Sunday, June 17, 2012

Head West Old Lady?


I saw an advertisement on the TV yesterday which somewhat surprised/amused me. It was a PR bit for the oil sands.

A white man with a British Accent in a hardhat (how old fashioned) was explaining how the oil sands belonged to all Canadians and that there were plenty of jobs out there 'for all ages groups and all levels of education.' Basically, it sounded like he was inviting all of Canada's unemployed  to move to Alberta!

"Head West Old Lady?"

Somehow I doubt it.

Somehow, I'm just guessing, just like in 1910, the West is still "Young Man's Country." That's what Gilbert Nicholson wrote his brother Norman back home when he was asked about prospects out West in 1910. Norman Nicholson was partriach of a very respectable Richmond, Quebec family that had fallen on hard times. He had three daughters and one son.

All the daughters ended up working as teachers (at least for a while) and the son, well, he went out West but only under duress. He got himself into a little trouble at his work at a bank and he had to leave. He ended up in California, by 1950.

The story of the Nicholson family is told in School Marms and Suffragettes, an ebook I have posted online. (You can read Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster separately. Threshold Girl tells the story of the Royal Commission on Technical Training and Industrial Education: What to do with all those women wanting work? Train them as housewives and domestics.)

In those days, it was the Wheat Boom and the Canadian West was promoting itself as a destination through Magazines like Canada West Monthly and many  wordy  brochures featuring pictures of never-ending fields of wheat and fat cattle..

Yesterday's television ad was paid for by an entity with a name something like the Petroleum Board of Canada, or Petroleum Association of Canada or is it Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers? Our Oil Sands, belonging to all Canadians.

I recall another feel good oil sands advertisement that ran on CNN over and over a year or so ago. In that advert Exxon implied very strongly that the oil sands belonged to the US, although that ad did not say "Come on over to Alberta.' (Of course, the wording was ambiguous.)

Not a lie though, some statistics recently released claim the majority of the oil sands are NOT owned by Canadian interests. 2//3 are owned by foreign interests according to a report by ForestEthics Advocacy.

Hmm. I attended a U of Ottawa convocation two weeks ago and all I could think, ALL THESE KIDS NEED JOBS. And all over Canada there are kids at other convocations who need jobs. Where are ALL these kids gonna get jobs? (I recalled reading a book called Boom Bust and Echo that suggested that timing is everything with graduation. If you graduate during a boom year, great. You are on your way. If you graduate during  a bust year, bad. Your career never really gets off the ground and you can't get that starter job in your field that leads to a good career path job in two or three years. )

The next weekend I went to a suburban pool party, where the hostess said her hard-working and ambitious daughter, who has a diploma that but a few years ago was very marketable, is now going back to college for another degree. She can't find a job after more than a year.

And then she told the story of a young relation, a native Albertan, who worked in the oil sands, North of Fort McMurray, but found it too depressing, the ugly tailing ponds, the pathetic wasted wildlife that came around despite the cannons they continually fired to keep them away.

I dunno. See all of Canada's eggs. See the one basket.

Canada West Magazine included stories for women, with a moral, it looks like. Soft women need not come to the West.







Gilbert to Norman



Edmonton, March 12, 1913

Dear Brother,

I received your letter of February 26 and was glad to hear from you and to know that you and your family are well. Sorry to hear that Mistress Watters is sick, but she seems to be ailing most of the time. I am much obliged to you for looking after my business back home. I don't hear from them very often. You wanted my advice in regard to coming out West. Well, I think the West is ahead of the east in some ways but it has its drawbacks. If you want to go farming the frost and hailstorms is after you. I think if you want to come out west you best buy an excursion ticket and have a look at the country. I wouldn't advise any person who has a comfortable home in the east to pull up stakes and come without considering it. There is lots who made money out here in real estate but prices have got too high. I takes a lot of money to hand in side stuff. I never bought any lots but Charles has. I filed for homestead the first year I came out to Edmonton, but caught pneumonia and could not go out to prove on it so abandoned it in order to get my rights back. Gordon bought a lot in Fort George BC, will be going out there soon. We had wagons moving all winter in the city, there wasn't more than six or eight inches of snow. They had a fair bit north and south. Building hasn't started doing much yet that is the principal industry in the city. They have their money in tight, but will have to loosen up some if they do the building. They did last year. Write soon and give me the news. I think the folks are died since I went out west.
Your loving brother,
Gilbert










Prairie Pioneers 1910


The Tighsolas letters give a great deal of insight into life on the Prairies in 1910 because many Richmond citizens went there, including Norman Nicholson's brother, Gilbert and son, Herb. Dr. Moffat, relative and family doctor, moved to Vancouver in 1912, after losing his savings in a stock market swindle. Norman and family kept wondering if they, too, should move out West, but the West was no place for a failed businessman in middle age.


Tales of Saskatchewan, excerpts from a novel

Building a Town a Day (attracting American farmers to Canada).

Using the New Film Medium to attract Americans and Canadians to the West

Immigration Boom 1910

Wheat Boom 1910

"This is young man's country" letter from brother Gilbert

"The streets are wide and clear" Winnipeg

Presbyterians and Methodists strongest, Catholics strong too

"There's much open prairie around Edmonton"

"We have one of the finest cities in the West" Saskatoon

"My pay is 50.00. Not very much around here" Working out West

Invest in the West: Direct mail advertisement from 1911 with populations of Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon, 1901, 1910