And into the post-war period we go! Early March of 1946 in Peterborough saw the end of a local wartime institution, although ominous rumblings from overseas suggested that the closure might be premature. And why was Peterborough a city without a movie reviewer? Read on to find out (also, there will be various forms of excitement involving ice, and some historic baseball news)!
If one is looking for a symbol of the war being over, it is hard to find better than the big local story from Peterborough this week 70 years ago. The March 1st Peterborough Examiner announced that the city’s Active Service Canteen, which had been open 365 days a year throughout the war, would be shutting down for good at the end of the month. The canteen, located on George Street, had served as a family services centre, restaurant, library, games room, post office, and general charity for Peterborough’s men and women in uniform. It had also been the starting place for romance; “We had lots of restrictions,” said canteen manager Adj. Thelma Graham, “but we just couldn’t clamp down on Cupid.” The newspaper eulogized the canteen effusively:
“Its present functions will die, but its untiring efforts during the six years of operation will live forever in the hearts of those who received its unlimited services.”
Overseas, meanwhile, the job of sorting out post-war Europe continued. Of particular import in early March of 1946 was the question of what to do about the Spanish government of Francisco Franco. “[T]he Franco regime has no place in a world which has turned its hand decisively against fascism,” wrote the Examiner in a March 1st editorial. And indeed, the major powers were openly encouraging the Spanish to overthrow Franco, although there were concerns about who exactly would replace him. Nor, after six years of war, did anybody particularly want to start another one right away. Quoth the newspaper: “The problem is a pressing and delicate one to which no blunderbuss solution is applicable.” In the end, war-weariness and Franco’s opposition to Communism led to the western powers backing off, and he remained in power in Spain until his death in 1975.
On that note, there were also early rumblings of what would become the defining conflict of the next 45 years: the Cold War. Delicate negotiations were underway over the continued presence of the Red Army in Iran, which had led to a brief outbreak of fighting in late 1945. You can read about the crisis here, but suffice it to say that it was a stern test for the nascent United Nations, and also produced this interesting quote from U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes (mentioned in the March 1st Examiner):
“We do not want to stumble and stagger into situations where no power intends war, but no power will be able to avert war.”
Back in Peterborough, post-war life meant that attention was once again focused on the mundane and everyday. On March 2nd, the Examiner reported that it had received a request from the Local Council of Women “to print a synopsis of the better films, when they are being shown at the different theatres,” in order to help people avoid those movies that might be morally suspect. Interestingly, the newspaper flat-out refused, for both ideological and practical reasons. First of all, the Examiner declared that “we do not believe that any further censorship of the movies, direct or indirect, is necessary or desirable.” The paper went on to say that “We think that the Provincial censorship, working under the Treasury Department, does all the censoring that Ontario needs, and perhaps a little more.”
On the practical side, the Examiner’s stated problem was that it simply had nobody available to take over the job of Reviewer of Movies. The article also provided an interesting description of the writer thought an ideal reviewer would be:
“A critic of the movies should know a great deal about the history and technique of the movies, he should be well acquainted with the drama, he should be widely and deeply read, and his sympathies should be broad. We have no such person on our staff who is free to take on the added work of attending six moving picture-shows a week, and we have no intention of publishing press-agents’ blurbs, for they are critically worthless.”
Even away from the theatres, there was some drama to be had in Peterborough this week in ’46, and it was of the “boy attempts to rescue dog from the river” variety. The boy was 16-year-old Ivan MacFarland, who, while out walking on March 3rd, spotted a collie that had fallen through the ice into the Otonabee River near the Auburn Dam. When young MacFarland ventured forth to try to save the dog, the ice gave way underneath him and he ended up in the drink himself. Fortunately, his cries for help were heard by two men working at a nearby farm; according to the next day’s Examiner, they “ran 300 yards through knee-deep snow” to save the boy (the dog, sad to say, perished). “It was cold,” said MacFarland after his rescue.
Another kind of ice drama entirely: the Intermediate ‘A’ Petes of the Ontario Hockey Association were visiting Kingston at this time, to open their playoff series against the Locomotives. It did not go well for the Peterborough boys: despite taking a 3-1 lead in the second period, they faded badly down the stretch and lost 10-5. Things turned out better for the Intermediate ‘B’ Legionnaires, who defeated Bobcaygeon by a score of 6-5.
But exciting though the playoff hockey was, it was not the most significant sporting news of this week 70 years ago. On March 1st, the Examiner carried a story about a player arriving in Florida at the pre-season training camp of the Montreal Royals baseball team, the top farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson would lead the Royals to the International League championship in 1946, becoming a fan favourite in Montreal in the process. In 1947, of course, he became the first black player in the history of Major League Baseball. In 2013, Robinson’s widow Rachel spoke to the Globe & Mail about their time in Montreal, and it’s worth a read.
And that will do 1946, I think! Next time, we’ll investigate early March of 1947, but in the meantime you can catch up on Peterborough’s doings at this time of year in 1894. Thank you for reading!