Canada in Manhattan
Hugh D. Scully, Canada’s first consul general, was custom-built for the job
DURING the first three years of war a Canadian in New York was a diplomatic orphan. True, he could go to the overworked British Consulate if he wanted help but its harassed staff generally had neither the expert knowledge nor the burning zeal to get entangled in the vagaries of Canadian-American good neighborliness. And Canada itself was not represented in New York.
But things have changed now and a Canadian ear is available to hear Canadian complaints; to hear requests for aid, adjustments and advice. It is that of Canada’s first and only consul general, whose office is at 620 Fifth Avenue; the ear of Hugh Day Scully.
Although Canada’s burgeoning diplomatic corps now boasts that it is the second largest in the British Commonwealth, with ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary, envoys extraordinary and high commissioners in more than a score of foreign countries, it can claim but one consul general. Tall, quiet-spoken Hugh Day Scully is affable and sixtyish and it is more than possible that he may prove one of the most valuable diplomatic assets that Canada has yet sent abroad to represent her. From many Canadian angles and to many Canadian interests the New York post is more important than any other, and Hugh Day Scully seems custom-built to fit it.
The Z]/¿-pound Manhattan telephone directory gives a clue to New York’s international importance. Listed are more than 100 foreign government agencies, including upward of 40 consulates. The reasons are obvious. Unlike most countries the United States has two capitals; the one political, in Washington; the other financial, commercial and big business, in New York. Besides being a world centre of banking and industry, the big city is also the nation’s largest sea and airport, and the nerve centre of its communications systems. Here is the heart of the wire services and radio networks, the headquarters for the publishing of books, newspapers and magazines, and the offices of more than 1,000 societies, pressure groups and opinion-forming organizations reflecting every conceivable facet of human interest and activity. If Washington is the City of Magnificent Distances, New York is the City of Magnificent Contacts, where today’s introduction may lead to next week’s promotion and development.
Until the present war Canada’s only official representative in this vortex of influence and power was a trade commissioner whose principal concern was
commercial promotion. If a person was interested in any other phase of Canada he had to seek his information in the public library or from one of the tourist bureaus. To ameliorate this unsatisfactory situation the Wartime Information Board opened a New York office in 1942, but the 36,000 Canadians in the metropolitan area, transient Canadians and those in the armed forces and merchant marine, still had no direct contact with their own government.
On May 1, 1943, Hugh D. Scully came to New York to open the first Canadian Consulate General in any country. While he has been at his post only two years, it is not too early to venture an appraisal of his efforts. In that time he has definitely succeeded in winning for Canada a place in the New York scene commensurate with her international importance, in registering the idea of Canada’s independent position within the British Commonwealth, and in making countless new friends for the Dominion and himself.
The job has been a pioneering one, and considering
that Scully claims amateur standing, with no more first-hand knowledge of diplomacy’s involutions than a Maple Leaf right-winger, it might be assumed that his appointment was one of those happy accidents. Not so, according to those in the know. Though a lifelong Conservative in politics, Canada’s first consul general was hand-picked by none other than Canada’s Prime Minister himself. Scully disclaimed any talent or qualifications for the post, but like a good soldier was prepared to serve where needed. Mrs. Scully agreed, although a first grandchild exerted a potent tug to stay in Ottawa.
A glance at the Scully background does much to explain Mr. King’s choice. In it are such items as gold medalist in political science, Toronto, 1906; 11 years secretarial experience with the Canadian Manufacturers and Canadian Home Marketing Associations; 10 years of active management in manufacturing and investment banking and, finally,
11 years as Commissioner Continued on page 26
Continued from, page 18
of Excise and Commissioner of Customs. He has also served as president of the Canadian Club of Toronto, president of the University of Toronto Alumni Association and chairman of the board of the University Settlement. At the time of his consular appointment he was chairman of the Wartime Industries Control Board and on the Economic Advisory Committee. To leaven the impressive weight of administrative experience, he had a turn at newspaper reporting during his salad days.
In other words, Hugh Day Scully’s professional qualifications include an encyclopediac knowledge of Canadian affairs and people, hut this alone would not have been enough. Personality is a requisite for the post and here, too, the consul general has something on the ball. He is a big man physically, over six feet tall and well set up, with friendly blue eyes and an easy smile. While there is no such thing as a typical Canadian—Canadians being a democratic people—Americans have come to believe that certain characteristics are typically Canadian. Foremost are probably capability and dependability. To the average Yank, Canadians are a self-reliant crew who don’t let other people down. It is a flattering idea and Hugh Scully fits it to a T. When you see him seated behind his large, uncluttered desk in the wellordered consular office overlooking one of Fifth Avenue’s busiest corners, you get the impression of a capable, courteous gentleman who will never let you down.
There are other consular assets that could be listed: A sociable 100 at golf, and a better than average hand at bridge. An unabashed devotion to hunting, fishing and the Canadian wilds for those Americans who still imagine that Canada is principally populated by moose and Mounties. (Five generations of Scullys have summered on Lake Joseph in the Muskokas.) An enquiring, tolerant mind for all its avowed conservatism. His two sons are in the armed forces, Hugh, Jr., RCNVR, and George, RCAF, and the consul general is not unreasonably proud of both of them . . .
Chief Asset—a Wife
But topping all other assets is Mrs. Hugh Day Scully. Consul-generalship is not something to be waged singly, but by a mixed double of which the distaff is by no means the lesser member of the team. Official and unofficial entertaining is an important part of consular duties and it is as desirable for a country to be represented by a charming and gracious hostess as it is to have a competent and courteous office staff. And here again Prime Minister Mackenzie King has proven himself a good picker. Edith Ballard Scully is a charming, gracious hostess, which gives her first-class diplomatic rating along with her selfstyled amateur husband.
Strictly speaking, of course, diplomacy is the lofty art of conducting conversations between governments and is practiced by ambassadors, ministers and envoys. Between Canada and the United States many of the conversations take place in shirt sleeves but the principle remains. Any good dictionary, on the other hand, will tell you that a consul is “an officer commissioned by a government to reside in a foreign country to promete his country’s interests and protect its subjects.”
Hugh Scully would probably tell you
that the classical definition no more than scratches the surface, so far as Canada’s New York consulate is concerned. There is none other like it in the world, and the explanation lies in the unique relations of the two countries—their closeness, their many similarities, and the integration of so many of their activities. Large interests straddle the border, and commercial matters that ordinarily pass through a consulate are handled directly by telephone or teletype or by jumping on a train or plane. Counteracting any saving in commercial routine, however, is the volume of work created by the immense traffic of all kinds between the countries, by growing interest in Canada and by the friendliness of New York toward the Dominion. In addition there are problems attendant upon Canada’s growing pains of nationhood, the assumption of duties previously assumed by the British consulate, and the guiding of Canadian nationals through the mazes of American wartime restrictions.
These and other items have made the new consul general a combined public relations counsel, speechmaker, trend interpreter, official host, theatre, restaurant and shopping guide, and tourist information centre, rolled into one. New Yorkers want to know more about Canada; Canadian visitors want to know about New York. Canadian officialdom—military, naval, air force and administrative—is travelling as it never did before between Ottawa and Washington, and most of the travellers make New York a point of call, with the consulate an obvious rallying point. Other Canadians in New York on business, or, with increasing frequency, on pleasure-bent, find in the consulate, conveniently located in the heart of the retail shopping district and in the shadow of towering Radio City, a fragment of their native heath, to which they gravitate with the instinct of homing pigeons.
However, neither administrative duties nor migratory nabobs nor visiting firemen have made Hugh and Edith Scully put in more than one 100-hour week; responsible has been the hospitality of individuals and groups and organizations—Canadian, Commonwealth and Empire, United Nations, but mostly American—who have wanted to welcome the new Canadian representatives and by entertaining them express their fondness and respect for Canada. Since there are literally hundreds of such groups and organizations and there are only so many luncheon and dinner periods in the year, the Scullys’ first year has been a reasonably busy one.
A Typical Scully Day
But let’s reconstruct a possible consula day—not necessarily an average day but one that presents a fair picture . . .
It may begin with an orderly ringing of the family alarm clock at the Scullys’ 15th floor apartment at 550 Park Avenue, or it may begin before. The Montreal and Toronto trains arrive shortly after seven in the morning, and some peripatetic East Blocker may telephone from the station to announce his arrival for a breakfast conference, and sometimes just for breakfast. Enjoying people and the unexpected, the consul accepts such incidents philosophically. Mrs. Scully, with a 10-room establishment to manage and domestic help an everhazardous adventure in New York, may not be quite so philosophical, but being a good soldier rises to the occasion. She is a petite, vital sort of person with a simple, direct manner which suggests
confidence and competency, and she is regarded, like her husband, as typically Canadian.
Even when there are no surprise arrivals or house guests who could find no other place to sleep, there is the inevitable planning of the day’s extraconsular activities. These are many and conflicting, and may include anything from a City Hall reception for De Gaulle to a preview of Canadian war paintings at the Metropolitan Museum. Invitations to luncheon, tea, cocktails, dinner, receptions, debuts, openings, premières, previews, launchings—ship, fund and war bond — benefits, patriotic observances — there are 35 United Nations anniversaries alone—crowd the social calendar, and the Scullys, who are loath to delegate this important phase of their responsibilities, wrestle with the recurring problem of fitting a 20-hour schedule into a 15-hour day.
The extramural duties tenatively scheduled, the consul general walks the 15 blocks to his office, located in the British Empire Pavilion at Radio City. The administrative day begins with a survey of the morning mail, compiled and annotated by the efficient Miss Fitzpatrick, Mr. Scully’s secretary, and with various members of the consular staff. The teletype circuit between Ottawa, New York and Washington has been chattering since early in the morning and there are probably messages to be answered, but by 10 o’clock the callers begin arriving and the phones begin to ring.
A young American arrives with a letter of introduction from an old friend. He wants to join the Canadian Army, and how can he go about it? Two M.P.’s from Ottawa on their way to a conference in Washington, an Australian newspaperman on his way to Canada and a Canadian newspaper publisher on his way to Australia call to pay their respects. A national magazine is preparing a series of articles on Canada and requires introductions. A Canadian mother with a talented musical daughter wants the consul general to head the list of patrons for a forthcoming Town Hall debut.
Another needs more money for an operation than the Foreign Exchange Control Board will allow her. The O.W.I. is arranging a broadcast on its New Zealand service about the Canadian-American border and wants to make recordings on the Peace Bridge. A mining promoter would like to go over the Northwest Staging Route. A juvenile court officer wants to know if there are any Canadian WAVES. They have picked up a young girl there who claims to be one . . .
The consul general listens, answers questions, helps where help is possible, disposes quickly of the impossible and impractical. Occasionally he turns to glance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the avenue or at the branches of one of the expensive Rockefeller elms that brush his windows. Sometimes he rises to show a visitor the Canadian paintings that adorn the office walls. But generally he remains seated, calm and unruffled, behind the big, uncluttered desk, a satisfying symbol of the Canada so many Americans imagine Canada to be.
Lunch comes, with an official appearance and perhaps a speech, but more often an informal meeting where things of moment to the Dominion will probably be discussed. The afternoon is likely to repeat the morning, with the same crisscrossing of curious human problems, or there may come a respite between 3 and 5 o’clock, when the consul general tries to complete his notes of the speech or talk always pending, for speechmaking is another important part of this job. As I
remarked before, there are 1,000 different societies in New York, and all of them love speakers. If, by some miracle, the notes are completed or last week’s talk can be repeated, then there is Hansard and the Canadian papers to catch up with, since keeping abreast of happenings at home is also a part of the consular duties.
Once in a blue moon the official day ends at five, or thereabouts, but usually the hour marks the resumption of the extracurricular activities~a reception of some kind followed by dinner or some evening function. Naturally, in a world where entertaining plays so great a part there must be hospitality extended in return, which means that the Canadian representatives must play host at dinner with decent frequency and hold official receptions two or three times a year. One of these takes place on Dominion Day, when Canadians gather to salute Confederation. On the way home to it, Hugh usually manages to pick up half a dozen young Canadians in Air Force blue.
No Curfew Here
This might complete the picture of a consular day but it doesn’t. New York is a terrific magnet and it draws a generous quota of youngsters from Canada as visitors. Most of them come and go without causing much of a ripple on the metropolitan waters, but every so often some run into difficulties. Oddly enough, the worst misadventures have a habit of occurring in the small hours of the night and it is not unusual for the telephone in the Park Avenue apartment to ring long after midnight with word about some Canadian soldier, sailor or civilian in distress.
Alongside the human and social contacts, the routine work of the consulate goes on. This is handled by a
staff of some 15 persons, with experts in each particular department. These include such matters as passports, immigration and naturalization, border crossing permits, certification of legal documents, the handling of estates, and, as a constant obligato, a steady stream of enquiries about everything imaginable in Canada. Those relating to the Canadian war effort are handled by the Wartime Information Board, but there is a large volume of requests for information that can only be answered in the consulate proper. These range from editors wanting to know about the CCF or the political situation in Quebec to a department store head who wants to stage an exhibition of Canadian handicrafts. Travel information is in constant demand and judging by the number of potential tourists, a mass migration will set in across the border the moment restrictions on tires and gasoline are removed.
And there you have a very general report of the activities assumed on your behalf by Canada’s first consular representative to a foreign country. Scanning the over-all picture the popular image of the debonair, leisurely figure with its black Homburg and striped pants gives way to that of an extremely hard-working executive who has the devotion and ability to function in several roles continuously and simultaneously. Actually this is what Consul General Scully has been doing. He has blazed a new trail in Canada’s foreign service, established a constructive tradition for the consulates that will surely be opened in other American cities, and further cemented the good will between two North American democracies. His principal task, obviously, is representation, and Canada is to be congratulated on having in Hugh Scully one who represents so much of her best so faithfully.