The Problems of Our Provinces

JOHN NELSON October 1 1923

The Problems of Our Provinces

JOHN NELSON October 1 1923

The Problems of Our Provinces

The Eighth of a Series of Ten Striking Articles


VIII. The Problems of Ontario


i Ontario ? states of

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of Ontario t >m her. more .•ame th

than md

o Pacific, are doing to-day’s She is Motherland to more f Canadians than were the Because her leaven has so ife of the whole nation as elements

er own. some of th »•red into the formative period >‘s history must he remembered to understand her influence in >' and a larger sphere.


.as a meagre portion of the illation of sixty thousand souls ¡sed. with the conquest, under lí dag. Her principal waterways patrolled by Jesuit fathers, tur,-urs de bo is, but only a few , forts, and missions marked s»' tireless explorers had passed, ears later, the revolt of the rolonies was to bring to the d lake-shores of Ontario, as to • of the St. John and to the 'wnships, that great influx of yaJists which so strongly inCanadian destiny. Their traecame fixed principles, and lises, active policies. The war ¡ve them to Canada left them moties against New England: revolution in France confirmed many post-war resentments tht otherwise have died. Onfor long aloof in its relations .‘nited States, and reluctant in hips with Quebec. An experilast preceding the wise solution

in federation, which sought to wed eoples of the two provinces into one resulted in what Lord Durham ibed as "two nations warring in the bosom of a > state." However unfortunate in some respects, undoubtedly made more tenacious and deep that ?h sentiment which so often awakens the wonder en the British visitor.



inions formed under such conditions never lack ty and these were passed on to succeeding genera. and in turn propagated with energy wherever sons migrated.

They brought from their old homes certain other traits invaluable in giving fibre to the primitive life of Ontario. They carried with them the passion, for religious liberty which led their fathers to this continent; though refusing to take part in the revolt, they shared the same instinct for political freedom which culminated in the Declaration of Independence. They had the racial aptitude for self-government, and capacity for adapting ancient forms to modern conditions. In this school their sons were reared, and these principles they practised w-hether they remained or migrated. Hundreds of new settlements throughout Canada have been organized out of the experience thu3 acquired by the early Ontario settlers, and transmitted to their sons.

Indomitable Pioneers

\ MODERN age which theorizes upon the principles - X of democracy, and which struggles, often vainly, to determine some basis of effective co-operation may find much that is instructive in the customs of a day when the foundations of the province were being laid, and the character of its people shaped. In many communities the roof that sheltered every family, and the barn which housed its meagre stock and harvest, was raised by the voluntary co-operation of all the settlers. Every fallow was logged in the same way; every harvest gleaned by “changing works.” Leadership in the woods lay with the best axemen. There were no classes nor castes. The wearer of homespun was content that -he was overcoming an economic difficulty; the barefoot schoolboy conscious only of his freedom. The people did not prate of equality; they practised it. Into their

homely duties they wove their social pleasures; and the paring bee, the spelling match, and the barn dance furnished a sufficient outlet for the gregarious in their natures. Community duties, serviceable, or judicial, were cheerfully and freely assumed. One carried the mail from town to all, and the inevitable duties of path master, fence viewer, school trustee, and local magistrate, were accepted as honorable toil for the common good. Fifty thousand miles of fine highways in Ontario of to-day have their chief foundation in the

“statute labor” which every farmer gave for many years in the hot gravel pits, and on the concessions and sideroads of his province. Men so reared and so experienced could be trusted to adjust any political problem, whether of family compact, clergy reserves, or “rep. by pop.” with dispatch.

Theirs was a rich land, but the arable field was wrung toilsomely from the heavy bush. Industry and frugality were the conditions of even small successes, the gnarled hands and bent backs of the pioneers testified. But through each stage, up from the era of the log cabin, the blazed trail, and the logging fallow, through that of frame house, covered buggy, and self-binder to the modern condition of brick house, telephone, rural mail, and electric light and power, the latch string always hung outward from the door. Kindness and hospitality softened an era marked by stern duty and uncompromising toil.

There is little in the Ontario of to-day to recall the physical conditions of that time. Southern Ontario is an ordered, settled land, which, given oaks and hedgerows, might pass for an English countryside. The snake fence, and the unsightly stumps, which marked an earlier day, have disappeared with the men of whose labor they were the sign. Second growth wood lots are all that remain to remind the visitor of the forests of bird’s-eye maple and curly birch which once clothed the land. Probably nowhere in the world do people live in greater comfort or security. That part of the province which long constituted the whole is difficult to surpass in pastoral beauty.

This condition has brought its problems. Land was originally acquired under easy conditions. The clearing involved heavy toil, but the initial cost was small. When settlement became more advanced and land dearer the younger members of the family, eager for their own holdings, swarmed into the Guelph tract, or the Queen’s bush, now Huron and Bruce, and there repeated the experiences and the achievements of their fathers. As their sons reached manhood, the great plains of the West offered them free homesteads without the difficulties of removing a bush. Thither

they went in thousands, draining the old province of its young blood, and leading the wondering Indian of the plains to conclude that Canada “must be heap big place — specially Huron and Bruce.”

That drain continues. Older Ontario has paid her full toll to the larger nation to the south. And she pays still. But accessions of territory now enable her to offer her sons quarter-section homesteads at fifty cents an acre, and farms in more remote parts, but still within her own boundaries, absolutely free. Ontario has, too, a system of pre-emption by proxy, not met with in other provinces, and with conditions that are little more onerous than personal settlement duties. Specialization in farming, and modern invention has led to smaller, rather than larger holdings, and these have helped to retain younger men. Half the milch cows of Canada are in Ontario, and its pure-bred and thoroughbred stock, while helping to make the province famous, and fertile, has also been useful in furnishing an interesting specialty for the energies and ambitions of the present generation.

Educational Facilities

TO EDUCATION a first place has always been given, even in days of bitter penury, and Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities have long been famous. The extension of both technical and agricultural work in affiliation with the higher seats of learning, has had not only a high cultural value, but again has helped to furnish the youth of to-day with avenues of education and usefulness of which they would otherwise have been denied, or have been forced to seek elsewhere. In this connection also, many bitter and prolonged disputes have arisen over the operation of Separate schools as already referred to in the Quebec article. In Ontario the right to form Separate schools, either Roman Catholic or Protestant, dates from 1841. Over twenty years later, in 1863, an Act was passed restoring some, and giving additional, facilities, and this law the Catholics regard as the charter of their educational privileges. The right to form Protestant Separate schools where the teacher of the public school is a Catholic, still exists, and has been exercised in some cases. The provisions of the Act of 1863 are protected by clause 93 of the B.N.A. Act, which gives exclusive power over education to the province, excepting that rights conferred upon religious minorities prior to confederation cannot be “prejudicially affected." This clause was put in to protect the Protestant schools of Quebec, and was so worded as to apply to the Catholic schools in Ontario.

The Separate schools, therefore, are a fixed part of the elementary school system. Their financial upkeep is provided by those Roman Catholics who voluntarily agree to support them, and from a definite share, on the basis of school attendance, of the legislative grants. They are under the same regulations, except for religious instruction, as the public schools. Their inspectors are appointed by the government. They accept, for the most part, the text books used in public schools. Their teachers (by a decision of the Privy Council) must hold the same certificates and undergo the same professional training as public school teachers. The academic standing of Separate school teachers is generally good, and many hold university degrees. The schools are efficient. The right to establish them is usually only exercised in localities where Catholics are numerous; in other places the children of Catholic parents attend the nearest public school. There are about 30,000 Catholics in public schools. No Roman Catholic ratepayer is obliged by law to support a Separate school; he must give notice if he desires to do so. No Protestant can legally pay his taxes to a Roman Catholic Separate school.

The so-called French schools are chiefly Separate schools. Regulation 17. about which a fierce controversy raged for a time, is designed to make the teaching of English compulsory, but it concedes French as a language of instruction in the first form, a period of about two years. Where necessary French may be used in later years. It also provides for one hour per day of French in each class room as a subject of study. In the western

and northern parts of the province the regulation is generally accepted; in Ottawa and in the counties of Prescott and Russell, objection is made to it.

Views on Prohibition Differ

HOW to curtail the consumption of liquor is not a problem peculiar to any one province. In Ontario it probably began at the first logging bee and the first fall fair, and it has been a perennial problem ever since. Ontario tried a form of local option in the Dunkin Act, and later in the Scott Act. Local option, which has long been a favorite in Quebec, failed to satisfy the people of Ontario, and in 1919, by an overwhelming majority, the people ratified a prohibition law passed three years previously by the legislature. Quebec, as has already been seen, preferred government control and sale. Seven years of operation in Ontario has failed to standardize public sentiment on the subject. The ex-premier, Mr. Drury, is a warm supporter and defender of the measure, while his successor, Mr. Ferguson, is popularly supposed to be less enamored of it. The former thinks its continued operation will result in a steady improvement in conditions such as, he claims, have resulted already from its enforcement.

Reforestation Problems

THE preservation of its remaining timber, and the reforestation on a big scale of large tracts in old Ontario is occupying a large space in the activities of the authorities at present. Reforestation in some instances is not alone an effort to grow more timber. It is necessary to bind the land. The soil-blowing which is encountered in some of the arid parts of the West, the penalty for working the humus out of the soil, is being duplicated in some parts of Ontario and is the outcome of recklessly denuding sandy tracts of all their timber growth. The province is now making it possible for municipalities to acquire these areas as sites for municipal forests. The government will replant the land and administer it through its forestry department at the expense of the municipality. A nursery of 25,000,000 trees is already available for this work.

Provincial administration having been under the direction of a farmer government for several years, provincial policies have taken, in consequence, certain forms. Of these few have aroused as much interest and comment as the road policy. This plan was an attempt to meet the demand for roads suitable for motor traffic, by a comprehensive scheme, which would anticipate in one year’s work the ordinary expansions of several. To obtain the necessary funds for this ambitious highway project, the receipts from the registration of motor vehicles was capitalized, setting aside $2,000,000 per year, which will provide a sinking fund of $25,000,000 returnable in twenty years with interest and sinking fund charges. The motor licenses this year so far have amounted to $4,400,000.

Under this plan, the province assumes the cost of the main highways, the county councils of the main roads of local market travel, and the townships of the less travelled roads. The province contributes liberally to the upkeep of the last two classes, but it aims to make the main thoroughfares wide, surfaced avenues suitable for modern traffic. There are nearly 2,000 miles of these roads—some in every county — now controlled by the govefnment. Within eight miles of this system ninety - two per cent, of the people of the province live.

Combating Rural Depopulation

THIS was one factor in the plan to arrest rural depopulation. Rural credits on a liberal scale was another. A third was a liberal education for every man on the land, and for this purpose the grants for rural schools have been trebled. It involved the ideal of “an educated man on every farm.”

Although the so-called farmer government of Ontario evolved its policy with special reference to rural conditions and feelings, former Premier Drury has always been at some pains to deprecate its being regarded as a class movement. The farms of Ontario he regarded as its greatest asset, and the farmers as the trustees of

that asset. His was a policy of the land, he was fond of saying, as opposed to a policy of industrialism, and it contemplated stopping the depopulation of rural parts, making life more desirable on the farm, and increasing the rewards of agricultural toil, so that farmers might enjoy a standard of living fitting for men of our race. “We want men on the land,” he said, “that not only

know how to make a living, but who know how to live.” The farm situation, he thought, was being lost sight of in a desire to help the cities, a practice in which even Hydro development shared. The farmer, he insisted, was always a builder, and from the settlement days had taken a large part in the constructive work of township and county councils. Every man who owned a farm looked to the future, and he was always for good roads.

For his great concern was in the roads. “I believe,” said ex-Premier Drury, speaking to a great gathering of his supporters, “that the problem of rural prosperity is tightly bound up with the problem of primary transportation. I believe that the best way to keep the boy on the farm is to afford him the means of getting off it.”

The policy was severely criticized by those opposed to the government as being too expensive, and as a new government is now in power, the roads system

outlined above will doubtless come under sharp scrutiny, and possibly be modified or discontinued.

Exploitation of Resources

SPEAKING to MacLean’s shortly after assuming office, Hon. Mr. Ferguson, the new prime minister of Ontario, summarized the task before him as follows: “The problems that confront a community like

Ontario are not of a simple nature, but are complicated by a diversity of interests and conditions and also by many commitments already entered into. The outstanding problem of the province in my opinion, is the systematic and energetic development and conservation of its natural resources so as to give stability and permanence to productive activity in every field of enterprise. The province is richly endowed by nature and has vast stores of potential wealth. I do not consider that the mere exploitation of these resources, regardless of the future, will tend to insure the lasting welfare and prosperity of the province. hat we require is an intelligent and consistent policy in the management of our heritage which has been intrusted to us, not only for our own use but for the use of those who will come after. We in Ontario have all the natural opportunities for establishing and maintaining a great and prosperous community which will always be the keystone of the national edifice in Canada. At the same time, we have an energetic and intelligent population full of faith in the country and keenly alive to the value of British institutions.

“In order to allow us to apply the labor of our people more fully and more successfully to the resources of the country, we require, from time to time, the wisely directed investment of capital. As everyone knows, capital requires a large return where its tenure is insecure, while on the other hand it is satisfied with a moderate yield when it is assured of permanence and safety. These latter conditions are those to which a well-governed community will aspire.

“To insure such conditions it is necessary from time to time to have a thorough stock-taking of the resources of the country, and a careful survey to insure that they are being utilized and conserved to the best advantage. These resources are not only the forests and mines, great as they are in the case of Ontario, but the water powers which provide energy for industrial production, and above all the fertility of the soil, upon which depends the success of agriculture.

“When we have done all that can humanly be accomplished to utilize and perpetuate all these resources, we will have insured the prosperity of the whole community and will have solved most of the problems of government which are incidental to our progress and development.”

Hydro Electric Development

PREMIER FERGUSON’S reference to one of Ontario’s great resources in her magnificent water powers brings up the Hydro electric system of Ontario which has been the outstanding development in the province during the last decade and a half. It is the outcome of a dual demand for light and power at a reasonable cost. It was made possible by the availability of the famous falls of Niagara. Long the scenic wonder of the world, they have in recent years enjoyed almost equal fame as a torch which lights provinces and states, and as a great dynamo which furnishes them with almost unlimited power. The poet Moore, when he visited Niagara, marvelled at “its ineffable wonders,” and pitied the man who could “submit them to the

admeasurement of gallons and yards.” Had he lived in a modern day he might have changed his pity to admiration not only of the falls made doubly beautiful at night by self-illumination, but of the men who made possible this marvel, by their “admeasurement” of volts and kilowatts.

The increase in population and in industrial expansion in Ontario in the latter days of the nineteenth century forced upon the province problems which gave it deep concern. The wealth of hardwoods which originally covered the province, and which had been the

principal domestic fuel, had disappeared before pioneer’s axe and lumberman's saw until only a tenth of the country remained wooded. Modern industry was demanding coal and oil. Of the latter Ontario had little, and of the former none. Canadians noted with alarm that population and industry were centreing in those parts of the continent which were underlaid with coal. To these fleets of water carriers and long trains

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of freight brought unceasing tribute from the ore deposits of the world. For expansion, therefore, Ontario must depend on imported anthracite, with its ! freight and tariff imposts.

Then came the discovery of electricity, its generation by water power, and ■ finally its transmission by constantly expanding distances to points remote ! from its source. By the beginning of j this century, Niagara was producing 400,000 horse power. Canadian development lagged somewhat. It received its first impetus, as Mr. E. B. Biggar points I out, in his admirable brochure on thesubject, in a curious way. It is hard for i the modern visitor to believe that forty years ago access to the falls was possible only by running the gauntlet of petty pirates, who sometimes employed violence on the persons of non-complaisant travellers. It was the presence of these “hucksters, pedlars, and sharpers,” which drew such a remonstance from Lord Dufferin in 1878 and led him to suggest to the Governor of New York a common park owned by the two governments and providing access to, and an unimpeded view of the falls from both sides of the river.

The present parks were the result. The Canadian one consists of over a thousand acres, and cost over half a million dollars. When the authorities had exercised the harpies who formerly preyed on the public, they found themselves with a beautiful park but with no revenues to maintain it. After various other attempts they finally resorted to leasing their water powers. The evolution of the electrical industry and the fact that much the larger volume of water passes over the Canadian falls, soon brought them customers. b These, at first, were private companies, which gradually pushed their service zones back until they were into Toronto and Hamilton. When engineers began predicting that the gorge of the Niagara would ultimately be a gallery of power stations serving a third of the people of the continent, the possibilities of the falls began to fire public imagination. The Ontario taxpayer was led to ask why a fall which had been free to him as a spectacle should not be equally free (except for carrying charges) as a source of heat, light, and power. This ' the more, as private companies were appropriating this boon, and selling it. The late Sir James Whitney who had a gift for expressive and sometimes explosive utterance declared that Niagara should be as free as the air, and available to all on equal terms and free from the exactions of private monopolists.

Meetings followed among representatives of the municipalities, and finally a commission was created of which Mr. (now Sir Adam) Beck was the vigorous ! head. Its function is to develop, generate,

¡ transmit and distribute electric energy ; at cost to the municipalities of the 1 province. The municipalities purphase power at a rate which includes cost of power, interest and sinking fund, charges on transmission, and distribution, operation and maintenance expenses. The government receives fair interest on its advances. The capital expenditure is intended to be recovered through sinking fund charges, and ultimately returned to the government when the municipalities ! will nominally own the system.

A Napoleon of Water Powers

OF THIS commission Sir Adam Beck is the soul. Self willed, but efficient, J he has secured the confidence in a re; markable degree of the people of the country. But his large powers, and their ' free exercise.Ryreate a constant problem

to the responsible ministers of the Crown who have to answer for commitments which they cannot control.

The development, accelerated by an energetic commission and by the clamor of the public for its service, has been phenomenal. It commenced in 1910 with a distribution of 1,000 horse power. In five years it had reached 100,000 horse power and was supplying 120,000 customers in 112 urban municipalities and 18 townships. By 1921 it was supplying 300,000 horse power to 265,000 customers in 234 urban municipalities and 44 townships. This year it is distributing, including exported power, 600,000 horse power. Since commencing, the board has bought 20 water powers, 30 hydraulic generating plants, and over 60 electrical distributing systems. It now operates power undertakings which, when developed, will have a potentiality of over 1.000,000 horse power.

The investments of municipalities through the Hydro connections stand in excess of $225,000,000.

Over half the population of the province is now served with power and light generated on the escarpment of the Niagara gorge. It is claimed that nowhere in the world is such general use made of electricity as in the homes of Ontario.

To the general comfort which this cheap power and light affords must be added other virtues. During the war when sharp restrictions were imposed on the use of coal, the hydro emancipated the big plants of Ontario and released them for munition making in which they made such a distinct contribution to the cause of the Allies. How large that coal bill would have been even had the coal been available may be judged from the fact that it required 5,000,000 tons of bituminous coal to develop 250,000 horse power. In 1919 the cost of that quantity of coal was estimated at $40.000,000.

Though the commission is still acquiring and developing other powers, Niagara will probably always be its principal supply, even when the rapids of the St. Lawrence are harnessed. It is in the vicinity of the falls that its most expensive and most spectacular activities are carried on. Not content with the head developed at the falls, the commission has dug a canal over eight miles long from the cataract to a forebay excavated in the cliff above Queenston, with a power house in the gorge below it. This utilizes a head of 305 feet. The roof of the building on the forebay is 150 feet above the river. Forty times as many men were employed in its construction, as Brock, whose monument stands near, commanded in the battle which has made the Heights famous. Fifty locomotives and 82 miles of standard gauge railway were required in this work.

Financing Electrical Development

T EGISLATION passed in 1913 provides for an even more ambitious outgrowth of this development. It permits the commission to father an elaborate system of electric radiais, as approved by municipalities.

The costs are covered by debenture issues, on the credit of the municipalities affected, but guaranteed by the government. So general has been the application for these extensions that already 2.500 miles of electric railway have been surveyed by the commission, while proposals aggregating in cost $52,000.000 have been endorsed by by-law.

The commission consists of three memers, appointed for life by the government qf the day.

It may be surmised that an independent body, exercising these large powers, and committing elective bodies to huge expenditures over which the latter have small control, has led to some friction. The province conferred these large powers to get away from patronage, and some of the other large loose motions of democracy which are among its most distinctive marks. But it gave almost mandatory powers for securing money from the provincial treasury to a body not responsible to the people. The Drury government challenged the whole position. The complaint of the then premier was that original cost estimates were grossly exceeded, that at Niagara jumping from $10,000,000 to $60,000,000. He was alarmed at the extent of Beck’s radial plans, which that official admitted would ultimately involve an expenditure of $200,000,000. The municipal bonds were to be used to meet deficits. But a previous experience in Ontario showed that the attempt of governments to collect from municipal bodies has always met with indifferent success. Mr. Drury also pointed out that these radial electric lines would be brought into competition with railways no longer owned by private corporations but by the nation. The proposal, he declared, was to set up a system of municipally owned, provincially guaranteed tramlines, in competition with Dominion steam roads.

He further complained that of a provincial debt of $100,000,000 the sum of $40,000,000 had been advanced in cash or securities to the commission. So he held up these enterprises. Then a political gale blew and a new king reigned in his stead. And in the cabinet of the new ruler, Sir Adam Beck has a seat. It is safe to say that the last chapter of Hydro has not been written.

Wealth of New Ontario

THE new north of Ontario furnishes the other romantic and alluring factor in the story of the old province. A great access of territory in recent years has carried its boundaries far up to the shores of Hudson’s Bay, and has given its people a new outlook and a new character. This has altered more than Ontario’s physical form. By providing a new outlet for energy it has furnished a needed stimulus to youthful enterprise. By its mineral development it has enlarged the horizon of its people. It has restored to this generation the frontier, and the forest primeval which enfibred its ancestors.

Much of the future of Ontario will lie across the thousand miles of its height of land, and northward to the Bay. Here now is her woods. Here also will lie her treasure house. Northern Ontario is four times as large as southern Ontario, and though by reason of its character and its latitude it will never acquire the rural beauty of the older section, its wealth producing power is almost limitless. It has potential forests of 50,000,000 acres. Stretching away to James Bay is an empire of spruce and poplar pierced by turbulent rivers with a million and a half of horse power. The right to regulate head-water storage and flow is reserved by

the government. The district of Patricia alone has 600 miles of shore line and is bigger than the British Isles. Abundant fish swarm in these northern waters. The T. and O. railway is within a hundred miles of a sea with 2,000 miles of shore line. At Moose Factory, harborage of twenty foot draught can be secured. Here the great rafts will be boomed and the water powers chained either to convert the timber into merchantable material or to drive the locomotives that will transport it to market. Moose Factory will be a base for coasting steamers and tugs within a Bay where internal navigation is possible from June to November.

Value of Minerals Incalculable

INTERESTING as will be this develop1 ment, it will probably be surpassed by mineral production. In less than a quarter of a century this country, much of it forbidding and inhospitable, has raised Ontario, minerally, from a position of insignificance to one of pre-eminence. Eighty per cent, of the world’s nickel has long come from Sudbury. Since its discovery in 1904, Cobalt has produced $195,000,000 in silver—ten times what it cost to extend the T. and O. into that country. It has paid $90,000,000 to its shareholders. Since 1911 $45,000,000 of gold has been taken out of northern Ontario and $15,000,000 paid in dividends. To-day Ontario leads all Canada in precious metals. Equally favorable conditions, geologically, exist through to tidal water in the north.

The zeal for systematic progress which has marked the whole history of Ontario will find a new outlet in the exploratory and development work involved in opening up new Ontario. It will modify the tastes and standards, and definitely affect the character of the people. Mining and manufactures have been superimposed upon the agricultural life of old Ontario. But agriculture is likely to be more of a by-product of lumbering and mining in new Ontario. The industries mentioned will provide an attractive and accessible market for what the farms of the north produce. Experience with Hydro is likely to be capitalized in harnessing the stupendous water powers of the north. The experience of the Cobalt, Porcupine, and Kirkland camps will be utilized in the newer fields to accelerate production. The aid of science will be invoked to eliminate prospecting in non-productive areas and to concentrate it where geological conditions*are more favorable. The element of chance will be greatly reduced. Aviation will lend its guidance and aid in survey work, reducing its drudgery, abolishing distance, and saving time. The completion of the T. and O. railway to James Bay will lead to creating new bases for exploration for fishing, mineral, timber, and agricultural wealth.

In fact, new Ontario offers to old Ontario that complement of opportunity to its wealth, its energy, and its population that Canada furnished the Motherland a century ago, without the cruel disabilities of slow and expensive travelling over wide intervening seas; to the world it offers what has tempted hardy bands of adventurers to every new field, namely the glamor and the lure of the unknown.