The Calgary Stampede: “A Romping Rangeland Rumpus”

Calgary Stampede 1912Poster from First Calgary Stampede in 1912

Many people associate Calgary, affectionately nicknamed “Cowtown”, with its annual summer Stampede in the same way that a place like New Orleans is tied to Mardi Gras. The character of those places seems inextricably linked to these major civic festivals. Prior to the area’s post-WWII oil boom, Calgary was predominantly an agricultural area and held a traditional yearly agricultural fair called the Calgary Industrial Exhibition.

The Stampede was conceived in 1912 by an American rodeo promoter, Guy Weadick, as a way to add a cowboy-themed element to the fairly staid farm-focused Exhibition.   After some fits and starts the two events combined in 1923, with the Stampede under Weadick’s longtime guidance eventually overshadowing the Exhibition.   Ever since, the cowboy theme has stuck with Calgary even though agriculture, farming and ranching are now only a very small part of its economy.   This year’s Stampede will take place July 7-16 and, as can be seen on the official Stampede site, will be quite a spectacle with something to offer just about everyone.

 

 

 

Image Credits:  Calgary Stampede Archive, University of Calgary

Canadian Music Vibes: A Little Folk Rock, Alt Rock, Reggae, Traditional . . .

 

I truly love all sorts of music and I thought I might share a few tunes that showcase the wide diversity of offerings by Canada’s talented musicians. Since it’s always hard to choose favorites and there are way too many other performances — oh my gosh, so many good ones! — that I appreciate from this country, I’ll just note that the songs below are among those that I like a great deal because they inspire me, move me or just make me smile.

 

(The titles below are linked to YouTube videos.)

⇒Joni Mitchell, “The Circle Game”

⇒Neil Young (with The Band and Joni Mitchell), “Helpless” 

Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

Johnny Osbourne & Bunny Brown, “Love Makes The World Go Round”

⇒Noel Ellis, Jackie Mittoo, Willie Williams & Jerry Brown, “Rocking Universally”

Gordon Lightfooot, “If You Could Read My Mind”

⇒Len, “Steal My Sunshine”

⇒Stompin Tom Connors, “Muleskinner Blues”

Alan Mills, “A La Claire Fontaine”

Alanis Morissette (with Salif Keita), “The Prayer Cycle Movement I – Mercy”

 

 

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

“Dear Auntie . . . don’t be cross”: Scenic British Columbia in Old Postcards

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Postmarked July 12, 1921 (Note Is Below)

Back in the day writing letters and cards was the routine thing to do if you wanted to stay in touch with distant friends and relatives. Picture postcards also allowed the recipient vicariously to experience what the sender did and saw.  As suggested by the note below on one of these cards of British Columbia, the folks back at home expected a long form letter if possible and sending only a postcard from a trip was an occasion for an apology (being Canadians and all). 🙂

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Note Side of Card Above of Gorge Bridge, Victoria, B.C.

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Yoho Glacier, near Field, B.C. (About 1910)

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Simash Rock, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1905)

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Seven Sisters, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1910)

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Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1915)

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Fraser River, Yale B.C. (About 1910)

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Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1951)

Artist to Appreciate: Steven Rhude

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Steven Rhude, “On the Edge”

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Nova Scotia artist Steven Rhude is most often characterized as a realist painter, akin to Alex Colville and Christopher Pratt (both also from the Maritimes).  However, Rhude’s representational style is decidedly more nuanced.  A close examination of his works reveals an underlying splatter technique that is almost pointillist (and adds wonderful texture) as well as distinct aspects of whimsy and irony, all of which might be more appropriately regarded as a kind of magical realism.  His paintings prominently feature icons of the Atlantic provinces — dories, lighthouses, fishing sheds and buoys, among others — as signifiers of place, identity, memory and loss amidst ongoing changes affecting that region of the country, particularly since the early 1990s ban on cod fishing altered a centuries-old economic equilibrium for coastal communities where living has never been especially easy.

In discussing his early artistic training, Rhude has noted that while studying at the Ontario College of Art & Design one of his instructors urged him to first equip himself with a notepad and hiking boots and get out of the studio so as to write and interview people and thereby find authentic stories and experiences upon which to ground his art.   Reading Rhude’s humane and thoughtful ruminations about art and society on the blog associated with his professional website is a great pleasure and it’s obvious from his splendid writing that he took his instructor’s advice very much to heart.  Because of his skillful artistry, Rhude’s paintings of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and other places are visually enjoyable and can be appreciated for that alone.  Even more special is that his beautiful images also convey important social commentary and add another layer of appreciation for his wonderful paintings.

You can see more of Steven Rhude’s excellent work and read some of his insightful writings on his website and blog and the related links to the galleries that represent his art.  Rhude’s book “A Place Called Away: Living and Painting in Nova Scotia” also showcases many of his paintings.

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Steven Rhude, “Towards Sibley’s Cove”

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Steven Rhude, “After the Storm”

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Steven Rhude, “Judy Takes Her Lighthouse For A Walk”

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Steven Rhude, “Expulsion,  The Final Cut”

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Steven Rhude, “Equilibrium # 3”

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Steven Rhude, “Finding Brigus Light”

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Steven Rhude, “Up On the Roof”

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Steven Rhude, “The Home Coming”

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Steven Rhude, “Lunenburg Shed in Guggenheim”

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(Image Credits: Steven Rhude)

Similar Posts on O’Canada:

David Pirrie: Mapping Western Terrains and Our Sense of Place

Artist to Appreciate:  Katharine Burns

Artist to Appreciate:  Christopher Pratt

Vintage / Mod Design: The City Bus

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City Bus on Vancouver Street (about mid-1950s)

Distinctive industrial design reveals itself in many ways and, when done well, can be a genuine pleasure to take in.   While the specialness of such design is often difficult to see in our contemporary surroundings, its otherwise subtle impact jumps out when looking back at vintage images. A case in point: the humble municipal bus, operated in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and other cities across Canada.  Over this period theses buses began to display a very mod sensibility as they evolved from the severe boxiness of earlier 1930s and 1940s versions to later, during the 1950s through the 1970s, being adorned with more rounded contours, sleek curves and very stylized lines and chrome elements.

Mod Design: Vintage Postcards of Expo 67

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Canada Forestry and Paper Pavilion

With the Rio Summer Olympics being just around the corner this prompted me to ponder the differences between the Olympics and the World Fairs.  While both are cultural showcases that bring together people of many nations to good-naturedly preen about their countries, World Fairs seem more ad hoc than the more structured, media spectacle of the Olympics.

Coinciding with Canada’s centennial in 1967, Montreal hosted what is considered to be one of the most successful World Fairs, which was the first to adopt the “Expo” moniker by which all subsequent World’s Fairs have been named.  As attested by these postcards, the various national pavilions at Expo 67 served as grand displays for then cutting-edge, very “mod” design and innovation.

“You Haven’t Changed A Bit”: Astrid Blodgett’s Superlative Meditation on Relationships

 

Cover -- You Haven't Changed v.2

Astrid Blodgett’s recently published first collection of short stories, You Haven’t Changed A Bit  (Univ. of Alberta Press 2013), is stunningly well written.  As I finished the book for the second time, I reflected how these stories brought to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s observation about how each of us cannot help but be a mysterious solitude in relation to one another and, most especially and paradoxically, to our closest loved ones.

Almost all the thirteen stories in this wonderful volume explore fissures in relationships — whether between spouses, partners, siblings, parent-child or friends — and the unspoken mental landscape that inexorably shapes those relationships.  Notably, most of these tales are told from the perspective of a female character, who mainly endure the emotional pain that accompanies varying degrees of psychic distance from a loved one.

A small sampling:  In “Don’t Do a Headstand” a visit by her husband’s pregnant teen niece highlights the growing and likely irreparable gap between the spouses.  “Zero Recall” explores the toxicity of a husband’s mistrust and the wife’s ensuing bitterness at being treated unfairly, both of which threaten the couple’s bond following an unfortunate mix-up at a blood donation center.  The realization by young adult friends that divergent life paths will impact their ties in “Let’s Go Straight to the Lake” is skillfully elicited by the piece’s authentic, slightly awkward dialogue and scene-setting. Several of Blodgett’s stories are especially poignant, particularly “Ice Break,” about fragile parent-child relationships and the weight of guilt from choices that can’t be undone.  This latter story is one that I’ve written about previously and compelled me to seek out more of Blodgett’s captivating writing.

In an effort to stick with my preference for conciseness, I’ll conclude by simply noting that each of the stories in You Haven’t Changed A Bit is a pitch-perfect gem, characterized by truly graceful and insightful writing by a talented writer who is worth every bit of your attention.

Astrid Blodgett

Astrid Blodgett

More information about Astrid Blodgett and her writings can be found at the author’s website here.

Early U.S.-Canada Political Cartoons

Given that Canada just had a memorable election and the U.S. is still in the throes of its year-plus presidential campaign marathon, this seems to be a good opportunity to interject a smidgen of politics into the mix.  But not too heavy —  so let’s look at some early pop culture.

I'll CatchPolitical cartoons depicting relations between Canada and the U.S. extend back to the founding days of both countries. The images depicted here, from the late 1890s through early 1900s, mostly play on a recurrent theme of the U.S. being attentive or aligned with Canada for reasons that were alternately virtuous or of a more self-interested intention.  With Canada then still firmly part of the British Empire, Britain also figured prominently in many such scenes from this period.

Dangerous

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Interrupted

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Flirtation

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Pertinent

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Money Bags

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aQuestion-of-Time

They’re Giving Away Land!

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Back in the day, Canada needed more people to build up its country and, in particular, in its vast western inland plains. With lots of land and not so many people, the federal and provincial governments and land companies starting in the late 1800s on into the early twentieth century launched  recruitment campaigns  around the world, especially in Europe, with the lure of free land grants and the potential for prosperity.  The distance was far and farm life was (is!) tough, but the appeal drew many new immigrants to Canada’s west.   I love the variety and details in some of these posters! (Click on images to enlarge)

Whack A Canadian

Whack-a-Canadian

A weekly treat is reading through each new issue of The New Yorker, one of my all-time favorite magazines because it is so consistently excellent.  Its cartoons are an indispensable hallmark of the magazine’s style and, over the years, its cartoonists occasionally have focused their good-natured humor at Canadians or Americans’ general (mis)perception of Canada.

In keeping with that tradition, the most recent issue of The New Yorker includes the above cartoon by P.C. Vey playing on the notion of Canadian politeness.  It’s funny but probably goes a bit too far — yes, Canadians are generally polite but certainly not pushovers.  Of course, it’s all in good fun and not to be taken too seriously.  As previous commenters about such cartoons have noted, if you have to have a reputation, that of being overly polite isn’t a bad one to have.

Image Credit: P.C. Vey, The New Yorker

Related posts on O’ Canada:

More American Cartoons on Canada

Another Amusing Take on Canadian Politeness

“You First. I Insist”:  A Canadian Standoff

In Memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo & W.O. Patrice Vincent

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Cumberland County Soldiers Memorial, Amherst, N.S.

What a sad and tumultuous past week it’s been for Canada.  South of our shared border our hearts go out in sorrow and sympathy to the country and the families of slain Canadian Forces members Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.   May they rest in peace.

(I had been saving this image to post on Remembrance Day, but now seems as fitting.)

The Orenda and the Constant of Change

 

The Orenda

Oh, that bittersweet feeling of finishing a good book that not long before was a welcome and constant companion!   So it is with my having just finished Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, a gripping epic set around the mid-1600s during the time of first contact between First Nations people and Europeans in what would become Canada.   The Wendat, or Huron, people, who are one of the principal subjects of this book, believed that each of us and every thing is endowed with an “orenda” or life force, and, so it is, more broadly, with cultures.

Not surprisingly, The Orenda was the top choice in the 2014 Canada Reads competition and good reviews abound for this riveting novel (for instance here on GoodReads).  So, rather than pen another, below is a brief excerpt that encapsulates one of the deep philosophical themes underlying the drama that unfolds within its pages. Throughout my reading of Boyden’s poetic work my thoughts continually dwelled on how this snapshot of a not-too-distant earlier time aptly reflects the concepts found in Buddhism, Hinduism and some other spiritual traditions  of samsara (the cycle of birth, death and re-creation), change and suffering, each of which are constants in our world and in the clash of civilizations throughout history.

“Success is measured in different ways.  The success of the hunt.  The success of the harvest.  For some, the success of harvesting souls.  We watched all of this, fascinated and frightened.  Yes, we saw all that happeed and, yes, we sometimes smiled, but more often we filled with fret.  The world must change, though.  This is no secret.  Things cannot stay the same for long.  With each baby girl born into her longhouse and her clan, with each old man’s death feast and burial in the ossuary, new worlds are built as old ones fall apart.  And sometimes, this change we speak of happens right under our noses, in tiny increments, without our noticing.  By then, though, oh, by then it’s simply too late.

“Yes, the crows continued to caw as crows are prone to do, and after a while we got used to their voices even when they berated us for how we chose to live.  Some of us allowed them their cackling because we found it entertaining, others because we believed our only choice was to learn how to caw ourselves.  And still others kept them close for the worldly treasures their masters promised.

“It’s unfair, though, to blame only the crows, yes?  It’s our obligation to accept our responsibility in the whole affair.  And so we watched as the adventure unfolded, and we prayed to Aataentsic, Sky Woman, who sits by the fire right beside us, to intervene if what we believed was coming indeed coalesced.  But Aataentsic only need remind us that humans, in all their many forms, are an unruly bunch, prone to fits of great generosity and even greater meting out of pain.”

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Canada-U.S. Friendship Postcard and Stamps

awSt.-Lawarance-Bridge

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While bridges literally connect places, they also serve as a wonderful metaphor for connectedness between people and cultures.  I have a collection of old postcards depicting various Canadian bridges that I plan to post shortly.  Of these — especially during this week that includes the Canada Day and Independence Day holidays — the one that I feel best displays the connectedness idea is this postcard from around 1959 of the Thousand Islands International Bridge between southern Ontario and upstate New York.

The original holder of this card added a nice touch by including three very appropriate postage stamps to the front: the 4¢ Canadian and 5¢ American joint-issue stamps from 1959  marking that year’s opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and an older 1948 U.S. 3¢ Century of Friendship stamp, which fittingly shows a bridge between the two countries over the Niagara River (first spanned in 1848; additional background can be found here).

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Similar posts on O’Canada:

Cool Little Squares:  Vintage Canadian Postage Stamps

Ever Bustling Early 20th Century Toronto

Vintage Quebec:  Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs

 

Cheeky Humor of Vintage Canadian Tire Catalogues

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Wherever you go in Canada, you’re probably not far from a Canadian Tire location, a retailer that carries auto parts, sporting goods, hardware and some appliances, clothing and all manner of other goods.  Canadian Tire is so popular it even has its own pseudo-currency — Canadian Tire Dollars — that are both usable and collectible.  Many of the retailer’s older advertisements featured humorous bits — some slightly suggestive — as illustrated by these Spring and Summer catalogs across the years. (I’ll post later some others from Fall and Winter editions of the C.T. catalogs.)

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Pam Hall’s “Apron Diaries”

Pam Hall, Apron Diaries 1

Aprons in the Wind, Port Rexton, Newfoundland, From Pam Hall’s “Apron Diaries”

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Pam Hall is among the highly imaginative artists showcased at a current exhibition (through June 1) of contemporary art from the rugged province of Newfoundland at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Ontario.

That exhibition led me to Hall’s  “Apron Diaries”, a series of  installation works around the Trinity and Bonavista areas of Newfoundland in which she displays collections of aprons at worksites (such as upon fish flakes for drying salted cod or hanging at a local bakery or at a fisheries plant) as a celebration of the often unsung labor of women.   Images of wind-fluttered aprons affixed to weathered fish flakes are particularly colorful and moving (literally) tributes to women’s essential work roles in their communities. Pam Hall, Apron Diaries 2

Aprons on a Fish Flake, From Pam Hall’s “Apron Diaries”

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Pam Hall, Apron Diaries 3

Aprons Festooned at a Fisheries Plant, From Pam Hall’s “Apron Diaries”

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Pam Hall, Apron Diaries 4

Baking Amidst Aprons, From Pam Hall’s “Apron Diaries”

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More Colorful Aprons on a Fish Flake, From Pam Hall’s “Apron Diaries”

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More about Hall , her siteworks and other art can be found at her website here.

(Image Credits:  Pam Hall)

Mother’s Day Homage: The Wilcox Family Gravestones

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 Base of Gravestone of Susan Wilcox (1834-1918), “Mother”

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The sorrows of motherhood and the difficulty of raising children safely to adulthood more than a century ago were poignantly brought to mind by a grouping of gravestones I happened upon last Fall in the cemetery of the old Pembroke Chapel (originally Methodist and later a United Church) in Pembroke, Nova Scotia.

Situated beside the gravestones for Susan Wilcox (1834-1918) — prominently marked “Mother” — and her husband, Nathan (1827 -1899), are markers for five of their children, each of whom predeceased their parents:  Cyrus, who it’s noted “Drowned At Sea”, aged 27 years, 1887;  Norman F., aged 2 yrs. 7 mos., 1861; Annie E., aged 13 mos., 1871; Frederick W., aged 1 yr., 1873; and Cora M., aged 1 day, 1877.

My curiosity prompted a search of old genealogical records here, which revealed that Susan and Nathan Wilcox had a total of 11 children (born between 1859 to 1880) — quite a brood!  Families were larger then partly because additional helping hands were needed and life was understood to be more precarious.   To lose a child is an unbearable thought for any parent and to have five leave this world before either parent sounds utterly tragic.  Even though they had six children that survived them and considering that many things about life being very tough may have been taken in stride back then, I imagine that this mother and father must have endured an immense measure of grief.

Thus, this homage to motherhood and Mother’s Day and a reminder to be thankful for family, friends and other loved ones, as well as to treasure each of our precious days (on Mother’s Day and beyond).

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Gravestones for Nathan and Susan Wilcox Family, Pembroke, Nova Scotia

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 Markers of Norman F., Annie E., Frederick W. and Cora M. Wilcox

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 Markers of Cyrus Wilcox and his mother, Susan Wilcox

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Old Pembroke Chapel, Pembroke, Nova Scotia

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Similar posts on O’Canada:

* Saint John’s Transcendent Old Loyalist Burial Grounds

* Halifax’s Beautiful Old Burying Ground

* Canada’s Oldest Regular Cemetery:  Garrison Cemetery, Annapolis Royal, N.S.

Vintage Quebec: Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs

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A Dog Cart in Quebec (late 1940s/early 1950s)

Much of Quebec has long had a rural character.  As shown in these vintage postcards, the province’s resourceful people would routinely enlist their animals — even dogs! — in the daily chores.

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Ox Cart in Rural Quebec (late 1940s/early 1950s)

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Sleigh in Winter in Montreal (postmarked Apr. 3, 1911) — Note on card reads in part: “Dear Father,  This is what they are doing way up here in April.   It thaws very little even yet.  .  .  .  With love, H.K.I.”

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Another Ox Cart in Rural Quebec (late 1940s/early 1950s)

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Similar posts on O’Canada:

* When Motels Were Newer and Grander

* Early 1900s Town Markets

* Moonlit Views of Yesteryear Canada

* Pastoral Splendor on the Ile de Orleans

 

When Motels Were Newer and Grander

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Lovely watercolor effect, simple signage and lines, very retro!

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From the 1920s to the early 1960s, the automobile led the way to leisurely road trips and the chance for a quick getaway down newly paved  highways across Canada and the U.S.  The cozy roadside motel filled the need  for an affordable, convenient place for the weary driver and family to kick back and relax in relative luxury with then modern conveniences (such as showers in each room, radio, TV and Hi-Fi!), as these vintage postcards attest.

Early 1900s Town Markets

These colored photo postcards from the early 1900s highlight the importance of town markets as hubs of community activity.  Lots of horses and wagons, ladies in long dresses and men in dark hats and not an automobile in sight.

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Postmarked October 6, 1910, Reads: “Dear Cousin, I have not received any letters from you, nor from Oscar. Hope you will write to the above address and by the time I return here, there will be many letters.  Kind Love, Edgar”

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No postmark, but likely around 1910; No note

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Postmarked September 8, 1909; No note

 Similar posts:

Moonlit Views of Yesteryear Canada

Vintage Postcards: Canadian Churches

 ♦ Whimsical Wednesday: Vintage 7 Day Kisses

More American Cartoons On Canada

I enjoy the diversion of witty cartoons (especially those in The New Yorker magazine), and I’ve posted previously about funny cartoons that comment on American perceptions and stereotypes about Canada (for example, here and here).  Below are a few others that may provide for some amusement.

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This one deals with the general lack of knowledge about Canada by many Americans:

What part of Canada . . .

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Americans know they share many similarities with Canadians and might be happy to think that’s true in all respects but every now and then something will remind otherwise — such as the finishing of a sentence with an “eh?” or a different pronunciation of a common word (like “about” pronounced as “aboot”) — even if they can’t put their finger on it:

wYou-seem-familiar-.-.-.

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Of course, there’s the widely held perception of Canadians as being polite to a fault:

Canadian Mob

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This one, while showing two Canadian politicians, plays on the notion held by many Americans of U.S. “exceptionalism” and the idea that Canada doesn’t often register with many Americans:

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And . . . there’s the word “about” again:

Canadian CSI

(Image credits to the various cartoonists: Liam Walsh, D. Reilly, P.C. Vey, Paul Noth, Dan Piraro)

Backwoods Lumbering During the 1880s

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I recently came across a reprint of Picturesque Canada (ed. by George M. Grant), a two-volume compendium originally published in 1882 of Canada’s history, people and places.  These marvelous books feature hundreds of intricate wood engravings that bring to life with vivid imagery the then still new and developing confederation.  These illustrations of the lumber trade depict the hardships of that way of life, with most of these also seeming to associate that occupation with the extra harsh conditions of winter, which is fitting for the cold weather that is now creeping in up north. (Click images to enlarge.)

Chopping and Sawing

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A Jobber's Shanty; Marking Logs at Skidway

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Arrival of Supply Train at Lumber Depot___

A Sawmill in the Backwoods

Remembrance Day and the Home Front

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Red poppies already adorn many a chest and collar on each side of the border as a lead up to Monday when the U.S. marks Veteran’s Day and Canada observes Remembrance Day.   Both occasions mark and honor the difficult sacrifices made by our respective veterans in service to their country.  These vintage wartime posters from World War I remind us that the reach and privations of the war that prompted the first Remembrance Day extended, as most wars do, to the home front as well.

(Poppy Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Canada Dry’s Cross-Cultural Appeal

Canada Dry -- Sparkling

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I remember as a child that we would drink Canada Dry Ginger Ale about as often as we drank Coca Cola.  Originated in Canada and adopted by America, the Canada Dry brand serves as a cultural bridge between our two countries.  Canada Dry Ginger Ale was created in 1890 by John J. McLaughlin, an Ontario pharmacist, and for a few decades thereafter this effervescent beverage was mainly a Canadian regional drink.  (Coincidentally, Coca Cola was also concocted a few years before in 1886 by a pharmacist, John Pemberton.)  Once its popularity spread to the U.S. around the 1920s, it eventually became a major American brand as attested by this assortment of vintage advertisements.

Another Amusing Take on Canadian Politeness

Canadian-Lemmings

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Similar to the “Canadian Standoff” cartoon by Roz Chast in an issue of the New Yorker from this past January, the above illustration by Robert Leighton in the August 5, 2013 issue of that magazine pokes good-natured fun at the Canadian penchant for politeness.  Not really a bad reputation to have though.

Imagining Canada: NY Times Photo Archive on Canada

Imagining Canada

I learned a lot by focusing on Quebec-themed posts over the past month.  With June now here, time to shift gears for a while back to good old random Canadiana.

For a nice transition, here’s a sampling from the recently published Imagining Canada: A Century of Photographs Preserved By The New York Times, a book I obtained shortly before last month’s trip to Montreal.  Over the past century The New York Times has covered many developments in Canada and Imagining Canada showcases some of the photographs that accompanied that coverage.  The images in the book and below only scratch the surface of the extensive archive acquired from the Times in 2009 by Canadian businessman Christopher Bratty and selections from which have been highlighted in the long-running “Photo of the Day” feature on TORO magazine’s website.

The photos are grouped by subject in the book, with each chapter accompanied by a brief, thoughtful essay on Canadian culture by notable figures.  The introductory essay by editor William Morassutti reflects on the relationship between Canada and the U.S. and the fact that, even if below the radar, many people in the States have been paying close attention to Canada for quite a while.

RCMP in Banff 1941

RCMP in Banff 1941

Leafs vs. Rangers 1966

Leafs vs. Rangers 1966

Deanna Durbin 1948

Deanna Durbin 1948

Royal Canadian Regiment in Halifax 1919

Royal Canadian Regiment in Halifax 1919

Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal

Notre Dame Basillica Montreal_edited-1

Quebec Month / Installment 15

Even to a casual observer of Quebec culture, the predominance of the Catholic church, at least historically, in the province is evident in many ways, not the least of which is the prominence in many towns of a centrally located Catholic church and the widespread naming of streets and other places for saints.  The Notre-Dame Basilica de Montreal, an impressive gothic structure situated in the Vieux-Montreal area of that city, is perhaps the crown jewel of all these.  My lovely wife took these two images of the intricately ornate interior of the Basilica.

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What’s Up With Canada’s Currency?

2012 Polymer Series Notes

2012 Polymer Series Notes

 

Amusing article (“Canada’s New Banknotes Strike Some as Loonie“) in this weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal on the recent switch in Canada from paper to polymer currency.  The principal reasons given by the Bank of Canada, the official issuer of the currency, for adopting the new bills are  durability and prevention of counterfeiting.  I’ve previously remarked on the creativity of the Royal Canadian Mint with its wide variety of designs for the country’s coinage and I find it interesting how Canada has done away with the dollar bill in favor of the dollar coin, an effort that has been tried in the States but not done very well here.  This year also marks the first year that the Canadian 1 cent coin will not be minted.

In any event, it seems that among other complaints about the new banknotes is that in certain conditions the notes will melt, notwithstanding the Bank of Canada’s assurances to the contrary.   The WSJ article details some other related mishaps.  What I find more intriguing  from an American perspective — and even with an understanding of the historical connection to the British monarchy — is the continuation of Queen Elizabeth II’s image on one side of Canada’s current 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $2 coins (and the penny while it was minted) as well as the $20 note .   (I plan to return to that peculiarity in a future post.)

Image Credit:  Bank of Canada

The Pride of the Mounties

Mountie On the Rapids

Ask most Americans about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) — more commonly called the Canadian Mounties — and you’ll frequently hear comments indicating a generally high regard for the Mounties and their association with the frontier derring do.  With their iconic red serge coats and dimpled Stetson hats, the public image of the Mounties has had a warm reception in the American imagination, even if over the years, like many police forces, they have had their ups and downs and share of controversies.

My early introduction to the Mounties included watching as a kid countless Dudley Do Right cartoons, which presented an amiable if bumbling caricature of a Mountie, and educational reels from school about the valor of the Mounties.  Slightly later came Monty Python’s humorous send up of another Canadian icon, the lumberjack, which featured the good-natured Mounties providing a back up chorus.  Probably because of all these sources I almost always thought of the Mounties as a wilderness fighting force, and did not fully understand their broader policing role.

The idea that the Mounties “always got their man” also stuck with me from childhood.  Fittingly, that unofficial motto was attributed to the Mounties by an American publication (at least according to the Wikipedia entry on the RCMP).  The RCMP as we know it today resulted from the merger of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, which first patrolled the Northwest Territories starting in the late 1800s, and the country’s Dominion Police.   As testament to the acclaim enjoyed by the Mounties, they were frequent heroic subjects of popular American books, pulp fiction, magazine stories, radio shows and movies from the 1920s through the 1960s.  A sampling of related pop culture images is collected below.

Quotable Canada: Women in Combat, Skiing the Gaspe Peninsula, Arctic Exploration, and Common Law Relationships

Some notable quotes from U.S. and Canadian media I’ve come across in the past week or so:

“I can assure you that a mother misses a son as much as a father grieves for a daughter.  Grief has no gender”  — Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island resident Tim Goddard, commenting on combat roles for men and women, in Ian Austen, “Debate on Combat Roles Is Familiar in Canada,” NY Times, Jan. 25, 2013 

“The lucky ones got to sleep under a table.  You were so exhausted you didn’t care.”   — Montrealer Sharon Braverman, commenting on the initial Traversee de la Gaspesie, the weeklong 100-mile plus cross-country skiing trek across Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula in Tim Neville, “Quebec on Skis,” NY Times, Jan. 27, 2013

“I think it’s crazy.  Aren’t we far enough north already?”   — Deborah Iqualik, of Resolute, Nunavut, on the efforts each year (called the “silly season” by locals) by adventurers far and wide to reach the North Pole, in Margo Pfeiff, “‘If It’s Explorer Season, Why Can’t We Shoot Them?'”,  Up Here, Jan./Feb. 2013

“You’re in love, and all you think about is love and having kids, and you come last.  So a lot of women don’t see it coming.”Johanne Lapointe, of Montreal, commenting on Quebec’s  approach to common law relationships in light of a recent Canadian Supreme Court decision, in Ingrid Peritz & Sean Gordon, “Quebec is a Laboratory When It Comes to Domestic Life'”, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 25, 2013

Amusing Twitter Posts from December

Twitter Logo White

Some random Twitter posts from December connected to Canada:

@nora_z_93 on Dec. 3:  One of the most dreadful experiences in life is waiting for the bus in canada during the winter. Trust me on this.

@YaBoiDave on Dec. 7: I have to go to canada this weekend. My goals: 1: complain about the bacon 2: overuse the term “ey” 3: befriend and or conquer a moose

@silasagna on Dec. 10: why do i hear goose outside of my window i don’t remember moving to canada

@robroche on Dec. 11: I know I should know better, but I still think it’s winter 365 days a year in Canada — After Maine ends: Polar Bears and Snow Mobiles.

@noahcgrove on Dec. 17:  Going to see the nutcracker tonight, hope the Alberta ballet isn’t a whole bunch of old men in cowboy boots on their tip toes.

@psysal on Dec. 18:  True Sounds of Canada: The gentle warble of a Loon ‘pon break of day.  The unmistakable clik of some weirdo clipping their nails on the bus.

@laurenonizzle  on Dec. 18: Newfoundland consumes about 30% of the bologna produced in Canada, despite having just 2% of the population.

@archiemc on Dec. 18:  BREAKING: Yellowknife, Iqaluit and Whitehorse all have a 100% chance of a white Christmas.

@NarikaXo on Dec. 26:  Everytime I do something odd or just random and funny everyone blames it on me being Canadian.

@austinc00per on Dec. 29: alsask.  what a clever name for a town on the alberta-sask border

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