ST. GEORGE MEETS NEW DRAGONS
AN ADDRESS BY MR. C. R. SANDERSON, M.A., B.Sc.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, December 13, 1945
MR. THOMPSON: We welcome today, as our guest of honour, one who needs no introduction to an Empire Club audience, in that he is one of our Past Presidents. However, for the benefit of the large radio audience that is listening to this programme, I feel that I should say something about him.
Our guest speaker, who is a native of the Old Land, graduated from the University of London with first class honours and Bachelor of Science Degree. He received his Master of Arts degree from the University of Toronto.
He served with distinction in the first World War, having been wounded in France in 1916 and following his recovery served in the East Africa Campaign of 19171918. During World War 2, he has been very active in the Reserve Army, giving most generously of his time in the advancement of military training.
Following a number of years of library work in the United Kingdom, he came to this country in 1929, at the invitation of the Toronto Public Library Board, to join the staff as Deputy Chief Librarian and today holds the post of Chief Librarian.
A former member of the Council and Executive Board of the British Library Association, also, the Executive of the National Book Council of England, he was a member of the Canadian delegation of Book Sellers, sponsored by the Board of Trade, which has just returned from the United Kingdom, where they went in an effort to restore Canada's book market.
A keen observer at all times and a most delightful speaker, he has kindly consented to pass on to us some of the observations he made on his recent trip overseas.
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I now present to you, Mr. C. R. Sanderson who has chosen as the title of his address "St. George Meets New Dragons":
Mr. C. R. SANDERSON: Mr. President, Gentlemen
After having been your President for a year, I feel it is particularly kind that you should be willing to tolerate me, again as a speaker, and when to that I add the flattery of the large audience that has met today, all that I can say is that I am specially grateful for the honour that you have done me.
As the President has said, I was one of a delegation who went to England on a "Book Job." Owing to wartime Government restrictions in Britain, books deteriorated in their physical quality. Paper became poorer and thinner; the boards became spindlier and spindlier until they were not much more than very stiff brown paper; the type became smaller and smaller in order to make the paper go as far as it could. The result was that when such books did come to Canada from Britain, few people would buy them, and few people would read them even if they did not have to buy them. When we add to this the limitations of the size of editions in Britain, and the enormous home market there, the result was that the British book practically disappeared from the Canadian market.
To some of us that seemed a tragedy. Of all the exports that Britain can send to Canada none seemed more important than the thoughts which go into books.
The place of the British books here was filled largely by books from the States. But the situation did have one advantage: it gave a stimulus to Canadian bookproduction, and during the last few years we have had many more and much more important books published in Canada than in preceding years.
The result was our delegation to Britain had two jobs to do. To discuss with the British publishers what could be done to ensure the re-entry of the British book into the Canadian market; and on the other hand, to discuss what could be done to create a market for Canadian books in Britain. Both sides of this problem are important. When you remember, gentlemen, how often we are told that the ties which bind the Commonwealth together are intangibles, then surely the importation and exportation,--the mutual importation and exportation--of the thought that goes into books is one of the most significant of those intangibles.
We talked almost incessantly for three weeks, and it is confidently expected that the results on both sides of the problem will be most happy for both countries.
In talking today about England I will try and not say the same kind of thing that has been said by so many other people who have been over there, except just this one thing: it is worthwhile to remind ourselves even though we have heard it a hundred times, that you can't walk one hundred yards in London without seeing physical damage. And it is a sad commentary on human nature that after two weeks you become used to it. When you go to St. Paul's and see that wide swath of country a mile from north to south, where the destruction is complete except for St. Paul's itself and one office building, you can not help but be greatly impressed and even awed. But the thing that rips into your heart comes when you go down East, to Stepney, and Poplar, and East Ham where the dockers live, where the docks are. Perhaps you stand on a viaduct or some other elevation and look round. Where once there were masses of houses, long rows of those small houses "two up, two down", (two rooms up stairs and two rooms downstairs) there are big wide swaths of country with weeds growing. Then comes the consciousness of what real destruction can be. Thousands upon thousands of tiny homes, where people lived, and loved and brought up children, and had their "hearth and home", have literally vanished.
In normal times that district, miles in extent, was teeming with people as busy as it could be. It was the throbbing heart of British commerce, of British existence. The memory of those areas in normal times compared with their condition today prodded serious thoughts when the dock strike came. That strike kept us in London three weeks longer than we had planned. We were anxious and disturbed on our own account. Also I confess that I did not know the real rights and wrongs of the dockers demands, nor of their wisdom or foolishness in striking against the advice of their own leaders. Nevertheless if the dockers are so important, so vitally important, to the welfare of Britain and even to the welfare of the world, and they are convinced that they must go on strike in a dire hour of their nation's need, it drove home Chesterton's saying, that "People never think of the working man except when he stops working." We had taken the dockers and their conditions of work for granted. We had viewed the desolation of the area where they had lived as a spectacle of the destruction of war. We had taken it for granted that they lived somewhere else and went on working. Perhaps our ideas of social justice need substantial readjustment.
Britain has taken all this destruction in her stride. The people don't talk much about the destruction or the bombing, except to make light of it. I have a brother over there nearly as old as I am. He had been a District Warden in the Air Raids Protection service just outside of Manchester. One evening when I was walking along a road with him he pointed to a mound and said, "That's where I slept for two years." I asked, "Why didn't you sleep at home?" He said, "I did at first, but when you have to crawl out of bed two or three or four times a night, and run to your Air Raid Post, it was really much easier to sleep out." I asked "Did you go to your work next day?" "Oh, certainly," he said. "Well, didn't it do something to you?" I asked. His answer was, "Oh, I suppose so, it made my pants baggy."
One day I was talking to a man named Tom Thompson, who writes first class short stories on Lancashire life for the "Manchester Guardian." He was telling me about a broadcast he was doing at Manchester during one of the Manchester blitzes, and his comment went something like this: "There I was, talking. I didn't know there was a raid on. Nobody told me. I just went on talking. I didn't know they had shut me off the air." Then when the raid was over he had to get to his home some ten miles away. He said, "No trains, no busses, no taxis. But the wife was waiting at home and I had to get there. So I started to walk. I picked up two soldiers, and we got out a couple of miles. Then "they" started again with the incendiary bombs, and as we went up the road they seemed to be running up behind us, just like trotting donkeys' legs." The three of them got under a railway bridge, and Thompson said the incendiaries seemed to cover the countryside, "just like buttercups and daisies all over the fields."
I don't know if I am conveying to you a picture of what I want to convey, of how the people of Britain make light of their wartime experiences, even make fun of them.
The town in which my mother lives had been damaged substantially. Actually every place big and little has had what they call its "dose." Part of this town had been destroyed during one particular night and my mother (she is only eighty-eight) went to have "a look." She told me there was a factory "down" and a row of houses "down," and all around for a big distance every house had its doors blown in or off, or its windows blown out. People were carrying their belongings out of their houses, and they were all black like chimney-sweeps because the concussion had filled the houses with soot from the chimneys. One woman was standing at the door of her house and my mother said to her, "Missis, Fin sorry for you. You had a bad time." Do you know what the reply was? The woman replied, "Aye, but it might have been worse. If this hadn't happened, I should have had to have my chimney swept."
There is the same attitude towards the shortages, though I do think that the British people are disappointed and perhaps a little bewildered that the shortages should be worse now than they were even during the war period. They tell a story something like this. A man was addressing an audience on the atomic bomb. He said; "If you took six atomic bombs and put them in six suit cases and planted them in six capitals of the world, you could disrupt civilization." A voice in the audience called out, "I say, Mister, where would you get the six suit cases from?"
Gentlemen, Britain today is a country of universal shortages, and as far as personal incoveniences through lack of commodities are concerned, we in this country do not even know that there has been a war. Actually in Britain today you can buy books. You can buy flowers, and flowers in the London flower shops have never been more beautiful than they are now though they are very expensive. You can go to the theatres, if you can get a seat. The "Old Vic" Company had not a seat of any kind at either an evening performance or matinee for five weeks ahead when we were there. You can go to restaurants. That's about all you can do with your money--books, flowers, theatres, and restaurants. And you can buy cheap jewellery at a high price. For the rest, there is nothing else that you can buy without coupons. Prices are high. A good measure which everybody can envisage is the little wooden coat hanger, with a wire hook on the top. I saw them in a shop marked 5 shillings, say $1.25. That is a fair sample of prices.
I mentioned restaurants. Those people who can afford to have meals in hotels or restaurants are lucky in supplementing their meagre home rations. Restaurants can't charge more than 5 shills for any meal. But they have a table charge fixed by Government schedule, which varies 2s, 2, 6, 5s. At "Claridge's" I think it was 6s. And by the time you pay the standard 5 shillings for the meal in a restaurant, your cover charge, and whatever else they add as an "extra" on the bill, you find that you have had a very indifferent meal which has cost you $4.
Apart from the few things I have mentioned, the impossibility of buying anything in England today except under a rigid rationing system through "coupons" makes one realize that in this world we are, in reality, merely tenants without any proprietary rights; that the mere possession of money gives one no priorities on the necessities of life.
Food, of course, is the worst scarcity. Clothes are bad. I think from September to June a man gets enough coupons to get himself a suit, provided he does not have a waistcoat. A lot of people wear sweaters. That sounds like a solution. But where do they get their sweaters? Where d9 they get the wool to make the sweaters? If he buys his suit (without a waistcoat) he can't during the same period buy socks, shirt, tie, underclothes. In fact not a single article of clothing. And he can't do what in fact he has to do, he can't subsidize his wife's coupons. The feminine demand for coupons is higher than the male demand, because out of the clothing coupons come the towels for the kitchen, or the bit of chintz to make a cushion cover. Anything and everything in the textile line comes out of those clothing coupons.
The most urgent problem is food. We ourselves were lucky because we were living in hotels. For breakfast we had scrambled eggs made out of powdered eggs. That was excellent the first morning. Not bad the second morning. Tolerable the third. On the fourth you look for some catsup (which, of course, you can't find) and the fifth morning you say, "No, thank you." Yet Britain has been living indefinitely in this way.
It is the same with sausages. They are good the first morning. But even the second morning you realize they have had the merest and most distant nodding acquaintance with meat. Nevertheless we were lucky. As I have said, the people who can afford to live at restaurants and hotels have a preferential position compared with the population as a whole.
Meat: The weekly meat ration is allowed to cost 1 /2d, and the "tuppence" is supposed to be corned meat. A man showed me the week's meat for a household of two. It was four very small cutlets, so tiny they couldn't be called "chops" and couldn't even be proud of,' themselves as cutlets. The man said: "My wife and I each have one cutlet for dinner Saturday, and one on Sunday, and then we have eaten our meat ration for the week."
Fresh eggs: Yes, you get eggs--one egg per person, per month perhaps!
Milk: Yes, you get a half pint of milk per person on 'three days out of the seven in each week.
Butter: You get 2 ounces of butter per person per week and 4 ounces of margarine.
Fruit: In October there were apples and tomatoes. Oranges are distributed whenever there is a shipment. There had been one shipment since the end of the war and there was one other shipment of oranges whilst we "were there. Those people who were lucky enough to get to the store before they were all sold got one orange,--and fit--was marked on the ration card. There had been one k shipment of grape fruit, and from it they got one grapefruit per person--if they were lucky.
It is a grim story. I have no right to varnish it. Let me illustrate by a personal incident. When we left the ship they gave us a little tiny cardboard box of food for tithe train. It was neatly tied up with string and pushed into your hand. I was rather amused at myself for taking it, because I confess that normally I would just as soon go hungry as eat sandwiches out of a paper bag. But I was going across country, and I arrived at my mother's home still carrying it. With a very badly misplaced sense of humour I said to my mother, "There you are, mother, I've brought you some ship's food." When it was opened, le a piece of waxed paper there were four tiny sandwiches. As a woman would, my mother lifted the end of one to see what was inside, and she exclaimed, "Why it's horn!" And then she turned to her niece who lives with her and she said, "Lisbeth, it's ham!" Lisbeth looked at me and said, "Rupert, (that's my name when I am at home) we haven't seen ham for two years and a half!" And those four "itsy bitsy" sandwiches were put on a plate end treated as if they were one of the greatest delicacies that tea-time could offer.
Yes, it is grim. And I am afraid it is going to last. I don't know enough about finance to appreciate what the effect of the United States and Canadian loan will be. I make no comment on that loan except to say that the man who invented interest was no man's fool. The loan may lead to increased imports into Britain, but if not, the present condition is going to last, because Britain at the moment is in dire straits to buy enough "dollars" to pay for the meagre food importation which is keeping her body and soul together.
Here in Canada we think in terms of continued prosperity. There in Britain it is a case of rescuing solvency out of bankruptcy. Here we think in terms of comforts. There they think in terms of dire necessities. You know the old story about the farmer who pointed to his hired man and said, "He works for me, but I can't afford to pay him. Therefore he works two years for me, and then he has the farm. And then I work two years for him to get it back again." The story has a point to it. But despite this grim picture, gentlemen, the British people are taking it all in their stride. They don't complain.
In London you are conscious of an apparent change in the life of the city. The streets still have only one-third of their pre-war lighting. The streets are full of people, full of young people particularly, full of service people. The country-side shows less change. Out in the country areas life seems more as it used to be.
And here I wonder if I dare put in a comment on the old English country pub, as compared with our beverage rooms. Let me tell you about one in Lancashire. I went to see some people in the country there. We walked over the moor. We stopped in at a "pub" on a Saturday night. We went in to what is called the parlour. A carpet covered the whole floor. There were easy chairs. Even the little tables were handcarved. In spite of the fuel shortage, there was a coke fire burning in the "grate." There was an atmosphere about the place. Everybody was having a drink but nobody was "drinking," if you understand what I mean. As everyone went out, they turned around to the room and said "Good night", and the entire room responded and said "Good night." A man and his wife came in, they looked around, there was no vacancy to sit down. The man said to his wife, "There is no where to sit unless we sit on the fire. Come on." Everyone in the room grinned.
Whilst we were there someone came in to sell raffle tickets for a sack of potatoes, and a guarantee was given that the sack would be delivered to the home of the winner. I bought a shilling's worth of two-penny tickets. When the man had gone out, the two brothers who were sitting with me pushed their tickets over to me, and said, "You heard what he said 'Delivered to your home.' You better have these tickets." This was heard at the next, table, and the occupants passed over their tickets to me. Soon it went around the whole room, and I collected all the tickets. Everyone was looking forward to the fun that was going to happen when the sack of potatoes had to be delivered to Canada. Unfortunately I did not win!
You get the same kind of "pub" everywhere in the country.
Even the London pubs still have their "snack bars", though the snacks today are mainly the bread sausages I have mentioned plus such things as pickled herrings. Somehow or other the English "pub" makes our beverage room a shoddy thing, even though it is generally agreed that the English beer is "poor stuff" today. They tell a story of two Canadian soldiers in a London pub. One said to the other: "Isn't the beer bad?" The other replied, "Yes; don't you wish we had enough?"
I must stop talking soon but I should be unfair, gentlemen, if I did, so before I said a word about Ontario House, which belongs to you and to me as inhabitants of this Province. It is doing a perfectly magnificent job. On its permanent side, its trade side and industrial side, it is building up contacts of serious importance to the future prosperity of the Province. In addition to that permanent side, it is doing a magnificent job for the armed services. As one example, Major Armstrong, the Agent General, told us that during the period it had been in existence, that is since the spring of this year, it had, given over one-third of a million personal interviews, including personal interviews with 5,000 wives of Canadian soldiers. Another thing it has done will long be remembered. It had distributed to the Canadian Service Personnel 20 million cigarettes. Any Canadian service man or woman in uniform can go to Ontario House any day and can get a free packet of 25 cigarettes, just by signing a register that he or she hasn't received a packet on the same day. That's a bigger thing than it even sounds in telling it. It gives a fellow somewhere to go in London; it gives him something to do; and it gives him a packet of cigarettes; it lets him meet other fellows from Canada; it lets him see his home town newspaper which is provided there. The 20 million cigarettes distributed represent a very substantial contribution to the morale of the Canadian Forces both directly and indirectly.
Then in addition Ontario House is building up a register of would-be immigrants. Major Armstrong said that he has a record of 30,000 would-be immigrants who, with their dependents, come to nearly 100,000 in number. And he has important dockets of information, who they are, what they are, what they do, how much capital they have. As Major Armstrong says, he is not pushing emigration; all he is doing is getting reliable material together so that if, in the postwar period, emigration into Canada is opened up he can put his hand on a hundred thousand picked people.
On the other hand, whilst there is this big group of people who are anxious to come to Canada, Ontario House has a record of some 18,000 Canadians who have married British wives, and who want to go back to England after demobilization. Ontario House is preparing to extend the welcoming hand to them and to help them to get settled in Britain.
Then, too, Ontario House runs a Service Club in the Haymarket. It is a Club which is open seven days a week. It is a Club that admits all ranks. It admits both sexes. It is one club that admits all nationalities. The result is that any Service man or woman of any nationality can go to the Ontario Service Club and find a welcome. From the time that Club was opened, they have served nearly one million meals, and the cost of a three-course meal, with roll and margarine and coffee, is 45 cents. If you remember what I said a moment or two ago about food, the dining rooms at the Ontario Service Club represent a substantial contribution to the morale of the Forces, a contribution of which Ontario can be proud.
Then in addition, any lad or lass who turns up in London on leave with nowhere to stay, can go to the Service Club where they keep a directory of homes which will offer a bed for the night. In the short time since the Club was opened, they have found beds for 15,000 Service men and Service women on leave in London.
Travelling in Britain spells endurance. I had, an experience of it when I went up from Manchester to London one Sunday night. In my ignorance I had telegraphed for a sleeper. Of course there was no sleeper. I knew trains were full and I was at the station an hour and a half before the train left. Actually there were two trains to London, one at 11.15 and one at 12.05 midnight. The platform for the first train was already crowded at 10.15. The train came in about a quarter to 11. By that time the platform was six and seven deep, and in fifteen minutes the loud speaker system was calling out: "There is no more accommodation on the 11.15 train. Will all passengers please move over to Platform 5 for the 12.05." And by the time the 12.05 came in that platform again was six, seven, and eight deep. When the train stopped there was one mad fight to get on. I had a first class ticket. I got into a third class corridor. I had a suit case which I share with an Air Force officer. I sat on one half, he on the other. I don't know how he felt, but I became very, very conscious that the metal fittings of a suit case are very solid and leave a lasting impression. When that train moved out of the station you could not have found space to put a rabbit on it.
Travelling is certainly bad. It was bad trying to get back to Canada too. We had been allotted to a ship. The dock strike pushed her sailing date back, and we waited a week. We were told: "Don't leave London. Stay where we can find you quickly." So we waited. At the end of the week we got a bit worried, and we put through a private enquiry. We were privately told, "She won't sail next week, and no one knows when she actually will sail." We got ourselves allotted to another ship, and again we waited day after day. At the end of the next week we put another enquiry through and were told, "She is in dry dock." Eventually we came back by bomber. But to achieve that we had had to make a nuisance of ourselves. After waiting two weeks and a half I confess that we had become a little peevish. Laundry had run out, money had run out, patience had run out.
However, we eventually obtained places on a bomber, and when we eventually got on board I could see the runway lights through a little window. The engine went through its warming up period. The runway lights began to move. Quicker and quicker they flashed past. Then they began to drop as we were air-borne. One knew one was going to sit on the same seat for 17 successive hours, nevertheless at that moment I leaned back, and I said, "Well, thank God, the next stop is Canada."
Now this is a good place to stop talking. Any speaker who passes a stopping point ought to have something done to him. But I have two minutes left, and I want to use them in reading to you something that Ruskin said seventy-five years ago. He was speaking to the youth of Britain, and he said
"THERE--IS A DESTINY NOW POSSIBLE TO US--. . . We . . . still have the firmness to govern, and the grace to obey. We have been taught a religion of pure mercy, which we must either now betray, or learn to defend by fulfilling. And we are rich in an inheritance of honour . . . which it should be our daily thirst to increase . . . Within the last few years we have had the laws of natural science opened to us with a rapidity which has been blinding' by its brightness; and means of transit and communication given to us, which have made but one kingdom of the habitable globe . . . Will you . . . make your country again . . . for all the world a source of light, a centre of peace; mistress of Learning and of the Arts; faithful guardian of great memories in the midst of irreverent . . . visions; faithful servants of time-tried principles . . . and amidst the cruel and clamorous jealousies of the nations worshipped in her strange valour of goodwill towards men?"
Written seventy-five years ago: it might have been written yesterday, mightn't it? And it applies to us in Canada just as much as it applies to people in Britain.
You know, gentlemen, we forget very easily. Already we tend to forget VE Day, certainly VJ Day. We tend to forget that exaltation of spirit which we felt as we heard the broadcast words which declared the war at an end, the exaltation of spirit which came at that moment from our consciousness of the vindication and triumph of the kind of life in which we believe. We tend to forget the lumps which were in our throats at that moment, giving release to pent-up emotions. We tend to forget the thankfulness that was in our hearts that night that the bloodshed and slaughter was over.
But Britain is still in a dire situation today. She will come out of it. Kites rise against the wind, not with it. St. George is fighting his new dragon, and he will succeed, as of old. But the fight is still on, and, gentlemen, will you let me suggest that when you go home tonight you spend two minutes in re-reading one of Kipling's poems, the one which he called "Recessional"-perhaps one of the finest things he did-and that after re-reading it you might spend two more minutes thinking about it, especially the verse which runs like this
"Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire; Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget! . . .
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Let we forget-lest we forget!