The man who was too native for the Native Sons

Shirley Mair April 22 1961

The man who was too native for the Native Sons

Shirley Mair April 22 1961

The man who was too native for the Native Sons

Shirley Mair

BERNARD GLAUM joined the Native Sons of Canada in 1957 when he was forty-one. The Sons were twenty-six and at the nadir of their fortunes. Their membership had shrunk from a peak of 150,000, which it had reached in the mid-1950s, to around 1,100 (a more accurate estimate is unavailable, since the Sons don’t give out figures now), and they were seldom heard from by the public. For nearly four years Glaum, who is a fourth-class stationary engineer by profession and a firstclass wangler of free publicity by instinct, worked to change both those conditions. He had remarkable success. The scrapbook he kept to record his progress shows roughly a hundred and fifty mentions of the Native Sons by the newspapers of Toronto, his home town, and the majority of them also carry the name of Bernard Glaum. At one point, the editor of the Sons’ irregular house organ, the Native Son, told his readers that “the name of Bernard Glaum has become a household word in Toronto”—a theory that a lot of Toronto householders might wish to qualify, but which was nevertheless a heartfelt compliment from an organization that had spent more than two decades out of the limelight. Moreover, when a particularly adroit Glaum announcement hit front pages across the country, the Native Sons’ national secretary-treasurer, L. E. Gendron, wired from his Winnipeg headquarters that “we have had more enquiries for membership in recent

months than for the past ten years,” and he added a sincere “good work.”

But such mutual enchantment was not to be permanent. One of Glaum’s favorite devices for wangling publicity—perhaps his most favorite — had been the outspoken criticism of public figures. As publicity chairman of the Toronto assembly, he had lashed out at everyone from Ellen Fairclough to Conn Smythe. Soon he found himself going further than the Sons’ national council. Glaum criticized it—publicly. At first the Toronto assembly stuck by him. Then he blasted it in a statement to the Toronto papers. In January of this year, the Sons expelled him.

Expulsion slowed Glaum down barely a step. “They’re a bunch of old men,” he said, “a sewing circle.” He announced plans to form a group called the Canadian Citizens’ Society, an organization that presumably would be to the Native Sons what Simpson’s is to Eaton’s.

Where Glaum’s expulsion left the Sons is more difficult to assess.

The Native Sons were founded in 1921 by a retired court stenographer, Albert M. Jones, in—of all places—Victoria, B.C. The purpose of the fledgling organization was, generally, to shake off the British domination of Canada. Specifically, its founding fathers urged such measures as abolition of appeals

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Too native for the Native Sons

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Glaum told reporters he’d been “nearly sick” when he heard the Queen was coming to Canada

to the Privy Council, establishment of a trans-Canada radio network and a national film board, appointment of a Canadian-born governor-general — and. of eourse, the choice of a distinctively Canadian flag and an official anthem.

In spite of hearty opposition in Victoria (“the miners cante in '49, the prostitutes in '50/The Native Sons in '21, lia-lia-lio, yon pet me?'') the movement spread rapidly and influentially. In the early 1930s there were 30.000 members in Toronto alone. Two Toronto mayors were Native Sons, and on one city council three of four controllers and sixteen of eighteen aldermen were members. A county court judge was national president. More than five thousand Native Sons turned out for annual picnics in Toronto’s High Park. Three members in the '30s were A. R. M. l ower, now professor emeritus of Canadian history at Queen's University. J. B. Coyne, who recently retired from the bench of the Manitoba court of appeal and whose son is now governor of the Bank of Canada, and R. Q. MacFarlane, now director of the school of public administration at Carleton University; they jointly wrote a report for the Native Sons to present to the 1937 royal commission on dominion-provincial relations.

But with the outbreak of war, and with most of the battles for a Canadian national spirit won. the Sons faded from national attention. I heir most enthusiastic supporters found other causes. Membership dwindled through the ’40s and early ’50s and by 1957. when Bernard Glaum noticed a letter from one of their officers in the Toronto press, the Sons' importance as a national force had all but disappeared.

Glaum was in an enviable position to work for the Sons. As a heating con-

sultant he was his own boss, with enough free time to pursue his own interests with more diligence than a nine-to-five worker could have afforded. (He has since become the resident stationary engineer-—he looks after the heating system—of Massey Hall, a 2.765-seat auditorium in downtown Toronto, where he shares a six-room apartment with his wife. Ruth, and still has enough time for his own pursuits.) He devoted a great deal of time and enthusiasm those first months to writing letters to local editors on such Son-drenched topics as flags and anthems; they enjoyed some publication. Within four months the Sons, recognizing a talent when they saw one, let Glaum act as publicity chairman of their Toronto assembly. His name began to appear more regularly in the newspapers, and his statements, which were made in the same tone— best described as controlled anger—and were on the same subjects, now bore the imprimatur of his title.

In August 195 S Glaum struck a gusher. The government had announced that the Queen would visit Canada for a six-week tour the following summer, just a year after Princess Margaret had traveled from coast to coast. Glaum wrote to the Toronto Star, complaining that the tour was a "waste of money." A canny editor on the letters desk suggested a reporter call Glaum and ask him to expand his remarks. Glaum did. He said “royal tours are just a waste of public money." He said he'd been “nearly sick" when he’d heard the Queen and Prince Philip were coming. He said “they're just coming over here to cadge a few meals and get a free ride.” The Star ran the story. So did some other papers. The wire services picked it up. The Toronto Telegram sent a photographer around to snap

Glaum holding his fist up and his thumb down over a picture of Princess Margaret, and, to Glaum’s delight, sent its inquiring reporters onto the street to see if public opinion was behind Glaum (it wasn't, the Telegram said).

The issue ricocheted on and on. In January of 1959,. Glaum was quoted again—this time as saying that the British government should pay half the cost of the tour. This was too much for at least one member of the Toronto executive, who felt Glaum, was insulting the Queen. He resigned his post and had his telephone delisted to cut off the pestering newspapers.

Still later, when the Queen was here, two widely differing British newspapers picked up the issue again without, apparently. bothering to pester anyone. The mass-circulation weekly. The People (which has been criticized in Canada for its charges about the labor situation), reported that there was a "campaign of insult" against. Her Majesty in Canada. The People quoted Glaum, whom it identified as a “prominent Dominion personality." as saying “royal visits are getting like annual affairs-—like relatives you don’t mind having once in a while but not this often.” In Toronto. Glaum huffily told the Globe and Mail that he’d never talked to The People and that the statement was out of context. At the same time. Lord Beaverbrook’s staunchly Conservative Sunday Express was asking if the Queen's tour were not “the biggest blunder of her reign."

“Never in all the royal commonwealth tours of the past six years have the carpers and knockers cast such doubt,” said the Express. It went on to identify the carpers and knockers as the Native Sons, and identified then] as being “an intensely nationalistic organization with a raucous voice, though its number and influence are puny.” Glaum, in turn, replied somewhat raucously that Beaverbrook was only a “watered-down version of a Canadian” anyway.

Arguments about royal tours, if grist for Glaum’s publicity mill, are a little beyond the Native Sons' official platform. The Sons are. of course, best known for their campaigns for a Canadian flag and anthem. For the former, they settled some years ago on a design that is divided diagonally into a red triangle and a white one and has a green maple leaf in the centre. I here is. however, still some confusion about the precise design. Some versions have the red triangle in the northeast hall, so to speak, and some have it in the northwest. When the Sons' ladies’ auxiliary made up a batch of these flags not long ago and put them on sale through a newspaper advertisement, the versions were about equally divided, and various Sons have been pictured in various newspapers at various times holding both versions. For an anthem, the Sons are in favor of O Canada, though most of them are prepared to listen to God Save the Queen as well, so long as there’s equal billing.

At their national convention at Port Arthur last August, the Sons also set down as a fundamental goal the abolition of the word Dominion from the name of such bodies as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and the Dominion Observatory. Further, they would like the government to limit the franchise in future federal and provincial elections to Canadian citizens and to hold a nationwide plebiscite ( presumably of citizens only) on the flag issue.

But Glaum and a few other members with an eye for a newsworthy controversy have managed to whip up some

very workmanlike controversies within that apparently simple framework. Perhaps the most famous occurred in 1958 at the Toronto assembly’s banquet to celebrate the forthcoming twenty-seventh anniversary of the passing of the Statute of Westminster. Three city controllers, Joseph Cornish, William Allen, and Jean Newman, were among a hundred and fifty guests in the Oak Room of Toronto’s Union Station. The three controllers had places at the head table, but refused to sit down until they were assured that God SaVe the Queen would be played when the toast to the Queen was proposed. Assembly president Alberni Picard said the Sons hadn’t planned that. The controllers were adamant, and the principals repaired to an anteroom to negotiate. Picard said he had a letter from Prime Minister Diefenbaker that described God Save the Queen as a prayer for the sovereign’s weli-being. “We’ll have thirty seconds for prayer,” he said, “and anyone who wants to sing his prayer is perfectly free to do so.”

“Let’s get down to brass tacks,” snapped Controller Cornish. “Are you going to play God Save the Queen or aren’t you?”

“I don’t sing my prayers,” said Picard, while Glaum and other members of the executive stood by. “We’ll play O Canada.”

“I’m not getting a direct answer,” said Cornish. “I'm a native son as much as anyone here. I want God Save the Queen to be played.”

“We play both at the end,” said one Sons officer. The controllers left.

They backed a non-native

The next day Glaum accused Cornish of playing politics and, in the municipal elections that followed, the Sons endorsed for mayor the only controller who hadn’t been at the banquet. Ford Brand, who turned out—too late for the Sons to rescind their endorsement— to be a native of Buffalo and the only non-native Canadian in the race. (Brand lost to the incumbent mayor, Nathan Phillips, who had said after the banquet that he agreed with the controllers who walked out.)

Picard, who is no longer with the Native Sons, was the central figure in another controversy that flashed across the front pages for a day or two but didn’t end in a victory for the Sons.

Picard told a service-club luncheon that the Sons were planning to poll all the members of parliament about a Canadian flag. “Anyone who votes for it,” he said, “will be a patriot. Anyone who votes against it will be an enemy. Anyone who sits on the fence will be a coward.”

This time, in the eyes of even most of the Sons (except Bernard Glaum), Picard had gone too far and after a hurried consultation with his executive, he apologized.

Meanwhile, Glaum’s publicity mill ground exceeding hard. The scrapbook he kept during his years with the Sons is now crammed with his published letters, his quoted comments and his reported activities. They include:

an announcement that the Native Sons had started a fund to help the Six Nations Indians whose government allowances had been cut off when they tried to secede from Canada, and that the fund already had $35;

a warning to Prime Minister Diefenbaker that if he didn’t do something about the unemployment situation he

would find himself unemployed after the next election;

a letter published in the Toronto Telegram saying that Glaum was trying to get the Native Sons to boycott the Telegram because it hadn't published any of the letters he’d sent in;

a denial that it was the Native Sons who had torn the Red Ensign from a city of Toronto flagpole and hoisted the red, white and green design favored by the Native Sons;

a picture of Glaum and some of the twenty-one other Sons who had paid a total of $55 to get into the Canadian National Exhibition grandstand show so they could sit down when God Save the Queen was played;

an answer to the Native Son who had written to the Toronto Star saying Glaum didn’t speak for all Native Sons, saying he did, too;

a suggestion for a committee of twelve (including a Native Son) to rule on whether the Ballets A fricains could dance barebreasted in Toronto;

a declaration that contrary to charges made by the Toronto Star columnist Pierre Berton. the Sons held no racial prejudices and, in fact, had a Negro member, who lived in Oshawa;

praise for the Toronto Star’s Pierre Berton for the “splendid work he is doing in exposing political graft and commercial swindles”;

leadership of a picket line around Maple Leaf Gardens to protest the absence of O Canada from all Gardens functions;

cheers when, on separate occasions, radio station CJBC started opening its broadcasting day and the Toronto Argonauts their football games with O Canada;

criticism of the Ontario Motor League for removing the beaver and maple leaf from its crest;

support for TV star Joyce Davidson, who was in hot water for having made some remarks about Canadians and the Queen on a U. S. TV show, and the announcement that the Sons were awarding Miss Davidson their Certificate of Merit.

The scrapbook also records Glaum’s ascent from publicity chairman of the Toronto assembly to chaplain to recording secretary to a vice-presidency. Late last year, he achieved a minor post on the national council.

Then, suddenly, there is disillusionment. The national council rejects some of his statements. He has gone too far too often, they feel. The Toronto assembly refuses to condone him. Fie is expelled.

Glaum’s Canadian Citizens’ Society, which he says will be open to naturalized Canadians as well as natives and will shortly replace the Sons, has not yet surged into the limelight. Its only publicity so far has been in the personal columns, where it has advertised for members.

But Glaum himself got into the papers shortly after his expulsion. The membership of the Toronto assembly, he told a reporter, was not eighteen hundred, as he had claimed ex officio — at others’ urging. It is fifty-eight, excluding Bernard Glaum. ★