A Couple of Weeks Ago in Peterborough: 1962

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Christopher Plummer as Macbeth & Kate Reid as Lady Macbeth at the 1962 Stratford Festival. (Image Source)

And so we resume “This Week in Peterborough”-ing!  When last we checked in, it was mid-June of 1961, so now we move on to the latter part of that month in 1962.  Here we find Peterborians assessing the just-completed federal election, a famous local institution falling on terminally hard times, and a Canadian literary giant attending the theatre.  And what’s that going on over there in Indochina?  Read on…

The main focus of Peterborough newspaper reports in late June of 1962 was the just complete federal election.  The governing Progressive Conservative party, led by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, had come into the June 18th vote with a massive parliamentary majority, but economic tough times and a feeble Canadian dollar had sapped much of his popularity.  When all the ballots had been counted, Diefenbaker was still Prime Minister, but his parliamentary majority was gone.  The PCs lost 92 seats for a final total of 116, while the opposition Liberals gained 51 to sit at 99.  The other 49 seats were split between the Social Credit Party (30) and the newly-minted New Democrats (19).

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Peterborough Examiner, June 21st, 1962.

Peterborough had recently elected the first ever NDP Member of Parliament, in a by-election, but Walter Pitman was unable to repeat his unexpected triumph.  The local riding returned to the Conservative fold in 1962, electing Fred Stenson to represent it.  The June 19th newspaper warmly congratulated Stenson on his victory, although it did chalk the result up to vote-splitting between the Liberals and the New Democrats.  Pitman would go on to represent Peterborough at the provincial level.

The aftermath of the election saw the chastened Progressive Conservatives attempt to preserve their government through an austerity program; the June 23rd Examiner quoted Diefenbaker promising “positive decisions and actions which will substantially improve Canada’s international balance of payments and reduce the budgetary deficit.”  A couple of days later, details emerged.  There was to be a 250 million dollar reduction in spending, new import tariffs on a wide range of goods, and a 1.5 billion dollar loan from the IMF to support the Canadian dollar.  However, in April of 1963, the Diefenbaker government lost a confidence motion over the stationing of American nuclear missiles in Canada, and the subsequent election saw the Liberals of Lester B. Pearson take over, albeit with a minority of seats.

In the meantime, back in June of 1962, the Peterborian summer continued to trundle along.  Examiner publisher Robertson Davies was off in Stratford, Ontario, for the annual Shakespeare festival, and on June 23rd, his reviews appeared in the newspaper.  Davies thoroughly enjoyed the productions of The Taming of the Shrew, with Kate Reid and John Colicos in the main roles (“a brilliant recreation of an ever-fresh farce”), and The Tempest, in which he singled out Colicos’ Caliban and Bruno Gerussi’s Ariel for their “fine performances and splendid moments.”  He was less enthusiastic about the above-pictured Macbeth, featuring Christopher Plummer in the title role: “the play resisted the efforts of director and actors,” wrote Davies.

In Peterborough itself, the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority had, in the words of the June 22nd Examiner, “declared war on detergents.”  Synthetic detergents were polluting rivers and waterways in Ontario to an alarming degree, reported the Authority; among the cases cited was that of Dunnville, where “detergents often created a 50 ft. high head of foam on the [Grand River].”  “On windy days, this blows all over the town,” the report went on.  I was unable to locate any photographs of this phenomenon, unfortunately, and I do have to wonder if they meant “50 inches.”  However, it was fairly clear that synthetic detergents were a major menace, and the ORCA was considering a resolution “calling on government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to produce only detergents that are free from harmful effects on human, animal and marine life.”

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Cover of the 1929 Peterborough Canoe Company catalogue. (Image Source)

And the newspapers in late June of 1962 also contained a small, yet poignant, sign of the passing of the years in Peterborough.  For three quarters of a century, the city had been the epicentre of Canada’s canoe-making industry, with the Peterborough Canoe Company first and foremost in that.  The company had supplied Klondike gold-rushers, the northern detachments of the RCMP, untold thousands of recreational boaters, and many others with fine wooden canoes (not to mention skis, snowshoes, etc.) down the years, but the introduction of cheaper materials had spelled its end; production had ceased in 1961.  In the Examiner of June 21st, 1962, came an indication of how desperately the company had tried to stave off oblivion, with the news that the Department of National Revenue was charging its remnants with having evaded $25,000 in excise taxes.  A sad end for a mighty local institution.

There was little else to report, either at home or abroad, as June of 1962 drew towards its close; even the local sports scene was relatively quiet.  However, astute watchers of the news from foreign parts would have noted the tidings in the June 25th Examiner, which included this formal statement from Canadian and Indian members of the International Control Commission:

“In specific instances there is evidence to show that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies have been sent from the zone in the north to the zone in the south with the object of supporting, organizing and carrying out hostile activities, including armed attacks directed against the armed forces and administration of the zone in the south.”

The ICC’s mandate was the overseeing of affairs in the partitioned country of Vietnam.

On that ominous note, we will leave behind 1962.  Next time (soon!), we will investigate the end of June in 1963, but until then you can read on what was happening around at that time of year in 1910, or even travel all the way back to the very beginning of this series, which looked at late June of 1858.  Thank you for reading!

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