This Week in Peterborough: 1938


Peterborough Examiner, January 5th, 1938.

New Year’s, 1938!  Among Peterborough’s festive entertainments was the Caledonian Club’s Hogmanay Dance; “Good music by the club’s orchestra, assisted by A. Milne with his bagpipes… helped make the occasion an unforgettable one,” wrote the January 3rd Peterborough Examiner.  Less pleasantly, as you can see from the image above, the new year arrived in the company of a blizzard.

In last week’s post we looked at the very end of 1937, and because of the way this series works, we now look at the beginning of 1938 — in other words, we get to cover two consecutive weeks in Peterborough’s history.  So read on, to find out how Peterborough voted on the thorny issue of Daylight Savings Time, whether the news from abroad had improved any, and more!

First of all however, there was a rather odd local dispute going on over, of all things, the price of haircuts.  The provincial Industry and Labor Board had included the city of Peterborough, but not its surrounding area, under a law that set a minimum price for a trim.  This allowed barbers in the suburbs to set a lower price than their city rivals, as the January 6th Examiner explained:

“…barbers will be working under a serious handicap if, forced by law to adhere to the 40-cent haircut rate, they are faced with competition from 25-cent barbers just outside the boundaries of the city in North Monaghan.”


The Poultry Show, held in Peterborough’s Market Hall every January. (Peterborough Examiner, January 6th, 1938)

A delegation of city barbers was off to Toronto to explain matters to the Board.

Turning now to the referendum on Daylight Savings Time: it was, said the January 3rd Peterborough Examiner, “The most emphatic endorsation ever registered here for daylight saving” (“endorsation,” I was interested to discover, is a specifically Canadian synonym for “endorsement”).  On New Year’s Day, 1938, Peterborians voted 3095 to 1531 in favour of setting the clocks forward for summer.  This result marked a fairly radical change in public opinion; four years earlier, a similar vote on the issue had seen Daylight Savings Time defeated, albeit by the narrowest of margins.  Sadly, the editorial page for that day’s Examiner seems to have been lost, but as we saw last week, the paper was firmly in favour of Daylight Savings, and must have been pleased with the result.

As we also discussed here last week, Daylight Savings Time was becoming particularly attractive to municipalities which relied on the manufacturing sector, which certainly explains the Peterborough vote.  Elsewhere, in communities where agriculture played a bigger role, people were less convinced.  The same day the Peterborians were approving Daylight Savings, the people of Lindsay “spoke in no uncertain manner,” according to the January 4th Examiner, and defeated DST by 279 votes out of almost 2000 cast.


Meeting of the UAW at Oshawa, 1937. (Image Source)

January 1st was the traditional day, in those times, for municipal elections, and while the 1938 Peterborough City Council vote was not terribly remarkable (incumbents returned by large majorities, mostly), people were very interested in what was going on down the road in Oshawa.  There, voters installed a Council wherein six members out of ten belonged to the United Auto Workers of America.  A city council controlled by organized labour, in those days, was always going to raise eyebrows, but an editorial in the January 5th Examiner took a level-headed view of the matter:

“A Labor Council is apt to find just about the same problems as any other kind of a council, and it will have to meet them in much the same way… There is not a great deal of latitude allowed for opinions or ideas of any council regarding the manner of operating a municipality.”

It is interesting to note, from the papers of this era, that the Great Depression had somewhat faded into the background.  Part of that was the fact that conditions were not quite as severe as they had been earlier in the decade, and part, I think, was that people had simply gotten used to it.  However, the Depression was still going on — make no mistake — and signs of it do turn up in the newspaper coverage (see, for example, the election of a union-dominated City Council in Oshawa).  On January 8th, 1938, the Examiner reported on the death of a “transient,” who had been struck by a car while walking along a local highway.  The newspaper used the tragedy as the basis for a poignant editorial on the subject of the phrase “no fixed address.”  Wrote the editorialist:

“It has come to be a much-used phrase in recent years.  We see it when transients appear in court and now and then when they are killed.  ‘No Fixed Address’ — indefinite of course but it actually tells a great chapter in human history.”

There was another very unhappy chapter in human history being written overseas.  Reports of the atrocities that accompanied the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 were beginning to trickle out; readers of the January 5th Examiner learned of Chinese women in the refugee camps smearing their faces with mud “in an attempt to conceal their attractions” from Japanese soldiers.  The reports moved one resident of Peterborough to write a long letter to the next day’s paper, in which he criticized the League of Nations and indeed the rest of the world for their failure to offer any help “other than sympathy” to the Chinese.


Peterborough Examiner, January 7th, 1938.

What the world’s governments were doing at the time was arming themselves, and heavily.  As the Examiner reported on January 7th, “More money was expended by the various powers on their armies, navies and air forces in 1937 than during any ‘peace-time year’ in history.  Yet… it is probably that 1938 will see a new record set…”

If all that were not enough, there was still the Spanish Civil War to keep in mind — the battle for Teruel, which we mentioned last week, was raging on.  And the  January 4th Examiner reported on the death of Edward J. Neil, an Associated Press reporter whose car had been hit by shell near Zaragoza.  An interesting historical note on Neil: he had been a sportswriter before becoming a war correspondent, and until 2009 his name adorned the award given to the Boxing Writers Association of America’s choice for Fighter of the Year (it is now the “Sugar Ray Robinson Award”).

That brings us to what was going on in the local sports scene as 1938 began, and here at least Peterborians could find some refuge from the ominous news from abroad.  The Senior ‘B’ Petes of the Ontario Hockey Association, whose season-opening victory we mentioned last week, had continued their good form into the new year.  On January 4th, the Petes took on the Trenton Fliers on the road, and it was, as the next day’s paper reported, “a thrilling fixture all the way.”  Trenton looked to have the game won, but, literally as the bell was sounding to end the third period, the Petes scored to tie things at five.  “An argument ensued,” reported the paper, unsurprisingly, but the goal stood and it was off to a ten-minute overtime period.

The rules of hockey, in 1938, were different than they are now.  For one thing, overtime was not sudden-death.  For another, penalties had to be served in their entirety, regardless of how many goals were scored on the powerplay.  And those two facts, combined, explain how the Petes came away with a 10-5 (!) overtime victory.  The two teams headed for Peterborough for a rematch later that week, and there the Fliers got their revenge, winning 5-3.  And yes, it did go to overtime.

That will probably do for this week!  Next time, we’ll have the last pre-WWII post in this series, as we look at mid-January of 1939.  In the meantime, you can catch up on what was going on in Peterborough and elsewhere at the very beginning of 1886!


To return to the subject of wintry weather!  (Peterborough Examiner, January 5th, 1938)



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