Press-Republican

Black

January 10, 2014

Columnist's Canada in 1954

I am approaching, all too soon, a milestone birthday, and, as age seems to produce a certain boldness, I thought I would depart from my usual discreet journalistic anonymity just this once and offer a few personal reflections on my life as a Canadian.

Baby me entered the world halfway between the end of World War II and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That perhaps explains my lifelong fascination — some would say obsession — with these two seminal events of the 20th century.

The place where I made my entrance on a woefully cold Wednesday was about as distant from any action or excitement on the planet as you can imagine. The ramshackle northern Ontario gold mining town was in a deep post-war slump, and the future looked bleak. (It would be saved in a few years by a massive base-metals discovery by a company called Texas Gulf Sulphur; the find also sparked a huge insider trading scandal.)

My nurse mom and teacher dad were both raised in this forlorn but magnificent party of the country, still very much an untracked wilderness. Her dad was a travelling sawyer; dad’s father was a telegrapher at a series of remote railway stations.

Canada in 1954 was about as grey and conservative a place as was the United States. You had avuncular Dwight Eisenhower; we had Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent.

“Uncle Louis” was in his mid-70s when I was born. I would later go on to be a friend and colleague of his nephew. We signed the deed for our Quebec City house at St. Laurent’s former law office, now a museum in his honor.

St. Laurent was, at that time, only the second francophone prime minister in Canadian history. I grew up knowing Canada was partly French, although, typical of what in retrospect was the shocking xenophobia of my multi-ethnic town, the English population generally treated the local French-Canadians with condescension and scorn (the reverse was probably true, for all I knew).

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Black
  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Trench warfare in Quebec elections

    I've seen many a Quebec election in my day (I'll skip the "by cracky"), writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Dr. Phil's election prescription Philippe Couillard is a brain surgeon, not a psychiatrist, so his expertise is not necessarily understanding the collective mind of Quebecers, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Party's charter flight to majority

    It's not surprising the political maneuvering in recent weeks in Quebec City has been dubbed the "winter games," writes Canadian columnist Peter Black

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Joe Ryan's mountain vision

    Eventually someone surely would have taken the initiative to turn what the Algonquins called Manitonga Soutana and the locals called Mont Tremblant into a popular outdoor recreational destination, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    February 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Montreal's Genie on the courts

    In a land where raquettes de neige (snowshoes) are more popular than raquets (tennis), a young Canadian with classic California surfer girl looks is turning heads on the court.

    January 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Columnist's Canada in 1954

    I will depart from my usual discreet journalistic anonymity just this once and offer a few personal reflections on my life as a Canadian, writes columnist Peter Black.

    January 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Prime minister's hockey history

    By my count, President Barack Obama has written three books under his own pen, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Quebec City displays Holy Door

    It's the first and only such thing in North America: a Holy Door, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 13, 2013 1 Photo