Early November of 1929, and that means that we are officially a week or so into the Great Depression — at least if we accept the traditional starting date for that sad era of October 29th, when the New York Stock Exchange completed a week-long stretch of massive losses. So how were Peterborians dealing with the crash? Read on, for that story, election news, garnet and grey gridironers, and other items. There will once again be jail statistics, too!
The stock market crash on Wall Street brought the Toronto exchange down with it, as the Canadian Press (and the Peterborough Examiner) reported in stark terms on “Black Tuesday,” October 29th:
“Millions of dollars in paper were erased from the value of issues listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning when the market underwent its greatest reaction in its history, which brought to a sensational climax the selling of the past five days. The action of the market to-day amounted to a panic as thousands of shares were thrown on the exchange…”
A dire report. However, it was obviously early days yet, and despite the millions of dollars of losses, the general feeling seems to have been one of equanimity, and even optimism. A number of analysts even saw the lower stock prices as a real opportunity for shrewd traders. And on November 1st, the Examiner reprinted a Financial Post editorial which included the following analysis of the situation:
“Canada is all right. Business is not quite as good as it was earlier in the year, and we may expect further recession in the immediate trend. But the long term curve definitely points upward.”
This was technically true, of course, but the term would prove much longer than expected. One should point out, however, that there is still considerable debate over how much of the subsequent economic turmoil was in fact due to the stock market collapse.
For residents of Ontario in early November of 1929, the major news item battling the stock market for headline space was a provincial election. Voters went to the polls on October 30th, and the result was a third straight Conservative government under Premier George Howard Ferguson. In fact, it was a landslide; the Conservatives won 90 of 112 seats, an increase of 18 over their previous election performance, although their percentage of the popular vote rose only slightly. The Liberals saw a large gain in their proportion of the vote (they earned 32% of the votes cast, up more than 8%), but still showed a net loss of two seats, from 15 to 13. The Progressive and United Farmers parties were all but wiped out. Both Peterborough ridings — City and County — saw Conservatives returned, although the margin of victory in the County seat was fewer than 25 votes.
The 1929 Ontario election essentially ended the debate over Prohibition in the province, although many temperance groups remained active. Ontarians had, by and large, come around to the opinion that government control, rather than an outright ban on liquor sales, was the best way of managing the trade in alcoholic beverages, and efforts to create the system that we have now had been underway for several years. On November 1st, as part of its election analysis, the Examiner delivered some advice for members of the temperance movement still hoping for a return to Prohibition:
“They must abandon… the belief that the principle of Government control is supported only by those who want to be able to buy liquor, for as a matter of fact there are thousands of Ontario total abstainers who regard the present system as the only method of dealing with the liquor problem that is likely to succeed.”
Apart from the election news, the main local story doing the rounds this week was the grand opening of a local landmark, as All Saints’ Anglican Church on Rubidge Street was consecrated on November 1st (the next day’s report in the Examiner noted the appropriateness of the date — All Saints’ Day in the Anglican calendar). The parish had actually existed since 1875, when it had been known as the South Ward Mission, and the church building itself had been completed in 1910. Bishop J.F. Sweeny of Toronto was on hand for the consecration ceremony, as were a great number of local Anglican clergy from other parishes.
As we saw in last week’s post, at this time of year in the late 1920s residents of Peterborough could expect to read about jail statistics in the local paper. The County Jail saw an increase in occupancy in fiscal year 1929, going from 241 inmates to 381. The number of people sentenced to jail terms had also increased, from 104 men and seven women in 1928 to 158 men and 12 women. However, the amount of time spent behind bars per inmate was about the same — just shy of two weeks each, on average. The cost of feeding each prisoner went from 16.5 cents per day to 16.75.
All of those figures were reported in the October 28th Examiner, and it is quite interesting to note that significant parts of the article were repeated almost verbatim from the 1928 edition. Once again, Peterborough’s crime situation was described as “rather light and not of an exceedingly bad or desperate character.” And sadly, once again the newspaper, quoting anonymous jail officials, attributed the relative lack of serious crime to “the really small number of foreigners in this county.”
Sports fans in the city were likely paying a certain amount of attention to the football field at this time in 1929, as the team from Peterborough Collegiate Institute was once again enjoying a fine season. The “Garnet and Grey,” as they were known, completed an undefeated season on November 2nd, defeating Oshawa Collegiate 22-1 and advancing to face Albert College (Belleville) for the championship of the Central Ontario Interscholastic Rugby League and the Dr. F.C. Neal Cup.
The Cup final was a two-game home-and-away affair, the P.C.I. team proved its mettle by sweeping both. The Garnet and Grey won by 17 in Belleville, and wrapped up the championship with an 18-5 victory in Peterborough on November 9th. Of the latter game, the November 11th Examiner wrote that “courage, speed and consistent attacks” had been the key elements of the victory over a heavier Albert College team.
The newspaper also reported that “Albert College gave the best display of the new onside pass that it has yet been the privilege of local fans to watch.” Coincidentally, the passing rules had just been “liberalized” not only in football, but also in hockey, which was embarking on its first season in which forward passes would be allowed in all zones. A November 4th editorial in the Examiner, entitled “Hockey to be Faster Than Ever,” suggested that fans were likely to be in for something of a treat under the new rules:
“While some professional hockey managers believe that the new rules will pave the way for too many goals, others do not agree, but the fact is apparent that the rules have placed a premium on speed.”
The paper suggested that the Montreal Canadiens, the team of Howie Morenz and Aurèle Joliat, were likely to benefit from the increased speediness of the game, and indeed, the Habs would go on to win the Stanley Cup in the 1929-30 season.
And that will do for this week! Next time out, we enter the Dirty Thirties, but in the meantime you can also read about what was going on around here in early November back in 1877!