Wednesday, July 01, 2020

On this blog I normally write about politics but today is Canada Day

On July 1, 1945 - 75 years ago today - an event took place in Ottawa that was of critical importance to my family. Both my mother and father moved to Ottawa in the spring of 1945, unbeknownst to each other.

Clarence Barber
Barbara Patchet
That spring my mother graduated from the University of Toronto at a ceremony where, as she puts it, "At our June graduation George Drew, the Conservative premier of Ontario spoke and all our class booed. We felt so superior."

Almost right away she headed for Ottawa expecting a job to be waiting for her. Many of the details that follow come from the life writing stories my mother wrote in during her retirement. She completed some 250 of them between ages of 79 and 89. She was born in Toronto in 1923 and named Barbara Patchet at birth. She picks up the story:
"In June, l945 having just graduated in sociology from the University of Toronto I headed to Ottawa by train having been recommended by my professor for a job in the Dominion Bureau of Statistics (DBS). I traveled with a university acquaintance named Betty who was going to work in the new National Incomes Branch.
I headed down to DBS, found my prospective employer out of town, and ended up as a clerical assistant to a Civil Service Commissioner. While I cannot remember precisely what my duties were as assistant to the Civil Service Commissioner I do remember being very impressed with the curriculum vitae of the man who was to be my future husband.  He had all A’s and such extravagant praise.
Canoeing 1946
Then I met him briefly in the hallway of DBS when I went to visit Betty. A few days later on July 1st, a national holiday, I went for lunch in a restaurant near my room (Bank and Fifth). It was quite empty but there in a corner I spotted Clarence and had no hesitation in saying, “ Do you mind if I eat with you? I hate to eat alone”
After lunch we decided to go canoeing out at Hog’s Back on the Ottawa River.  He too lived in a room and we ended up eating our dinners together. At our wedding two years later he ended up in responding to the toast to the bride that he did not have to eat alone anymore. 
Because Clarence and I both lived in rooms, we fell into the habit of eating dinner together. We went bicycling or walking and to celebrate in any way we went to a better restaurant, a movie or dancing at the Chateau grill. I loved Ottawa because it was small, picturesque and there was a French joie de vivre compared to Toronto. Moreover, I was in love.

Rideau Street Ottawa in the 40s

Our backgrounds were very different. My father was a business man, secretary treasurer of Saturday Night magazine. Clarence came from a Saskatchewan farm, growing up during the depression, worked on the farm following high school, while taking his first university year extramurally. After a B.A. from the University of Saskatchean, scholarships took him to American universities for his M.A. and PhD (in economics). In l943 he returned to Canada to join the RCAF." (I wrote a longer description of my father's biography in 2017 here:

He received an early release from the military having been recruited to work for DBS as part of a team developing Canada's national income accounts. That was why he found himself in Ottawa that spring renting a room and eating many of his meals in simple cafeteria style restaurants, quite common in the era. While he was happy to work at DBS in postwar Ottawa, his career aspirations were to teach economics at a university.

My parents enjoyed their three years in Ottawa - taking time out to get married in Toronto in May 1947 - as the photos below illustrate, taking advantage of what it had to offer including the nearby lakes and hills of Quebec.

Babs & Clarence 1946
Babs at Lac Blue Sea, Quebec

Babs & Clarence Winter 1945-46
My mother picks up the story again:
When Clarence turned down an offer to teach at the University of Pittsburgh in l946,  I asked him what he wanted to do and his answer amazed me “I think I have an original contribution to make to Canadian economics” This confidence in self was staggering to me.

After a small wedding in Toronto we spent our savings on a honeymoon, a week in Boston, a week in Cape Cod, and ended up in Quebec City. There, we saw some of our colleagues who were attending the Learned Societies . 
After a seemingly idyllic three years, they moved to Hamilton, shortly after my birth, where my father taught economics for a year. In 1949 they moved on to Winnipeg.