Ottawa’s Jewish community.

Today, thousands of Ottawa residents, young and old, play tennis in clubs as well as on neighbourhood courts run by community members. The former indoor tennis court at Rideau Hall, now called the Tent Room, continues to be used for special events.

Sources:

Governor General of Canada, 2022. “The Tent Room.”

Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1876. “Rideau Hall,” 30 March 1876.

————————–, 1876. “A Gracious Act,” 15 June.

————————–, 1879. “The Ottawa Racquet Club,” 27 November.

————————–, 1881. “Ottawa Racquet Club,” 31 January.

————————–, 1881. “Ottawa Racket Court,” 11 February.

————————–, 1881. “The Tennis Tournament,” 12 February.

————————–, 1881. “The Tennis Tournament,” 14 February.

————————–, 1883. “Lawn Tennis,” 9 March.

————————–, 1887. “The Lawn Tennis Club, 11 May.

Ottawa Tennis & Lawn Bowling Club, 2022. “Your Cottage in the City.”

Padolsky, Barry, 2020. “The short, wonderous life of Ottawa’s Tel Aviv Tennis Club,” Globe and Mail, 7 August 2020.

Pretty, Greg and Jackson, John L. 2015. “Tennis,” Canadian Encyclopedia.

Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, 2022. Toronto Lawn Tennis Club.

The Marian Congress

18 June 1947

The Most Rev. Alexandre Vachon, the Archbishop of Ottawa, did not think small. With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the diocese of Bytown (Ottawa) in 1847 by Bishop Joseph-Bruno Guigues, he wanted to celebrate the centenary in style. He also wanted the occasion to serve as a national, indeed international, opportunity to pray for lasting world peace. While World War II was over, global tensions were once again on the rise with the Cold War between the western Allies and the Soviet Union. The advent of atomic weapons and the ability of humankind to obliterate the world lent an additional degree of urgency to the plea for peace.

Archbishop Vachon with a model of the Repository constructed at Lansdowne Park for the Marian Congress. The Repository was torn down immediately after the Congress ended, Ottawa Citizen, 17 June 1947.

Devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, the archbishop also wanted the ceremonies to be directed especially to the Blessed Virgin, asking her to intercede with God for the achievement of world peace and justice. With this in mind, Vachon travelled to Rome to get the support of Pope Pius XII. He probably didn’t need to do much convincing. The Pope was also a strong supporter of the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Three years later, he invoked papal infallibility to define as Church dogma the belief that Mary did not die but was rather taken body and soul into heaven—the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The three other dogmas related to Marianism (the veneration of Mary) are that Mary is the Mother of God, that she was born without original sin (the Immaculate Conception), and that she was a perpetual virgin, i.e., she was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ.

The archbishop also toured European sites devoted to Mary to get a better understanding of how the Blessed Virgin was venerated at places such as Lourdes. He returned to Ottawa in February 1947, and immediately set to work organizing a Marian Congress, appointing two senior organizers—Monsignor Maxime Tessier and Monsignor John O’Neill—to put on the event. At the same time, Vachon announced the Congress to the world in a pastoral letter.

The Pope named James Cardinal McGuigan, the Archbishop of Toronto, legate a latere, the highest rank of papal representation, to the Congress. In other words, for the event, Cardinal McGuigan was the highest ranking Roman Catholic clergyman other than the Pope himself. In a message published in Ottawa newspapers, Cardinal McGuigan said that the Congress was the fulfillment of St. Luke’s prophesy regarding Mary being blessed among woman. According to the Cardinal, Mary “rescued woman from the contempt and degradation which it was her sad lot to experience under paganism.”  Cardinal McGuigan was assisted in his duties by a Papal Mission that came to Ottawa for the Congress.

Postcard: The Float of the Holy Virgin, Marian Congress, 1947, Ottawa

Six weeks prior to the official inauguration of the Marian Congress, a statue of Notre Dame du Cap (Our Lady of the Cape), was brought in stages from her sanctuary in Trois Rivières, Quebec, across 350 Catholic parishes in Quebec and Ontario to the Congress headquarters in Ottawa.

The shrine of Notre Dame du Cap marks the spot of two miracles attributed to Mary. The first was the miraculous building of an ice bridge in 1879 across the St. Lawrence River which enabled the transportation of stone across the river to build the church. The second occurred in 1888 when the statue of the Virgin in the church reportedly opened its eyes for ten minutes.

On arriving in Ottawa the evening before the official opening of the Congress, the statue was paraded through the streets of Lowertown led by the band of Lasalle Academy, followed by cadets of Notre Dame College. The Garde Champlain of Ottawa provided a guard of honour. A loudspeaker directed people in hymns and prayers. After passing through Lowertown, the parade made its way down the Driveway to Lansdowne Park. Along its path, thousands of people joined in. By the time the parade reached the Exhibition Grounds, the crowd had swollen to 40,000 people—too many to fit in the Coliseum for the official welcome. At the last moment, people were directed to the open-air stadium. As officials and police were unprepared for the huge crowd, there were some tense moments. At one point, a temporary steel scaffold was almost pushed over by the press of the crowd. The lights also temporarily went off when a cable became disconnected. Panic was averted when the reassuring voice of Archbishop Vachon calmed the crowd.

The main venue for the Marian Congress was Lansdowne Park. At the stadium, a Repository, (a place to hold the Blessed Sacrament) painted in blue and white—the colours of the Blessed Virgin—was constructed, 550 feet wide and 155 feet tall at the tower which was topped by a 27-foot statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a globe. The Repository had four stories with 30 confessionals on the ground floor and arcades higher up on which four fifteen-foot statutes of angels sounding bugles were positioned. On the top railing, written in three-foot letters, were the Latin words Ad Jesum Per Mariam, To Jesus through Mary—the theme of the Congress.  Illuminated at night, the Repository could be seen for miles.

Inside the structure was an altar 155 feet wide, an oratory, vestries for officiating clergy, bathrooms, a room for the carillonneur, and accommodations for thirty-two workmen who lived on site, ready to get to work at a moment’s notice. There was also a large stage for theatrical performances. Behind the Repository were huts and tents for contractors, repair shops and storage for the thousands of props, including stacks of battle-axes and angel wings, to be used in the theatrical productions.

In front of the Repository was a massive open-air sanctuary with circular rows of seats, divided into sections, with a combined length of 5,300 feet. Each section was furnished with its own communion stand. Three rows of seats were reserved for the many cardinals and archbishops who were in attendance. Additional rows were reserved for members of the diplomatic corps, other Church dignitaries, and important lay guests and VIPs. During the masses held throughout the Congress, 500 priests aided by 500 altar boys provided the Holy Eucharist to the faithful that numbered as many as 75,000 at one time. Two thousand Boy Scouts directed people to their places.

For the Congress, the Exhibition Hall was converted into a Chapel of Peace where Notre Dame du Cap was installed. 30,000 votive candles burned on either side of the altar. Five other buildings at Lansdowne Park were filled with religious exhibits that displayed the many works of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. The display of Ottawa’s Grey Nuns of the Cross depicted the work they were doing among Canada’s Innuit peoples. The Horticultural Building housed the Congress communications—telegraph, radio and cable. Reportedly, press coverage of the Congress included 122 reporters and 94 photographers.

The Congress officially began at 2:30pm on 18 June 1947 when Cardinal McGuigan was driven from the residence of the Apostolic Delegation at 520, the Driveway, to the Basilica for the liturgical reception. Thousands of spectators lined the route. Many knelt in the street to pray and to receive the Cardinal’s blessing. After the formal reading of the Pontifical brief in both French and English, Archbishop Vachon gave a personal welcome address. Among the visiting cardinals were Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York and Cardinal Frings of Cologne, his home cathedral still in ruins from the Allied fire bombing of his city less than three years earlier. After the Pontifical High Mass, an address by the Pope was broadcast. 140 bishops knelt to receive the papal blessing; the largest number ever gathered in a Canadian church.

That evening, there was an official reception given by Archbishop Vachon and the Government of Canada in honour of Cardinal McGuigan, the Papal Legate. Prime Minister King, who was not Roman Catholic, emphasized the need to affirm “the fundamental principles of Christianity,” and that a new age had began with the release of atomic energy, one that could lead to “unprecedented progress or unparalleled destruction.” He contended that which route humanity took would depend on “whether the affairs of nations are to be based on a Christian or a pagan philosophy.”

Later that night, notwithstanding frequent rain showers, a lavish tribute to the Virgin Mary written by Rev. Gustave Lamarche, entitled “Our Lady of the Crown,” was performed in French in front of an audience of more than 50,000. In the play, Mary is saddened by the selfishness of mankind. At one point, on a large screen, the world could be seen spinning in space amidst a barrage of bursting shells and soldiers charging with fixed bayonets, with the devil hovering over all. Finally, the world is obliterated by atomic bombs. Three ballets were also performed. In the Ballet of Flowers, florescent petals showered down, illuminated by ultraviolet lights. A shepherd offers a real lamb to Mary. During the Dove Ballet, in which dancers were costumed as white doves, hundreds of pigeons were released into the air. In the Ballet of Stars, the moon was brought down from the heavens as a gift for Mary. Finally, a troubadour entered on horseback and mounted the steps to Mary’s throne through an archway of crossed halberds carried by a bodyguard. The troubadour offered the Blessed Virgin the gift of the arts.

Through the Congress period, other performances were held, both in English and French, both at the Repository and elsewhere. At the Capitol Theatre, it was standing room only for repeated performances of “Our Lady of Fair Love.” This was a passion play telling the story of Christ’s last hours from his betrayal by Judas, to his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Among the lighting effects used in the show, a tableau of the Last Supper as painted by Leonardo da Vinci was created.

Two parades were also held through the city. Thirty floats depicting the life of the Virgin Mary were drawn through Ottawa. Starting at Wellington and Lyon Streets, the floats, along with the RCMP band and troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, wended their way to Confederation Square, then along the Driveway to Lansdowne Park. Later, a similar parade was held at night by candlelight. At this one, McGuigan, the Cardinal Legate, carried the Blessed Sacrament. He was accompanied by bands, battalions of parochial guards and Papal Zouaves in full costume, floats, and 600 maids of honour dressed in costumes. Church officials, members of Parliament, judges and other civil officials also marched in the parade down the Driveway to the Repository.

But the big spectacle was a pageant called “Our Lady of the Bread” held at the Repository. On a two-level stage, two thousand Ottawa-area performers backed by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and two choirs put on a show that was unlikely to be forgotten by any in attendance. The show had seven scenes, opening with angels and priests begging Mary to distribute the Bread of Life. This was followed by an appearance of the Blessed Virgin in front of a giant, 50-foot stained-glass window. Scene three had Mary giving the Bread of Life to the seraphines, while in scene four Mary accepts the invitation of the Church to distribute the Bread to the faithful. Messengers are then requested to invite the faithful to the banquet; priests are first to accept. Scene six is the response of humanity to this invitation, while the closing scene paid a final tribute to Mary as Queen of the Sacred Bread with her showing the world the Host of Salvation amidst an orchestral and choir crescendo. Tickets for the performances ranged from fifty cents to three dollars.

The Dionne Quintuplets arriving at the Marian Congress with their older sisters, National Film Board of Canada, Library and Archives Canada, 3192104.

The climax of the Congress came on the last day overseen by Cardinal McGuigan. At the celebratory mass, there were four Cardinals, scores of bishops, monsignori and canons, and thousands of priests, wearing their formal garb which, for the cardinals, meant lengthy red trains carried by pages. But the splendour of the Roman Catholic Church was almost upstaged by the arrival of the Dionne quintuplets: Cécile, Annette, Yvonne, Marie and Émilie. Dressed identically in white dresses with little white hats, the girls, who had just turned thirteen, arrived at the Repository in a motorcade to sing Laudate Maria. To the disappointment of the crowd, after their performance, the girls were whisked away in the middle of a sermon given by Cardinal Gerlier of France. The cardinal couldn’t have been too pleased as six cars and motorcycle policemen roared in front of him as he spoke to pick up the quints and other members of their family.

That night, a massive, fireworks display lasting more than 40 minutes lit up the sky above the Exhibition Grounds. The piece de resistance was a blazing outline of the Virgin Mary ascending into Heaven.

The Marian Congress was a huge success, attracting more than 250,000 pilgrims. For five days, Ottawa was the centre of the Roman Catholic Church in North America. The city, bedecked with flags, was chock-a-block full. Hotels were full to bursting as were private homes. Even the parks were clogged with campers. To fill hungry tummies, eight hundred servers working for the Morrison-Lamothe bakery at the Exhibition Grounds, served 500,000 people over the five-day period, selling 15 tons of hot dogs, 3 tons of ham, 1 ton of cheese, 1 ton of coffee, ½ ton of tea, 100,000 chocolate bars, 200,000 ice creams, 125,000 doughnuts, and 1 million soft drinks.

To get a better sense of the scale and grandeur of the Marian Congress, here is a link to a short video of the event: The Marian Congress, Ottawa June 1947.

Sources:  

Ottawa Citizen, 1947. “Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter Announces Marian Congress,” 3 February.

——————, 1947. “Cardinal McGuigan Papal Legate At Marian Congress,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “Papal Legate’s Marian Congress Message,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “Giant Repository Is Rallying Point Of Ottawa Marian Congress,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “Dionne Quints Making Ottawa Singing Debut,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “Gigantic Fireworks Display,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “Papal Legate To Be Guest At Dinner,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “40,000 Worshippers Pack Lansdowne Park,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “Planned Project Year Ago,” 17 June.

——————, 1947. “The Welcome Mat Is Out,” 18 June.

——————, 1947. “Counting Greatly On Canada, Says Pope,” 18 June.

——————, 1947. “Papal Legate Accorded Rousing Ovation at Official Reception,” 19 June.

——————, 1947. “Busy Unseen World Exists Behind Repository Façade,” 20 June.

——————, 1947. “80,000 Persons Throng In Lansdowne Park For Religious Drama,” 21 June.

——————, 1947. “Congress Parade In City Today,” 21 June.

——————, 1947. “Congress Procession To Be Brilliant Event,” 21 June.

——————, 1947. “Dionne Quintuplets Make First Public Appearance In Ottawa,” 21 June.

——————, 1947. “Adventure In Faith For Ottawa Is Ended,” 23 June.

Ottawa Journal, 1947. “Crowd of 25,000 Participate in Mass in Lower Town During Statue Tour,” 16 June.

——————-, 1947. “Large Audience Applauds Impressive Congress Pageant,” 19 June.

——————-, 1947. “The Marian Congress,” 19 June.

——————-, 1947. “Brilliant Pageantry Marks Opening Night of Congress,” 19 June.

——————-, 1947. “60,000 See Religious Drama at Lansdowne and Repository,” 19 June.

——————-, 1947. “Passion Play for Congress Draws Turnouts of 9,500,” 19 June.

——————-, 1947. “500,000 Served at Congress, Suppliers Ran Out at 3 am,” 23 June.

——————-, 1947. “Dionne Quintuplets Soloists At Marian Congress Concert,” 23 June.

Windsor Star, 1947. “140 Bishops Kneel to Get Papal Blessing,” 19 June.

The Green Valley Restaurant

30 June 1947

The Green Valley Restaurant, Prescott Highway, Ottawa

For more than fifty years, the family-run Green Valley Restaurant was a landmark on the Prescott Highway, later known as Prince of Wales Drive. Despite being far from the downtown core, the restaurant was an enduring favourite of Ottawa diners. It garnered a reputation for fine dining. Thousands made their way out past the Experimental Farm, tempted by the Green Valley’s traditional offerings of prime rib of beef, leg of lamb, chicken pot pie, salmon, trout and scallops. For those who still had room, a wide range of home-style desserts were served, including carrot cake, coconut cream pie, and cheesecake with raspberry sauce.  A dessert favourite among the younger set was the “Mickey Mouse” – scoops of ice cream decorated with chocolate wafers ears and maraschino cherry eyes. A Sunday brunch attracted the after-church crowd. The restaurant became the place to celebrate birthdays, Mothers’ Day, weddings and wakes.

Green Valley Cabins, Prescott Highway, Ottawa.

The Green Valley had an unlikely genesis in the depth of the Great Depression when Waldorf John Stewart, who had moved to the spot with his wife, Florence Irene, neé Mulligan, in around 1933, built an attractive play house for their young daughter Miriam on their property. Visible from the highway, travellers to the Ottawa area began stopping and asking whether they could rent it for short stays. Recognizing an investment opportunity, Stewart built twenty-four tourist cabins, which became known as the Green Valley Tourist Court. The new hostelry was open on a seasonal basis from May to mid-October. The new business was named after his wife’s nearby family farm. Stewart also began selling ice cream and hot dogs to holiday makers and day trippers from Ottawa out for an afternoon drive.

Waldorf J. Stewart, Ottawa Citizen, 18 September, 1956.

At the end of June 1947, Stewart expanded the food side of the business, opening the Green Valley Restaurant for guests staying in his cabins as well for the general public. He advertised his new restaurant in both the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Journal noting that meals would be prepared by chef “Gustave,” formerly of the Engineers’ Club of Montreal and the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity of McGill University. The restaurant was an instant success.

The following year, Lyall M. Gillespie, married Stewart’s daughter Miriam, and joined the family business. Gillespie who had university degrees in business and commerce, took an active interest in the restaurant, doubling its capacity to 120 guests with the construction of the “Pine Room,” and expanding its menu.  Later, Gillespie left another enduring mark on Ottawa’s tourist fabric. As a member of Ottawa’s Board of Trade, he was the person responsible for persuading the federal government to hold a regular “Changing of the Guard” ceremony on Parliament Hill. So successful was the event among Ottawa’s tourists and residents that Prime Minister Diefenbaker made the temporary, summer season event a permanent feature of Ottawa’s tourist calendar in 1959.

Within a few years, the Green Valley Restaurant had eclipsed the tourist accommodations’ side of the business. In 1956, the restaurant expanded again with the building of the “Walnut Room.” Capacity increased to 225 guests. A gift shop called “Now and Then,” sold souvenir items, chinaware and jewellery. The expansion, along with the construction of new cooking facilities, which included two walk-in freezers, a poultry-prep station, a pastry station, a vegetable-prep station, as well as a dishwashing section and a dessert table, cost $300,000—a huge investment, roughly equivalent to $3 million in today’s money.

Green Valley Restaurant and Tourist Court, Prescott Highway, Ottawa

These changes vaulted the Green Valley Restaurant into the top echelon of Canadian restaurants. Duncan Hines recommended it in his book Adventures in Good Eating that described good eating places in North America. Hines, now best known for the eponymous brand of cake mixes and icings owned by Proctor and Gamble, was an American pioneer in rating restaurants for travellers. The Green Valley was also recommended by the Automobile Association of America, Gourmet Magazine, and Diners’ Club, one of the first purveyors of credit cards. It was also voted by readers of the American Business magazine as the fourth-best restaurant in Canada for business people to entertain clients. Not bad for a family-run eatery on the outskirts of little Ottawa! Graham Kerr, a.k.a. the Galloping Gourmet, was also a frequent patron of the Green Valley Restaurant while he and his family lived in Ottawa for the filming his world-famous television show.

In 1967, Waldorf Steward died, and the Green Valley Tourist Court and Restaurant passed into the hands of his daughter Miriam and son-in-law Lyall Gillespie. That same year, the cabins were closed, leaving the firm to concentrate on its restaurant business. Two years later, Miriam died leaving the firm to her husband Lyall who later ran the business with his second wife, Linda, until his death in 1987. Linda Gillespie with brother John Meyers subsequently managed the business.

Advertisement, Ottawa Journal, 30 June 1947.

By this time, the restaurant was deeply entrenched in the fabric of Ottawa’s hospitality industry. One much loved restaurant tradition was its Christmas tree. Each Christmas season, the restaurant decorated a neighbouring forty-foot spruce with 2,500 coloured lights. Seen for miles, it became a welcome beacon for drivers on the Prescot Highway.

In 1985, this festive tradition was threatened when the owner of the land on which the tree stood decided to develop the property. The land had originally been part of old Green Valley Tourist Court acreage, but had been sold off in 1972. With the tree slated to be cut down to make way for an entrance way, Ottawa residents rose up in arms in an effort to save the landmark tree. A petition to keep the Christmas tree attracted a thousand signatures, while several hundred people protested in person. Mayor Dewar was warned that she would be “a grinch” if the tree was cut down.

During the negotiations between the developer, the restaurant and the city to find a way of saving the tree, somebody tried to kill it by drilling holes around the base of the tree’s trunk and injecting it with an unknown fluid. Arborists opined that the tree, which was already stressed by the cutting of its roots to build a nearby watermain, was unlikely to survive. The magnificent spruce was cut down. Fortunately, the Christmas tradition was maintained when a local tree company donated a replacement tree that the restaurant owners planted on their property.

In 1995, the Green Valley Restaurant passed out of Gillespie/Myers family hands when the business was sold to an outsider, Ron Karam, a lawyer. But for its patrons, little changed. Karam retained the name and the oldy-worldy atmosphere of the restaurant, and its staff.

However, by this time, the still popular but increasingly old-fashioned restaurant was losing ground to more hip downtown eateries. The Green Valley was disparagingly referred to as catering to the “blue rinse set.”

Festive family meal, 1961, National Film Board, Library and Archives Canada, 40301886.

In 2002, the business was sold again. This time to restauranteur Peter Thorp who was the owner of Oscar’s on Queen Street, a purveyor of wood-fired pizzas. At the end of May of that year, the Green Valley Restaurant served it last prime rib. A month later, the redecorated restaurant reopened as Gilmour’s, named after John Gilmour, the pioneer Ottawa lumberman.

Gilmour’s, the successor restaurant to the Green Valley, did not last long. On New Year’s Eve, 2002, just months after it opened, the restaurant was destroyed by fire.

At 7:30pm, while staff were catering to the needs of roughly twenty guests, smoke was detected coming from one of the back vents to the restaurant. The alarm was sounded, and staff and guests were evacuated. There was little hope of stopping the blaze. The building was made of wood with little or no fire stops or flame-retardant materials. Extreme heat prevented fire fighters from entering the building for a time. While the fire was contained by midnight, the fire department remained on the scene until about 6:00am the following morning. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million–$1 million for the building and another $500,000 for its contents.

The building was not replaced. Today, all that is left of the venerable Green Valley Restaurant, an Ottawa landmark for 67 years, is its driveway blocked by concrete traffic barriers.

Sources:

Ottawa Citizen, 1948. “Green Valley Restaurant Newly Enlarged,” 19 May.

——————, 1956. “Green Valley Expands With New Walnut Room,” 18 July.

——————, 1956. “Stewart’s Green Valley Restaurant, 17 September.

——————, 1967. “Stewart, Waldorf John,” 3 February.

——————, 1985. “Huge Christmas Tree vandalized,” 11 July.

——————, 1985. “Developer submits new plan to keep Christmas tree alive,” 13 July.

——————, 1985. “Ottawa Tradition Continues,” 29 August.

——————, 1987. “Local restauranteur dead at 66,” 21 January.

——————, 1987. “Green Valley Restaurant offers consistency, tradition,” 25 August.

——————, 1992. “What’s on the menu?,” 1 October.

——————, 1996. “Recipe for trouble?,” 25 May.

——————, 2002. “Favourite haunt of the blue-rinse set seeks younger clientele, 22 May.

——————, 2002. “After 67 years the Green Valley succumbs to changing tastes,” 12 June.

——————, 2003. “Landmark goes up in flames,” 2 January.

——————, 2003. “How Green was this Beloved Valley?”, 7 January.

Chain Letters and Pyramid Schemes

22 June 1935

For many, the lure was irresistible. For only a small investment, they could make big money. It was a heady prospect, especially for the poor and unemployed. And in the mid-1930s, there were many such people. With the Great Depression still holding a powerful grip over the North American economy, the promise of quick money attracted thousands. All that somebody needed was a dime, some letter paper and envelopes, and the names of five people to give or send them to.

While similar schemes had surfaced from time to time in the past, there was nothing quite like great “Prosperity Club” or “Send-a-Dime” chain letter of the spring of 1935. Some claim that the scheme was started by a woman in Denver, Colorado, but we don’t know for sure. Regardless, it quickly spread across the United States, Canada, and even leaped across the Atlantic to Britain where it was called the Sixpenny Prosperity League.

Almost overnight, there were thousands of participants. Post offices were inundated with chain letters leading to postal backlogs and overtaxed postal workers who had to sort and deliver them. Early participants in the scheme made money, with news of their good fortune attracting more players into the Prosperity Club. But for most, the glitter turned out to be fool’s gold.

The wonders of multiplication! For a chain letter to remain unbroken by level 15, more than 6 billion people would have to sign up.

The concept was simple. Letter recipients were asked to send a dime to the person named on the top of a list of names contained in the letter, cross that name out, and put their name at the bottom of the list. Then, the person was to make five copies of the letter and send them to five other people. If this happened five times, the name of the recipient would reach the top of the list and would reap the reward of 15,625 dimes, or $1,562.50 if the chain remained unbroken on the next iteration. It was almost magical. The problem was that it was unsustainable. After only a relatively few iterations, the entire population of the world would have to participate to keep the chain alive. The Prosperity Club was a classic pyramid scheme.

This fact did not deter people. Most were mathematically illiterate or didn’t stopped to think about the odds. And many of who figured out that the chain would be quickly broken thought it was worth ten cents for a chance at making a small fortune. Those who joined early and whose names appeared near the top of the list stood to make significant money.

The Prosperity Club letter was quickly duplicated by other chain letters. Churches got into the act. One enterprising pastor in Kansas City claimed that St. Paul wrote the first chain letter—his epistle to the Galatians. He said his church’s revenues went up 75 per cent as a result of a “go-to-church” chain letter. Another pastor in Texas organized chain letters for every age group to raise money for his church in amounts starting as low as one cent so that all could benefit from the chain letters’ bounty.

Even Hollywood got a piece of the action. Out in 1935 was the movie Make a Million, staring George Sharrett, Pauline Brooks and George E. Stone. It was the story of a million-dollar chain letter started by a college professor. It was also an attack on the economic system that led to the Great Depression. The film showed at the Imperial Theatre in Ottawa that October.

A double bill at the Imperial Theatre–Make a Million and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Ottawa Citizen, 29 October 1935.

U.S. and Canadian post offices officials were not amused by the chain-letter fad, and quickly tried to put a break on such quick-money schemes. Operating in a legal grey zone in Canada, the Canadian post office said that chain letters were a “racket” and directed such letters, if they could be identified, to the dead letter branch.

While most participants were innocent players, some chains were started by the unscrupulous who sent out thousands of letters with their names at the top of the lists. When trusting people send them their dimes, the initiators of the chains stood to gain hundreds of dollars.

When Ottawa Mayor Nowlan received a chain letter that had assured him of the receipt of $1,562.50 if he sent his dime and copied the letter to five friends, he declined the opportunity and broke the chain. He also ordered a stack of similar letters addressed to city aldermen which had been left with the elevator man to be destroyed.  

One winner of the chain letter fad in Ottawa that spring was a young delivery boy who had been arrested for riding a motorcycle without a licence. Pleading guilty, but unwilling to either pay the $12 fine and court costs or go to jail, he asked the judge to delay his sentence a week. His request granted, the boy organized a chain letter in the meantime and “earned” enough money to pay his fine when next he appeared in court.

On Saturday, 22 June 1935, a new get-rich-quick opportunity took Ottawa by storm. It was the $1 for $10 scheme. That morning, an upstairs office at 193 Sparks Street opened for business, taking the names and dollar bills of investors. The scheme promised a payout of $10 to “investors.” Every time twelve new names were added to the list, the broker paid out $10 to the person whose name was at the top of the list, keeping $2. Unabashedly a pyramid scheme, payouts depended on new investors joining the scheme.

Business was brisk, so brisk that the elevator man said he would need a holiday after all this was over. Some players, unwilling to wait for the elevator, preferred to run up the three flights of stairs to get their names on the list as quickly as possible.

When a Citizen reporter went to the office at 11:00am that morning to see first hand what was happening, he saw frenzied investors lining up to put down their dollar bills to get their name on the list. He also claimed to have seen dozens of investors paid $10. Some reinvested their winnings. He described the office as resembling a “telegraph boys’ headquarters.” Telephones jangled, with dozens of messenger boys running in and out for those who were unable to get to the office in person.

Under a banner head line on the following Monday, the journalist reported “Ponzi was a piker!” The jailed Boston financier and fraudster had only promised a 50 per cent return in 45 days—“small pickin’s” compared to the 900 per cent offered by the Ottawa scheme. (Ponzi paid the abnormally high rate of return guaranteed to investors by using the incoming funds of new investors.) The article noted, however, that if somebody was in tenth position on the list,120 new investors would have to join before they received a payout. At the fiftieth position, 600 new names would have to be added to the list.

To meet the demand, additional offices quickly popped up on Rideau Street in the Transportation Building, and on Bridge Street in Hull. This was followed by a curbside office at the corner of Cooper and Bank Streets. Two young men with a sign posted above them on a telephone pole, took in money from would-be punters until the police moved them on for blocking traffic. A third Ottawa outlet opened in the Ritz Hotel at the corner of Bank and Somerset Streets. When a reporter visited that office, two harried clerks, with their shirt sleeves rolled up, sat on a bed gathering up bills into rolls of various denominations. So busy were they taking in the money, there were reportedly having difficulty in paying out, their accounting system on the verge of collapse. They later called the hotel manager for a bigger room.

Besides the $1 for $10 list, the offices also offered alternatives for the would-be investor. For the faint of heart or those of lesser means, you could put your name onto the 50-cent list which offered a return of $2.50 as soon as six more people joined up. For those wanting to take a more significant plunge, there was a $10 list that returned $100 after twelve other gamblers joined. This list was apparently the least popular—no big surprise since that was the equivalent to roughly $200 today.

Although the police pursued a “hands off” policy for the time being, the head of the police morality squad toured the local “investment offices” to collect information on how they operated. Meanwhile, Crown Counsel J.A. Ritchie consulted a mathematician. Ritchie is reported as saying “I think it could be demonstrated that as the list grows it would take more than the entire population of the Dominion to pay off some of those on the list.” But without guidance from the authorities and a lack of complaints from the public, the police stayed their hand. As the law waited for the green light to close the offices, business boomed as a steady stream of both men and women eagerly signed the lists and parted with their hard-earned dollar bills.

Other enterprising Ottawa businesses joined the game. A number of Lower Town grocery stores began giving $1.00 grocery vouchers to every fifth person who paid 25 cents to place their name on a grocery list. Reportedly, housewives flocked to the stores once word got around. An Ottawa hotel set up a similar beer racket with the pay-off being 27 bottles of beer. This one quickly caught the attention of liquor licensing officials.

With the law vague on the legality of chain letters, Crown Counsel Ritchie urged the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to outlaw such schemes. Very quickly, the government leader in the Senate, Arthur Meighen, moved an amendment to the Code saying that it was “an attempt to define and prohibit the new so-called chain letter scheme of getting rich quickly.” In the dying hours of the 17th Parliament of R.B. Bennett in early July 1935, both the Senate and House of Commons approved an anti-chain letter amendment to the Code with little or no discussion.

Here in Ottawa, after raking in thousands of dollars, the so-called investment offices were closed. By this point, however, business had already begun to slow, the market saturated. Of course, those on the bottom of the list who still waiting for their pay-outs were out of luck. Their money was gone. The newspapers did not report the size of their losses.

In modern times, pyramid investment and marketing schemes have remained a thorn in the side of investors and regulators. The biggest of all time was the New York-based Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities ran by the now deceased Bernie Madoff. The business, with accounts totalling US$65 billion, went spectacularly bust in 2008. Madoff’s company, which had operated for many years, was a giant fraud. Like Ponzi, Madoff hoped that investors, lured by the promise of high returns, would roll over their investments instead of redeeming them. The minority who took money out were paid off by inflows provided by new investors. Meanwhile, Madoff skimmed off millions.

This went on for years until people realized what Madoff was doing and that their financial statements were fictitious. Even those who had bailed out early lost money in the end as liquidators of Madoff’s firm clawed back their fraudulently-earned profits which were then shared out among the losers. Bernie Madoff died in April 2021 while serving a 150-year prison sentence.

Despite Madoff’s notoriety, people continue to fall pray to pyramid schemes and similar frauds. In 2020, an Ontario man was arrested in a $56 million Ponzi scheme under which he allegedly promised high returns to investors for investing in a company selling debit card machines.

Morale of this story: be wary of any investment or marketing scheme that looks too good to be true. It probably is.

Sources:

Global News, 2020. “Ontario man returned to Canada to face charges in $56 million debit terminal Ponzi scheme,” 14 September.

Mortal Journey, 2010. Send A Dime Chain Letter (1930’s), 19 November.

Ottawa Citizen, 1935. “Chain Letter Craze Labelled “Racket” By Canadian P.O.,” 9 May.

——————, 1935. “Amazing Scenes In Oklahoma As Chain Letter Fad Spreads,” 11 May.

——————, 1935. “Attendance At Church Better, Revenues Grows,” 13 May.

——————, 1935. “Mayor Nowlan Frowns On Chain Letter Idea,” 4 June.

——————, 1935. “Launch New ‘Get-Rich-Quick’ Scheme In Ottawa, 24 June.

——————, 1935. “How Boy Obtained Money For Fine,” 4 July.

——————, 1935. Chain Letter Schemes Are Failure in Britain,” 6 July.

Ottawa Journal, 1935. “Doing Business At Street Corner,” 27 June.

——————-, 1935. “Senate Moves To Stop ‘Get-Rich-Quick’ Schemes In Canada,” 4 July.

——————-, 1935. “Ban Is Placed On Chain Plan,” 5 July.

Senate Debates, 1935. Criminal Code Bill, 17 Parliament, 4th Session, Volume1, page 466, 4 July.

On-To-Ottawa Trek

22 June 1935

An important milestone in Canadian labour history is the 1935 trek to Ottawa by striking British Columbian relief camp workers which culminated in the Regina Riot on Dominion Day, 1935. Striking for better wages and working conditions, the men rode freight cars eastward, their objective, Ottawa, to put their demands for change in front of the Conservative government of R.B. Bennett.

The peaceful trek got as far as Regina when the RCMP arrested the trekkers’ leaders on orders of the federal government. This action precipitated a riot. Hundreds of rioters and police were injured and two were killed—Detective Charles Millar and Nicklas Schaack, an unemployed American living in Saskatchewan, who was critically injured and died some weeks later. There were also many thousands of dollars in property damage.

On-to-Ottawa Trek, Canadian National Railways fonds, Library and Archives Canada

The Regina Riot had its roots in the Great Depression which followed the October 1929 stock market crash. The impact of the crash was magnified by poor economic policies in major countries. Monetary policy was initially used to maintain the gold standard rather than to support demand. Fiscal policies were tightened as governments reduced expenditures as their revenues declined. Industrial countries raised tariffs on imports of foreign goods in an effort to protect local industries and maintain employment. But with all countries doing likewise, international trade plummeted, hurting everybody. Drought ravaged farms through the US mid-west and the Canadian Prairies.  Farm incomes plummeted. Saskatchewan, the breadbasket of Canada, also had to contend with a plague of grasshoppers. One third of its farmers were destitute by 1933 with the rest not far behind. Urban centres were not spared either. The collapse of demand caused massive layoffs in the manufacturing sector and in service industries. The number of unemployed reach levels never before seen.  

To make matters worse, there was little in the way of welfare, unemployment insurance, or other government programs to assist the hundreds of thousands who lost their jobs. Instead, they were forced to rely on charitable institutions which were themselves stretched thin by reduced donations and increased demand. The plight of single, able-bodied men was particularly dire. They were supposed to be able to take care of themselves. But with no jobs to be had, they became desperate, reliant on soup kitchens to survive. As unemployed men loitering in the streets could be jailed as vagrants, thousands moved from city to city, hitching rides on freight trains.

Although R.B. Bennett’s Conservative government had been elected in 1930 to fix the unemployment problem, matters got worse. In response, the federal government opened relief camps across the country for single, unemployed men in October 1932. These camps were the brainchild of General Andrew McNaughton, a friend of the prime minster and chief of the Army’s General Staff. McNaughton was worried about a lost generation of young men, some of whom had never held a job. By giving them temporary employment doing meaningful work, the general hoped that these men would regain their self-esteem and be able to more easily rejoin the workforce when jobs became available. The government also recognized that unemployed, rootless, young men were most at risk of falling prey to communist propaganda. By taking them out of the city and giving them something to do, the hope was that such men would be less likely to become radicalized.

The men were put to work building aerodromes, airfields and roads across the country. Prior to the onset of the Depression, the government had begun a program to build Canada’s air infrastructure in support of the new Trans-Canada Airlines. But the program had been stopped owing to a lack of money. The relief camps were ideal way to resuscitate it. Most of the work camps were locate in remote areas. One exception was the camp located in Rockcliffe outside of Ottawa where men were put to work upgrading the facilities at Rockcliffe Airport.

Men in the relief camps were given food, shelter, clothes, cigarettes, and medical care, which had a value of roughly 80 cents per day, as well as 20 cents cash per day. This small amount of cash was not intended to be a wage but was viewed by the government as a gratuity. At the peak, roughly 30,000 men were in the camps which were run by the Ministry of Defence, the department with the most logistical experience. (In total, 170,248 men spent time in the camps over the four years they were in operation.) While run by the military, there was no military discipline. General McNaughton even insisted that the military personnel supervising the camps wore civilian clothes.

In the camps, men worked eight hours a day, Monday to Friday with Saturday afternoons and Sunday off. The work was hard and was unsuitable for many unused to the rigours of such labour. There were complaints about the quality of the food, shoddy accommodations, and very limited recreational materials. Often camps lacked radios, and what reading material was available was supplied by private donations. Residents griped that there were far too many women’s magazines. Books were also in short supply, especially during the long, cold winters. But the biggest complaint was the paltry 20 cents a day they were paid. While the government insisted that it was a gratuity and not a wage, the men saw differently. They argued that they were being treated like slaves.

For its part, the government said it could not afford anything more, and that men were in the camps voluntarily. While technically true, the alternative was jail for vagrancy. Moreover, given only 20 cents per day, the men could not easily get into towns to find employment or diversion. There was also a lack of female companionship. Instead of alleviating despair, the camps magnified it. Men risked expulsion from the camps should they form committees to present grievances. Additionally, they had difficulty voting in elections since the camps were not considered residences. Consequently, to exercise their franchise, they had to return to the riding where they were registered—something few could afford to do.

Amidst growing discontent came Communist organizers in the form of the Workers’ Unity League (WUL) and the Relief Camp Workers’ Union (RCWU) established in 1930 and 1934, respectively. The aim of the WUL was to establish revolutionary unions to fight against capitalism While the RCWU’s short-term goal was to improve the lot of camp residents, its longer-term aim was the overthrow of capitalism.

In early 1935, relief camp workers in British Columbia struck for better pay and working conditions. Strikers poured into Vancouver to seek relief and to demonstrate. Joined by local unemployed people and many civilian sympathizers, strikers occupied the Hudson Bay Company’s store. Strikers had also gone to other major department stores to demonstrate but had been thwarted by locked doors. Vancouver Mayor McGeer read the demonstrators the Riot Act, and police dispersed the crowds. The mayor blamed communist agitators and an ineffectual federal government which had washed its hands of any responsibility saying that once the strikers had left the relief camps, they had become a provincial responsibility. After strikers occupied the local museum, the city gave them $1,500 as a bribe to behave. With these funds as well as funds raised from sympathetic labour groups and individuals, the relief camp workers stayed in the city until early June 1935. At this point, with their funds almost exhausted, Arthur “Slim” Evans, organized more than 1,000 men to board freight trains to present their demands in person to R.B. Bennett. Evans was not a relief camp worker, but was self-acknowledged member of the Communist Party and a paid organizer of the Workers’ Unity League. The trek to Ottawa had begun.

The men had six demands. Most importantly, they demanded satisfactory wages—50 cents per hour for unskilled labour and union wages for skilled workers with a six-hour, five-day, work week, and a minimum of twenty working days per month. Other demands included: the separation of the camps from the Ministry of Defence; the recognition of democratically-elected camp officials; workmen’s compensation for workers injured on relief projects; a system of unemployment insurance on a non-contributory basis; and a guarantee to workers of their right to vote.

Arthur “Slim” Evans, Tales from the Chesterfield

The ride eastward was orderly and peaceful. The President of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada urged moderation saying “To defy constituted authority could not help but lead to greater suffering and misery and retard the introduction of measures which would improve their conditions.” He blamed the government’s unwillingness to pay “fair and reasonable wages” to relief camp workers for growing support for Communistic doctrines.

Although the trekkers were illegally riding the freight trains, railway officials went out of their way to facilitate their movement, even changing timetables and making unscheduled stops to accommodate them. Cities along the route did what they could to get them out of their jurisdictions as quickly as possible, even if this meant giving them money.  The orderliness of the men encouraged public sympathy.  

The trek got as far as Regina. There, the federal government refused to allow the trekkers, now numbering about 2,000, to go any further east by rail, road or foot. The provincial and municipal authorities were not pleased. They just wanted to see the back of the trekkers. The city provided shelter and two meals per day to the strikers in order to help keep the peace. In mid-June, the federal government sent two Cabinet ministers, Robert Weir, Minister of Agriculture and R.J. Manion, Minister of Railways, to meet with the strikers. A truce was organized while eight representatives of the trekkers, led by Arthur Evans, travelled at government expense to Ottawa to meet with the prime minister. In the meantime, the federal government took over feeding the men, providing them three 20-cent meals per day. However, fearing an eventual showdown, the government sent RCMP officers from Ottawa and Montreal to reinforce the police presence in Regina.

Arthur Evans and seven colleagues arrived in the capital a day ahead of their meeting with R.B. Bennett. Wearing rough, workmen’s clothing with blue and white armbands with the words “On to Ottawa,” the strikers’ representatives were met at Union Station by officials of the National Unemployment Council of Canada and local unemployed men and women. Also there were representatives of the RCMP who escorted the trekkers to their rooms at the Keewatin Hotel on Sussex Street.

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, Library and Archives Canada

On Saturday 22 June 1935 at 11:30am, Evans and company met with the prime minister and his cabinet. It was not a happy event. Evans was there to present demands not negotiate. Even if Evans was prepared to negotiate, Bennett was in no mood to compromise. Instead, the meeting quickly degenerated into a shouting match. The prime minister rejected all of the trekkers’ demands. He said that the camps were providing single men with better food, clothing and shelter than the average Canadian was enjoying. The 20 cents a day was a gratuity, not a wage, and the government could not afford more. There was no compulsion or military discipline, and the government would neither assist nor recognize “Soviet” committees. He added that the economic situation was improving, that the number of men in the camps was declining, with many getting jobs in government work projects. More ominously, he said that law and order would be maintained, saying to Evans: “You cannot take the government by the throat to work your sweet will and seek to overawe it: we will stamp out Communism with the help of the people.”  Bennett also pointed to Evans’s criminal record, including his jailing for embezzling union funds, and the fact that among the eight trekker representatives only Evans was Canadian-born.

For his part, Evans called Bennett a liar. He protested the blacklisting of members of workers’ committees so they were unable to obtain jobs elsewhere, and said the government was raising “a Red bogey.” He argued that he had been jailed for diverting funds to starving miners in Drumheller rather than sending the money to union fat cats in the United States. The delegation rejected Bennett’s classification of them as foreigners, noting that they weren’t considered foreigners in the last war. Saying that the government had breached the earlier truce by sending RCMP officers from Ottawa and Montreal to Regina, Evans concluded that there was nothing left to do other than return to Regina to inform the workers of Bennett’s attitude and continue their trek to Ottawa.

The Trekker Delegation, Ottawa Citizen, 22 June 1935

Following the B.C. delegation’s fruitless meeting, Bennett and his cabinet met a similar group of workers from Ontario and Quebec who made their own list of demands, one of which was the immediate granting of the B.C. workers demands. Additional demands included the complete cessation of immigration to Canada, and the elimination of forced labour and sweatshop labour. Reflecting the presence of Mrs. M. Richmond from Niagara Falls, the sole female delegate, they sought more aid to women and girls.

Bennett’s reaction was equally negative to these demands, which he either rejected outright, or said was outside of federal responsibility.

The next night, Evans and the other western delegates along with representatives of eastern groups addressed a mass meeting of unemployed at the Rialto Theatre on Bank Street. In front of a packed house, Evans admitted his membership in the Communist Party. He said that a national call for the “On-To-Ottawa Trek” would be issued by the Workers’ Unity League, the Relief Camp Workers’ Union, the National Unemployment Council and other labour organizations. He said the trek would continue, “irrespective of the RCMP and railway police in Regina.”

The eight-man BC delegation then returned to Regina, setting the stage for the inevitable confrontation that was to come on Dominion Day. At stops along the way, Evans challenged and frightened the government. At Sudbury, he said that “a bloodbath would follow any interference by the police with the marchers, and declared the streets of Regina would be red with blood should any clash occur. Even more frightening as far as the federal government was concerned, Evans said that soon 50,000 men would mass in Ottawa.

Even before the violent conclusion of the trek in Regina, public reaction was negative towards the Bennett government. Even Mayor McGeer of Vancouver, who had put down the Hudson Bay store invasion earlier that year and who had been called “the future Hitler of Canada” by Evans, was appalled. He said that Bennett’s “woefully tactless and undignified belligerent and intolerant attitude” would arouse labour strife and belligerent opposition to constitutional authority.

Three months after the suppression of the trek to Ottawa, R.B. Bennett’s Conservative government was crushed in a general election, ushering in the Liberals under William Lyon Mackenzie King. The Conservatives would not form a government for the next twenty-three years. Following a government inquiry into the Regina Riot, the relief camps were closed in June 1936.

Sources:

Atherton, Tony, 2017.“For We Are Coming”, Tales from the Chesterfield, 12 January.

BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2019. “So vividly I remember”, April 17.

Canada, 1935. In the Matter of the Commission on Relief Camps British Columbia,” (The MacDonald Report), Ottawa.

History Docs. 2001. “Who was to blame for the Regina riot?”

McConnell, William, 1971, “Some Comparisons of the Roosevelt and Bennett New Deals,” Osgoode Law School Journal, November, Volume 9. No. 2.

MacDowell, Laurel Sefton, 1995. “Relief Camp Workers in Ontario during the Great Depression in the 1930s,” Canadian Historical Review, LXXVI, 2.

Nanaimo Daily News, 1935. “Fifty Thousand To Mass In Ottawa Soon, Predict Evans, Communist Leader,” 25 June.

Ottawa Citizen, 1935. “On to Ottawa Trek,” 11 June.

——————, 1935. “1,000 Men May Leave Manitoba Capital on March to Ottawa,” 22 June.

——————, 1935. “Govt. Receiving Strikers Today; R.C.M.P. Depart,” 22 June.

——————, 1935. “Evans Paid Organizer of Workers’ League,” 24 June.

——————, 1935. “Striking Campers Urged To Refrain From Violent Acts,” 24 June.

——————, 1935. “Angry Exchanges As Demands Of Relief Strikers Rejected,” 24 June.

—————–, 1935. “Claims 30,000 Unemployed To Join In March,” 24 June.

—————–, 1935. “Says Situation On Unemployment Coming To Head,” 24 June.

—————–, 1935. “McGeer Assails Bennett Stand On Men’s Plea,” 24 June.

—————–, 1935. “Strikers Cry, ‘On to Ottawa’As Leaders Return,” 26 January.

Ottawa Journal, 1935. “Strikers Are Held In Camp By Mounties,” 2 July.

Snider, Michael, 2013. On to Ottawa Trek/Regina Riot, The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Stone, Gladys May, 1967. The Regina Riot: 1935, Thesis, University of Saskatchewan.

Waiser, Bill, 2016. “History Matters: Second Regina riot fatality covered up,” Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 5 July.

Riley’s Army

4 June 1922

The Great War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Roughly 619,000 Canadians served in the Canadian armed forces during the war, of which more than 54,000 died. Still more perished as members of the British armed services. A further 172,000 Canadians were injured. Officially, another 9,000 men suffered “shell shock”—today called post traumatic stress disorder. Unofficial estimates are far larger. Some historians believe that as many as ten to twelve percent of Canadian solders who served in the trenches of France suffered some form of mental illness owing to their war experiences.

This booklet told returning soldiers what to expect upon demobilization, Wartime Canada.ca

Despite the end of hostilities, returning servicemen faced a new type of struggle, this time with their own government and fellow citizens for jobs, pensions and recognition. Government propaganda had characterized the soldiers as stalwart heroes, fighting for King, Country and Democracy. They had also been promised good jobs on their return to a grateful country. A government pamphlet prepared for demobilizing soldiers read: “When you come back, we want to stand with you as comrades to contribute our united best to the strength, prosperity, goodness and greatness of our beloved land.” Canada would be a country “fit for heroes to live in.”  The reality was far different. Jobs were in short supply. Veterans, many of whom had voluntarily given up promising careers to fight in horrific conditions for their country, faced unemployment and poverty.

This is not to say the federal and provincial governments didn’t try to help. Hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into pensions and relief programs for returning veterans. In March 1918, the federal government established the Department for Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment (DSCR) with a mandate to provide veterans with medical care, vocational and commercial education, employment assistance, advice, and pensions. The government also undertook an extensive inventory of jobs throughout the country in an effort to match returning solders to vacant jobs. Programs were established under which returning veterans eager to farm could receive up to 160 acres of Crown land and access to loans. A host of private agencies and organizations also provided assistance, including the Red Cross and the YMCA. As well, veteran organizations, such as the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA), provided support.

Despite these funds and a lot of good intentions, many returning veterans suffered. It didn’t help that the wind-down of military orders contributed to a decline in economic activity and a major economic recession in Canada just as service personnel were arriving home. While official numbers are scant, according to the GWVA Canada’s unemployment rate was as high as 25 per cent at the beginning of 1920. There were simply not enough jobs for all. Instead of being greeted as returning heroes, veterans found that their old jobs filled, with few new ones on offer. Businesses were reluctant to hire ex-servicemen with disabilities. Those men who did find employment were the most junior and hence the most likely to be laid off as companies downsized.

With private businesses unable or unwilling to provide employment, veterans turned to the government for additional assistance. However, with heavy war debts, the federal government’s ability to assist was constrained. There was also discontent about how government programs were being managed. Owing to prevailing social views on mental illness, “shell-shocked” veterans had difficulty in obtaining the pensions they deserved. Land settlement programs were poorly conceived and administered. The Crown lands used to re-settle veterans often had to be cleared before they could be farmed. Many settlers lacked the necessary skills. When agricultural prices fell, settlers found it difficult to service the loans they had taken out to buy equipment. To make matters worse, some of the land used to re-settle veterans was taken from indigenous peoples without their consent while few First Nations’ veterans received land grants due to discrimination. The Canadian government also dithered for years over the distribution of its share of “Canteen Funds”—the profits of army canteens established co-operatively by Commonwealth forces. Owing to mismanagement, little went to the men who had patronized the canteens.

Unemployed veterans assembling at Queen’s Park, Toronto, Regina Leader-Post, 12 May 1922.

Despite more than two dozen veteran organizations lobbying the government for veteran assistance, some ex-servicemen felt that their voices were not being heard. In early May 1922, a crowd of unemployed veterans assembled in Queen’s Park in Toronto to hear E.C. Macdonald speak of his plans for a march to Ottawa to lobby the newly-elected federal government of Mackenzie King for more financial aid and improved rehabilitation methods for ex-servicemen. He was warmly applauded.

Less than two weeks later, close to 300 men under command of “General” Macdonald left from College Street in Toronto, heading for the Kingston Road on the trek to the capital. The rear of the parade was commanded by Frank Riley, about whom we’ll hear more later. The marchers had been mostly under the care of the DSCR during the previous winter owing to their unemployment. With their allowances cut off earlier in the month, they were now desperate.

Leadership of the march on Ottawa, E.C. Macdonald is second from right, missing is Frank Riley, Regina Leader-Post, 12 May 1922.

Prior to their departure, deputations of unemployed veterans had raised provisions and money from prominent Toronto stores. The provisions were placed in two trucks that went in advance of the army. As the army’s resources were insufficient to sustain the men for the expected two-week long trek to Ottawa, “General” Macdonald hoped that communities along their route would help house and feed the trekkers.

Right from the start of the trek, there was dissention. “General” Burgoyne, who led ex-soldiers from Hamilton, pulled out of the march and returned home, complaining about the treatment given him by Toronto hikers. “General” Macdonald also expelled all hikers with “red” tendencies.

Despite these problems, the men left downtown Toronto, heading for Dumbarton on the first leg of their journey. The veterans, wearing their service medals, were divided into several companies with “General” Macdonald and two Union Jacks leading the way.

For the most part, the “General” was not disappointed with the trekkers’ reception along the route. Town after town put up the foot-weary men in local armouries, provided entertainment, usually a local military band, and gave them a hot meal. The mayor of Brockville actually sent a fleet of trucks to pick up the men in Mallorytown so they didn’t have to spend the night in the open air. Instead, the men dossed down in the town’s armoury, and were given breakfast before they set out for Prescott.

At this point, something happened. “General” Macdonald, who had spent three days in a Kingston hospital with fatigue, was driven to Prescott to attend a secret army meeting. Suspicious of spies, reporters were not allowed in. At the end of the discussions, Macdonald had been ousted as the head of the army. While he was permitted to continue on the trek in the ranks, the bemused and shocked Macdonald left, complaining that the hike had been his idea. “They’re just a rabble now and are being led by a Siin Feiner [Irish radical] and a Toronto “Red,” he said.

In his place had stepped Frank Riley. Little known until this point, Riley was interviewed by the press. Reportedly, while he talked a lot, he said little. He did reveal that he was a “north of Ireland man” and that he had a deep-seated grudge against the GWVA and its leadership who Riley saw as overpaid bureaucrats who did little to help unemployed veterans.

An Ottawa Journal journalist reported that Riley “modestly laid claim to being familiar with eight professions, including medicine and news reporting.” The clash between Macdonald and Riley was attributed to vanity. Each man was envious of the publicity given the other. Riley refused to discuss what happened though Macdonald later attributed his ouster to being too strict and autocratic with the men. A few days later, before the trekkers had reached Ottawa, Riley, accompanied by the army’s treasurer, made a quick overnight trip to Ottawa to seek Macdonald’s arrest for criminal libel for calling him a “Sein Feiner” and a “Red” and for taking $80 from the army’s treasury.

From that point on Frank Riley was the undisputed leader of the trekkers who became known as “Riley’s Army.”

Riley’s Army of 269 unemployed veterans reached Ottawa shortly before noon on Sunday, 4 June 1922 after spending two nights in Manotick. Three miles short of the city at the Hartwell Locks, the army was met by 36 Ottawa veterans. At the head of his men, “General” Riley paraded through the streets of Ottawa, arriving at the end of Preston Street at 10:00am standard time. The army marched through near-empty streets. Riley was unaware that Ottawa observed daylight savings time. With it being an hour later than he had expected, most Ottawa residents were in church. With a police car preceding the parade and another pulling up the rear, the men marched to Howick Hall at the Exhibition Grounds at Lansdowne Park, where Ottawa’s mayor, Frank Plant, had organized billets.  The mayor had also authorized meals for the veterans; something he did without the approval of City Council.

At Howick Hall, Mayor Plant congratulated the men, noting that he had heard only the best reports of their conduct throughout the trek. While it was not his place to comment on their grievances, he said that he would organize meetings between army representatives and the federal government.

That night, the trekkers dined in Howick Hall on veal, beef, lamb, pork, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and hot biscuits with pie, cake for dessert, accompanied by tea and coffee, courtesy of Mayor Plant.

The next morning, Riley’s Army marched from Lansdowne Park to Parliament Hill, where the men camped out on the west lawn. Riley and the rest of his twelve-member executive met with Prime Minister Mackenzie King and cabinet colleagues in the offices of James Murdock, the Minister of Labour. The meeting only lasted an hour. Riley presented the men’s demands, which included a medical re-examination of all returned soldiers, the elimination of the employment branch of the DSCR, an increased disability allowance, a $1.10 per day gratuity for every day a soldier had served in the army, the official recognition of his army as the veterans’ representative, and immediate action to relieve distress. He also denied rumours that he was a Bolshevik or a Sinn Feiner.

For his part, the Prime Minister said that the government was sympathetic to the plight of veterans but offered little in the way of additional assistance. He noted that the Minister of the Militia had lost a son in the war, and Dr. Béland, the minister in charge of the DSCR, had spent three years in a German prison. Riley was informed that the government had already spent $475 million so far on veterans in the form of pensions, medical treatment, education, land and relief.

After the meeting, Riley addressed his army and curious onlookers on the lawn of Parliament Hill. He told the men that the government had been evasive. For a while, things got tense with Riley saying that army should continue its siege of Parliament until the men got their way. However, after consultations with the army’s executive, Riley changed his mind. He ordered the veterans to return to Lansdowne Park from where they would hike back to Toronto to protest their treatment. J. S. Woodsworth, the outspoken MP of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, also addressed the army. He said that the army represented thousands of ex-soldiers throughout Canada. He warned that if the government didn’t listen to their grievances, there would be a reckoning. Woodsworth received a hearty cheer.

That evening, the Prime Minister, accompanied by James Murdock, the Minister of Labour, spoke briefly to Riley’s Army at Howick Hall. Again, no promises were made. However, Mackenzie King asked for the names and regimental numbers of all members of the army to ensure that the men received all the treatment they deserved.

Riley remained unsatisfied with the government’s response. He spurned the government’s offer of train transport back to Toronto, insisting that the men would trek back the way they came. However, after the men had assembled and had left the Hall at about 9:30pm, a downpour began. Wet and bedraggled, Riley reconsidered his stance. His army finally left by train in the following morning at a cost to the government of $1,883.25.

A few days later, Riley again addressed a crowd of unemployed veterans at Queen’s Park where he proposed a second trek to Ottawa. Even though only a couple hundred answered his call, far fewer than the 5,000 Riley had hoped for, off he went on a second trek just a week after the conclusion of the first. This time, the trekkers only got as far as West Hill, twelve miles from downtown Toronto, before stopping. A telegram from James Murdock promising jobs to the trekkers stopped them in their tracks. Men were told to make an application to the Toronto office of the DSCR. Whether they got the expected jobs is unknown.

News of Riley’s Army then disappeared from the nation’s newspapers. Relief for veterans was to bedevil the government for years to come. The Pension Act alone was modified sixteen times during the inter-war years. In 1930, Mackenzie King introduced the War Veterans’ Allowance Act. The issue of how the Canteen Funds would be disbursed was finally settled after years of wrangling. Interestingly, Riley’s suspicions regarding the GWVA and its management proved to be accurate. In 1925, it was revealed that an advance of Canteen Funds to the GWVA in 1921-1922 went to paying the salaries of the organization’s executives and to finance its newspaper. Nothing was spent on unemployment relief for veterans.

Sources:

Campbell, Lara, 2000. “‘We who have wallowed in the mud of Flanders,’: First World War Veterans, Unemployment and the Development of Social Welfare in Canada, 1929-1939,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, 2000, 11(1), 125-149.

Canada, Government of, 1919. Canada and Her Soldiers, St. Clement’s Press, London.

Canadian Museum of History, 2021. The Effects of Unemployment.

Canadian War Museum, 2021. The Cost of Canada’s War.

Gazette, 1922. “Riley’s Army Of Veterans Hiking Back To Toronto,” 6 June.

———, 1922. “Riley’s Men Are Promised Jobs,” 13 June.

Globe, 1922. “Unemployment on Increase In Canada,” 26 April.

——–, 1922. “Jobless Army Begins March Upon Ottawa,” 20 May.

——–, 1922. “Recruits Join Jobless Army,” 22 May.

——–, 1922. “Veteran Army At Prescott,” 31 May.

——–, 1922. “Hikers Hiking Home, Voicing Displeasure With Visit To ‘Hill,’” 6 June.

——–, 1922. “Left Ottawa in Rain,” 7 June.

——–, 1922. “Hikers Return to Toronto Ready to Make ‘Hike’ Again If Ultimatum Not Granted,” 7 June.

——–, 1922. “Jobless Army Halts On Its Second March At Words Of Premier,” 13 June.

Leader, 1922. “Men Who Would Lead The March To Ottawa,” 12 May.

———, 1922. “Riley And Army Accept Offer Of Train Ride,” 7 June.

Ottawa Citizen, 1922. “Expected to Reach Brockville Tonight,” 30 May.

——————, 1922. “Veterans Pushing On To Prescott,” 31 May.

——————, 1922. “Makes Charges Against Former Leader of Army,” 3 June.

——————, 1922. “‘General’ Riley And His Army Enter Capital,” 5 June.

——————, 1922. “Macdonald in Toronto,” 5 June.

——————, 1922. “Army of Unemployed Veterans Is Not Satisfied With Answer Given: Tense Scenes on Parliament Hill,” 5 June.

——————, 1922. “Riley and Men Spend Hours At Mercy Of Weather,” 6 June.

——————, 1922. “Asks 5,000 More To Hike To Ottawa,” 9 June.

Ottawa Journal, 1922. “Hamilton ‘General’ Quits,” 22 May.

—————–, 1922. “Hikers’ Army Now On Way To Spencerville,” 1 June.

Province, 1922. “Unemployed Veterans To March To Ottawa, Led by E.C. Macdonald,” 8 May.

Scotland, Jonathan, 2016. And the Men Returned: Canadian Veterans and the Aftermath of the Great War, University of Western Ontario.

Wartime Canada, 2021. Veterans Programs.

The Rise and Fall of the Daly Building

14 June 1905

One of the greatest heritage battles in Ottawa’s history was fought over the future of the Daly Building, a multi-storey, former department store cum government office building located in the block bounded by Mackenzie Avenue, Rideau Street and Sussex Avenue. The architectural and historic merits of the building, constructed in what is known as the “Chicago style,” were debated ad nauseam for years if not decades in Ottawa’s newspapers, at City Hall, and at the National Capital Commission. While all could agree that something had to be done with the aging building, what that something was sharply divided Ottawa residents. As it turned out, the building, which was vacated by its last tenants in 1978, was left empty for thirteen years as the federal government, the owner of the property, dithered. It was hastily demolished in 1991, amidst a huge outcry, after a renovation attempt fell through. Paralleling what happened with LeBreton Flatts, the land was then left fallow for more than a decade. After many different development concepts were advanced and discarded, the government finally leased the property to Claridge Homes for an up-scale condominium building that opened in 2005.

The edifice which was to become known as the Daly Building, was built in 1904-05 by the Clemow Estate, under the supervision of Mr. William F. Powell who managed the Estate’s business affairs. Powell had originally hoped to build a hotel on the site. (This was before the Château Laurier was constructed across the street.) But when his hotel plans fell through, Powell negotiated a deal with Thomas Lindsay, a prominent Ottawa merchant who owned T. Lindsay Company, a department store on Wellington Street, and Larose & Company on Rideau Street. Under the agreement, the Clemow Estate would build a modern, five-storey, department store building that Thomas Lindsay would lease.

In preparation for the project, Powell travelled to New York on a fact-finding mission about the large department stores of that city. He then engaged Moses C. Edey as architect. Edey was no stranger to Ottawa. Born in Wyman, Quebec, the Edey family had come to the Hull area in 1805 with Philemon Wright. Edey was the architect of the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park completed in 1898. For the new department store, Edey chose what was for the time a daring new form of architecture that relied on a steel and stone external framework that permitted the installation of large, plate-glass windows. There was so much external glass that the Evening Journal commented that the building should be called a “crystal palace.” There were no interior walls, allowing maximum flexibility to organize the space. Instead, the floors were supported by 32 steel columns clad in Portland cement. This “Chicago School” form of construction is considered to be the forerunner of the modern glass and steel office tower.

Daly T. Lindsay 15-6-1905 OJ (2)

Thomas Lindsay, builder of what later would be known as the Daly Building, Ottawa Evening Journal, 15 June 1905.

Ground was broken for the five-storey building (four storeys on the Mackenzie Avenue since the edifice was constructed on a slope) in the summer of 1904, and was completed a year later. The new Thomas Lindsay Company department store opened its doors for business on 14 June 1905.

Thomas Lindsay, who had started the eponymous firm roughly fourteen years earlier at his Wellington Street location, was known for selling goods at low prices. His company was advertised as “The House of Bargains” and “the store where money has the greatest purchasing power.” But there was no stinting on the interior furnishings and fittings of his new department store. As well as having wide staircases, the store was serviced by three elevators, two for customers and one for freight. In addition to the natural lighting provided by the large plate glass windows, which were fitted with pivoting devices that permitted them to swivel open for easy cleaning and fresh air, the building was equipped with electric lighting. Around every other pillar on each floor was a large display table for goods. Every floor was serviced by a pneumatic tube, cash-carrying system, and had ladies’ and gentlemen’s toilets, all furnished with hot and cold running water. On the second floor overlooking Major Hill’s Park there was a large drawing room for visitors where they could go to sit, relax, read the latest magazines, or write letters. A ladies’ “retiring room” was off of this.

Daly building 3411920

The “Daly Building,” circa 1913, when owned by the Rea Brothers, Library and Archives Canada, Topley Studios, I.D. # 3411920. The Château Laurier Hotel is on the left.

On opening day, only three floors were finished; the upper two floors were completed by the fall. On the ground floor, off of Sussex Street, there was the men’s and boy’s clothing departments, a grocery equipped with a three-compartment refrigerator, and a drug store. On the first floor (accessed through the Mackenzie Street entrance), were the ladies’ department, and a “small wares” department. There were offices the third floor. Home furnishings, carpets, and hardware were located on the upper two floors once they were completed.

In 1906, Thomas Lindsay Company bought the building, as well as an adjacent empty lot to the north of the original structure, and other nearby properties from the Clemow Estate for reportedly $350,000. Lindsay’s intention was to increase the floor space of the department store by adding two floors, as originally designed by the building’s architect, and by extending the building onto the empty lot. However, these plans were delayed, possibly due to Thomas Lindsay’s declining health. In 1909, Thomas Lindsay sold his controlling interest in the Thomas Lindsay Company to the Rea brothers of Toronto for $300,000; the business had become too much for him. He died shortly after the sale.

The Rea brothers had retail experience in Toronto, having sold a similar store there to Robert Simpson, the owner of Simpson’s Department Store. After a short delay, they changed the name of their new department store to the A.E. Rea Company. In 1913, they undertook the store’s expansion as originally envisage by Lindsay. Other changes included a shortened work week. No longer would employees start work at 7:30am. Instead there would be a nine-hour day beginning at 8.30am, running until 5:30pm. As well, a new money-back guarantee was introduced. Also changed was the advertising policy of the store. Thomas Lindsay had withdrawn all advertising from the Ottawa Citizen in early 1908 owing to the newspaper’s opposition to the City taking over the Metropolitan Company’s water power operations at Britannia. Lindsay, who was a major shareholder in the power company, favoured the sale. Lindsay’s ban on advertising in the Citizen was revoked when the Rea brothers purchased the store.

Daly building extension 1913 LAC3410293 Topley

Construction of the Daly Building extension northward along Sussex Street. The Château Laurier Hotel is in the background, 1913, Library and Archives Canada, Topley Studios, ID #3410293.

In late 1917, the Rea brothers, who had overextended themselves, ran into financial difficulty.  Liquidators were called in to settle their affairs with the stock and assets of the department store sold off at 40 cents on the dollar. The big department store passed into the hands of H. J. Daly who took over the business and ownership of the building in February 1918.

Daly OJ 28-2-1918

Advertisement that appeared in the Ottawa Journal 28 February, 1918.

Oddly, for a building that bore his name for the rest of the century, Daly didn’t own it for very long—less than four years. In 1919, Daly moved his department store operations to a new store built on Sparks Street on a site previously occupied by the Arcade building (roughly where the CBC building is today) which had burnt down in a huge conflagration in December 1917. By mid-August 1919, the Daly Building was vacated and rented to the Federal Government which subsequently bought it for $1 million in late 1921. The H. J. Daly department store did not last long in its new Sparks Street location. It failed in early 1923.

As for the Daly Building itself, it was the home of a variety of federal government departments over the next fifty plus years, starting with the Department of Health in 1919 and ending as the Customs and Excise training centre in 1978. Its last private-sector tenant was Ad Lib, a women’s clothing store.

Discussion about pulling down the building began in 1954 when Jacques Gréber, the noted French urban planner who advised the federal government on how to beautify the Capital, recommended replacing the Daly building with a three-floor parking garage with a park on top. His suggestion did not go over well with Mayor Charlotte Whitton. The Minister of Public Works announced that other departments needed the space and the idea quickly faded.

But by the late 1970s, the building was in poor condition. As well, past renovations, which included replacing the windows during the 1920s and the removal of the decorative cornice in 1964 over concerns that pieces might fall and hurt passing pedestrians, were not sympathetic to the original design. With lots of new federal office space just built in Hull, the Daly Building was surplus to requirements. The Department of Public Works announced that since it was not economic to renovate it, the building would be demolished in 1979.

This set off a huge fight between conservationists and demolishers within the federal government, architect associations, and the heritage community over the merits of the conserving the only example of “Chicago-style architecture” in the city. As the war of words raged, the building slowly deteriorated. On the side of saving the former department store were Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar, and Jean Pigott, for a time the Chair of the National Capital Commission in the mid-1980s. Heritage Ottawa and a dedicated lobby group called Friends of the Daly Building also called for its restoration. Others, however, applauded its demolition. Charles Lynch, the noted Canadian journalist, author, and one-time former governor of Heritage Ottawa called the Daly Building “an ugly duckling: a former failed department store, failed office building, and successful eyesore.” He opined that the structure offered nothing of note or of beauty, either outside or inside, and he would be “honoured to strike the first blow when the wreckers come.” Another commentator wrote that the “heritage movement risked “making a fool of itself by unwise support of an unworthy cause.” He argued that to spend millions to “create a museum for architects when the general population hated the building was a form of “elitism.”

The hammer finally came down in September 1991 when the National Capital Commission announced that it didn’t believe that a group of developers (Coopdev and its partner Duroc Enterprises) would be able to finish a planned $45 million renovation by September the following year owing to the developers’ inability to find a major tenant for the renovated structure. When Coopdev failed to pay its first $60,000 payment in monthly rent on its 66-year lease, the NCC fired the company. The Daly Building was hastily demolished just a few days later.

Daly 700 Sussex Google

700 Sussex Street, site of the “Daly Building,” Google Maps, May 2019.

Over the following fourteen years, suggestions came and went on what to do with the property. Should it be a park, a parking garage, or some new prestige project? One idea that gained some traction for a while was to build a performing arts centre to celebrate Canada’s indigenous peoples. Noted Canadian architect, Douglas Cardinal, reportedly agreed to design the centre. The idea flopped. In the late 1990s, Gateway Development Corp. proposed building an upscale hotel on the site, with retail stores on the ground level, loft apartments, and, believe it or not, an underground aquarium. The proposal failed to receive the necessary financial backing and the project collapsed.

The NCC finally reached a deal with Claridge Homes and its president Bill Malhotra, under which the developer would lease the site for 66 years and build an eleven-storey condominium building with an open-air roof deck and garden on the eighth floor. The 70 luxury apartments ranged in size from roughly 1,000 to 2,300 square feet in size. The price for the one of the penthouse suites reportedly topped $1.75 million… and this was in 2002! Despite the eyewatering prices, 700 Sussex Drive proved to be a great success and quickly sold out.

While the old Daly department store is now long gone, its spirit is still with us. Dan Hanganu, the architect for the new condominium development, apparently drew his design inspiration from the old department store.

Sources:

Heritage Ottawa, Daly Building, https://heritageottawa.org/50years/daly-building.

Ottawa Citizen, 1905. “Clemow Estate,” 12 June.

——————, 1905. “Opening Of Ottawa’s New Palatial Store,” 10 June.

——————, 1905. “Congratulations,” 15 June.

——————, 1909. “Control May Change Hands,” 3 August.

——————, 1909. “The Lindsay Sale,” 7 August 1909.

——————, 1909. “Style Center Of Canada,” 18 August.

——————, 1909. “A Bit Of Local History,” 20 August.

——————, 1909. “Shorter Hours For Employes (sic),” 25 August.

——————, 1954. “Mayor Calls Greber Parking Plan Speculative Newspaper Story,’” 14 September.

——————, 1985. “An Argument for preservation of the Chicago Style Daly Building,” 16 November.

——————, 1991. “A Thing of the past,” 5 September.

——————, 1991. “Why doom the Daly building now?,” 7 September.

——————, 1991. “Start the Demolition!,” 8 September 1991.

——————, 1991. “Heritage falls off the Day tightrope,” 20 October.

——————, 1999. “Remembering the Daly Building,” 15 August.

——————, 2002, “Long lineup for Luxury Daly Units,” 9 January.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1904. “Palace Store on Clemow Site,” 13 June.

—————————–, 1905 “Many Expressions of Good Will From Many Friends,” 15 June.

—————————–, 1918. “The Rea Store, Announcement Extraordinary,” 5 January.

—————————–, 1921. “Property Transfers For Large Amounts,” 2 November.

 

The McKellar Train Disaster

25 June 1913

It was a bright, warm, early summer day without a cloud in the sky. At about 1.30pm on Wednesday, 25 June 1913, a westbound C.P.R. train pulled out of Ottawa’s downtown Central Station headed for Winnipeg. The train consisted of the locomotive, two mail and baggage cars, three colonist (third class) cars, two tourist (second class) cars, one first class passenger coach, a diner car and a Pullman sleeping car. Most of the train’s passengers were immigrants, newly arrived in Canada from Scotland and Ireland. Many had left Glasgow ten days earlier on the SS Pretorian of the Allan Line. Before steaming across the North Atlantic for Canada, the ship made a brief stop at Moville on the northern tip of Ireland in County Donegal, thirty kilometres north of Londonderry, to pick up more immigrants.

Train CPR colonist 1920s, LAC, Wikipedia

Interior of a “colonist” class C.P.R. train car, 1920s, Library and Archives Canada, Wikipedia.

The ship docked in Montreal, where its weary passengers spent the night before embarking on the next leg of their odyssey, the long train journey to Winnipeg and points further west. Most of the newcomers to Canada were riding in spartan “colonist” cars. Furnished with hard benches with little padding, the colonist cars were designed to cheaply transport the hundreds of thousands of poor immigrants who were pouring into Canada from the British Isles to settle in the Prairies. The immigrants came in search of a new, more prosperous life, lured by government advertisements of cheap land, clean, healthy living, and idyllic, western farming communities. The arrival of the SS Pretorian occurred during the peak of the Canadian immigration boom. A record number of more than 400,000 new arrivals came in 1913 alone, mostly from the British Isles and the United States. Canada’s population was less than 8 million at the time. By way of contrast, Canada welcomed 286,000 new permanent residents in 2017 when its population stood at 36.7 million.

For the slightly better-heeled immigrant, a step up from the very basic “colonist” class of car was “tourist” class. Tourist cars offered more comfortable seats and carpeting. Riders were still required to prepare their own meals in a kitchenette. First class customers, who road in luxury in their own carriage, and slept in a Pullman sleeper, patronized a dining car where they were served by uniformed waiters.

Train wreck 1913 Samuel J. Jarvis LAC PA-025116

The colonist class car lying on its side in the Ottawa River, Samuel J. Jarvis, Library and Archives Canada, PA-025116, 25 June 1913.

Leaving downtown Montreal at 9.45 am, the train pulled into Ottawa’s newly built Central Station at about noon. The station was located across the street from the opulent Château Laurier Hotel which had opened the previous year.  After picking up more passengers, it resumed its journey, first heading across the Alexandra Bridge to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, then travelling through Hull before returning to the Ontario side via the Prince of Wales bridge. A few kilometres outside of Ottawa, the train passed through cottage country along the shore of the Ottawa River. At one point, it travelled parallel to a streetcar making its way to the little resort community of Britannia, the site of the popular amusement park. Children and women leaned out the windows to wave handkerchiefs to people on the shore. As it entered McKellar Townsite, a new, residential development, the train began to rock. With a loud grinding sound, the train buckled and twisted. Two colonist cars located in the centre of the train jumped the tracks and slide down an embankment into the Ottawa River, landing in shallow water on their side. Two tourist cars also left the rails on the south side of the tracks away from the water, and jackknifed in the air. The first class carriage, dining car and Pullman sleeper at the rear of the train remained up right, as did the locomotive and the first three cars.

Train wreck 1913 Samuel J. Jarvis LAC PA-025111

Another view of the wrecked colonist cars, Samuel J. Jarvis, Library and Archives Canada, PA-025111, 25 June 1913.

On board, people screamed in terror and pain as they and their belongings were flung about the carriages. In the dining car, luncheon was in the process of being served. Diners and waiters were knocked off their feet; dishes and cutlery crashed to the floor. Oddly, in the rear Pullman sleeping car, passengers experienced only a minor jolting.

People travelling in the two colonist cars, which had tumbled down the embankment to lie partly submerged in the Ottawa River, suffered the worst. Many were severely injured. Several died either from impact injuries or from drowning despite the water being no more than three feet deep, having been knocked unconscious or trapped under debris. In total, eight people died, and another 65 were injured. All the fatalities were Irish or Scottish immigrants, ranging in age from 10 months to 55 years of age.[1]

Train wreck 1913 Samuel J. Jarvis LAC PA-025115

The jackknifed tourist cars with some of the Ottawa onlookers, Samuel J. Jarvis, Library and Archives Canada, PA-025115, 25 June 1913.

Newspaper accounts say that there was little panic after the accident, with passengers helping each other out of broken windows. Assistance also came from nearby homes, passersby and passengers on the streetcars. News of the accident was telephoned into the police in Ottawa, with ambulances quickly arriving on the scene. The Citizen remarked that the automobile had proved it worth, and that lives were undoubtedly saved by the speedy response made possible by the internal combustion engine. It was reported that half of Ottawa’s doctors were at the scene of the accident at some point in the afternoon to render medical help. The Victorian Order of Nurses also responded to the call for emergency medical assistance. Spiritual solace came from the Bishop Charlebois, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Keewatin, who had been travelling in the first class carriage along with two other clergymen; all three had escaped the wreck unscathed.

The injured were conveyed to two Ottawa hospitals, St. Luke’s, located at the corner of Elgin Street and Gladstone Avenue, and the General on Water Street. The uninjured were put up in Ottawa hotels by the C.P.R. The bodies of the victims were sent to two local funeral homes, Rogers & Burney’s on Laurier Ave and Brady & Harris on Lisgar Avenue.

There was a lot of confusion about the identity of one of the deceased women. At the funeral home, the only piece of identification found on her body was a piece of paper with a hand-written address on it discovered in a coat pocket. The address was for a Mrs Bunting of Winnipeg. However, after a telephone call to Winnipeg, it turned out that Mrs Bunting and her four children, all of whom had been on the train, were safe at a home on Woodroffe Avenue in Ottawa. Mrs Bunting had written her address on a piece of paper and had given it to the victim prior to the accident so that she might be able to contact Mrs Bunting after she had settled out west. Instead, it was the body of Mrs John McClure. Mrs McClure had been travelling from County Antrim with her daughter-in-law and her two grandchildren John, aged 5, and Matilda, age 10 months, to join her son in Edmonton. Only the daughter-in-law, the junior Mrs McClure, survived the wreck, saved by a quirk of fate. She had just gone to the kitchen to prepare lunch for her children when the train went off the rails. Bruised and understandably distraught after the accident, the young mother was taken to the home of Mrs Sarsfield who had found her at the site of the accident to recuperate. A telegram was sent to her husband, Henry McClure, who hastened to Ottawa, arriving on the Sunday after the accident.

There were other tragic tales. Mrs Jane McNealy, who was travelling from Glasgow with her three children to meet her husband in Edmonton was also killed, while her oldest son James, aged 18, was severely injured. He was taken to the General Hospital for treatment. Initially not expected to live, he made a surprising recovery and was released a few days later. His younger siblings, Robert, “a bright, red-headed little chap,” and his little sister, Maggie, while uninjured, were taken to St. Luke’s for observation overnight. They had been separated from their mother and brother, and did not immediately know what had become of them. After receiving news of the death of his wife, their father, Robert McNealy, went the C.P.R. office in Edmonton. In a highly emotional state, he had to be escorted from the premises by the police who held him at the station for several hours. He was later released without charge, and took the train to Ottawa to be with his children and attend his wife’s funeral.

Train wreck 1913 Samuel J. Jarvis LAC PA-025114

Another view of the wrecked C.P.R. train with the hoards of Ottawa onlookers who came to take in the scene of the disaster, Samuel J. Jarvis, Library and Archives Canada, PA-025114, 25 June 1913.

Wrecking crews from Ottawa and Smith’s Falls were quickly on the scene to help clear the tracks. Another serious accident was only narrowly averted by the quick thinking of Robert Scott, a brakeman from Smith’s Falls, when a large crane car broke free from the wrecking train while it was being manoeuvred into position to upright the wrecked cars. Gathering speed as it went down a hill, Scott stood at the end of the car shouting to rescuers and workmen on the track to get out of the way. Just before the crane itself left the rails at the site of the accident, Scott jumped into a ditch. The crane sank into the soft ground, hitting the wrecked cars but fortunately without any force. Although knocked unconscious for a time, Scott quickly recovered. His first words were to ask if anybody had been hurt. He then asked for nobody to tell his wife.

Immediately after the accident and through the afternoon and night, thousands of Ottawa residents descended on the accident site to watch the wrecking crews recover the mangled cars and clear the tracks. Many walked on top of the toppled cars to get a better view. So huge were the crowds, the Ottawa Electric Railway laid on extra streetcars on the Britannia route. At midnight, there were still several hundred gawkers on site. The track was reopened early the next morning.

An inquiry was immediately launched into the cause of the train accident. The coroner focused on three possibilities: a defect in the train; a defect in the roadbed; or a “sun kink.” A sun kink occurs when the heat of the sun warms the track sufficiently that the iron rails bow out. However, the inquiry was hampered by the refusal of the Railway Commission to allow its expert to testify on the extraordinary grounds that they don’t work for the public. While its experts investigated every train accident on behalf of the Board, their findings were reported in confidence and then shared with the railway company which made changes if required to help prevent further accidents. While a sun kink, a rare phenomenon, was believed initially to have been the cause of the accident, during the inquest the conductor noted that there had been no sign of a kink as the train approached the accident site. As well, one observer thought that a sun kink was unlikely in that location owing to the cooling air off of the Ottawa River. An examination of the rails also showed that they were in perfect alignment both to the east and west of the accident site. Work had been underway to straighten and trim the railway ties in the area. Consequently, it was possible that on descending the grade, the train hit a loose roadbed. Alternatively, there was evidence that something fell from the train which might have caused it to derail.

Some passengers on the train also thought it was going very fast at the time of the accident (about 25 m.p.h.) though speed was not mentioned as a possible contributing factor. Railway officials also disputed a story by Mrs Bunting that there had been a problem with the train prior to arriving in Ottawa. She had said that the train had come to a grinding stop about three quarters of an hour prior to reaching Ottawa, and that the conductor had rushed through the train saying something had broken. As the train resumed its journey, she had not thought much of the incident until after the train wreck. She admitted, however, that her memory was a bit fuzzy.

In the end, the coroner’s jury returned a verdict that the cause of the wreck was “unknown.”

Seven of the eight victims of the McKellar train accident were buried in the Beechwood Cemetery. Patrick Mulvenna, the last to be laid to rest, was buried in the Notre Dame Cemetery. Many Ottawa residents came out to bid them farewell.

Sources:

CBC. 2013. Deadly Ottawa Train Crash 100 Years Later, 25 June.

Canada, 2019. 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/annual-report-parliament-immigration-2018/report.html.

Chandler, Graham, 2016. “Selling the Prairie Good Life,” Canada’s History, 7 September, https://www.canadashistory.ca/explore/settlement-immigration/selling-the-prairie-good-life.

Edmonton Journal, 1913. :Pathetic Story Is Pictured OF Wreck Victims,” 27 June.

Leader-Post (Regina), 1913. “Case of Nerves,” 1 July.

Ottawa Citizen, 1913. “Heavy Loss Of Life In Wreck Near City,” 25 June.

——————, 1913.  “All Victims Of Railway Wreck Have Now Been Identified. Eight Are Dead And Little Hope For One Of The Injured,” 26 June.

——————, 1913. “Casualties 8 Killed, About 65 Injured,” 26 June.

——————, 1913. “Graphic And Pathetic Stories Told In Philosophical Manner By Passengers,” 26 June.

——————, 1913. “Bereaved Husband,” 27 June.

——————, 1913. “Railway Commission Experts Don’t’ Work For The Benefit Of The Public Who Pay,” 10 July.

——————, 1913. “Unable To Determine Cause of Accident,” 16 July.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1913. “Enquiry Into The Cause Of Fatal Wreck Ordered, Injured Recovering,” 26 June.

—————————–, 1913. “Death List in M’Kellar Townsite Wreck Totals 8; Sixty-five Injured; Pathetic Scenes Among Debris; Many Visited Scene,” 26 June.

—————————–, 1913. “Cause of The Wreck Puzzle For Railwaymen,” 26 June.

—————————–, 1913. “Triple Funeral,” 30 June.

—————————–, 1913. “Obituary,” 2 July.

[1]  The victims were Patrick Mulvenna, County Antrim age 25, John Moodie, Orkney, age 17, John Hogg, Derry, age 30, Mrs Jane McNealy, Glasgow, age 40, John Peace, Glasgw, age 21, Mrs John McClure, County Antrim, age 55, John McClure, County Antrim, age 5, and Matilda McClure, County Antrim, age 10 months.

Sunday Shopping

7 June 1992

Millennials and post-Millennials may be astounded to learn that as little as a generation ago shopping on Sundays was not permitted except under very limited circumstances. Service stations could remain open as could corner stores, and shops in designated tourist zones, such as Ottawa’s Byward Market. However, shopping malls and grocery stores were required to be closed. And people didn’t even dream of buying alcohol on a Sunday. The reason was the Lord’s Day Act which forbade shopping on Sunday, a.k.a. the Sabbath.

Codex
The Codex Theodosianus, which was compiled by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II, was a collection of ancient Roman laws, Wikipedia.

A prohibition on Sunday business has a very old pedigree, dating back to 321 A.D. to the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine. All city residents and tradesmen were required to rest on Sunday. There were exceptions where a cessation of work was not practical such as in agriculture. The interesting thing is that this first Sunday shopping ban occurred during pagan times. In 386 A.D., shortly after Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire, the first reference to the “Lord’s Day” appears. Contained in the Codex Theodosianus, the law stated that “on the day of the sun, properly called the Lord’s Day, by our ancestors, let there be a cessation of lawsuits, business and indictments.”

Similar laws were promulgated in England during Saxon times and after the Norman Conquest in 1066. There were, however, slippages in practices during the fourteenth and fifteen centuries when Sunday increasingly became a market day and taverns remained open, much to the displeasure of the Church. In 1448, the Sunday Fairs Act was passed banning all fairs and markets on a Sunday, except for necessary “victuals” and four harvest Sundays. In the seventeenth century, amidst growing Puritanism, three more Sunday Observance Acts were passed tightening restrictions, including a ban on recreation and travelling. Church service attendance was, of course, mandatory.

After the conquest of Quebec in 1763, the four English Sunday observance laws applied to what was to become Canada, as did the 1780 English Act for Preventing Certain Abuses and Profanations on the Lord’s Day, called Sunday. In 1845, under pressure from Methodist and Presbyterian churches, the legislature of the Province of Canada passed its own strict Sunday observance act for Upper Canada called “An Act to Prevent the Profanation of the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday. Prohibited were all “worldly labour, business or work” as well as tippling, public political meetings, skittles, ball, football, racket, or any other noisy game, gambling, foot races, horse races, swimming, fishing, hunting, or shooting. In other words, anything that was fun was forbidden. There were exceptions. If you were attacked by a wolf, you could shoot it. Also, conveying travellers and Her Majesty’s mail, selling drugs or medicine, works of charity and “other such works of necessity” were permitted.

The rationale for this law was to ensure that everybody spent Sunday in prayer or doing godly things rather than anything that might be considered worldly or pleasurable. Note for the religiously strict even laughing was frowned upon as there is no reference to Christ laughing in the Bible.

The Bytown City Council passed its own Sunday By-law in 1847 to prevent “nuisances.” Such nuisances including anybody who kept open a grocery or eating house on the Sabbath-day within the limits of the Town. The penalty was up to 25 shillings.

For the most part, the Sunday Observance Acts were effective in shutting down virtually all business. The one major exception—the transmission of the mail on Sundays—was very controversial. Church groups protested.  In 1850, Bytown inhabitants also complained, sending a memorial to the Governor General noting “with deep regret the extensive and legalized system of Sabbath desecration caused by the transmission of Her Majesty’s mail, the opening of Post Offices, and the delivery of letter and papers on the Lord’s Day.” The government resisted such entreaties, and the mail continued.

Lord's Day Act
Article that appeared in the Ottawa Daily Citizen, 12 June 1876

Of course, not everybody obeyed the law. Certain industries in remote areas, such as forestry and mining, were serial offenders. As well, those in domestic service didn’t seem to qualify for a day of rest.

Many complained about boys playing ball or cricket in Ottawa’s streets and on vacant lots on Sundays. Some took umbrage at kids fishing on the Sabbath in the Rideau River at Hogsback, especially when they openly carried fishing poles and fish past the residences of “respectable” people. “Unless they drop their evil practices they will be summarily brought to justice.”  On one occasion, five “delinquents” were fined $1 each plus court costs for fishing and bathing on the Sabbath.

In 1866-67, there was an extensive debate in the Daily Citizen on whether skating on a Sunday was legal.  Writing under the pseudonym “Christian Liberty,” one citizen maintained that “there was no statute, Imperial or Provincial, which made Sunday skating illegal. “Ruris” wrote that “whether or not there be such a law…, [he] was not prepared to skate” and that “there is an enactment of the statute of the Book of the King of kings which says remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” “Anti-Cant” called Sabbatarians (people who believe in a literal reading of the of the fourth Commandment such as Ruris), “a set of humbugs and hypocrites.” He added “You big boys and little, who, after close confinement for six days, want to stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh, invigorating air of Heaven on the seventh, slide and skate away, and get roses in your cheeks, and don’t be afraid of the police.”

The definition of a “work of necessity” was also unclear. In July 1877, Chief Langrell of the Ottawa Police instructed his men to tell all milk dealers that they must observe the Sabbath or face the consequences—a fine of up to $50. This injunction set off a wave of protest. Ottawa police were called the “milk inquisition” and that the Chief was “elevating public morality through the medium of the milk pail.” After it was pointed out that milk, especially at the height of an Ottawa summer, was a perishable product and that children needed to drink fresh not sour milk, Chief Langrell relented. However, a few years later, five barbers were less successful. They received summons for shaving customers on the Sabbath. One irate citizen wrote that “it certainly seems ridiculous that bathing or shaving or any other toilet operation should be a crime on Sunday.”

Sunday laws
Sunday Laws in Ontario, early 20th century, Source: Seventh Day Adventist Church

In 1888, Sabbatarian churches formed the Ontario Lord’s Day Alliance to fight an emerging new unholy threat to Sabbath observance—the Sunday operation of streetcars in Ontario. After legal challenges, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the Lord’s Day Act did not apply to streetcars, railways, telegraph, canal, and steamship companies that operated under a Dominion charter. Appealed again, the case went to the Privy Council in London. In a shocking move to Sabbatarians, the Privy Council ruled in 1903 that the entire Ontario Lord’s Day Act was ultra vires, since criminal law was a Dominion responsibility under the British North America Act.

The Dominion Lord’s Day Alliance fought back with its members launching a campaign to pressure the Laurier Government to pass a federal Lord’s Day Act. In 1905 two members of the Alliance came to Ottawa to address church groups. At Erksine Presbyterian Church, they argued that “our national well-being required that the sacredness of the Sabbath be preserved.”

In 1906, the Federal Government complied, passing the Act over the opposition of other religious groups, including Seventh-Day Adventists and Jews, who worship on Saturdays. Sunday business, including sports, was sharply circumscribed. There was, however, a list of exclusions, including work of domestic servants and health care workers, bakers after 4pm, fishermen after 6pm and newspaper operators after 8pm. Telegraphs, telephones, the postal service, electrical works, animal husbandry, and certain industrial repairs were also permitted. Maple syrup production was also deemed a work of necessity.

During the Second World War, Sunday restrictions eased slightly. Cinemas in some cities opened on Sundays to provide entertainment for the troops. However, war didn’t stop the Lord’s Day Alliance from trying to stop market gardeners from tending their gardens on Sundays in 1943.

In 1950, Ontario passed the Lord’s Day (Ontario) Act, which complemented the federal law but permitted municipalities to decide for themselves whether to permit sporting events on Sunday afternoons. Here in Ottawa, it took three public votes on the issue before the Ottawa Rough Riders were finally allowed to play football on Sundays starting in 1965.

To reinforce the provincial Lord’s Day Act, the Ontario government passed the Retail Business Holidays Act in 1975 which prohibited most retail stores from operating on a Sunday. The cited reason was to give workers a common day of pause. Now there was two Ontario laws banning Sunday shopping, one religious and one ostensibly secular.

But by the 1980s, popular opinion was beginning to shift in favour of Sunday shopping. In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled in R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd that the Lord’s Day Act was unconstitutional under section 2b (freedom of thought, belief opinion and expression) of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Expecting the Retail Business Holiday Act to also be found unconstitutional, stores in Ontario began to open illegally on Sundays. However, the Supreme Court surprised everybody by ruling in the government’s favour. Stores again closed their doors.

Pressure for change shifted to the political front. Libertarian groups, such as the Freedom Party of Ontario, and the Committee for Fair Shopping, a coalition of grocery store chains, lobbied for freedom of choice. Border communities also lobbied for change as U.S. shops were open on Sundays and attracted Canadian customers. In 1989, the Ontario government dumped the issue into the laps of municipalities by introducing the “local option,” where municipalities could decide whether stores in their jurisdictions could open on Sundays. This satisfied nobody.

Sunday shopping
Government Announcement regarding Sunday Shopping, Ottawa Citizen, 8 June 1992.

In June 1990, an Ontario High Court judge ruled the Retail Business Holiday Act unconstitutional. Stores in Ontario, including Ottawa, reopened on Sundays. However, eight months later, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision, much to the delight of organized labour and church groups. Subsequently, three Nepean stores, Fresh Fruit Co on Robertson Road, Top Banana on Merivale Road, and Leather Liquidation also on Merivale Road, were charged with illegally doing business on a Sunday.

But the public had a taste of the forbidden fruit and found it delicious. Public opinion polls began to strongly favour Sunday shopping. At the beginning of June 1992, the NDP government of Bob Rae, which had previously insisted on a “common pause day to strengthen the family and community life while protecting small businesses and the rights of workers,” caved under the pressure. Over the protests of labour unions and the complaints of a psychologist who argued that Sunday shopping would do serious psychological harm to families, the Rae government allowed unfettered Sunday shopping.   A few days later, on Sunday, 7 June 1992, malls and grocery stores opened for business across the province, including Ottawa. A new era in retailing had begun.

On that first day of Sunday shopping in Ottawa, “mom and pop” stores apparently took a beating as shoppers flocked to the malls. Small independent fruit stores as well as Byward Market shops also experienced a fall in revenues. The iconic Boushey’s Fruit Market on Elgin Street posted a 25 per cent decline in sales, and worried that it might have to lay off staff.

In the event, a new retail equilibrium emerged over time. Contrary to the fears of some, a 2005 study concluded that stores, on average, did not increase the hours of work of existing employees but instead hired a significant number of new employees to accommodate Sunday shopping. Also contrary to some church fears, Sunday shopping did not lead to social Armageddon, though church attendance continued its decline. As for Boushey’s, the store survived the introduction of Sunday shopping and lasted another 24 years. It closed its doors in 2016. Financial reasons were not a factor.

Sources:

CBC. 2016. “Boushey’s Fruit Market on Elgin Street closing after 70 years in business,” 31 May, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/bousheys-grocery-elgin-closing-1.3608630.

Canada, Province of, 1845. An Act to prevent the Profanation of the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, in Upper Canada, https://bnald.lib.unb.ca/sites/default/files/UnC.1845.ch%2045.pdf.

Canada, 1906, The Lord’s Day Act, http://www.wikiwand.com/en/History_of_Seventh-day_Adventist_freedom_of_religion_in_Canada.

Crocker, Rev. Chris W. 2013. A Worthy Cause: The Lord’s Day in the Baptist Press Amongst Nineteenth-Century, Upper Canadian Regular Baptists,  McMaster Divinity College, https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/16873/1/Crocker%20Chris.pdf.

Freedom Party of Ontario, 2012. Sunday Shopping in Ontario: The 85 year Ban and its Defeat, http://www.freedomparty.on.ca/sundayshopping/.

Garner, Hugh 1956. “How Canada’s ‘blue-law’ busybodies boss you on Sunday,” Liberty, November, http://www.freedomparty.on.ca/sundayshopping/1955-11-xx.Liberty-Magazine.blue-law-busibodies.pdf.

Ontario Law Reform Committee, 1970. Report on Sunday Observance Legislation, Department of Justice, http://www.ontla.on.ca/library/repository/mon/27010/22192.pdf.

Ottawa Citizen, 1861. “Fall Assizes,” 25 October.

—————–, 1869. “Vigilant,” 13 July.

——————, 1865. “Sabbath Breakers,” 20 June.

——————, 1876. “Disgraceful,” 12 June.

——————, 1877. “Sabbath Desecration,” 9 July.

——————, 1877. “No title,” 24 July.

——————, 1877. “Not title,” 27 July.

——————, 1903. “Lord’s Day Act,” 15 July.

——————. 1992. “Its Been Brutal,” 8 June.

——————, 1883. “Sunday Shaving,” 3 July.

——————, 1990. “Attention, Sunday Shoppers,” 6 July.

——————, 1991. “NDP can’t keep its promises,” 12 February.

——————, 1991. “Sunday Shopping,” 21 March.

——————, 1991.  “Sunday Shopping,” 30 June.

——————, 1991. “Bill Allows 4 Weeks of Sunday Shopping,” 26 November.

——————. 1992. “Bedeviled!” 30 May.

——————. 1992. “Stores open Sunday,” 4 June.

——————, 1992. “It’s Been Brutal,” 8 June.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1905. “Preserving The Sabbath,” 8 May.

Packet, 1847. “By-Law to prevent Nuisances,” 4 December.

——–, 1850 “Sabbath Desecration,” 26 January.

——–, 1850. “Memorial of the Inhabitants of Bytown and its Vicinity,” 20 July.

Skuterud, Mikal, 2005. “The impact of Sunday shopping one employment and hours of work in the retail industry: evidence from Canada,” European Economic Review, Vol. 49, Issue 8, November, pp. 1953-1978.

Wikiwand, 2019. History of Seventh-Day Adventist freedom of religion in Canada, http://www.wikiwand.com/en/History_of_Seventh-day_Adventist_freedom_of_religion_in_Canada.

The Canadian Historical Dinner Service

18 June 1898

When John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, the 7th Earl of Aberdeen (later 1st Marquis of Aberdeen and Temair) was appointed Governor General of Canada in May 1893, few Canadians would have known that they were effectively getting two governors general rather than one. Lord Aberdeen’s wife, Ishbel, the Countess of Aberdeen, was not the traditional, self-effacing Victorian wife, content to live in the shadow of her illustrious spouse. While she fulfilled her expected roles of mother and hostess, her real passion in life was improving the lot of the poor, at home in Scotland, or wherever her husband was posted.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen LAC
Lord and Lady Aberdeen with (left to right) Dudley, Marjorie, George, and Archibald, Topley Studio-Library and Archives Canada, PA-027852.

Both she and her husband were progressive socially and politically, with links to the Liberal Party. Back in Scotland, she had founded charitable organizations aimed at improving the education and health of working-class women. When her husband was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the mid-1880s (and again prior to World War I), it was hard to tell who worked harder. Sensitive to growing Irish nationalism, Lord Aberdeen favoured Home Rule while his Countess worked tirelessly for Irish economic development, and better health care and housing for Irish poor. A Sinn Féin (Irish Nationalist) newspaper called her “the real governor-general of Ireland.”

In Canada, Lady Aberdeen continued her social crusading ways.  Immediately upon her arrival in the country, she launched the National Council of Women and was elected its first president, a position she accepted on the proviso she be considered an honorary Canadian. This was not some sinecure. She took the lead in making the Council a reality. She had already been elected President of the International Council of Women at the Chicago World Fair, a position she was to hold for more than thirty years. In 1897, she started the Victorian Order of Nurses in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, criss-crossing the country to drum up support and donations. She and other leading Ottawa ladies also worked hard to establish a public library in Ottawa, though this campaign didn’t bear fruit until some years after she and her husband had left Canada.

Charming, persuasive and an excellent orator, Lady Aberdeen’s effectiveness was also due to her willingness to use her high social position and contacts to her advantage. Needless to say, she irritated men who thought the role of the wife of a governor general should be limited to official hostess. Some saw her as bossy, sticking her aristocratic nose into things that weren’t her concern. One Halifax newspaper fumed that “we expect our Governors General to so govern their own families as to keep them out of mischief.” A New York newspaper said she was “too clever and too advanced for Canadians” and that she was “too much interested in movements.”

During Lord Aberdeen’s five-year appointment, the couple tirelessly crossed the country meeting and greeting Canadians of all types. They had a particularly strong connection with British Columbia where they had a large ranch. The Aberdeens are credited with launching the Okanagan fruit industry on a commercial scale. Lord Aberdeen, already extremely popular among Canadians of Scottish and Irish extraction, endeared himself to French Canadians by speaking French, and promoting French culture and heritage. It was he who started the practice of speaking in both official languages at public gatherings in Quebec. He also spoke Gaelic when he visited Nova Scotia. (There were so many Gaelic speakers that there was an attempt in the mid-1890s to make Gaelic Canada’s third official language.)

Aberdeen dinner plate
Dinner plate, Parliament Buildings and Ottawa River by Martha Logan (1863-1937), Canadian Museum of History, Wikipedia.

In 1898, Lord and Lady Aberdeen took leave of Canada. His last speech in the Senate was on 13 June 1898 when he prorogued Parliament. It was an emotional affair for all concerned. After the Governor General had concluded his valedictorian speech, people adjourned to the drawing room of the Senate’s speaker. There, Lady Aberdeen was given a farewell present, the gift of senators and members of parliament. The Honourable George William Allan of the Senate and Mr. Frank Frost, the Liberal MP of Leeds North and Grenville North made the formal presentation of a 204-piece formal dinner service. Speaking on behalf of everyone, Senator Allan said that the dinner service was a “memorial to their esteem and affection in recognition of the signal devotion of Her Excellency [Lady Aberdeen] to the promotion of all good works in Canada and [her] invariable kindness to the members of the Dominion Parliament.” He noted that the painted plates were the work of the Women’s Art Association of Canada and was hence “most suitable for presentation, both because it is purely Canadian and because it is the result of efforts of Canadian women, in whom Your Excellency has always shown the deepest interest.”

Aberdeen Fish
Fish plate, Cytherea gibbia, Halymenia ligulata by Lily Osman Adams (1865-1945), Canadian Museum of History, Wikipedia

Lady Aberdeen was surprised and genuinely touched by the magnificent gesture. She responded without notes, saying that she was “overwhelmed” by the splendid gift. She added that the parliamentarians “could not possibly have chosen anything that [she and her husband] could have valued more,” and that it held “a special value to [her], being handiwork of those Canadian women workers with whom [she had] so many cherished associations of affectionate sympathy and co-operation for common aims and common works.” She concluded by saying that during every festive event, the plates would remind them of their stay in Canada.

The dinner service had its origins in an idea championed two years earlier by Mary Ella Dignam, the founder and president of the Women’s Art Association of Canada (WAAC) as a way of celebrating the 400th anniversary of the John Cabot’s journey of discovery to North America in 1497.  Sixteen Canadian women artists were jury-selected to paint images of Canadian places of historic importance as well as examples of Canadian flora and fauna on the 204-piece, ceramic dinner service.[1] Dignam hoped that the Dominion Government would buy the service, which was called the Cabot Commemorative State Service, for use at Government House (Rideau Hall) for state banquets. The selling price was $1,000 (roughly $30,000 in today’s prices).

Aberdeen soup
Soup plate, Entrance to Fort Lennox, by Clara Elizabeth Galbraith (1864-1941), Canadian Museum of History, Wikipedia

In an interview that appeared in The Globe newspaper in 1897, Dignam credited a Mr. Howland (most likely Oliver Aiken Howland, an Ontario politician and future mayor of Toronto) as coming up with the idea of commemorating the event with a historical work, and a Mr. Thompson with the suggestion that the work take the form of a state dinner service. However, Dignam was the person who brought the idea to fruition. In addition to honouring Cabot and equipping Rideau Hall with a distinctively Canadian dinner service for state events, Dignam hoped that the work would help establish ceramic art as a “permanent industry” in Canada.

The inspiration for a Canadian state dinner service appears to have come from south of the border. In 1879, the wife of then U.S. president Rutherford Hayes commissioned a state dinner service for the White House featuring American flora and fauna. The plates were designed by the American artist Theodore R. Davis and were produced by a company in Limoges, France. While this American service may have provided the model for the Canadian dinner service, Dignam was adamant that there was no resemblance between the two services except for their intended use. The American plates were designed by one man and decorated in one factory, whereas the Canadian plates were the designed by many female artists and were made across the country.

Aberdeen dessert
Dessert plate, Redcurrants by Alice M. Judd (18?-1843), Canadian Museum of History, Wikipedia

After being selected through a competition, the sixteen artists bought commercially-produced, plain white, ceramic “blanks” produced by Doulton China of England for $6.60 a dozen. Dignam promised the artists at least $60 less ten percent for twelve pieces of original ceramic art, on the assumption that the service would be sold for $1,000. The rest of the funds raised would go to cover other expenses such as postage. If the service didn’t sell, the artists were on the hook to find buyers for their creations.

Each place setting consisted of a soup plate, fish plate, dinner plate, game plate, salad plate, cheese plate, dessert plate and a coffee cup and saucer. Each plate and cup had its own unique design. A ceramics committee of the WAAC provided a collection of pictures and sketches of Canadian historic sites, Canadian game animals, fish, shells and ferns for the inspiration of the artists. Artists were assigned plates to design, paint and fire. For example, Mrs Egan of Halifax and Miss Whitney of Montreal were assigned the game plates, with the former painting large game birds and the latter small game birds. On the rim of the game plates were painted the food favoured by the species shown in the centre. On the back of every plate was a special red logo of the shield of the WAAC surmounted by rendering of Cabot’s ship, the Matthew, with the dates 1497-1897 underneath.

Aberdeen saucer
Saucer, Jewel weed by Anna Lucy Kelly (1849-1920), Canadian Museum of History, Wikipedia

The artists had only four months to complete their designs and fire the plates. Working in isolation from each other, the full dinner service was only seen in its entirety when the ceramics committee assembled it for inspection. The Cabot Commemorative State Dinner Service went on public display at the Pantecnetheca (116 Yonge Street) in Toronto in July 1897. It was subsequently displayed during the British Association meeting held in Toronto the following month, and at the headquarters of the WAAC where Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Prime Minister, and Lady Laurier inspected the pieces. The dinner service then travelled to other cities for public viewing.

While the dinner service was highly praised, Mary Dignam was unable to persuade the Dominion Government to part with the $1,000 needed to cover the costs of production. So, Dignam approached Lady Edgar, the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, who put her in touch with a number of senators and members of Parliament. More than 150 senators and MPs put up the required $1,000 in a private subscription to purchase the dinner service to honour the Canadian achievements of Lady Aberdeen.

The dinner service, now called the Canadian Historical Dinner Service, went home with Lord and Lady Aberdeen and took up residence in their home, Haddo House, where it was stored in a specially-built cabinet. The dinner service, which is now owned by the National Trust of Scotland, resides there to this day. In 1997, part of the service was exhibited at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, now known as the Canadian Museum of History, for the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s journey to North America.

Sources:

Duncan, March 2015, “An Irishman’s Diary on Lady Aberdeen,” The Irish Times, 3 March.

Elwood Marie, 2018. “The Cabot Commemorative State Service for Canada, 1897 – A History,” Canadian Museum of History, https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/cadeau/caint02e.shtml.

—————–, 1977. “The State Dinner Service of Canada, 1898, Material Culture Review, Vol. 3, Spring, https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/MCR/article/view/16955/23046.

Globe (The), 1897. “Chit Chat,” 15 April.

—————, 1897. “The State Dinner Set,” 23 July.

—————, 1897. “Chit Chat,” 8 October.

—————, 1897. “Ceramic Art,” 4 December.

Ottawa Citizen (The), 1997, “Exhibits celebrate unusual art objects,” 8 September.

Ottawa Evening Citizen (The), 1898. “A Farewell to the Aberdeens,” 14 June.

[1] Lily Osman Adams, Jane Bertram, M. Louise Couen, Alice M. Egan, Clara Elizabeth Galbraith, Justina A. Harrison, Juliet Howson, Margaret Irvine, Alice Lucy Kelley, Margaret McClung, Hattie Proctor, M. Roberts, Phoebe Amelia Watson and Elizabeth Whitney.