Little Theatre of the Hills-Canada
AGNES C. LAUT
National Consciousness May Even Help to Pay Our Bills
I AM not going to describe here the Little Theatre, itself, as much as what it symbolizes in Canada’s national life.
It has already been described, by another writer, in MacLean’s. It is built above a large packing and fruit storage house.
It has the aroma of the orchards coming up through the floor; but it also has the seating capacity, the foyer, the drop curtains, the stage effects, the colored light of any of the little theatres in the world; and on one side of the entrance are the waving pines and spruce; and on the other, the deep thicket of the tensely green orchards. The Little Theatre is not an amateur effort. Its buildder is a successful playwright; and to his beautiful bungalow in the hills come during the holidays of summer heat in the cities, the leading actors and actresses of the continent.
Amateurs can try their hand; but professionals will also be there to try out plays embodying the Canadian spirit.
And the Little Theatre does not stand in a town. It is out on the hills like a Temple, such as the Greeks would have dedicated to their national spirit.
“We have reached the point in our history where we may look for a Canadian literature to record Canadian achievement. . . in that faith, we have built this theatre for the giving of Canadian plays by Canadian actors....
We hope that it will be used as a training ground and a testing ground. ! we have
great pleasure in offering it for the service of beauty and for a true expression of the Canadian spirit.”
Please note those last two words—the Canadian spirit, a new spirit on the chaotic face of the churning water out of which is emerging a New Canada.
Picture a long narrow lake, blue as the Mediterranean or the Gulf of Mexico, lying between two long chains of rugged opal gray mountains with the primrose tints of rainbow slants, before and after the sun is at its zenith! Imagine an atmosphere as soft as Italy’s, or Florida’s, as clear as Denver’s. On the terraced hill sides are orchards and gardens—orchards and gardens countless with little bungalow villas and red and green tiled roofs breaking the sweep of tense green!
No, these are not the olive groves of Italy, nor the almond ranches of California, though they might be either. The steamer coughs and chugs into the wharf, and tourists in khaki and Englishmen in white flannels and Americans in promiscuous dress come to greet new-comers in pleasure launches, or canoes, or motor boats, on horse back, in big touring cars. Girls in bloomers, girls in riding togs, girls in white middies and tennis skirts and shoes, ride along the mountain trail bare-headed, racing to meet the steamers.
Our Wonderful B. C. Scenery
AS I have said, it isn’t in Italy and it isn’t in California, though if it were in either, more Canadians would make pilgrimages to see this little theatre built in the amphitheatre of our own British Columbia, which most of us ten years ago used to regard as about 3,000 miles away from anywhere; and right in the heart of this valley is the little Theatre in the Hills, dedicated to the Canadian spirit and built on faith in that Canadian spirit.
Premier Meighen must have been conscious of that new Canadian National Spirit; or he would not have given
the address at the opening of the little Theatre last year’
What is that National Spirit?
I can no more articulate it than Canada can articulate it. It is just a-borning. It is like a beautiful vision coming up on the face of troubled waters. It is like a man, who has found his soul in the terrible crucifixion of the War; and now hope and light and love are dawning in a new and resurrected life.
Canada found her national soul in the War, though she is yet hardly conscious of it. It was after the Civil War that the United States took its great jump forward as a world power. To American shores came from forty to fifty million people. Settlers poured across the Mississippi founding a great trans-Mississippi and inter-Montane empire.
And Canada is at the very same place to-day; and if the birth pangs be severe and the morning of better times seems ages in dawning, we have but to remember the United States passed the same place we are passing today. We should keep engraved on our hearts and our foreheads and the palms of our hands Laurier’s prophetic phrase—“The Twentieth Century is Canada's;" and we should line up to it.
I don’t know' when the sense of the new national consciousness being abroad in Canada first dawned on me.
I think it was when everybody settled down after it was all over and asked—What was it for? Why did God permit it? What was Destiny doing with us? Where’s Canada at, as a result of this—“t/ri.s” being memories, which people didn’t permit themselves to dwell on, for fear of their hearts breaking.
I need tell only two or three episodes to illustrate what I mean and what that Little Theatre in the Hills sym-
FEEL that we have reached that point in our history where we may look for a Canadian Literature to record Canadian achievements: and it is in that faith that we have built this theatre for the giving of Canadian plays by Canadian actors. We hope that it will be used by the young actor as a training-ground for his abilities, and by the young poet as a testing-ground for his work; for the service of beauty and for a true expression of the Canadian spirit.”
'J’O THE left is quoted the little note which appeared on the programme, November 3, 1920, when Premier Meighen opened the Little Theatre at Naramata, in the Okanagan Valley. What a wonderful vista from its foyer!
In this article Agnes Laut draws an analogy between the Little Theatre’s place in Canada’s literary life and the new status of our Dominion in the sisterhood of nations. Sound, economic thinking will be equally as valuable as a proper religious and artistic
bolizes. I was motoring with an officer of the SoldVr’s Settlement Board in August of 1920. We were recalling friends of former Winnipeg days, who did not return. He stopped his car. He sat thinking. Then he began very slowly to think out loud as nearly as I can recall it in words to this effect: “Why should we have been saved when they were taken! They were better men than we are. The flower of the race, the bravest and best were taken. Why were we saved? What have we to do? We know now the lands we fought to save would hardly make a back yard, or kitchen garden, te one of Canada’s provinces. Yet we have fewer people in an Empire the size of Russia than those nations have in a few cities. What has held us back? What stalls us? We haven’t thought this all out yet; but—you bet—your—sweet—life—the returned fellows are thinking it out hard—and the old parties are going to hear from us in a twelve months and they will find out that the old tom-toms will never again rally the clans.”
What the Old Parties Heard
TN 1921 I met this same young officer again at one of my lectures. “Oh, by the way,” he asked, “do you remember our talk? I said the old parties would hear from us. Well—they did! They put up their old party candidates on the old party platforms with the old party tom-toms beating the War Drums! The old parties had funds. We had none. We put up a blind soldier and we licked them out of their boots. Rallying cry? We hadn’t any except 100 per cent. Canadianism!”
That for one testimony as to the new spirit abroad in Canada.
This for another.
I got on a Canadian National train early one morning. The conductor sat down beside me. The day before I had travelled on a freight caboose and the freight conductor and his two brakesmen, who treated me to a dinner of spaghetti, said almost the same thing in different words ».
“I didn’t hear your lecture last night. 1 didn’t get in. in time; but I’ve heard the men all along the lini' jangling and wrangling about what you said. 1 understand you are preaching the evangel of dedication to Canadian nationalism. That’s right that’s right! Everybody agrees with that! What sets men disputing is the line up of facts you gave as to why we haven't developed faster. We're rich as a nation. W e're st rong and virile and clean. We’re older than the United States as you sav; and we have the population of only one State, or one American city. I don’t wonder you ask us why; and I think your answer is right H r have lackt d national unity ami we haven’t dedicated ourselves la the job of creating a great nation.
“I agree with you the time is ri(>e for us to be up and doing. The fulfilment of time foretold in the Scripture has come for the Power of the North to arise; but did you ever stop to think why God. or Destiny which never errs has permitted us to lag in our pace? If you are right and I think you are, from wlmt the great scientists in the Navy say we are going into an era of Land Power. Did it ever occur to you, God or Destiny may have reserved this land for the future Great Britain? Ever think of the similarity of our case to the Holy Land? There was one of the richest lands in the ancient world, and it lay fallow, over run by wild half savages and barbarians; the sport of Desert winds, till the time was rip^.
for God to send the Children of Israel there, where the religion of the world was conceived and cradled? Ever think God might have some such design for Canada in a Greater Britain Over Seas?”
And up at Strathmore, where they were opening a beautiful memorial hall to the G.W.V’s I heard the chairman say—“It wasn’t so much a question of who won the war. It was what Canada was going to do with the peace.” Or it was up in the American Colony at Rosetown. “I’ll tell you what I think is the matter,” said ah exAmerican, who had taken out his papers as a Canadian. “You call me an American. My next door neighbor calls himself a Scotchman. My neighbor across the way refers to England as ‘home.’ Now I’ll be hanged if we are living in Canada, Canada is Home, and We're every Mother's Son of us Canadians; and we ought to be 100 per cent Canadians and not refer to anywhere else as home.”
“No, Madam, I am not a Barr Colonist,” said a Scotch tongue to me up at Lloydminister. “I came in with the Barr people, but if twenty years’ successful farming here doesn’t entitle me to be called a good Canadian, I don’t know what does.”
Where Home Is
AND it was down on the Delia-Youngstown section.
A young Englishman was motoring me to the next lecture point. “I’ll tell you what gives so many Englishmen a grouch here at first,” he explained. “They and their ancestors have lived the same type of life in England for four hundred years. They come out here. It’s like pulling up roots. They keep referring to England as ‘back home.’ They are home sick to go ‘back home.’1 Well they scrape enough money together to go ‘back home,’ and they find they miss something. They are smothered. They miss the quick, free pace; so back they come to Canada. After that, Canada is Home. My father and mother both went through that; and now they are contented here.”
In Winnipeg, a Governor-General asked the different races to be segregated in different rooms so he could address them in their own languages; and many little Poles refused to herd with the other little Poles because they would not acknowledge they were anything but Canadian; and when the little Russians were asked what they were, each shouted back—“I am Canadian;” and so did the little Galicians.
This is what I mean when I say there is a new spirit abroad in Canada; that a vision is forming on the face of troubled waters; that the dawn of a new day is brooding over the most momentous era in Canada’s history; and it is to this New Canadian Spirit and to faith in that spirit the Little Theatre in the Hills above the beautiful Okanagan Lakes is dedicated.
But in the course of some seventy lectures before Chautauqua audiences in the Western Provinces and some dozen addresses before other audiences, when I tried to point out that what had held Canada’s progress back was lack of national consciousness, natural status, national unity—in aim, action and destiny—I was invariably met by the come-back, “Well, how is that going to help us to pay our bills?”
The sincerest comment I received was from a little woman in Saskatchewan, whose family I know, and whose family history I know. They came West away back in the late eighties.
They lived in a sodded-up, tar-papered shanty. What they couldn’t pay cash for, they did without. I know one year in their lives when there was neither sugar in the sugar bowl, nor tea in the tea pot, and they didn’t see one coin to rub against another coin for ten months, and her mother had done without a new hat for eight years.
As my esteemed friend of the old North West days, Colonel George Ham, once remarked when I asked him why in the early days when you could have bought the town site of Calgary for 5c, we didn’t buy it up, “because we didn’t have 5c;” her family knew the days of no coin, of crops frosted one year and droughted out the next year, and then when the big crops did come, of prices dropping to 48c, which didn’t pay the costs; but they held on.
Through good repute and evil repute, they held on and carried on and went over the top. They own several thousand acres of the best wheat land in Saskatchewan to-day. They have a country house and a town house and spend every winter in California, whence they come and go in their own limousine. And it was her observation of progress in the United States that brought her to the same conviction driven in on myself—that Canada richer, older, larger than the United States, an Empire in resources, age and area, is not living up to the status of an empire, nor living up to the progress of an Empire.
\\7 H Y does one country’s progress go in floodtidès of ^ * prosperity; no matter how deep the trough of a temporary depression like the Civil War, or the recent Great W’ar, up she comes and on she goes in a sweep forward to national destiny, irresistible and unstopping as the floodtides of the sea? And why does the other country’s progress go in fits and starts and stalls? Why does one country—as it were—drift into backwater, or hit rocks; while the -other country no matter what or where backwater and—rocks, keeps forging ahead.
Here is what she said; and the question had more meat in it than all the hot-air whooping of conscientious objections to facts. “Yes, I know these are facts—it’s true—
I see it every winter when I go South. I acknowledge we have never played the game as a nation. We have lacked national unity in our aims and acts; but what I want the country to get is encouragement. Just please tell me this and we’ll jump at it. Tell all Canada; and Canada, will jump at it. Talk of progress - it will be an aeroplane compared to an ox cart. How will national consciousness, national status, national unity, Canadian patriotism to Canada as a whole, not East for East, and West for West, how will what you call unity of aim, action and destiny pay our bills?”
In other words—How will national vision materialize into verity?
How can ideals be made into reals?
How can we build our ideals into reality?
You can’t get a man to whoop for patriotism if the wolf of want periodically gnaws at his vitals.
A family may love Canada to madness; but they can’t stay in Canada unless they can comfortably feed every hungry mouth in the family.
We have lost not only 800,000 U. S. settlers, but in fifty years we have lost to the United States two and a half times as many Canadians.
No use dodging facts!
The inescapable answer—mouths and stomachs to be filled.
In its last analysis economic pressure is behind racial migration.
People sometimes talk as though economics were sordid, as though economics and religion were different and antagonistic, one for Mondays, the other for Sundays. They are not. They are one and the same thing, founded on the Eternal laws of God, which is the reason the best leaders to-day consider that sound ecomonic thinking will have as much to do in saving the world from á smash to civilization as sound religious thinking and living.
Now come back to how national consciousness, national unity, Canadian patriotism, 100 per cent Canadianism, unity of aims, action, destiny, the dedication of one’s soul to Almighty God that Canada must be made a great Nation —will pay our bills.
Dour Facts We Must Face ■
WE ARE going to use facts for bullets, and not whistle in the dark, or whoop.
Fact first—the Canadian West is having very, very hard sledding this year.
It is not having any harder sledding than the American West, if that is any consolation; but what we are dealing with is the Canadian West, not the American West, how to extricate ourselves from our own slough of despond, not to gloat over the fact that our neighbor is also in a
slough of despond, though misery does love company and is prone to hope for the very worst for the other fellow.
En passant, however, it is worth while making clear thaj “the American tariff is not a slap in Canada's face, a kick at a friendly ally,” as some of the party barkers would imply. When Exchange fell with a fearful slump last year and again in July and August of 1921, orders from Europe for American wool, cotton, beef were cancelled in a panic. Europe could not afford to pay $4.86 for $3.60 worth of these farm products. Wool growers of the South found their wool stored in Boston unsaleable “eating its head off” in interest and storage charges.
Cotton ditto, only in the case of cotton, the broker’s bank, who had acted as forwarding agent was the hardest hit—so hard hit he began to call credits in on the farmers, till the Federal Reserve Banks told him to let up and go easy, though not before enough banks in the cotton and sugar belt of Louisiana had collapsed to give the shivers to other banks and demonstrate the futility of calling credits, where there was no cash to call.
Sugar ditto! Beef ditto! Farm prices avalanched down. Farm produce backed up on the farmers’ hands unsaleable at any price. Some of it was so heavily mortgaged, the farmers did not dare sell it till the prices reverted to a level that would pay at least the debt.
A howl went to high Heaven with a unanimity from the Western American farmer, that put the fear of God and agriculture in the heart of Congress. Result—the tariff, “not as a slap at a friendly neighbor,” but as a makeshift to quiet that howl till real remedies could be found in better exchange, or a chance of shorter crops this year, which would effect an absorption of the unsold 1920 surplus.
The boll weevil has sent up the price of cotton; and the drought will yet send the price of wheat kiting before the spring of 1922; but how permanent the makeshift tariff will be no one can tell. The boomerang is reacting now. It may work its own cure, of which I shall write
Meanwhile in Canada—the West is having very hard sledding this year.
It is having hard sledding from causes, which no man could have foretold.
First, the United States tariff took the bottom out of the cattle market.
Second, exchange took the bottom out of the demands for farm produce.
Third, high freight rates took the edge off profit on all
Fourth, crops in 1920 went in at high wage and cost levels. Prices slumped to almost prewar levels.
Cattle? $100 Becomes $3.
T AST came the weather. Now the 1—' weather alone without these other causes would not have knocked prosperity flat; but the combination knocked prosperity insensible. Cattle worth $100 in May, 1921 were selling at $30 in July and at $3 in August. Look at those figures—will you? Do you know what it costs to winter a cow? In feed alone more than $30, with hay at its lowest. “Yes,” says your paper theorist, “but western cattle rustle for their feed." But supposing there isn’t any feed?
All of which leads up to the little woman’s remark—“Heaven give us encouragement! How in the world is a sense of national consciousness, of national unity, of 100 percent Canadian patriotism, of unity*of aim, action and destiny going to help us to pay our bills?”
Higher prices, of course—for what we really have, high grade, low grade, and no grade at all—would turn the trick; but the Government can’t peg wheat prices and pay them out of an empty treasury without increasing taxes; and the word “taxes” brings a groan like a pipe organ when the boy stops pumping.
Higher prices will undoubtedly come when the present glutted markets are cleared and the world wakens to the fact that the world is fearfully short of wheat this year; and empty stomachs in Europe will have to pay any price for wheat, though the owners of the empty stomachs have to go short on clothing and fuel to buy food, or die. But these higher prices which are inevitable as death and taxes within a year, don’t help the farmer now. He has to sell to pay labor, binder twine, implements, the winter’s fuel, the children’s warm clothing; and even if he waited, there is peril in the wait. Wheat is going out to Europe in larger quantities this year than last, and exchange is coming slowly to normal, which will enable Europe to buy more Continued on page 58
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freely; but what if some of these fool nations in Europe took another plunge in War? What if more strikes tied up British shipping? What if miners’ strikes shutdown more industrial plants in Europe? Exchange would take another awful wallop down; and the price might go down instead of up.
Bankers, farmers, manufacturers, not one can afford to take the chance of lower I prices. They have to let go when the pressure for collections comes against
Lower Labor Costs Would Help
OF COURSE, lower labor costs would help; but labor won’t go down till the cost of living goes down more; so there you are in the frantic circle of a whirlpool that threatens to engulf, or the back water that threatens to stall proj gress, which ever metaphor you prefer. But, suppose there were a high-priced market accessible now.
Canada would jump for it, wouldn’t she?
Well, there is such a market right now; and Canada does not get it because she is not acting as a nation commercially. She is acting as a sales agent to the brokers of other nations, who get the big profits, which she needs. That is—she follows the old rut—exports to England or the United States; and they re-export to these high-priced markets; and the ghastly joke of it is—in many cases, these reexport brokers often do not export from the U.S. ports the grain they buy from Canada. They divert it straight from Canadian ports to the high priced market; and the rate per bushel is from five cents to eight cents shipside in Canada to shipside in the high priced market.
Take Mexico as a case! Mexico has “revoluted” herself out of food for ten years. So has the most of Central America and tropical America. On account of the torrential rains in the tropics, Central America can never raise enough grain for her own needs, nor enough butter, nor enough potatoes; and owing to “revolutions” and “revolutions”, she is pretty nearly destitute of cattle and horses which are a drug on the Canadian market.
When the price of wheat broke on the Canadian market in 1920, wheat was selling in Mexico at $7 a bushel. When I said this in a Chautauqua lecture, a man at the back of the audience grunted his dissent in accents loud and contemptuous, which isn’t a particularly convicing argument against a fact; but it was a perfectly sincere grunt, which is something. I afterwards learned his contempt arose from the fact that “wheat was not selling now in Mexico at $7.” Very well, let us take the facts now in September of 1921! I could not get the now facts for him when I was in Alberta, but I wrote for them to Mexico the very day I reached New York; and here they are!
A Wonderful Mexican Market
LET them seep into that national consciousness!
At the present moment, Mexico is importing millions of dollars worth of food a month. Those, who can't afford to pay the high prices, will eat one meâ! â d?y, or crawl away and die gradually of malnutrition.
The average price being paid for wheat in Mexico right now—November, 1921— is $25 for a sack of 161 kilos of two and one fifth pounds to the kilo, or 357 pounds, which is about six bushels, not quite; which is in our currency more than four dollars a bushel; and it costs six to ten cents a bushel ocean freight to land wheat from a Canadian port to a Mexican port, with ocean freighters tied up idle for cargo cutting those official rates secretly to get freight. Corn is selling in Mexico at $18 per 100 pounds. I saw potatoes in Alberta and British Columbia, which could not be sold at seventeen cents a bushel. Potatoes are selling in Mexico— imported—at ten to eleven cents a pound, which as I take it is $5 to $6 a busheL On the West Coast of Central America, grain—corn and wheat—are selling at $1 our currency for fourteen pounds, which as I make it is $4 to $5 a bushel. And Mexico needs at least five bushels a head of grain to keep her 15,000,000 people alive. There is a possible sale in one country alone of 75,000,000 bushels, which
at even $3 net would equal $225,000,000, leaving $1 to cover rail freights, ocean freights, commission. Wake up Vancouver, a shipping port, and wake up Prince Rupert! Rub your eyes!
And Mexico is only one country of tropical America.
Why doesn't Canada get in on these high priced markets?
Because she is not acting as a nation commercially but as the lag-tail to other nations commercially. If she had her own legations, she would have her own fiscal agents, who would arrange these sales, see that the buyer could pay the freight, (not the seller,) see that the buyer honored the sight draft attached, and .if he didn’t divert the shipment to another buyer.
Food going into Mexico at the present time is duty free.
Please look at these figures and con them over! That is where the National Unity business comes in as a prosperity booster and not as a boomerang.
I could give similar scales of prices right down the line through South America till you come to Argentina, which produces much the same things as Canada in a reversed season.
Or take cattle which actually sold in Alberta at $3. Cattle have literally been cleared out of Mexico. A decade ago, they literally came out of Mexico in tens of thousands. Never again will the big horns come across the Rio Grande to be pastured and “topped” on the corn of the Middle West before going to market. Mexico has only a comparatively small number of milk cows near a few cities left. You can sell scrubs in Mexico from $200 up; and the freight and feed in transit could not possibly absorb the difference between $3 and $200.
Let these facts, too, seep into this national status business!
Can’t Feed on Ideals.
AS I said before ideals to be workable must be translated into reals; and if these ideals could be made into reals, they would spell a lot of factors into national consciousness that would translate hard times into good times, and an exodus into a genesis, and hopelessness with bitter resentment into realization and content.
Or take another set of figures. These, too, were challenged both in British Columbia and Alberta. One lumber merchant, I think it was in Hardisty or some point near there, was so offended that he said unless I could prove my figures he would never again support Chautauqua. I told him the minute I reached the East I would send him the definite figures on my bills to date, now, right now, not in War time. Here they are!
When I was in British Columbia and Alberta from May to July, lumber mills were shut down. There was no demand for building—which, by the way, there would have been if we hadn’t lost those 800,000 American settlers and were not still losing them. Unemployment had become such a menace that Canada was shutting off immigrants at the very period in England’s history when this country should get some five to six million unemDloyed and overtaxed people fron) England.
Lumber prices ^ad slumped from $38 per thousand to $12 and an£l t and as it costs about $11 a thousand tó produce, it isn’t hard to see why the mills had to shut down. They couldn’t go on in the face of no demand and not go stone broke. During my absence, both on my farm and in a suburban town where I live when I am home—which is seldom— I had some repairs, roofers, siding, matched flooring for steps etc. Here is the exact scale of prices paid for B.C. lumber in the Eastern States.
5 2x12. 14 Spc. 140 ft $90 22 114x4. 12 No. 1 Fir Fig.
110 ft *128
2 1x8. 16 No. 2 Base 21 ft »ISO
7 2 2x10. 18 F;V, SO ft *7*
2 1x8. 16 No. 2 Base, 21 ft »ISO
6 1V4X4 12 No. 1 Fir Fig. 30 ft. *12*
Now I don’t know what the freight is just now; but I do know no freights account for the difference between $22 and
$l6ô a thousand. And in this very period, it is estimated that 500,000 people had to move out of New York City, which is typical of a dozen other big Eastern centres, because the cost of material was so high, people could not afford to build.
Yet when I advocated fiscal agents, the very banks, which could no longer finance the mills of the Canadian West to go on operating, raised the conscientious objections that such fiscal agents, competent business men, might cost Canada $400,000 a year. That argument is to laugh! It is only an excuse for our own lagging prosperity.
The first thing Hoover did when he took hold in Washington was to grab a staff of war experts, who knew the foreign markets, and send them direct to every foreign market, in the world to learn how to get orders for American producers and to finance these orders in readiness for the day, when the foreign nations would be able to buy Which is one reason I predict the Fordney Tariff will not endure. Nations cannot buy unless they sell.
Why don’t we do the same?
Echo answers why and so should the
Need I answer these questions—How will national consciousness, national unity pay our bills?