"We Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse"
(Canada 1927-1939) - Synopsis
Selected Readings: Chapter 13
"It once was so cheerful, that place we called home"
From the train, the low rolling hills behind them blurred to a brown nothingness on the horizon. As the train chugged its way westward the land looked much the same, but the hills were higher and the valleys deeper. In the distance they caught glimpses of the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains....
With a healthier economy in the late '20s, provincial and town finances improved. Prohibition had been proclaimed in Alberta from 1916 until 1923.... The great increase of automobiles also added revenue, from gasoline taxes and the sale of licences.
Then, on October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed and ushered in the Great Depression....
....The Okotoks council passed a motion that before being approved for direct relief.... the local constable had to check the adequacy of the supplies in their cupboards at home.
The high rate of tuberculosis and the inadequacy of facilities to treat and care for the patients was a major health concern....
However, in spite of the cash shortage, weekly reports in the Okotoks Review revealed a town of 760 inhabitants with a surprisingly rich social and cultural life....
For such a small town of 760, the Board of Trade was remarkably active. In November 1933, Magistrate H.G. Scott from Calgary gave a talk, with sixty-two members present. Recently returned from a trip to Europe, he spoke of Hitler and the political situation in Germany. "He embodies and expresses the German resentment under their defeat.... His one theme is that Germany has been ill-treated and must secure restoration of her past glory....
Just before Christmas, the Town took possession of Gustav and Anna's house, and seized all their possession "not essential for daily living." The city granted them possession of another, smaller house.... Arnold was doing casual work at a service station in town, and also working for a farm implement dealer, and that may have been the only income they had at that time.
"Often the heartache is hid by a smile"
Gustav and Anna had barely settled in the older, unpainted house across from the CPR section house when Gustav died....
During the First World War a sanatorium had been established at Frank, Alberta in an old CPR hotel, for the purpose of treating soldiers who had the disease. From 1914-1918 tuberculosis killed almost as many Canadians as were killed in the war....
The patients were surrounded by death. Hildur underwent "pneumo" treatment for some months.... In January 1935, nine months after entering the sanatorium, Hildur died of pneumonia, at the age of twenty years and nine months.
Anna's world now was her family and friends in Okotoks.... Anna was fortunate to have electricity and had been given a console radio as a gift.... Anna became an enthusiastic fan of Hockey Night in Canada, the NHL hockey games on Saturday evening that commenced on Canadian radio in the early '30s. Her eyes would sparkle, and she smiled broadly when she mimicked Foster Hewitt announcing in the game, "He shoots! He scores!!"
...."They sure must be some team. We listened to all the games on the radio. One of the fellows I'm in with right now has his own radio, so it made it pretty nice...."
By 1935, across Canada, the economy had begun a slow recovery from the depths of the Depression, but the prairie west was yet to experience the extremes of the drought. Hot, dry winds whipped across the prairies in the summer, followed by fierce cold and blizzards in the winter of 1935-36. The summer that followed.... When the dreaded Russian thistle grew in the spring, the farmers cut it and fed it to their starving cattle. In 1938, the prairies were lavished with adequate rain and the land began a slow recovery from the drought.
In the spring of 1939, Canada celebrated the first official visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.... The mood was jubilant and celebratory.
....The other purpose was more sinister. Fearing that another European war was forthcoming, the British wished to cement the bonds of affection in Canada that tied them to the Empire.