Thursday, August 17, 2017


From the big scrapbook of time, here’s a look at Canada in 1917-

January 1:  Public houses are dark and shuttered throughout the country as prohibition comes into effect in the Dominion of Newfoundland. Thirsty citizens will repeal the law in 1925.

Saskatchewan Provincial Police badges.

January 1: The RCMP step aside as the Saskatchewan Provincial Police take over their duties. 

January 2:  All is stagnant on the Western Front. Despite the heroic efforts of the Allies and the deaths of 50,000 soldiers, the war drags on without any clear gains by either side.

January 2: Bad loans dog the Quebec Bank and its officers accept a merger proposal with the Royal Bank. The latter has already bought the Union Bank of Halifax and the Traders Bank of Canada. Within a decade, the Royal Bank will be the largest financial institution in the Dominion.

January 6: Sydney Banks is born in Toronto. He will grow up to direct and produce radio and TV shows for the CBC and private broadcasters, too. In 1970 he will be one of the founders of the Global TV Network. Banks will die in 2006 at the age of 89.

The CCM plant in 1910.
January 15: The new CCM factory is formally opened in Weston, Ontario. Workers will turn out 900 bicycles a week.  
His Excellency, The Duke of Devonshire,  Governor General, inspect the Alberta Provincial Police.

March 1: The Mounties will no longer be responsible for local law enforcement in Wild Rose Country as the Alberta Provincial Police takes over the job.

February 27: Queen’s Park has given the
women of Ontario the right to vote in elections, though they may not stand for office.

March 16: Ottawa announces the formation of a Home Defense Force. There is little likelihood of an attack on home soil. In fact, there is so little enthusiasm for domestic solders the idea will quietly disappear by the end of July. 

March 26: The Seattle Metropolitans become the first American team to win Lord Stanley’s cup as they whip the Montreal Canadiens three games to one.

April 1: It’s not an April Fool’s joke that Ottawa starts the new fiscal year with $230 million in the coffers. That’s $100 million more than this time last year—despite $60 million spent on the war effort.

April 3: Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky is arrested when his ship docks in Halifax. He will be sent to a concentration camp in Amherst, Nova Scotia for four weeks before being deported and turned over to Russian authorities. Trotsky is one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution.

April 4: Women in British Columbia are given the right to vote by the legislature in Victoria. 

April 5: There are 250,000 men in uniform--serving in our armed forces—one out of every four adult males. Food rationing looms. Farmers can’t get the crops into the fields because labour is in such short supply. In Ontario, teenagers can get out of school by volunteering to work on a farm. Application forms are available in principals’ offices.

April 6:  Nearly three years after the conflict began, the United States is at war with Germany. 

April 9: The Canadian Corps attacks the highly fortified German lines at Vimy Ridge in France.  It is a daunting task; the ridge rises up 135 metres. 

April 14: The Canadian Corps have advanced more than four kilometres and captured 4,000 German soldiers. Our losses are staggering—3,598 soldiers have laid down their lives for King and Empire.

April 16: The medical building at McGill University goes up in flames. Governor General Lord Strathcona immediately offers to build a new one—with his own money—across the street from the Royal Victoria Hospital.

April 24: Paul Dojack is born in Winnipeg. He will grow up to become a CFL referee, working 550 CFL games in 24 years, including 14 Grey Cups. Paul will preside over the first overtime in the Grey Cup game of 1961 and the Toronto “fog bowl of 1962.”

May 1: The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education marks Gopher Day. Kids in all 960 of the province’s schools are sent out into the fields to kill 50,000 gophers. The meat will ease the food crisis on the home front and free up more beef and pork for soldiers. 

May 3: Lieutenant Robert Grierson Combe of the 27th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, captures 80 German soldiers with a platoon of only 5 men in Acheville, France. The Lieutenant will be killed later in the day and will be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously in a ceremony on June 27.

May 18:  Prime Minister Borden announces compulsory military conscription in order to bring the number of Canadians in uniform up to 100,000. The PM is aware that conscription will split the country; it is extremely unpopular in Quebec. The press calls it ‘The Conscription Crisis.’

May 21: William Stacey Burr is born in New Westminster, BC.  He will be best known for his acting roles as television’s Perry Mason and Ironsides. Burr will die of kidney cancer on September 12, 1993.

May 25: The Champion Spark Plug Company of Windsor, Ontario sends salesman Charlie Speers and Cal Evans on a publicity trip to Vancouver to spark interest in its products. The pair will arrive in Vancouver on October 16.

June 1: Leader of the Queen’s Loyal Opposition, Sir Wilfred Laurier, announces the Liberal Party will not support enforced military service. He points out that the slaughter taking place on the battlefields is senseless. 

Captain Bishop will have an airport named after him in Toronto.

June 2: Captain William “Billy” Bishop shoots down three German planes. The hero hails from Owen Sound, Ontario. By war’s end he will have 72 “kills” to his credit and receive the Victoria Cross for his heroism.

June 8: The Office of Dominion Fuel Controller is created by the federal cabinet. His job will be to keep gas and oil flowing so that factories can stay open and trains and transports trucks keep moving so we can win the war.

June 9: Canadian born General Arthur Curie is named commander of the Canadian Corps. Previously the soldiers were led by the British.

June 11: The Conscription Act is tabled in the House of Commons. If passed, it will make military service compulsory.

June 11: Ottawa announces the establishment of the Canadian Board of Grain Commissioners. It will be headquartered in Regina.The commissioners will inspect, weigh and analyze grains.

June 17: The Dominion of Newfoundland becomes the first North American jurisdiction to adopt daylight savings time or fast time. The one-hour advance on the clock is part of the war effort.

June 25: The Crown has withdrawn criminal charges against Sir Rodmond Roblin and two of his Manitoba cabinet ministers. The three were charged with fraud in the construction of the legislature in Winnipeg but inquiries have cleared their names and reputations.The building will open in 1920.

"The Canoe" painted by Tom Thomson in 1912.

July 8: Artist Thomas John 'Tom' Thomson is dead at the age of 39. With his strong sense of colour he had great influence over The Group of Seven. His upturned canoe is found in Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park and a week later his body—entangled in a fishing net—will be discovered. His death has never been resolved—many believe he was murdered.

Passchendaele will be made into a movie in 2008.

July 31: The Battle of Passchendaele begins. Also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, soldiers will fight in the swampy Belgian marshland until November.

August 1: Ottawa will be the sole owner of Canadian National Railways as it drops $60 million to buy out the remaining shareholders. The government will also buy the troubled Northern Railway and loan $7.5 million to ailing Grand Trunk Railway to keep it afloat.

State of the art  Hetérodyne radio in 1917.

August 15: Canadian troops successfully storm Hill 70 in Lens, France. It marks the first time radios are used in battle.

August 25: Two Inuit men from Coppermine, NWT are found guilty of the murder of two Roman Catholic missionaries by an Edmonton Court. The men admit to committing the crime but they claim self-defense.  Never before have Inuit tasted Canadian justice.

August 28: The Duke of Devonshire, Canada’s Governor General, has signed the Military Service Act into law. Men between 20 and 34 are affected. The goal is to get 100,000 men into uniforms, get them trained and get them “over there.”

Canada's 'passport' is a one-page document with the Royal Seal and the Governor General's signature.

September 1: Now that all men aged 20 to 34 must report for military duty, Ottawa will issue passports only to people who can prove they need to leave the country. The travel documents will be good for only 14 to 21 days. For established travellers, 60-day passports can be applied for.

September 10: The Canadian Pacific Railway offers $12 tickets to Winnipeg from any CPR station in Ontario. Young men must leave today or Wednesday. They are desperately needed in the grain fields and will harvest wheat alongside soldiers and prisoners.

September 11: Despite the fact that food rationing is being considered by Parliament, enough food is thrown away every day on the home front to feed the entire Canadian Overseas Army. Mothers of Canada are urged to “enlist their kitchens in the war effort,” sign the National Food Service Pledge and display the window card as an Emblem of Honour.

September 14:  Parliament has enacted a new Elections Act. One of the new regulations strips 25,000 naturalized Canadians of their citizenship because they come from “enemy countries.”  Women who have lost a brother, husband or son to the war may vote, making 500,000 women eligible to cast ballots in Federal elections.

September 26: David Réal Caouette is born in Amos, Quebec. He will grow up to lead the Social Credit Party. Holding the balance of power in a minority government, the Creditiste leader will be responsible for bringing down Diefenbaker’s government in 1963.

In 1917 all  Gray-Dort models list for $885. A khaki top adds $15 to the price tag and choosing an optional colour adds another $25 to the final bill. 

October 11: Built in Chatham, Ontario, a Gray-Dort finishes first in a fuel economy test staged in California. The 370-mile run pitted Chevrolet, Saxon, Monroe, Franklin, Pullman, Chalmers, Liberty, Marmon, Standard White and Winton against Gray Dort. The winning car averaged 41.7 kilometres (25.96 miles) to 3.8 litres of gasoline (one US gallon). The Gray-Dort consumed $2.82 worth of fuel. 

October 12: Prime Minister Borden has formed a Union Government by joining forces with pro-conscription Grits. His cabinet has 12 Tories, eight Liberals and one minister from the Labour party.

November --  Ottawa introduces a temporary income tax to help pay for the war. Prime Minister Borden pledges the tax will be dropped as soon as the war is over and the bills are paid.

November – Beef consumption is down by 60 percent since the war started in 1914. Folks are encouraged to eat chicken, rabbit and snake instead of beef. Ottawa has imposed meatless days on citizens and Ford Canada employees who break that rule will be fired from their jobs.

November 6: The Battle of Passchendaele is won by the Canadian Corps. Losses are staggering for both sides. The Germans count 270,000 dead and the Allies some 300,000 including 16,000 Canadians. 

November 26: The National Hockey League is formed in Montreal. There are six teams in the new association.

December 1: Ottawa prohibits the use of grain to make liquor. The only exception is alcohol prediction required in the manufacture of munitions.

December 15: The people have spoken. Borden’s Union Government is voted back into office. The final standing is 113 Tories, 39 Liberal Unionists. A total of 82 Liberals who stand behind Laurier and remain opposed to conscription will be the King's Loyal Opposition.

December 6:  Halifax and Dartmouth are flattened as the French munitions ship the Mont Blanc collides with the Belgian steamer Imo. The Mont Blanc’s cargo contains more than 3,000 tonnes of munitions, including TNT. The Mont Blanc explodes in the harbour with devasting results. Halifax and Dartmouth are home to 50,000 people of whom more than 9,000 are wounded, 6,000 are now homeless and more than 1,900 are dead. It is feared that tonight’s snowstorm will kill many of those who have no shelter.

December 12: Sir John Eaton, the department store magnate, accompanies two railroad cars to Halifax. One is a mobile medical car and the second is filled with $66,000 worth of goods to give away to bone fide victims who have lost their earthly goods in the explosion.

December 19: The first NHL game is played. The Montreal Wanderers whip the Toronto Arenas ten to nine.

December 27:  The Gray-Dort Weekly News Bulletin reports that three Gray-Dort cars have been given to drivers to assist in relief work after the explosion in Halifax. The editor says the cars “ran continuously for 18 hours at a time…they were amongst the very few cars which stood the hard usage of the great emergency work.”

Ford dealership in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
December 31: Ford has 3,832 employees on payroll and is the nation’s largest taxpayer shelling out  $1,782,094 to the Dominion Government. Imperial Oil Limited is a distance second paying $734,046 in taxes to Ottawa.

The most posh McLaughlin-Buick money could buy in 1917 is this Model D-Six-47, a seven-passenger touring car, listing for $2,300. For that price one could buy two McLaughlin-Buick roadsters and still have cash left over.