Transcribed from Vincent McSheffrey (1995) Hoist Away: A story of growing up in the Gatineau during the 1950's. Ottawa: Vincent McSheffrey. Used by permission. [If I find I can't resist making a comment or two, I'll put them in italics and brackets. - Bob R.]
Dedicated to the people of the Gatineau
They came from Ireland in the 1800's to escape famine, they came from the orphanages of England and Scotland to find new homes. They came from other parts of Europe to escape wars and persecution. They came from the United States, from Ontario and from other parts of Quebec in pursuit of the tall pine. Some of Native heritage were here before any of us.
They worked in the shanties and on the river drives, and then carved farms out of the wilderness. They built churches, schools, sawmills, gristmills, and other businesses in the many little villages which dot the Gatineau. They then built roads and bridges to link these communities. The people of the Gatineau know tragedy, many young lives were lost on the river drives, in the great influenza epidemic of the early 1900's, to wars overseas, and to common diseases which are now preventable.
They are a proud hard working people who care about others in the community. While there is a vibrant sports rivalry between these communities, in times of need they pull together.
I was fortunate to be able to grow up among these people -- Vincent McSheffrey.
Chapter Seventeen -- Remember When . . .
In the 50's the population of Ottawa and the area nearly doubled. All of the pent up emotions from the depression of the '30's and the war of the '40's was let loose in a gigantic building and spending boom. People were so glad that the war was over and that good times were here that they really celebrated their good fortune.
A look back through the newspapers of the '50's gives a glimpse of how life was back then. In 1950 a house cost about $10,000, the Des Joachims (Swishaw) Dam was completed, there was a debate in Ottawa about allowing the wearing of shorts in public, delivery of ice to upstairs apartments was stopped, the Korean war started, haircuts cost 75 cents, ice cream cones [Melloroll - Bob] were 5 cents, fuel oil was 17 cents a gallon, the Canadian and US dollar were at par, and OTC bus [and streetcar - Bob] tickets were 3 for 25 cents.
In 1951, hospital rooms at the Civic were $10 private, $7 semi private, and $5 public ward. Chocolate bars were 6 cents, haircuts were raised to $1, there was concern about air raids and people were talking about bomb shelters. Louis Armstrong was appearing at the Standish Hall hotel in Hull, butter was 70 cents a pound, Charlotte Whitton took over as acting mayor, and the Red Feather goal was $376,173.
In 1952 they were stockpiling medical supplies in case of an air raid attack, steak was 87 cents a pound, Charlotte Whitton would not attend the inauguration of Vincent Massey as governor general because he was a Canadian, (she wanted an Englishman), butter was 65 cents a pound, the license fee of $2.50 for radios was dropped, the Canadian dollar was worth $1.04 US, and Sunday sports was outlawed in Ottawa. You could get a '48 Chev sedan for $1,350, a '49 Dodge sedan for $1,600, a '51 Chev sedan for $2,100, a '40 Fargo truck for $475, or a '33 Dodge for $150. You could get a complete work outfit comprised of work pants, summer work shirt, socks, boots and a straw hat for less than $15. A pair of good blue jeans cost $2.98.
In 1953 Ottawa TV station CBOT was on the air [and later, CBOFT, the French station - Bob], Charlotte Whitton forbade TV aerials on houses, the Korean war ended, and Ottawa was 20th in Canada in average income with a figure of $3,173 a year. The June 5, 1953 Buckingham Post carried the following ad for IGA:
Green's Choice Tomatoes 28 oz. 5 for $1.00
IGA Tomato Juice 28 oz. 4 for $1.00
Duz Large size (laundry soap) 3 for $1.00
Pineapple 20 oz. 3 for $1.00
IGA Deluxe Coffee 1 lb. $1.00
Aylmer Catsup 11 oz. 5 for $1.00
IGA Cream Corn 20 oz. 7 for $1.00
Maple Leaf Choice Peas 15 oz. 7 for $1.00
IGA Grapefruit Juice 20 oz. 8 for $1.00
IGA Blended Juice 48 oz. 3 for $1.00
Colgate Toothpaste Giant Size 2 for $1.00
Crisco 3 lb. tin $1.00
Sunlight Soap Reg. Bar 11 for $1.00
Pard Dog Food tin 8 for $1.00
Klik Canned Meat 11 oz. 3 for $1.00
Campbell Soups Tomato or Vegetable 10 oz. 8 for $1.00
Appleford Food Saver 3 for $1.00
Universal Toilet Tissue Roll 10 for $1.00
Aylmer Choice Peaches Halves or Slices 20 oz. 4 for $1.00
Globe Choice Dessert Pears 15 oz. 7 for $1.00
Cropps Choice Fruit Cocktail 15 oz. 4 for $1.00
Note that many brand names from the '50's are still with us today, many others have disappeared. In laundry detergent, which was just introduced after the war, we had Breeze, Drift, Duz, Fab, Oxydol, Rinso and Surf. In bath soap we had Camay, Lifebuoy, Lux, and Woodbury. We had Blue Ribbon Tea, Jack and Jill Peanut Butter, Newport Fluffs, Jewel Shortening, and Pan Dandy Bread. In the '50's smoking was more widely accepted than it is today, some of the cigarette brands available then were Black Cat, British Consuls, Buckingham, Dunhill, Kool, Philip Morris, Philip Morris, Sweet Caporal, and Winchester.
In 1954, bus fares were 15 cents, there was a major building boom in Ottawa, work started on the Queensway, the first Canadian subway opened in Toronto, Marilyn Bell swam Lake Ontario, and Hurricane Hazel hit the area. By 1854 the Gatineau Power Co. was making a concerted effort to get electricity to the farms in western Quebec. In the preceding eight years they had built over 1,700 miles of lines and connected another 300 farms up to the system.
In 1955 cigarettes were 33 cents a pack.
In 1956 the Russian Embassy burned down, 39 miners were killed at Springhill, Nova Scotia, OTC bus tickets were 8 for $1.00, many refugees from the Hungarian revolution came to Canada. One family, the Nagy's, came to Wakefield, gasoline was 41 cents a gallon, and the bank rate was 3.78%.
In 1957, soft drinks were 7 cents each.
In 1958, parking meters came to Ottawa at a cost of 10 cents an hour. The Jackson building suffered major damage in a blast, hospital beds were $19.55 for a private room and $16.55 for semi private, and 75 miners were killed in another mine disaster at Springhill, Nova Scotia.
The September 25, 1957 Shawville Equity gave the following results for a fiddle and step dance competition at Aylmer:
[Though not mentioned here, Bob Ranger was one of the area's all-time fiddle champions. Even towards the end, Bob was still sawing off a tune from time to time and folks were always glad to see him when he did. He was a dear friend to many. Although I never met him, I'm proud to share the same name with Bob. - Bob]See: The Ottawa Valley Stepdancers
Senior Step Dance
Fred St. Cyr -- Pembroke
George McKenny -- Wolfe Lake
Alf Larcher -- Chelsea
Junior Step Dance
Gill Roy -- Cumberland
Arnold Prescott -- Metcalfe
Doris Donnelly -- Ottawa
In 1959, Castro took over Cuba, Duplessis died, Anne Heggtveit was named athlete of the year, there were 33 polio cases in Ottawa, and Blondin Motors were advertising a '56 Pontiac hard top for $1,435.
The January 5, 1960 Ottawa Journal had the following statistics on the National Hockey League: