Ten Lost Years…
“…Look at it this way. Say on July 1, Steve had a business and a fine house and a nice wife. By January 1st, six months later, he’s zilch! Living in the basement in his own house, and his wife is the maid upstairs and the cook.”
Exaggeration for effect, you suggest? Nope, just a day in the life of Canadians in a time when people called a spade a shovel, the D word was used only by the people who were living it, the sun shone brightly all day, every day, and the kitchen table, which became a byword in our recent election, was a favorite gathering place. It was 1931 when the kitchen table was the only gathering place people could afford, in a time when talking, walking and sparse food on the table was commonplace.
The Depression, the Dirty Thirties, we’re told, hit Canada harder than any other nation in the world, so maybe the R word is right describing today’s situation; maybe it’s recession and not depression, because we actually learned something and found the boy scout motto worked and the experience was entrenched into the financial workings of the country. Too bad we’ve almost swept the story of the people who survived the poverty war of the Dirty Thirties under the rug. That’s about the same as neglecting and forgetting the veterans of our wars, isn’t it?
The old axiom, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, fits them. And now the election is out of our hair, it’s time for us to get going, especially our leaders, isn’t it? That boy scout motto, be prepared, seems to have worked once, so it’s time to try another, illustrated by the experience of a troop of boy scouts hiking an old trail. They came across an abandoned section of railroad tracks. In turn, each tried walking the rails but eventually lost his balance and tumbled off.
Then, two of the boys, after some whispering together, bet the rest they could both walk the entire length of the track without falling off.
Challenged, the two boys jumped up on opposite rails, and joined hands to balance each other walking the section of track with ease.
Now if we could get our political, industrial, financial and environmental leaders to take that lesson and put it into practice, we might get something done in this country.
A tip of the hat to the survivors of the Depression, and the veterans of the Second World War, one and the same people. The people who broke the back of Depression, then went to war, fighting together for the good of our country.
A second tip of the hat to the man who wrote the oral history leading this piece, Barry Broadfoot. In the frontispiece of his book Ten Lost Years, published in 1973, he quotes a Grade 10 student: “We have never been taught it, the Depression, the hard days,” said Jamie, in Calgary. “There’s nothing in the school books, there might be something in the library, but I have never seen it. They never teach it, at least not so far. No, I don’t know why. Maybe they don’t want us to know about it. I know it was a time when no one had any money, not even the country. Yes, I know that. My Mom told me. She told me a few things about it, but that’s all.”
Barry Broadfoot’s oral history books are as close as you can get to kitchen-table history; a lot closer than any board- or cabinet-room table history we’ll ever get. Readers come away proud of them; every man, woman and child of them. You’re awed by their stamina, strength and courage, and, when you turn the last page, you’re as ready to stand up and sing O Canada at the top of your lungs as they always did, all their lives; lives they put on the line the day after suffering untold hardships; hardships too often swept under the rug.
Yes sir, all new members of Parliament at House of Commons tables, I challenge you to match them. They marched together, conquered drought, disaster, hunger, oppression and helped defeat that s.o.b. Hitler and his minions!
Dare you do less?