After intensive work by my editor, David Greer, my designer, Arifin Graham, and myself, the manuscript is almost ready for publication. The journal entries have been enhanced by additional material to place the journals in context as suggested by my team.
My favourite addition was a short essay on the Roaring Twenties which are featured prominently in the journals. The article is reproduced below:
The Roaring Twenties
Dutchy’s third and fourth journals give us an insight into one of the most exciting decades in Canadian—and world—history.
By 1919, World War I had finally come to an end, leaving most of the world in a post-war depression. However, in Canada, the decade would be filled with growth and change as the nation began to create a new national identity, independent of Britain. After some initial growing pains, including economic volatility and labour unrest, Canada transitioned from war to peace and prosperity. Canada granted women suffrage, launched its first radio broadcast (in 1922) and revelled in the high life of the Jazz Age. The decade was a roller coaster ride of political, cultural and social change.
In 1928, the Canadian ship St. Roch became the first vessel to circumnavigate North America. Meanwhile, Canada’s demand for cars steadily increased as mass production made technology affordable to the middle class. In 1918, Canada had about 300,000 vehicles, but by 1929, there were 1.9 million, and automobile parts were being manufactured in Ontario, near Detroit, Michigan. Dutchy writes in detail about his different cars and the issues he faced with them. Apparently, breakdowns were common.
Dance clubs and dancing became enormously popular in the 1920s. Their popularity peaked in the late 1920s and reached into the early 1930s. Classical pieces, operettas, folk music, etc., were all transformed into popular dancing melodies to satiate the public craze for dancing. The January 1, 1926 edition of the Daily Colonist noted that “at least one-third of Victoria City’s fifty thousand odd population were in attendance at the many and varied attractions held last night to bid in a New Year’s manner. Perhaps the largest throng in any one place was found at the Empress Hotel where fine music, a fine supper, and the Empress management’s traditional hospitality drew a crowd of merry dancers number over a thousand.”
Young naval officers were in high demand at dances hosted by socially prominent Victoria citizens. The journals contain a who’s who of Victoria’s high society who entertained Dutchy and his fellow officers.
The Roaring Twenties was the breakout decade for sports across the modern world. Citizens flocked to see the top athletes of the day compete in new sports venues. Dutchy writes about attending the hockey games of the Victoria Cougars, who would win the Stanley Cup in 1925, long after he had returned to the east coast.
Throughout North America, the 1920s became synonymous with Prohibition, a time when the United States banned alcohol, and its illicit consumption flourished. Unlike in the United States, banning alcohol in Canada was complicated by the shared jurisdiction over alcohol-related laws between Ottawa and the provinces. The provinces controlled sales and consumption while the Canadian government was responsible for the making and trading of alcohol. In March 1918, Ottawa stopped, for the duration of the First World War, the manufacture and importation of liquor into provinces where its purchase was already illegal.
Prohibition was first enacted on a provincial basis in Prince Edward Island in 1901 and the remaining provinces, as well as in Yukon and Newfoundland, during the First World War. Prohibition was widely seen at this time as a patriotic duty and a social sacrifice, to help win the war. Québec rejected prohibition as early as 1919 and their provincial government reaped huge profits from the sale of alcohol.
In 1920, British Columbia voted “wet,” and by the following year, some alcoholic beverages were legally sold there and in the Yukon through government stores. Many local entrepreneurs made fortunes as bootleggers transporting alcohol to American ports. Trade was particularly brisk along British Columbia’s coastal waterways. Manitoba inaugurated a system of government sale and control of alcohol in 1923, followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1924, Newfoundland in 1925, Ontario and New Brunswick in 1927, and Nova Scotia in 1930. The last bastion, Prince Edward Island, finally gave up “the noble experiment” in 1948. When Dutchy married Dot in Halifax, NS in 1926, guests consumed alcohol from bottles concealed in paper bags under the tables.
Victoria newspapers reported with optimism on the post-war period. The Daily Colonist reported in its January 1, 1924 issue about the upcoming year saying, “Business and Industrial Projects Scheduled for Victoria during Next twelve Months Offer Greater Prosperity Here Than at Any Time Since Great War Disturbed World.”
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ended the era, as the Great Depression brought years of hardship worldwide.