Birthday gifts, cigarettes and sliced ham

Published on June 2, 2014
The great flag debate was happening in 1963. Cartoonist Roy Peterson (1936-2013) who drew for the Vancouver Sun and became very well-known across Canada, contributed two pages of flag ideas and their presenters. Here is his Viking who argues that his people were in Canada before the English or French, “so why not use a Viking sail for our flag?”  — Submitted image

Canada’s 100th birthday was four years in the future when one prominent Canadian journalist jumped in ahead of time with his own special gift idea. He suggested the country start planning “now”
to give itself  an 11th province in 1967.

And where would such a gift come from? Well, its focal point would be Ottawa and its landmass would come from both Ontario and Quebec.

“Why?” leaps to mind.

But, like any wise student who did his homework in advance of embarrassing questions in class, Frank Flaherty was ready with the answers.

One of Flaherty’s reasons for the creation of another province from what we call Ottawa-Hull, would be “a more united, happier Canada.” I suppose that was conceivable then even if, I suspect, few people would care to put money on it.

He also suggested that designating the capital region a province would be to provide the setting for “a proper national capital.” That is loose, I think. Does Ottawa have less dignity now because it still sits upon, and is answerable to two provinces and many municipalities?

Of more substance were the administrative reasons. It lacked unified control over municipal services and town planning, Flaherty argued — the region’s largest taxpayer (the federal government) was afforded “no real voice” in local affairs; the educational system in the capital discriminated against French-speaking Canadians. I’d say that has been more than rectified.

Also, in an article he wrote for Weekend Magazine’s June 29, 1963 issue, Flaherty reminded his readers that the Royal Commission on Government Organization did not see federal government career opportunities as being fairly and equally offered to both English- and French-speaking Canadians: “As matters now stand, appointment to the centre of federal administration seems to French-speaking Canadians to involve abandoning their language and severing their cultural roots.” That has been more than rectified.

Flaherty added that the creation of a new province would be a centennial gift to Canada from its two wealthiest provinces and that a national capital province could be a city-state after the pattern of the old established city-states of modern Germany.

There were ‘grabbier’ topics

Well, in a few short years, that big birthday will be 50 years in the past.

We still have 10 provinces and Ottawa still straddles two of them and a parcel of municipalities to boot.

It’s the sort of non-planned happenstance of birth that Flaherty argued should be changed.

His little one-sided debate, I would hazard to guess, encouraged no participants. Readers had all kinds of other things to turn to that weekend.

Stepping away from Flaherty’s proposal for a moment, you have to get a feel for your reading material by flipping pages before and after the leading essay.

You just need to see what’s in it — you know, stop at a cartoon or two.

One thing that caught my eye was a full-page advertisement placed by the Belvedere cigarette manufacturers. They had a sort of lottery on the go. Here’s what you had to do:

“When you finish your next pack of Belvedere, print your name, address and telephone number of the back of the inner slide of the package and mail it to Belvedere. What could you win?

First prize: $100 a month for 10 years  

Second prize: $100 a month for five years

Third prize: $100 a month for three years

Fourth prize: $100 a month for one year

“Each new pack of Belvedere you smoke gives you another chance to win! And with every pack you become more aware that Belvedere’s ideal balance of high filtration and aged tobaccos makes it the truly balanced smoke.”

I’m just wondering whether you had to be alive to continue to collect across a 10-year span. Could your estate take receipt of those cheques? Because, if you doubled up on your smoking, bought twice as many packs of Belvedere while that contest was on, you doubled your chances of winning, and, perhaps, doubled your chances of succumbing to the assault of smoke and nicotine on your respiratory system.

I have strayed somewhat from an imaginative gift for Canada’s 100th birthday. Let me wind that argument up with this:

At the time this article was published, Ottawa’s National Capital Region was about 1,800 square miles. It is only fractionally over that now at 1,820 but its population is significantly lower than the 500,000 people which it was approaching when Flaherty wrote. So, it has become much more densely populated. But Flaherty’s  “not-too-distant future” that would see a population of one million has yet to arrive.

Today, Wiki-pedia says proposals have sometimes been made to transform the federal region into a separate capital district, like the District of Columbia. “Such proposals have never come close to passage, and there does not currently appear to be any significant political will or necessity to pursue this option.”

Frank Flaherty felt that if Canada warmed to the idea of forming a separate province out of the federal capital region, work could start then (in 1963) so that by the time July 1, 1967 rolled around, we would be ready to hold a coming out party for our 11th province.

Flaherty was no slouch (as we say here in the 10th). In 1963 he was a veteran Ottawa newspaperman, a law graduate who did not practise law, but pursued journalism in major North American capitals. He also worked as correspondent for McGraw-Hill publications.

Back 47 years ago

Now I am turning more pages in that issue of Weekend Magazine. Other things in that issue are of interest, mostly because of the passage of time.

Texaco was trying to drum up customer numbers by offering Canadian Scenic Thermo Tumblers — king sized and double (plastic) walled.

That summer you could pull up under the Texaco star, get gas or make any other purchase, and buy a tumbler for 29 cents. Tomorrow’s yard sale.

The magazine had a women’s editor and her turf was soft and gentle — no big challenging political questions. She wrote like this: “two young Ottawa readers tel me they pored over the telephone book to come up with what they call “some interesting name combinations with ‘Miss’ — they include Miss Slade, Miss Celani, Miss Tooke and Miss Iles.” Wow.

 But there was also a food editor, the well-known Margaret Oliver (1923-2010). Did you know she was also “Betty Crocker” for General Mills? Not only that, but she was also “Margo.” That was a nickname which evolved from her signing her name for fans as “Marg O.” Oliver joined Weekend Magazine when it was launched in 1959. In this issue she offers a novel way to present baked ham for an outdoor summer scoff.

“My patio or picnic menu suggests hot ham and scalloped potatoes. The picnic ham is an idea I like because it makes serving easy. The ham is cut into perfect slices when cold. Then it is tied together, baked and glazed, ready to be untied and served, without carving, at the picnic.”

So, you can see now why she was so famous across Canada.

A bit of everything

Weekend Magazine, which in its heyday enjoyed the largest circulation of any Canadian publication, was inserted as a supplement in many Canadian newspapers, including The Evening Telegram. In fact, the magazine helped turn The Telegram’s Saturday edition into the phenom it became.

You can see how the magazine would stir up reader interest as it seems to have had a bit of everything. For example, the editors got together and published a column containing extraneous bits swept up from the cutting room floor. They called the column simply, “This Weekend and Next”.

Here is one such item: “We published a story recently about some of the strange things that happen to the English language when it gets into the mouths of today’s youthful radio announcers.” Now there is another outbreak of language corruption that is threatening to become a fad. It concerns the composition of ‘Tom Swifties’ and is based on a well-known series of boys’ books about a character named Tom Swift who spoke with an abundance of enthusiasm — eagerly, happily, laughingly, excitedly, and so on.

The idea of Tom Swifties is to invent things for Tom to say and describe the way he would say them. We offer the following examples:

“I’m on unemployment insurance,” Tom said dolefully.

“I just lost at Russian roulette,” said Tom, absent-mindedly.

 “I don’t think I can hit it that far,” said Tom, bashfully.