Wednesday, May 3, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The Canadian Club of London During Wartime

     Yes, you read correctly, WWW is still up and running! My apologies for the missing post last week. I'm thrilled to be able to say that after a bit of a stressful month, I've wrapped up my undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa and am looking forward to grad school at Western in the fall. Just before I came back home to Elgin County, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon with the Canadian Club of Ottawa in the Chateau Laurier ballroom as a representative of the University and the Daughters of the Vote program. By coincidence, I was researching some potential topics for this week and came across some resources for Canadian Clubs closer to home and their wartime transformations. I find the Club very interesting and am always looking for local connections, and I hope you will enjoy both of those elements.

     To begin, here's a description of the club from the London edition's website:
The Canadian Club of London has a long and distinguished history of uninterrupted service in the community since its founding July 31, 1906.  During the past 110 years, the club has been host to more than 1000 Canadian and international leaders who have shared their views with enthusiastic London audiences, making the Canadian Club one of the longest-standing organizations in the city. Each month, from September to June, the club brings prominent Canadians to the city to speak on topical issues of national and international interest in the arts, history, business, finance, education, law and politics.
Meetings are generally held over lunch  and are hosted at the Double Tree by Hilton. Members and guests take delight in spirited engagement with speakers and intelligent discussion. Our events provide outstanding opportunities for networking and engaging with prominent members of the business community in London.
Club membership is open to anyone. Members receive a monthly newsletter giving advanced details of upcoming speakers along with discounted rates on event tickets.
     According to Elgin County Archives, St. Thomas also had a Canadian Club at one time, which featured patriotic programming during the First World War, but I was unable to locate those records in the database. The Elgin County Museum has the Club's minutebook, and its description in the inventory holdings reads that it "raised funds to sponsor the war effort and sponsored lectures on war topics." The entry also mentions that the Club was founded with the purpose of fostering patriotism for the war, so perhaps St. Thomas established its own model of the London version for that specific purpose. This is one of the unfortunate parts of being a historian with questions that aren't always easily answered! Sometimes we just have to go where the material is so we're headed to the big city to look at how the London Club's meetings were affected by both World Wars.
     In the "Our History" section of the Canadian Club of London's website, it appears as though the club did not hold meetings between 1914 and 1918, during the First World War, or there are no records for that period. 1913 saw a "joint meeting with the Women’s Canadian Club" with "Col. Charles R. McCullogh of Hamilton, the acknowledged founder of the Canadian Club movement as the speaker." In May 1919, the speaker was Dr. William Roche, one of Western’s first two graduates and the newly appointed Chancellor for the university.
     During the Second World War, however, the meetings closely reflected the geopolitical conditions at the time. "There were regular speakers from the military as well as representatives of Poland and other countries overrun by Germany and Russia expressing hope their countries would be re-established after the war. A speaker from China in 1942 said his country could win over the Japanese as long as the allies didn’t introduce some kind of “Munich” agreement that would create a withdrawal of support." 
     What is significant about this club is that it brings together a city's leading citizens to discuss important issues and ideas of the day. With such a long history, it is fascinating to see how the speakers and their topics change over time and gain an idea of what the popular opinions were. When the wartime context becomes a factor, those gatherings become even more significant and their messages reflect important concerns and ideas. What historians can take away from such sources as meeting minutes and summaries from clubs like this is what types of speakers and themes were being included in the programming in order to understand what the popular opinions of upper class urban residents would have been at the time. 
     Information comes from Elgin County Archives and the Canadian Club of London website. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for some exciting local history posts, it's that time of year when I come home and things get local!
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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