The Chronicle Herald’s Aaron Beswick revisits Leon Trotsky’s arrest in Halifax in 1917, and his subsequent stay in a prisoner of war camp in Amherst:
[Trotsky’s] first order of business was to berate the prisoners of the camp for not being productive during their imprisonment—a peculiar way to make new friends.
He organized them to clean up the camp, lectured on international politics and encouraged them to learn English while stuck in an English-speaking country. He organized a prisoner strike over conditions in the camp and became a thorn in the side of camp commander Col. Arthur Henry Morris.
His efforts to organize the German prisoners resulted in Trotsky being placed in solitary confinement in a furnace room, and the other prisoners responding with a petition demanding that he be released from solitary. After the tsar was deposed, the revolutionary government in Russia asked that Trotsky be released, and he was shipped back to Russia.
2. Winter tires
The union for transit drivers wants winter tires put on the buses, but the city is resisting the idea.
Four-year-olds drive ATVs now. Ainsley Duffy’s was stolen, probably by some six-year-old thug.
4. Winter storm
Snow followed by rain and a big slushy mess tomorrow. “Order your Pizzas and Chinese Food and Buy Cases of Pepsi and Coke and Do your Grocery Shopping Don’t Wait until the Last Minute Do it Right Now and have your iPads, iPods, Cell Phones, Laptops and Tablets Charged and have your 3G and 4G Internet Ready,” says Frankie.
Who will be the first reporter of the new year sent to stand in the snow on the boardwalk, so we know it’s really snowing? This year, surprise contender Brett Ruskin may replace perennial favourite Anjuli Patil.
5. Wild Kingdom
Dalhousie students Patrick Soprovich and Jasveen Brar are in Australia, looking at penguins.
1. Road carnage
Make Halifax pedestrian-friendly, says Lezlie Lowe.
As I was walking home from the Bridge Terminal last night, I got up to the corner of Thistle and Victoria just nanoseconds after the light had changed, but dutifully pressed the pedestrian button and waited the entire light cycle for the next walking man light to come up. Good little pedestrian that I am, I then looked both ways, behind me, etc, before crossing in a southernly direction, towards Bicentennial School. I got halfway through the lane when a car zoomed north up Victoria and, trying to to beat the oncoming southbound traffic on Victoria, whipped left onto Thistle, oblivious to the pedestrian in the crosswalk. I’m relatively spry, and could jump out of the way, but the car still came within three inches of hitting me—an elderly person or someone with a bum knee or whatever would now likely be dead. I never did see the driver of the car that nearly hit me, but I saw the look of horror on the face of the driver of the car on Thistle, waiting for the light, as he hit the horn thinking I was about to killed. I gave him a look of thanks, he shook his head in disbelief, and I stumbled home shaken, not a statistic.
Yesterday, I discussed my plans to more thoroughly report on road carnage, and Parker Donham responded by calling me the “city-dwelling publisher of the lively Halifax Examiner,” accusing me of “city-centric moralizing,” and stating that I don’t drive and am embarking on a “war on cars.” These are the sorts of ad hominem attacks laid against people who raise road safety issues: we’re effete urbanites who don’t how the real world (read: rural communities) work; we can “admirably” take the bus, that option just isn’t practical elsewhere, etc.
But none of that is true. I do have a car, and I do drive. Moreover, I’ve spent most of my adult life living in rural areas and small towns, utterly dependant upon cars to get around. I’ve owned a pickup truck, for dog’s sake. While I now live in the city, I’ve criticized the anti-rural or anti-suburban sentiments sometimes expressed by city dwellers as “urban fetishism.”
In fact, rural people are much more likely to die in car crashes than are urbanites, so a concern for road safety is foremost a concern for people living in rural areas.
Anyway, Donham points out that the number of road deaths has decreased in recent decades, and he trots out this chart to make his case:
He doesn’t differentiate the numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by vehicles (it fluctuates, but while total vehicle-related deaths have come down, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths remain stubbornly stable—around 300 pedestrians and 60 bicyclists are killed annually in Canada), and the chart shows a more downward direction because it shows “deaths per ten thousand vehicles” and not simply “deaths,” but I take his point: road deaths have come down.
So what are we to make of this? Forget about the issue? Go to the tavern and have a few drinks in celebration of the our safe roads and drive home? Deride city slickers?
The fact is, the decrease shown in the chart is the low-hanging fruit: we’ve designed vehicles better so that people are less likely to die in crashes, medical responses have improved, and we’ve made a good stab at getting people to stop drinking and driving. These are good things! I’d guess that some of the decrease also reflects the higher number of SUVs on the road, which may be safer but have adverse environmental effects. But still 2,000 people a year are dying in Canada, mostly needlessly. And still I nearly died last night because some asshole wanted to save 30 seconds on the light.
If we’re to further reduce the number of fatalities we need to change driver behaviour. That’s a much tougher task than installing air bags or switching over to SUVs.
2. Mitchell house
Stephen Archibald posts his photos of houses that no longer exist in Halifax. Above is the Mitchell House, which sat on Tower Road north of Inglis Street. Archibald thinks he took the photo in 1975. Looking at the details of a dormer and the tower windows, he notes that there was “some lost Halloween potential.”
Anne West wrote about the house in the Heritage Trust magazine in 2004:
In 1870, William Longley Dodge, contractor, architect and founder of the Acadian Moulding Factory, built an elegant Italianate villa on Tower Road in Halifax. It stood on a 1.9 acre parcel of land stretching from Tower Road to Wellington Street and 100 yards north from Inglis Street.
The house was undoubtedly a showcase for the ornate mouldings manufactured by Dodge’s firm. In its heyday, the estate was renowned for its gardens, which included terraces, shrubberies, rose beds and lawns. Legend has it that the gardener was sacked every Friday for drunkenness, but always re-hired on Mondays for his irreplaceable skills.
The Honourable Joseph Norman Ritchie was the first owner of the estate.
Three more generations of Mitchells, Charles Campbell, Charles Gorham and Charles William, lived on the estate, and two houses were added to accom- modate family members, one on the corner of Tower and Inglis and the other on Wellington Street at the north-west corner of the property.
Unfortunately, the Mitchells did not believe in maintenance and the original house was allowed to deteriorate.A would-be purchaser who visit- ed it in 1987 described it as a time warp, completely unchanged since the 1930s.Because of its gloomy appearance local residents referred to it as the Ghost House and children hurried anxiously past it.
In 1987, Charles C. Mitchell died, and his grandson, architect Charles W. Mitchell, obtained a demolition permit for the main house in order to develop the site. A citizens group fought hard to save it. When their suggestion that the house be incorporated into a condominium development was rejected,they offered to purchase it for a museum of Victorian Halifax. But in spite of wide public interest, considerable media support and a petition with over 1,000 names on it, the house was knocked down in a surprise early morning move on April 30, 1988. In 1988, Mitchell built a row of condominiums on the Inglis Street end of the property.He included the house on the corner of Tower and Inglis streets by turning it 90 degrees
Jim Meek approvingly cites plagiarist extraordinaire Margaret Wente. To be fair, he also uses the word “naff,” in the British sense of “Unstylish, clichéd, or outmoded,” to describe Wente.
Yesterday I spoke briefly of the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Pictou County in the 1920s, and of my frustration at not being able to find more information about it. Soon after I published, I received an email from Timothy Jacques, editor of the Tribune newspaper in Campbellton, New Brunswick, detailing his own investigations into the operation of the Klan in that province. He has kindly given me permission to reprint his email, but asks that I make clear that it is a letter to the editor of the Examiner written in his personal capacity:
You mention the KKK in Nova Scotia in today’s Morning File and wonder if there is anything written on it.
As far as I am aware, no. The KKK was once active in New Brunswick too. I was unable to find any scholarly work that had much mention of the KKK in New Brunswick (although there were a few interesting writings scattered online) but I did find copies of KKK documents at the PANB [Public Archives of New Brunswick] that had been found in a wall of a house. These included their bylaws, and for some klaverns (as they called their chapters) a membership list. It turned out that two colleagues of mine had grandfathers in the KKK in southern NB.
I found the subject difficult to research locally, even though there had been at least two klaverns here, possibly three—unfortunately, the documents only mentioned one in passing, and the second arose after the date of the documents found in the wall. However I do have the list of the charter members of the Dalhousie NB klavern—also found during a demolition—and again, some people I know had no idea their relatives were involved.
Even though the Klan had a rally in Dalhousie, NB and drove through the streets in cars in the early 1930s as part of a membership drive, I could find no photos, and no elderly people who would admit to seeing the event although a news report said that it was witnessed by hundreds. Also, even though people took endless photos in those days of men dressed in their various club regalia and costumes, a call I put out resulted in exactly zero Klan photos. I found only one article about the Klan in local newspapers of the time—the membership drive—and even that was a reprint of an article which had appeared in the Fredericton Gleaner.
The Klan did burn crosses here, and I found an elderly witness to that. (My late father had also told me of this, although he had not witnessed it as it was before he moved to the area.) In New Brunswick, the Klan seems to have been mainly an anti-French, anti-Catholic organization. Although the bylaws and documents refer to white supremacist views and a belief that Anglo-Saxons were the “true Jews,” the letters among the documents deal mainly with anti-Catholic sentiments.
I know of at least two cross burnings in Dalhousie, NB in the 1930s, and I was told that the Campbellton, NB klavern used to burn their crosses on the current site of the WalMart in Atholville.
I gather from the documents, and from other reading, that the main adherents of the New Brunswick Klan were the more extreme elements of the Orange Lodge. The Klan seems to have been most active in the province at a time when Acadians were pushing for some education rights (which I don’t think they got at that time). One cross burning in Dalhousie, NB seems to have been related to a Protestant pastor—whose congregation met in the same building where the Klan met—being assaulted by some Roman Catholics.
The PANB store of documents also includes details of an internal feud amongst Klansmen which led to a kind of breakaway Klan or new Klan. An American pastor named Fowler had apparently brought the Klan to Canada, but it was always viewed with suspicion as unBritish. A copy of Fowler’s racist book is in the PANB documents. Anyway, it seems Fowler was found out to be or at least strongly suspected to be running the Klan for his personal profit, so a new Klan was set up free of his influence and more patriotically British.
As best as I can tell from my reading, there were two main Klans in Canada—one in the west, and one in Eastern Canada from about Ontario eastward and the Maritime Klansmen were part of the Ontario-centred Klan. These two apparently got along well and recognized each other, but I’m not sure why they never merged. While the Klan in eastern Canada were not part of the American Klan, there are references to Canadian Klansmen from New Brunswick going to Maine to take part in American KKK gatherings.
As best as I can tell, the early KKK in Canada died out for two reasons. One, it was associated in the minds of most people with the American KKK. The Canadian Klan, while certainly very racist, was not anywhere near as violent as the American version, but people and government made the association. Even racists and bigots hesitated to join, and they feared it was unpatriotic. Second, as I say it was largely made up of the extremist elements of the Orange Lodge in this country, and and it is my suspicion that many of them did not see the point of having to pay to belong to two separate organizations when they could espouse much the same views and engage in the same actions as Orangemen. The Orange Lodge was seen as mainstream and patriotic amongst Protestants in those days, so there was no stigma in joining.
I refer to the original version of the KKK in the 20s and 30s—I believe there may have been attempts to reestablish klaverns on the American model decades later, but my investigations related to the 20s and 30s.
The reel I think is this one, although PANB also has some other documents, I have since found out: MC2604 Ku Klux Klan Of Kanada In New Brunswick Records, 1925-1930 & n.d., 6 cm. (one microfilm). Primarily correspondence of G.E. Davies, King Kleagle, Carleton County, but also includes Klan Constitution, list of Officers, 1930 and list of Klaverns etc.
The photo above was published last month with Chris Bateman’s article in Spacing Magazine “The grim history of the Ku Klux Klan in Toronto.”
In the harbour
Now it’s winter.