Picturing the Past
Teacher Section
Pages: 1  2  3  4 

Activity, printable version

Letter 4

James writes about the barren prairie, locusts, train radio and Grey Owl.

Discussion Question

Did you know that many (including the first) radio stations in Canada were started by the railways? Listen to the radio and song clips in the link provided (http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-109-1257/1930s/1938/). Discuss the differences between radio during the 1930s and today's radio. What kinds of music would have been popular to listen to? Why would radio be so important to have on a train?

Essay Questions

A. Who was Grey Owl, and why did people believe he was from a First Nations background? What messages did he try to promote? Why was he so popular during the 1930s in both Canada and Britain?

B. How did the people of Saskatchewan and Alberta deal with the problem of locusts between the late 1920s and the 1940s? Listen to the CBC radio clip from an interview with depression survivor James Gray, and read the document on the locust problem (provided in links below). Try to find two additional sources.

Additional Resources

CBC Radio, “Dustbowl Horrors,” Interview with James Gray, 1 July 1982.

Joan Champ. “Grasshopper Campaigns in Saskatchewan during the 1930s” A Report for Saskatchewan Western Development Museum’s “Winning the Prairie Gamble” 2005 Exhibit, February 21, 2002.

Letter 5

James writes of farming exhibitions, Bennett buggies and Indian camps.

Discussion Questions

Exhibitions on farming, industry, technology, sewing, baking and preserving were part of the summer for many western (and also many eastern) towns and cities, starting in the 1800s. Some, such as the Saskatoon Exhibition, continue today! Why were these exhibitions so important that the Canadian National Railways would offer reduced fares, towns would observe a civic holiday and children would save their pennies all year so that they could enjoy the rides? Why do you think the Exhibition in Saskatoon, being especially focussed on agricultural, continued during the Depression when many farmers had nothing to show because of drought, locusts and debt?

Short-Answer Questions

A. Why did people hitch their horses to cars during the Depression? Why did they call them "Bennett buggies"?

B. Do you see any similarities between exhibitions today and exhibitions in the 1930s? Do they still serve the same purpose?

Essay Question

During the first half of the twentieth century, First Nations people were seen as mysterious by the rest of the world. Native people lost much of their land and hunting grounds to White settlers, and the Canadian government forced them onto reserves. They were unable to move freely around the country because many reserves required residents to obtain passes issued by an “Indian Agent” before they were able to leave. First Nations people were usually very poor because they had no access to good land, water, food, employment or good medical care. In his letter, James writes that a band of “Indians” had come to camp at the fair. They were seen as an exhibit by most of the townspeople. Write an essay on the living conditions of Native people during the 1930s on the Prairies.

Letter 6

James writes about The Continental train and relief projects.

Short-Answer Questions

A. Why was it not appropriate for Ellie to accompany James on his trip west before they were married?

B. Why was the Broadway Bridge built? What other relief projects were there on the Prairies during the 1930s? Describe life in a relief camp.

Letter 7

James write about flying in an airplane over the prairies, and meeting Canadian legend Captain William “Wop” May.

Essay Question

Who was Captain William "Wop" May and why was/is he considered a Canadian hero and aviation pioneer? What was western Canada's role in the development of aviation? (http://www.bestcdn.com/primary/pride/may.htm)