Friday, February 2, 2018

What Happens to Groundhogs After Groundhog Day? (And Other Cringeworthy Material from a 1930s Small Town Newspaper)

If it's 1930s rural central Ontario, you encourage school children to participate "in the extermination of these farm nuisances."

All images in this post from the Canadian Statesman (Bowmanville), October 15, 1936.

What amuses me is that the leading community mentioned for kids collecting groundhog tails, Blackstock, is part of my family background. Wonder if any relatives brought any in.

Surfing the interwebs shows that groundhogs are still considered a nuisance by some farmers. Here's a 2016 article from a farming magazine on modern methods of controlling them. As for Groundhog Day, Niche just published a piece on its history in Canada - apparently bears once filled a similar weather-forecasting role.


If you find the idea of school children being encouraged to collect the tails of animals disposed of by means you don't want to think about squeamish, know that it's not the only cringeworthy item on this particular newspaper page.

But first, a word from our sponsor.

Let's look at the suggested tea towel pattern for readers to make that week:

Because nothing says cheerfulness that daily stereotypical depictions of a black woman in bright colours. It's doubtful this was an isolated pattern for the era, given how prevalent depictions of "mammies" were - one of the best-selling novels of 1936 was Gone With the Wind, and it's not a stretch to believe these tea towels might have used to clean up the mess left after making a batch of Aunt Jemima pancakes.

Beyond celebrating the struggles and triumphs of the community, Black History Month is a good time to remember that materials like these tea towel patterns existed and think about how they reflected the historical contexts of their era. Why people ever believed these were charming and how society later processed this imagery and reached a point (more or less; some exceptions apply) where it was no longer acceptable is a subject worth contemplating.


Also on this page, "Here and There and Everywhere" columnist Dave Morrison Sr. turns reflections on Thanksgiving into a call for good old fashioned justice to prosecute automobile and chicken thieves. "In this civilized so called age, it is almost necessary to carry firearms to protect one from the bandits that prowl by day as well as by night." He suggests that just as chicken farmers had to tattoo their poultry to identify them, children should be as well in an age of kidnappings. Morrison felt hanging thieves from trees on the roadside might act as a good crime deterrent, or that stocks should be used for purse snatchers. In typical grumpy old man/law and order promoter style, Morrison declares that "many people today do not believe to any great extent in the good old days and some ministers speak against it, but just the same it was a better period to live in even if money was scarce and civilization was not as streamlined as it is today. If you do not think as we do on this, stand up in meeting and say so."

A dude dreaming of a mythical glorious past with no trace of irony. Sounds like he'd fit into the current charged political climate just fine.

No comments:

Post a Comment