Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Old World, New World, Third World -60's View




Carl Leggo, a well-known Newfoundland poet, has written a terrific poem, Grade Four Geography, about  Visits in Other Lands, the text almost all Protestant schooled children in Canada used for social studies in the 40's to the 70's.

The first chapter in the book famously described Bunga, a boy from Malaya (not Malaysia), who ate yams. All funny sounding words to most Canadian children of the era.

In Grade Four Geography, Leggo wonders why Visits in Other Lands didn't include a boy, Carl, from Newfoundland who ate cod tongues.


I've put a video on YouTube about the book. It is my most popular post!



And I wrote about Bunga here on this post.



I see that humanitarian Lotta Hitchmanova has made the short-list for the Canadian Banknote. Years and years ago, I wrote this poem - or something like it - about the woman.

You see, Lotta Hitchmanova narrated an advertisement that played every day for years, it seems, in he afternoon on the CBC.

She had an Eastern European accent. She sounded funny to me, but her subject was anything but funny. It was depressing.

Most weekday afternoons, I would come home from school and watch our snowy 24 inch black-and-white TV while eating junk food, as I  waited for my neighbour, whose parents were from Poland, whose Catholic school let out later, to arrive home so that I might play skipping with her on the sidewalk of our city street.

My 60's mother worked outside the home, imagine! And so did my neighbour's mom.

I'm no Carl Leggo, but here is the poem..

Lotta Hitchmanova,
You didn't help me,
As I sat in my bleak duplex,
In front of the TV
Eating marshmallow cookies,
Drinking Orangeade
After school.

When tha child would appear.
I forget her name.

The one one played with a stick and nail.
Who ate sea-gull claws from the garbage pail.

I forget her name.

For a minute every day, that hopeless little girl would invade my world with her dirty hair,  bare feet- and her stick and nail.

Lotta Hitchmanova,
You didn't help me,
You only made things worse,
Relatively.


In the 60's, where did we kids get our sense of being Canadian?  From school text books mostly - and from the CBC! Hockey and Friendly Giant, and Hinterland Who's Who.

 This pic of a wise Mountie lording it over the children of the 'backwards' Old World comes from Wide Open Windows, a reading text from a series, the Canadian Reading Development Series, that  was used widely across Canada for decades in the 20th century.

The series was very rural and very white-bread, with lots of drawings of bears fighting with dogs, I recall. The stories in the books were boring, of course,  but there were many wonderful poems in them, too. My favorites were by American poet Walter de la Mare.

One of the books of the series, can't recall which one, had a poem by Pauline Johnson, another short-listed candidate for the new Canadian banknote. The poem is called Canadian Born and at least one academic I've read, not born in Canada, hates the poem for what it suggests.

(I found a copy of the Johnson poem with the Nicholson Family Letters. My husband's ancestors, of Isle of Lewis descent, were proud to be "Canadian born."

Today, our government grapples with how to create a sense of Canadianism among citizens, over and above hockey.

Hence, the hot debate over what historic woman to put on the banknote.

There are three suffragists on the banknote, Nellie McClung, Idola St-Jean and Therese Casgrain. Read my book Service and Disservice to see why women suffragists in Canada were very controversial...