Talkin’ Ten Lost Years
I’ve talked about Pete’s Place before. Pete’s is where I met Mike. He loves to talk about history. He’s an easy interview. Once he starts, he can’t stop. I don’t have to ask questions. He just answers them.
“Let me tell ya little story ‘bout hobos and dust, kind-hearted people and hearts full of rust. A time when heartache made a big impression, talkin’ ‘bout Canada’s great depression. It lasted ten years…seemed like a hundred and ten…well I guess years where longer back in those days.
“It all started when the wealthy were feelin’ fine, dancin’ the Charleston, drinkin’ up the wine, buyin’ up stocks, buyin’ things on credit, sayin’ we’re gonna be rich ‘cuz our broker said it – All of the sudden everybody started cryin’ when the stock market crashed in 1929. It wiped people out…they didn’t see it comin’…ye can’t blame ‘em, they didn’t have text messaging back then.
“Many factories closed, folks got fired and a lot of bank accounts just plain expired. Mother Nature dealt us some real big whoppers, 3 years of drought and swarms of grasshoppers. it was a plague…right across the prairies…
“ Some folks lost their home and lost their farm and hung on to their decency and charm. Men took to hoppin’ on movin’ trains ridin’ out to Vancouver and right back again. Lookin’ for work…anything to do…somebody’d hollar “hey, how’d ya like ta shovel slop for 50 cents a day in Winnepeg and you’d say mmmmmmmm…
“Ridin’ the rails was a popular form of travel, in a boxcar watchin’ things unravel. Huddlin’ with friends in a similar bind, sharin’ any scraps of food you might find Gatherin’ in hobo jungles at night, a fire, a song, and you could feel all right ‘Til three in the morning feel the police whip crack sayin’ get outta town and don’t ye come back.”
So what’d ya do?
“If you’d had a car before the Depression struck, chances are, my friend, you’d be in luck. Weren’t no gasoline you could afford, but you could give automobile conversion a try. Just tear off the engine, don’t need no fuel, just hook that thing up to an old mule. It was a vehicle for days sunny or muggy. The contraption known as the Bennett Buggy.”
I remember it was named for the Prime Minister of the day, R.B. Bennett. They don’t name cars after Prime Ministers anymore, do they?
“The Depression lasted pretty darn long. At the end of the Thirties, relief came to the poor in the shape and form of the Second World War. Celebration, we had a war. There’s nothin’ like a bit of bullets and bloodshed to keep your mind off your financial woes.
So from coast to coast we gathered in session sayin’ sure hope we never have another depression. It affected this country more than a bit, and it’s been said the Prairies were the hardest hit. Maybe that’s why in later years it was Prairie folks who gave us some good ideas about givin’ each Canadian their fair share and healin’ us for free with Medicare. So if hard times hit, and they’re likely to, and some stranger’s holdin’ up a hand to you, help them out. Seems like the Canadian thing to do.”
With utmost respect to singer/songwriter Mike Ford.
Talking Ten Lost Years.
Canada Needs You volume two