Some Canadian Contrasts

Frank Yeigh July 1 1917

Some Canadian Contrasts

Frank Yeigh July 1 1917

Some Canadian Contrasts

Frank Yeigh

CANADA is young as the age of countries is commonly measured; only four centuries since Cartier landed on the Gaspe coast; only three since Champlain became Canada’s first governor; only a century and a half since the British Conquest. Ontario is scarcely over the century mark, while the West may date its real life fifty years ago, practically covering the Confederation period.

But young as the Dominion is in this relative interpretation of time, she is old enough to present many striking contrasts that constitute measuring rods of our national growth. The span of a single generation provides many such suggestive contrasts, and in no less degree within the briefer period of a decade.

Especially does the Canadian West furnish impressive illustrations of progress in contrasts. In the little square facing the Canadian Pacific Station in Winnipeg, stands the first locomotive used to cross the continent on completion of its main line in 188Ö, while, within a stone’s throw, the latest.mogul is hauling a sixty-car train of wheat to the Head of Lakes or the Seaboard, and the difference represents Western development in thirty years. The old-timer was a wood-burner; the new-timer, coal or oil. The smaller looks ridiculously diminutive beside the great giant that towers high above one's head and that requires many ladder steps to reach the cabin. The old one ran smoothly on a light fifty-six pound rail; the other pounds a hundred pound rib of steel.

OUT on the far-flung prairie, with a sky-line as far remote as one’s range of vision, an ox-team is plodding its laborious way with plow and share, slowly turning the tough virgin sod of a farmto-be. The scene visualizes the same early stage of pioneer settlement as in the older provinces a century or more before. But an hour’s train journey will bring you to homesteads where modern tractors haul a plowing machine and outfit, where soilturning, is done by contract and on a wholesale scale. The single narrow furrow of our fathers is a many-furrowed trail of a sulky plow or a disc machine. So is the gulf between the sickle of the reaper, swung with slow rhythm by muscular arms, and the row of reapers and binders hauled again by a ponderous and powerful traction engine. So, too, the difference between the husbandman who goes forth to sow, with the hand sweep of grain, and the present-day seed drill, dropping its kernels with mathematical precision in the warm bed of mother earth.

In many a town of the Plains, as on the outskirts of the older hinterlands, the log shack of the pioneer is dominated by

rough sod shelter is overshadowed by

an imposing structure, skyscraping, as it were a Tower of Babel imitator, just as the first of the homesteader a mansion-like home

of more prosperous modern days. Many a Western farmer, as an Eastern one, maintains intact the modest home of his beginnings, alongside of a mansard roof covering of to-day. Both pride and sentiment enter into the plan.

Winnipeg affords another striking contrast in the proximity of the gate remnant of Fort Garry, the wounds of time covered with foliage, while hard by a twelvestory hotel cries aloud its modernity. What ghosts still linger about the old brick-and-mortar pile; what historic memories cluster around the once and brief Riel rendezvous! and, in equal contrast, the two buildings epitomize the yesterday and to-day of our western prairie portal.

Or take Edmonton. On the river height stands the commanding pile of Alberta’s Parliament Buildings, seemingly conscious of their architectural and legislative importance. Towers and roof hold their head high, scarce deigning to see the old Hudson’s Bay Fort that flies the H.B.C. flag off in a corner of the lot. A contrast? Surely none more striking in all Canada: the

flat little dormerwindowed building, eloquent of centuries of history i n the great Lone - land west of Lake Su-

perior, and still the great lcbte-land for many hundreds of leagues. Dne cannot rest the eye on the woodenl structures without instinctively recalling a King Charles, a company of “Gentlemen Adventurers,” supply ships, storehouses full of fur, and stockades alive betimes* with factors, trappers,couriers de bats, Indians, dog teams. The romance of imrly three centuries centers in this suggestive weather-stained pile. Law-makerslin a sense, even law'-breakers at times, andllaw triers were these H.B.C. folk, and niw a company of more modern makers qf statutes occupy the marble palace just pcross the lot!

CONTRASTS there are in Abundance on the yonder Canadian shire of the Pacific. Here is the sweep of the Skeena River, where it widens to meet the sea. A single glance of the eye includes an oldtimer of a stern-wheeler' craft,! redolent of primitive days in British Columbia. Of shallow draft it was, and it must needs have been to negotiate the shallows caused by the shifting sands, and with! a blunt nose made to poke its way into mod banks or rustic wharf. Yes, it is tied upl now for good and all, displaced by a railway. But its contrast is had in the fine Clyde-built steamer just sailing past on its nin from Vancouver to Prince Rupert and tne Portland Camd. Oil-propelled too, a|s is the

locomotive that went speeding by just now. Other marine contrasts there are: in the dug-out canoe of a Si wash or the clumsy fisher boat of a Chinaman, sailing by unassailed in and among the smarter craft belonging to the Coastal fishery combines.

Along the British Columbia rivers a lonely “Chink” is salmon fishing “on his own,” while a noisy brig is hauling a fleet of fishing craft for the canneries that line the banks on their tide-washed piles.

So the old and the new are again brought into juxtaposition when a Red River cart, sans iron rim or steel springs, is placed alongside an up-to-date automobile. They represent the difference between a slow-moving mule of Dixie and an Imperial Limited, or Prince Rupert Express train.

A contrast as unique as it is historic is to be seen at Sault Ste. Marie, where, within sight of each other, two canals span a space of two centuries. A single lock of the earlier one, built for a furtrading company in the long ago, has been preserved in contrast with the great Canadian lock jHM) feet long, which is capable of holding three large vessels at one time within its massive gates.

Every Canadian city possesses numerous historic contrasts. Toronto’s Old Fort, with its ancient earthworks, still revealing the gun embrasures; with its powder magazines, red brick military cottages, and over-hung guard houses, is eloquent of a certain day in 1813 when a party of our United States neighbors helped themselves to the Muddy York-of that day, and now when a hundred thousand people crowd the Exhibition near by, a scene is presented in absolute contrast. If the soldier dead who were blown into another world a hundred years ago, as a powder magazine at the Old Fort was exploded, could come to life long enough to visit the Exhibition on a gala day, methinks they would prefer to return!

Kingston’s Martello towers are in contrast with the Military College across the harbor, or the modern buildings in the Limestone city. Montreal can place its Chateau de Ramezay over against a St. James Street bank as another effective contrast

Old Quebec is all contrasts: in Sault le Cap, and Grand Allée; Lower and Upper Town, citadel and armouries. Canada has no other city where the seven-

teenth and twentieth centuries live so amicably side by side.

CANADA is truly measured by contraste; the log school house and the million-dollar technical school; the rustic chain ferry, swung by the current and a million dollar high-level bridge over the Saskatchewan at Edmonton; a Washington hand-press in a rural printing office, and a sextuple press used by a city daily ; the candles of our grandmothers and the electric light our children take for granted; the message by the post-chaise in grandfather’s time, and the wireless of to-day; the Durham boat of the early settler, laboriously poled up-stream in the St. Lawrence, and a five or six-decked passenger steamer now; the ancient millstone that once ground the grain of a backwoods parish, and the great modern flour mills turning out thousands of barrels of the white product daily; the handpower of earlier times, and the waterpower of the present.

Have you visited, in these wonderful days of the present, a farm where electricity is harnessed to the needs of the farmer—and the farmer’s wife at long last? It is a sight as suggestive as it is heartening: water pumped, grain and cutting machines run, washing machines, churner, sewing machines, too, in the house, and house and barn are lighted by the turning of a switch. Obsolete are candles and lanterns and dangerous lamps, though they have served their many generations

faithfully and well. Truly it is a long way from the candle days, the old oaken bucket and the handpower machine, and again one is delighted to know that some of the modern improvements are reaching and benefiting the Queen of the Farm.

If he who looked upon Niagara Falls in pre-Confederation days were able to make a return visit from the other or this world, he too would rub his eyes in an effort to take in the changes. Table Rock gone and the old tubular staircase leading thereunder. In its place one of the many giant power plants,\ busy making light and industrial fdree for towns a couple of hundred miles away. If he could see the maze of tunnels, even under the main river above the Falls, his wonder would be increased tenfold. Yes, Niagara presents one of the mbst striking contrasts of them all, and the end is not yet The houses of our fathers and their fathers were mostly built of one of three materials—wood, brick, stone. But today some structures,—homes, factories, stores,—are made of cement, some as fluid shot on a wall surface through a hose as if it were a fireman’s game. In the olden days too a hand-made moveable house was unknown, and now you can order a home in sections and have it shipped and set up over night.

■^JOTE the contrast in mining methods, especially gold mining. One may still see the original plan in use in mining by hand. Along the upper reaches of the Fraser River the eye catches sight of a lonely figure bending over the water’s edge and shaking a pailful of the wet gravel deposits in an old tin basin, for the yellow particles that may represent a good day’s pay. “The narrowing lust Continued on page 92

Some Canadian Contrasts

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for gold,” in Tennyson’s expressive phrase has seized upon this white or yellow or red men in the heart of the wild hills, where no staking out is required and the only equipment is the old basin.

Now go to the Yukon and see the difference where hydraulic mining has largely superseded all other methods and where the impact of the waters, thrown with titanic force against the hillsides, does the work of a hundred men in a trice of the time. It is mining by wholesale instead of retail away up in this northwestern jumping-off place of Canada.

It is moreover interesting to note the change in costume, even during the last generation. Study, for example, the Harris painting of the Fathers of Confederation as to the dress of that famous coterie of statesmen, or gaze upon any ancient daguerro type to realize the extraordinary styles then in vogue. The ponderous white hats of the men are matched by the voluminous skirts of the women. Contrasted with Canada to-day, the country is not standing still in the matter of styles and costumes.

Thus measured by contrasts, how remarkable and how comparatively rapid has been Canada’s development! A century has brought to pass a revolution, even the half century since Confederation has witnessed no less startling changes. And if this is the tale of a hundred or half a hundred years, what will be the story of the coming decades as more contrasts will be created and new advances made?