Friday, August 31, 2012

Eastwood, Reford and Women's Education

While scoping the November 1909 Montreal Gazettes for any information on the Turner Exhibit or the Industrial Fair I came across two interesting articles about education, the education of Men and the Education of Women.

Edith Nicholson of School Marms and Suffrgettes wrote in a November 1909 letter that she saw Mrs. Reford, society woman, at the Industrial Fair and that she was short and fatter than expected.

I was hoping for more information to add colour to my book as this happened just a month after Edith's fiance took off to Cornwall, leaving her distraught.

Now, Edith did not read the Gazette. The Gazette was the newspaper of the merchant class (and their wives) and non-evangelists, its pages filled with business news and stock market quotes and advertisements for booze and popular literature and popular entertainment.

That newspaper did not openly support the suffragettes either, as did the evangelical Montreal Witness.

But had she happened upon this edition of the Gazette and picked it up, (perhaps looking for jobs as a stenographer for she had originally trained to be an office worker) she would have come across these articles. I wonder what she would have thought.

The article about men's education was actually an Editorial, pondering whether all working men might benefit from a 'liberal arts' education, meaning the study of Greek and Latin.

Businessmen and tradesmen and professionals.

Similar to what they had in England, but only for the elite.

This material wasn't of practical value, that was a given, but it elevated 'character' the author of the piece suggested. And such knowledge would prove useful in retirement or in times when a man is depressed, as a kind of spiritual balm.

(I myself studied the classics in school. I don't re-read Suetonius in my 50's, but I do like to go on YouTube and visit Pompeii and download pictures of their wall art, print it out and put it on my wall. And I do enjoy looking at classical art.  Looking at beautiful things does lift me out of depression, but I'm a woman..)

The other article - about women's education - was in the Women's Section, squeezed between drawings of the latest fashions.
"Youthful and stylish chapeau. In 1909 hats were big and hats figure big in my story School Marms and Suffragettes."

It was rather cruel in tone, even though aimed directly at women readers.

"A woman goes to college and comes out of it hurt instead of helped because she has somehow gained the crazy notion that the mere taking of a collegiate course and the incidental acquiring of a smattering of incident knowledge of a few of the arts and sciences are in themselves an excuse for claiming or asserting mental superiority to men who have been trained in another way.

It is women of this class who men dislike and shun."

The warning here to matrons, Don't educate your daughter or she won't find a husband!"

Yes, I wonder what Edith Nicholson, the teacher without a diploma, thought about such ideas. No doubt she came across them all the time.

I ask this, because to some Edith could have come across as a dilettante. But her thirst for learning was genuine. (She went on to work at McGill in the Registrar's Office and as Assistant Warden of Royal Victoria College.)

The Presbyterians were all for women's education. They were generally Scots who valued education, but they also believed that it was women who elevated the race, even at the family level. Well, especially at the family level.

That's why they supported the suffragettes. They wanted women to get the vote so that they could change the world for the better, because all men cared about was making money, and booze and the 'other'.

For business men, like Reford of the Reford Transportation Line, their wives (with their good works) played a different part, "Good Cop" to their "Bad Cop".

This still happens today, even with the American President and his wife. Romney's wife Anne played that part at the Republican Convention this past week. The news articles praised her warm side. If you don't like him, you might like her. They were using her to appeal to female voters who generally don't go for candidates who are "all business." "I love you, women, and I hear you voices," she is quoted in the press as saying.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, she was overshadowed by Clint Eastwood and a Chair.

Some Popular Titles in November 1909.

Edith preferred George Eliot. I have her two volume set of Middlemarch.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Extra! Extra! Keep off the Street.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Girls banned from being streetside newspaper vendors!

That would be the headline in the Montreal Gazette in 1909.

They banned girls of all ages from being newspaper street vendors. For adult women and males over 10 it was OK!


I've already posted how about the same time they put a 200 dollar tax on push cart vendors, who were all immigrants, Syrians (Lebanese) and Greeks. The 200 dollar tax was the same amount established store-front shopkeepers paid to the City.

Only one alderman protested that this was unfair, claiming that selling with push carts were all that poor people could afford and that they couldn't possibly pay the tax, that this stifled business growth.

Sure it did, but it maintained the status quo, too.

Laws aren't always (ever?) about justice, they are often about protecting the stakeholders in any given society from the wannabes.

This is particularly relevant today, where the everyone pretends they want to promote entrepreneurship to grow the economy.  Sure, I believe it. Don't you?

The by-law banning girl street vendors was more about the prevailing morality. The terms "Young woman"  and "the street"  were never to be used in the same breath.

A well-bred woman never stopped walking in the street, especially to talk to a man, even if that man is her Minister or her brother.  Keep walking was the mantra. Or look like a whore.

I'm guessing that the morality people believed that the young girls selling newspapers on the street would be in danger from procurers. Or would be soliciting on the sly.

It was OK if young women worked long long hours for little pay in factories. (The legal age for work was 14, but many girls younger worked in Montreal Factories.)

And of course many young girls dropped out of school to become 'little mothers' to their siblings while their own mothers worked.

The fact that the low pay in factories  often made it necessary for some young women to 'supplement' their income with prostitution,well, that was another thing.

The newspaper publishers, a powerful group, did not protest this new by-law. I guess it didn't matter to them.  If young girls sold more newspapers than the boys (in the way Girl Scouts probably sell more Maple Cookies than Boy Scouts) they probably would have been inclined to fight the by-law.

This law had repercussions that were long-lasting. In the 1960's, boy had paper-routes and girls baby- sat. Boys weren't trusted with babies and girls weren't trusted with 'small businesses.'

As if the fact I had played with dolls made me ready to take care of someone's infant.. at 13, when I have never ever held an infant in my life. It was the neighbour's kid. She begged me to babysit - and I recall with horror having to change the floppy wailing creature during my tenure.  Of course, my mother was across the street, but it never occurred to me to phone her.

Montreal in 1910: Millionaires and Churches

ST Laurent The Main in 1910

As I start my Hostel! story... about a Phys Ed Residence of McGill in 1928, a girls' residence, I am still working on School Marms and Suffragettes. I re-read this old post and it occurred to me that I should add a bit to School Marms. In that story, Dr. Henry Watters takes Marion Nicholson and May Watters to the Windsor for lunch, to celebrate May's graduation from MacDonald Teachers College. Flo and Edith are jealous.. but don't say anything. The author below claims that in 1910 you might see 10 millionaires dining at once at the Windsor. I should get this into the story. The point illustrates exactly WHY they are jealous. Show don't Tell. Then again, maybe I should use this entire piece in the story.. It's public domain. Or is it being Maclean's ...still around. Well, it must be as it is on

Here's the Old Post, a reprise..

Thursday afternoon Miss Martin and I were in the Windsor Hotel to see an exhibition of pictures by famous artists. One painting by Turner is worth 40,000 dollars. The others, we were afraid to ask the price. Then we went over to the industrial fair. I heard someone mention Mrs. Reford, so you may imagine my surprise to see her. She was just exactly as you have often pictured. The only thing, I thought she was fatter. She was very plainly dressed in a little black suit. Very sweet looking. 

(Edith Nicholson, in a November 1909 letter. Mrs. Reford is a rich society woman, wife of one of the Montreal magnates mentioned below. Edith seems surprised that she isn't fabulous looking.)

In a 1910 Maclean's (on and in the public domain) one Mr. August Bridle compares Montreal and Toronto, with respect to culture and character.

Here is his description of Montreal in 1910.

Montreal is perhaps the only city in Canada in feeling. It is the only city in which a man is likely to get lost so that wandering along the river front up from old Bonsecours and the Nelson Monument one comes on glum old Notre Dame and the Bank of Montreal with much the same feeling, though in a lesser degree, that he suddenly drifts out of Cheapside into the grey gloom of St. Paul’s. The French-English capital of the Dominion is full of losing-your-way spots. The streets have an uncanny knack of swinging down long coutees of semi quaint walls, up the long hills and away- to the last blink of tin roofed spire.

St. Lawrence Main is one of the oddest cosmopolitain thoroughfares in America. The Jews are plastering up their thrifty signs in the vicinage of the Old Jacques Cartier Market. The reckless jehu driving the “Pill-box” or the delivery sleigh careens through narrow defiles of streets, plumb through St. James, the medieval Bonsecours Market and the Champ de Mars behind City Hall; up from the sardine cottages and tenements of the native-speaking, where babies are thicker than Jewry, until he slams his careless steed in to the jam of traffic that swings up from the west end of the street. Close along side, and from that to the docks and the big river, are the sullen sullies of grey warehouses; then mile upon mile of semi medieval Montreal, reeking of history, of camps, of morose Indians and garrulous French voyageurs. Crackling and clanking with the big open life of a sea-port, Montreal stretches its cumulative arms down the river and down, past the big painted liners and the black freight boats, past the indolent horse-deck ferries blundering up from below, past the sleepy tide-becalmed bateaux with all canvas down; until by the time you are beyond these you are miles from the swirl of the retail area, far out on the end of old Catherine Street that cuts a maudlin line to the place where the theatres are only less thick than the churches and the cheap cafes.

From Catherine Street with its clatter of crowds to St. James with its sulky roar of traffic and its atmosphere of money-kings, is the best part of an hours’ drowsy ramble through the old-world anomaly of Montreal, the somewhat historic residence precinct threaded by old Sherbrooke Street. Half lazy and thoroughly respectable and reminiscent, this down-town house area makes Montreal two cities; on the one side stores, theatres, hotels and churches- on the other banks, financial houses, warehouses and wharves- and more churches; always and everywhere the CHURCH. You decide to go through half a dozen of these cool haunts of religion. But the eternal quiet of the cathedral is almost as tiring as the clatter of the streets. Notre Dame has a heavy look. Its galleries are overwhelming. It is vast without being impressive like St. Paul’s or humanly eloquent of dead men like Westminster Abbey. St. James, the pretentious is almost weirdly chaste. It is impossible. But the way, it is too easy to be religious in Montreal; it is almost too easy to be historic.

The marvel is that a place which has so many temples and cornerstone entablatures can be so confoundly busy. Over at the Windsor there is no overplus of religion. You are in a modern world; as much of the Twentieth Century as wireless. In half n hour one may see ten millionaires in the Windsor. The Montreal millionaire is the chief of his class in Canada. He runs Montreal, except for the Church and the actual business of city government. The Mount Royal Club is a pantheon of live magnates, some of whom are up in their eighties, some just getting to voting age.

There’s a swing and a snap about the way fortunes are made in Montreal. And the Montreal magnates know how to spend: on houses and yachts and European pictures and grand opera. The private picture collections in Montreal are equal, if not superior, of any in America. The late George Drummond had a collection valued at more than a hundred thousand. In native grand opera, Montreal has set the pace of production."

YouTube contains many silent films of cities in the 1910 era, New York, London, San Francisco. Edison was in Montreal in 1901 and took footage, but most is lost. Ernest Ouimet of the Ouimetoscope fame also took footage, but it was lost as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sacred Cows, IQ, and Sad Math Marks

My report card in 1967. Over 30 days absent and I was never sick. And that didn't count May and June where I spent most days at Expo the World's Fair... The teacher gave us leave to go saying "You will learn more at Expo than you will learn here." True enough.

The rest of the time, I got my education from Password and Match Game and the quintessentially American show Queen for a Day.

There's been a study widely publicized in the news saying heavy marijuana use by teens lowers IQ by 8 points. I imagine there are many many good reasons for teenagers not to use dope or drink alcohol or those high energy drinks that destroy the lining of their stomachs for that matter, but the 8 point IQ point loss is a ..I dunno, a  scare tactic, because it's a fact, almost everyone in our culture buys into the idea of  IQ.  Both Right and Left Wing People.... Romney and Obama, no doubt...It's a  true MODERN sacred cow....and everyone wants their kids to be smart because if they aren't they are doomed to work in the service economy for low wages and no benefits.

I wrote the following  a while back. I reprise it..

In the tenth grade I got such a low mark in math that I went from being in the advanced math class (referred to as 'enriched' to the 'slow' class (referred to as I don't know what) the eleventh grade. (I wasn't smoking dope or drinking or even practicing extreme dieting like half the girls in my grade.)

This was a weird experience, because in my school, in the entire Board,  high school students were streamed. I had spent 4 grades travelling from class to class with the same group of talented students.
So I hardly knew the kids in my 'new' grade 11 math class. But, being an insightful kind of girl, I instantly realized that these kids were treated as if they were stupid. (I remember the teacher, the oldest teacher in the school, a Mr. Monk, coming into the classroom with a styrofoam cup on his nose, oinking like a pig.) And if felt awful.

In my other classes, the teachers assumed we were very smart and treated us as such, to such an extent that we got away with a lot. I recall in one English class the one very very smart kid handed in all his assignments for the year on the last day of school. He got a big laugh from the other students, because he did so with panache, tossing this assignments one by one on the teacher's desk. He wasn't alone that day in handing in overdue assignments either.

The fact is, with respect to my problem, the people around me, teachers and my parents, should have questioned why I failed math, but it was kind of expected of girls in those days to 'hit the wall' so to speak. (A friend of mine also did hit the wall, but her Dad tutored her and she went on to become a top math student at university and to work in high finance. )

In my case, it had more to do with my parents getting a divorce that year - and the fact the teacher in the advanced math class did not, ahem, appear to respect girls' talents. (My father had a degree in MATH from Oxford, actually!)

Anyway, that's all long evaporated water under the far away bridge. (But I might say, that when I took those student aptitude tests for university, (they were not called SATS) I got a 75 percentile in math, which was tied with a friend of mine who went on to become a world renown scientist and a lot lot better than my best friend, who got 99 percentile in English (I got 95 or so) and about a 4 percentile in math. She went on a to a brilliant career in the arts. (Something, sadly, I did not do.) So it goes to show you.

Well, 1912 was the year the Stanford-Binet test or IQ test was created (I've read) and the year Flora Nicholson, of my School Marms and Suffragettes, graduated from Macdonald Teachers' College.
I have her student/teacher portfolio and one of notebooks contains a page on teaching 'defectives' to read. That's how they referred to retarded, special or challenged children back them. (There's nothing in the portfolio about IQ tests (too soon) but there is a mention of "the new phonics system" and well as Tonic Solfa as in Do Re Mi....

In 1912 a test was created by one Monsieur Binet in France to help challenged children get a leg up with better assessment, but somehow that agenda got hijacked by the eugenicists in the US and the test was brought over to Stanford and became the famous Stanford- Binet test.

(I must re-read the Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould...)

By 1921, the year my Mom was born, the test already was popular in schools. One article I found in the New York Times claims that The Stanford Binet test is used in many schools as a basis for classification.
This particular article is a 'soft science' one that says that the higher the social status the higher the IQ. It seems some pesky people were using the test to prove that grocers' sons were smarter than professors' sons and this irked the establishment.

This kind of talk was turning the purpose of the test on its head!!

Average kids, says the article, test between 95 and 105, while the children of the upper classes and higher mercantile classes test between 110 and 120.

This, they say, proves the higher social ranks contain smarter people.

(Of course, it proves the test is designed to make the people from the higher social ranks seem smarter.)

Anyway, other articles I've pulled out from the early 1930's, when the eugenics movement is still going strong, although it will suddenly drop into disfavor because of Hitler and his embrace of the doctrine, reveal that the test was used to decide if young offenders, murderers and such, were mature enough to stand trial as adults.

Now, in 1921, it appears, they came out with "The Condensed Guide for the Stanford Revision of the Binet Simon Tests."

It appears that educators were 'too dumb' or 'too lazy' or 'too busy' to fully ingest the longer guide for giving these newfangled IQ tests to their students and they needed something more condensed.

The author writes in the preface : "Since the appearance of the Stanford Revision of the Binet Simon Intelligence Scale I, I have frequently been urged to prepare a condensed guide to make the application of the tests easier and more convenient."


Well, this book is available on and I certainly don't have the time ;) to deconstruct the questions. (I'm afraid I will not be able to do any of the puzzles and feel dumb. And, I just learned they have a test coming soon for Alzheimer's and that is giving me great anxiety, which lowers my IQ.

I am wondering if this test is a good or terrible thing. I mean, how might this test be used and abused on Old Folk? Will husbands leave wives or vice versa when they discover the awful truth early? Will people be fired from their jobs or kicked off their insurance?)

I am a writer, a literate person, so I looked to the final test at the back of this condensed guide, which was a vocabulary test, just like the Word Power at the back of the Old Reader's Digests. (My mom aced these Word Powers, I recall, and took great pride in doing so as she was French Canadian. But she could not do basic fractions in the kitchen, which she needed to double the recipes for the meals and desserts she made for us. I did any and all calculations for her, while never really picking up an culinary skills as she didn't have the patience to teach me.)

There are two lists of words in this condensed guide to this Binet-Simon IQ test. Here are some chosen sort of randomly: gown, juggler, mosaic, bewail, hysterics, disproportionate, milksop, ambergris, ochre, sudorific, harpy, parterre, complot, perfunctory, piscatorial; guitar, shrewd, repose, dilapidated, drabble, irony, sapient, humunculous. (My modern spell check hates 6 of these words!)

Get my drift. (Quick. Define drift.)

I dare you to write a sentence containing these words.

Hmm. I have to wonder how Flora's immigrant students, 'defective' or not, most of whom had parents who spoke no English, fared on this IQ test.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sugarpova, Pucks and Canadian Cliches

The 1921 Hockey team of the Phys Ed Department at McGill from the McGill Archives. (Photo belongs to them.)

Well, my husband and I watched another episode of Episodes, a US/UK co-production starring Matt LeBlanc and two actors, Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan, who are apparently very big in the UK :)

The show Episodes is a satire about The US television biz  built around a fictitious TV show called PUCKS, about a hockey coach.

In the US and the UK hockey is the stuff of satire, you see. This particular television show (within a show) is supposed to be a knock off of a popular Brit show based on a boys' school, but that is considered to high brow for American audiences. Here in Canada they would actually produce a show like PUCKS. Maybe they already have, but with a multicultural cast of course.

They certainly don't have a hockey consultant for this Episodes Show. They hardly show the hockey team at all. The plot focuses on the wacky production team.

Anyway, I'm thinking over what to do for my next 'social history' writing project - and I've actually decided on a PUCKS like project.

But I am Canadian, so that's OK.

I'll call it Hostel!

About the 1928 McGill University Phys Ed Residence the Hostel.

I wrote about that place two posts ago. I have the magazine some students put together, that contains profiles of all the girls in the residence. So good for me.

Edith Nicholson of School Marms and Suffragettes was the Tutor in Residence.

I've already conducted a great deal of research about the 1928 period for my book Milk and Water - about Montreal City Hall in 1927. Montreal was a wild and crazy place in the 20's, during American Prohibition..well, because of American Prohibition.

If I were to write a short blurb about HOSTEL! it would say:. An ex-suffragette acts as tutor in residence to a rowdy group of 'new woman' in 1920's Montreal. Hilarity ensues.

Edith  was the girls' den mother and confidante and well-liked - if their magazine Hostelites contains the truth.

In 1935, when Edith has a job as Assistant Warden at McGill's Royal Victoria College, she writes an interesting letter home.

Royal Victoria College

November 16, 1 am.

So glad to get your letter and to hear you had such a good trip. We all enjoyed having you for the weekend.

I intended writing you early in the evening, but have had visitors all the time. First the French Mlles (mademoiselles) and then one of the students, an English girl, in her second year.
Came to tell me her troubles.
She had a letter from her mother today to say that she was getting a divorce from Father.

This was not really a surprise, but she had hoped things would be settled between them, poor girl (only 21).
She was terribly upset. She told me the whole story and, of course, there were two sides to the case. And she sees that. She is fond of both parents.

This is a strange world. And when you live in an institution like this, you see and hear many strange and sad things.

I cannot help but think, that the greatest heritage one can have is a happy family life such as ours, one where love and affection were the mainspring.
But having had such a heritage, it makes you feel you have done little or nothing to deserve it. When you see such distress as I saw tonight.

So that would give me a new project - based on real lives - but with a contemporary twist. What's more topical than women's sports, what with Sugarpova (which they promoted gratis big time yesterday on the US Open telecasts) and Christine Sinclair and the Canadian Soccer Team.

In those days, the twenties, female Phys Ed Students were trail blazers, I imagine. Or maybe misfits would be a better word?

This was the age of the pencil thin garconne, in her flapper dress, sipping illegal whiskey from her silver flask.

Stereotypical images of  'athletic' women come to mind with HOSTEL but I'll have to scour the McGill Archives for the truth of it all. The 1921 hockey playing co-eds above look sweet, don't they?

McGill has splendid  archives, but these archives contain no image of the girls from the 1928 hostel. Just the 1921 photo. The Hostel housed out of town students. One girl is from BC. Another is       from the US.

Female Hockey Player, Turn of the Century from WIkipedia, in the Public Domain.

As a young eoman, Edith preferred skating at the M.A.A.A., where women couldn't go alone, only escorted by a man. (I'm pretty sure from the letters.) Women couldn't go alone to many places 1910. They risked looking like loose women, you see. I wonder if that has changed by 1928.

Below, My aunt Alice in the 20's. She was the same age as the Girls above, but this was as athletic as she got.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fair, Sustainable, Organic

The Macdonald Student's booth at the Ste Anne de Bellevue Saturday Market.

Ste Anne de Bellevue has a nice farmer's market Saturday morning, on the main drag by the water, with organic veggies and meats and local honey.

That town at the tip of Montreal Island is where Macdonald College, established 1907, is situated. It is still part of McGill but much smaller than it used to be. (A CEGEP, John Abbott, uses most of the buildings.)

Macdonald Campus from 10th floor of Veteran's Hospital

A report on CTV Montreal a few days ago explains how Macdonald (McGill's school of agricultural and environmental sciences)  now supplies that university's cafeterias with its fruits and vegetables, in an effort to promote local and sustainable eating.

Just a few years ago this wasn't the case.

Macdonald does not supply the McGill cafeterias with meat, that comes from elsewhere.

In 1910, when my School Marms and Suffragettes story takes place, the Macdonald Campus  supplied almost all food to the Macdonald Campus cafeterias, including pork and beef.

It was a big selling point for the school (the showpiece of the Macdonald-Robertson rural education Movement (and paid for by tobacco money) and written up in their prospectus. 

That's probably because the rural students attending Macdonald to learn advanced farming techniques, household science, and teaching, were wary of CITY goods. Especially Milk and Water.

In 1907, the Macdonald literature claims the brand new campus gets its water from the river. In 1910 they get it from a well. WHY? Because there was a typhoid epidemic in Montreal in 1909. (You can read about that in Milk and Water. (The contamination originated in conduits belonging to a private company Montreal Water and Power serving some of the inner suburbs, but the panic spread as far as Ste. Anne apparently.)

Household Science girls in Guelph, a sister school to Macdonald. Flora Nicholson, one of the 'characters' in school marms and suffragettes is attending Macdonald Teaching School in 1911/12, and NOT learning how to cook and clean a house. 

In the 1910 era the Powers that Be were trying to create a Profession of Homemaking to dissuade middle class women from going out into the workplace and to train poorer women to be domestics.

Below is a Map of Macdonald College in 1910.

Apparently, Ste Anne de Bellevue is a Fair Trade town, one of a handful in Quebec. Sherbrooke is a Fair Trade town as well.

There's a little Fair Trade co-op on the main drag too. Here's their sign.

Paradoxically, Ste Anne is where the big gas guzzling million dollar cabin cruisers with their sun-baked passengers stop to go through the locks, and these boaters make Saturday Nights on the Ste. Anne Boardwalk crowded and lively.

So the carbon-footprint conscious come in the morning, and the well-heeled hedonists come at night.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wheat and Weather and Posturing Toms.

I heard some suspicious feline vocalizations and looked outside to see a standoff in my driveway.

The two black cats on the left are the neighbours', the yellow cat is my Fou Fou.

As my husband was coming back with the propane refill any minute I went to shush them away.

My cat saw me and got up and started toward me, mewing.  (He's quite infantilized.) I put him in the house.

The cat in the shadows ran away in the direction of his home on the right, but stayed on my lawn.

The other cat, from across the street, ignored me completely, just getting up to follow the other cat.

My husband came home, released the dogs and they chased the cats, the timid one scampering over the fence, the other one unperturbed, defiant even, eventually leaving at his own pace by the gate. His name must be BUSTER. He looked like a Buster and acted like a Buster.And Buster knows most dogs are all chase no challenge.

"He has a dog at home," said my husband. "The other cat is that half wild one that lives under the neighbour's porch."

I normally feel sorry for cats that live under porches, especially here in Canada, but we had a mild winter and gorgeous summer, great feral cat weather. (Like in Plomari Greece, where the cats run wild, but they are mostly sickly.)

A rare non-feral cat in Plomari, where it's market day every day. 

Yesterday, sitting under our canopy in the back yard I mentioned to my husband, "So this is how Californians feel about the weather."

"There is no weather in Southern California and this summer there's been no weather here."

Earlier in the summer, there was worry about drought and poor crops but the rain came and the harvest is good.The tomatoes at the market (I just saw) are the same price as last year. That tells you something.

Some of the bounty at Jean Talon Market in Montreal last year. 

The CBC reports that the grain harvest out West is a bumper crop, the best in a decade, good news as the US had a terrible drought and their production is down at least 11 percent, despite a record planting.

And because of this (as and US and Canada is the world's bread basket)our food prices are predicted to rise as much as 5 percent, even in Canada, where the crops are good.

So it's a win lose situation. For us. Lose-lose for some poorer world populations.

I've written a book about a Canadian family in 1900 from family letters. School Marms and Suffragettes. It's in draft form. I just finished editing the second part, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and will enter the edits soon.)

In the 1910 era, there was a Wheat Boom in Canada....That's the era the country started producing wheat for real. Some were hoping a Free Trade Bill would pass in 1911, so that the farmers could sell their wheat to the US. (It didn't.Laurier lost the election.)

They built huge refineries in Montreal on the water, big ugly buildings that tarnished the landscape. The Western wheat was to be refined and shipped to Britain. It was a hard sell as Europeans didn't trust our wheat to make good bread. Russia was where they got their wheat (I think.)

Anyway, I have the household accounts for this Canadian family (the Nicholsons) and I've discovered that they paid about 5 dollars a bushel for wheat, all through the Wheat Boom. The Boom did not seem to benefit them.

THE WHEAT BOOM Circa 1910 (from my website

The Canadian Wheat Boom,  says Pierre Berton in 
Marching As to War, was enabled by the discovery of a hardy form of wheat, Marquis, early in the century.  But why was flour so expensive in 1910?  Of all the food items in the Nicholson Household Account Books flour seems the most 'dear', 3 to 4 dollars  a barrel. To supplement wheat flour they bought graham flour, much cheaper. Read all about Herbert Nicholson's opinions on wheat (growing and glut) and Free Trade in the letters.

According to this thesis, the Port of Montreal was totally transformed during the Laurier years by the WHEAT Boom. Two huge grain elevators were erected in 1911-1912.  "If Canada was the granary of the empire, Montreal was its spout," claimed people of the day. By 1912, the  port could accommodate 38,000, 000 bushels of wheat a year, second only to New York. Read the thesis above to get a real full picture of "how things are connected" circa 1912. The owners of the Ogilvy Mills were all against free trade and after Laurier lost the free trade election in 1911 that mill became the official supplier to British Royals. Hmm.  One of D. W Griffith's masterpieces of the era was 
The Corner in Wheat, a nifty piece of social and socialist realism. See it here.

I can recall the POM Baker bringing around his wares to my duplex in Snowdon in the 1960s'. POM stands for 
Pride of Montreal.  There's something special about having a man in uniform drop chocolate doughnuts off on your porch--when you are 10.

Here are two articles shedding light on the Wheat Boom: The first perhaps explains why wheat is so expensive: they were exporting it to Europe!  Today, Canada is the major supplier of oil to the US, yet we Canadians pay through the nose -or, more aptly, through the hose.
Professor Robertson speaking to House of Commons:

The other matter I thought of bringing up this morning is "Canadian flour and its place in the British market. We have a large export trade in flour. In 1898, up to June 30th, Canada exported flour to the value of $5,425,760. It is no inconsiderable sum. Looking into the question in England so far as I was able in the limited time at my disposal, mainly in London, I found bakers did not know Canadian flour as such in hardly any case, but where they did know it, they spoke exceedingly highly of it as a good strong, flour, good for mixing with other flours and giving good bread. The English bakers make up their sponge from seven or eight kinds of flour, so as to have a continuity of quality in case one brand should fail them in the market.  Just before leaving Canada for England I got a sample of the best Hungarian flour, brought from Hungary by a gentleman in the milling business who was passing through.  This was examined by the best experts and they established that Canadian flour contained 10 percent more albuminiods (flesh-forming qualities Editor (Protein??)) than the best Hungarian.  I went to a prominent baker in London to see if there was any possibility of having a test made by using Canadian flour in one of the modern bakeries. The test was made. It was done by the bakers themselves for their own information. One of their tests using Canadian flour gave at the rate of 146 pounds of bread from 100 pounds of flour, and that of excellent quality. There is no other flour going to England that from any country that makes as good bread."

That was from Manitoba wheat, of course.
Source: CIHM Document : Movement for Rural Education; 1908

From 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:

Entry on Canada: Wheat.

Of wheat many varieties are grown. The average yield of wheat in Canada is 20 bushels per acre. In 1901, the estimated total production of wheat was 55 ½ million bushels. In 1906 it was 136 million bushels. Up until the end of the 18th century, Ontario was the biggest wheat producing province, mostly fall and winter wheat.
But the predominance in wheat growing has been shifted to the Western Provinces. A 1906 census shows that total wheat acreage in the North West Provinces was 5, 062, 493 yielding 110, 586, 824 bushels, of which Manitoba had 2, 721,079 acres; Saskatchewan 2, 117, 484 acres; and Alberta 223, 930 acres. Canada is destined to become one of the most important grain producing countries. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Skiing in the Punch Bowl- McGill Phys Ed Students 1928

A bit of McGill University Memorabilia " Hostelites" 1928, the magazine of the Female Physical Education Residence called the Hostel, situated on University Street.

The magazine is dedicated to Edith Nicholson of School Marms and Suffragettes -

She was the tutor in residence.

Edith was asked to write a contribution:

All the young women at the hostel will have passed on by now, they were 20ish in 1928. They would all have been born around the time when Edith was teaching at Westmount Methodist. Around the time of the School Marms and Suffragettes Story.

Edith was by now 'a wise woman' in the eyes of these young would be professionals.

"At the present time, girls are making a sincere effort to find themselves (gee, that expression existed back then)and to adjust themselves to this new age. (The Roarin' Twenties). In so doing, they are inclined to lose sight of the benefits to be derived from traditions. The older generation, on the other hand, feeling its ideals unappreciated, becomes antagonistic. In order to correct this condition, it is necessary that there be a recognition of the struggle of modern girls to adjust themselves to the new world, and that there be an appreciation of the experienced women's traditions which have protected the present girls until they have gained sufficient strength to stand alone."

The twenties were interesting times in Montreal, I researched them for my play Milk and Water about City Hall in 1927. I've put  some male McGill Students in my story, very drunk ones.

I don't know if this was Edith's first job at McGill. In 1917 she worked at Sun Life as a secretary and was thinking of getting her insurance sales licence.

Later, she worked at McGill -in the Registrar's Office and as Assistant Warden at Royal Victoria College.

I have no evidence from her letters that she was particularly athletic, although she liked to skate and go on snow shoe tramps, but these were more about socializing than about exercise.

I can only wonder if she accompanied the girls on this skiing trip to the Laurentians, where they appear to have drunk alcohol.. maybe.

"The evening was spent skiing in the Punch Bowl in Piedmont." Was that a real place, I wonder.

Edith in the 1920's and the 1930's (It looks like.) She was Commandant of the Quebec Red Cross during WWII.  (I have a picture somewhere.) She's gained a little weight by then but looks good in her uniform.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

No Worries with A Naked Prince

David in butter for the 24 Empire Exhibition, Canadian Pavilion. Hmm..

I must admit, I have been reading up on all the Naked Harry stories on the Net. Have I sunk that low, I wonder to myself.

No, actually. I'm just using it as relaxation material. It's such a relief,  that silly story!

Reading the  Internet News is a kind of torture: the TSX going up and down each minute (and my retirement savings with it); the psychopath or pervert of the week story, in all its gory details. The ubiquitous drums of war. The elections, Quebec and US. Ugh!

And no Tennis until the US Open -to divert me.

And here's a story about a 27 year old Royal Prince playing strip billiards in Vegas.

Nothing -absolutely nothing - to worry me here...

The commentary of this event is quite funny to read. (Columnists are just filling space with most of it. It's so hypocritical the way the 'legit' press piggybacks on the tabloid press.)

Let's face it: this is exactly what you'd expect from the young man. EXACTLY! And it's still cute at this stage. It won't be cute when he's 35, but hey, he's not 35. Not yet.

In my Milk and Water I write about his great uncle David, the Prince of Wales' visit to Montreal in 1927, when that very popular dude was indeed around 35 years old.. Let me check. 34!

David is visiting Montreal for four days recreation, after a month long visit to the Canada. (In my story, my grandfather and my husband's grandfather are sent on a mission to deliver him fresh water, as there is a typhoid epidemic.)

I did a lot of research for this play. The Canadian Press did not follow the Prince around during his four days of recreation, as they had a month before when he had been on duty. ( In early August the two princes, for David was with George, played golf and shook thousands of hands at a reception at Montreal City Hall.)

 God knows what David got up to at the end of the month on his four days off! Montreal was SIN CITY back then, worse than Chicago according to some.

I make up a story that David wants to visit an after hours 'speak-easy' to see a certain jazz band.

I did read that the Prince liked to party with Mayor Martin, and that he often escaped his handlers, as they wrote.

I guess that's the real story with the Naked  Prince Harry, his privacy and why weren't his handlers able to protect it? (It's NAKED by the way. NUDE is for when one poses for the camera. NAKED is for when one is caught in a private act on camera.)

Harry's mother was killed by the tabloid press, after all!

This public/private escapade won't hurt Prince Harry's image, it will only help it, probably. (It's not like he had a special chair for group sex like his great great great Grandfather, Edward VII. Am I right?)

And by the way, I think Harry does looks like Charles, the close together eyes, especially.

Blue Noses and Black Stallions

All Sails Set is the the third book of the Canadian Reading Development Series, used in the 40's to the 70's, all across Canada to teach school children to read and to promote Canadian nationalism.

I've written posts about Bunga of Malaya, the first story in the Geography book Visits in Other Lands, used in the US and Canada to teach social studies.

It's true, a week doesn't go by without someone looking up BUNGA Geography Book or some such keyword and landing on this blog.

 I've also posted thoughts about this Canadian Reading Development Series but no one ever looks THAT up. And it's easy to see why. Not one story in the series sticks out. The stories were chosen just for this their,ahem, non-controversial nature. They are good stories, Kipling, Hawthorne and Leacock being contributors, but,in general, they lack that special magic, you see, being toned down, I guess. Edited.

Just now I flipped through All Sails Set (which I bought of eBay researching my play Looking For Mrs. Peel,  and except for picture of two horses, from  a story about a black stallion and red mare, I recall nothing.

Oh, except for a poem. (The poems were the best thing in these books.)  The poem was Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards.

"One there was an elephant, who tried to use the telephant.
No, I mean an elephone, who tried to use the telephone."

(What is a telephone, anyway?)

I am surprised to see that there are two radio plays in the grade six reader.  Radio plays?

All Sails Set, you see, was first published in the forties, when the CBC was still running excellent radio plays and TV was in embryonic form.

The play, The Land of Dreams Come True, comes with instructions for the teacher. "Choose the best player for each part after listening to them over the loud-speaker." "Creating sound effects for radio plays appeals to anyone who has a mechanical turn of mind."

I don't recall doing this play, or any play in class. (I was, indeed, the star of our Grade Six Stage play, Cinderella, and hated every moment on stage - in front of the audience.  I was the only one who enunciated, said my father afterward, grappling for something good to say about my performance, so it follows  I probably would have been good at these radio plays. )

Goes to show you. Missed opportunities.  There is a chance that these plays were expunged from the editions we used in the 1960's. Radio plays were out of fashion then. Radio was about music.

(The one image I remember from the book. No doubt, I attempted to draw it. The picture and story informed me about the male/female relationship. In the story, these horses were from an outlaw band of wild horses, but the stallion won't be separated from the mare. At the end it is discovered the mare is blind. )

I went on to work in radio, actually writing ads and in TV. (Some of my fellow ad writers went on to LA produce television shows. )

 I discovered a love of radio plays in 2006, when BBC Radio 4 came online.

I simply love BBC Radio 4 with its plays, dramatizations and documentaries.

Anyway, this ALL Sails Set volume was for the sixth grade, the year of Expo67, so I didn't do much work at school.

I just figured out, All Sails Set refers to the Bluenose, the boat on the Canadian dime. And there's a story ALL Sails Set inside, the story of the  Blue nose and  its birthplace Lunenberg, Nova Scotia , which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. (I seem to remember a big event at Expo 67 was the arrival of the Bluenose.)

Canadian Heritage, you see. All Sails Set has stories about Sockeye, beavers, Doctor Banting (ooh, that's just come up again in the headlines, wrapped in a controversy about multi-culturalism and the 100 dollar bill)buffalo, Iroquois, sled dogs, and the poem In Flanders Fields. The CBC aired a version of In Flanders Fields and I recall "getting it" only when I heard it well recited.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Suffragettes and their Brand

This is an image, captured off YouTube of the 1975 BBC Masterpiece Theatre mini-series, Shoulder to Shoulder. I didn't see it. I was in college and didn't own a TV.

I'm thinking again about the Suffragettes and the Sixties. (After all, I have just finished writing Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice about the crazy, silly, and nefarious suffrage movement in 1910 and WWI era Canada.)

I mentioned in an earlier post that the  Danny Boyle opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, four years ago,  was thematically very similar to the British Pavilion at Expo 67, what with Churchill and the Beatles and Austen Mini and all the social history. Similar but different in one key respect. The British Pavilion at Expo 67 contained nothing about the suffragettes (as far as I can see).

Why not?

Well, for one, the suffragettes weren't big in 1967, despite the fact a giant rally was being planned for the next year.

I can't find much written about them in the newspapers of the time (archive-wise).

And Google Ngrams reveals the terms, woman suffrage, suffragist or suffragette, weren't evident in the books of the era.

My history book, Canada Then and Now, had nothing about the suffrage movement in Canada. Indeed, there wasn't one woman mentioned in the book.

(So no wonder I couldn't have told you when Canadian women got the vote, not 7 years ago when I embarked on my Nicholson Family project.)

If I saw anything about the suffragettes as a child, it was in a movie like Mary Poppins or The Great Race, where they are mocked or at least poked at for fun.

As for the British Pavilion, they were more interested in promoting women through the lens of Swinging London, their long-legged models and and mini-skirted hostesses, who apparently were the envy of the other national hostesses at Expo, some of whom took scissors to their uniforms to acquire the London Look.

(I clipped this from

Suffragettes in 1967 were making news for dying, mostly.

Suffragettes  were old ladies with funny dress habits, and old dead otters skins hanging in their closets. That's all we youngsters thought. If we had even heard of them.

Young people cannot envision that old people were once young themselves.

Any film footage we would have seen of suffragettes would have been on the small black and white TV screen and all jerky, making the protesters waving their big unwieldy placards look silly. They couldn't play the old silent films at the correct speed back then.  So the BBC program Shoulder To Shoulder would have been correcting this perception.

(As I have written, the British Suffragettes were very fashion conscious, partnering with Selfridges and promoting pretty clothes in their magazine Votes for Women.

The British Suffragettes were media savvy and they helped to shape their own legacy by immediately authoring their own books on their movement for posterity. Lots of these are now available on

I got this picture off

I wonder what Edith Nicholson of the Nicholson Family Letters thought of the 60's Youth culture. (Edith was all for the militant suffragettes in her day... the brick throwing ones...quite scandalous for a prim and proper Presbyterian school teacher.)

Well, I can guess. She probably liked it.

She didn't think of herself as old (she told my husband) and she had spent part of her career associating closely with young college age women as the Assistant Warden at McGill's Royal Victoria College. (They apparently confided in her often and she sometimes felt sad for them, her 1930's letters show.)

Edith young in 1911, with fiance Charlie who died in fire

Edith Old in 1960 or so, with great nephew Blair.In the pearls.

With modern YouTube, there's no excuse not to learn about the Suffragettes.

A Place to Stand, a Place to Sit

Nowhere to sit.The Privy Passage at Kronberg Castle in Denmark. I took a video in 2006. The pics here are captured off that  video. I just found my travel videos yesterday on an old hard drive.

Kronberg Castle is a World Heritage Site. In my video I'm remarking that it's a castle in human-scale.

Our Lady of the Lake Trout. The blurb suggests she's a allegory for the element  Water.

I also visited a Design Center in Copenhagen... here are some photos from their exhibit of chairs. Chairs are most interesting as a design item. They have one essential purpose and they can be designed in an array of styles,but we seem to prefer conservative and traditional styles to sit in.

We feel they are more trustworthy, I guess. I have noticed that very rich people (on Sotheby's) have some wild chairs in their homes.

People in homes along the Seine are into these chairs made of spiky antlers. I keep seeing them in houses up for sale.