Archive for January 3rd, 2010

90 years and a few days ago

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Throughout the year 2009 it seemed to me that I kept bumping into references to the year 1919.  I’m not saying that there is anything significant or prophetic about that observation, but having some interest in history, I thought I’d share some of them.

Clifford is Born in 1919

This summer our family had a visit from Terry, a distant relative from Missouri, an avid genealogist with interest in all branches of the family tree, whether pointing down to the roots or up to the branches.  In exchange for reams of his research, I was able to provide him a bit of information on our family, including my dad Clifford, born in 1919 to the Norwegian immigrant homesteaders Louis (Lars) and Sigrid.  If he were still alive, Dad would have turned 90 this past April.

The Great Fire of 1919

My part of Canada had variable weather in 2009.  Although we started out with a dry spring, the summer was unusually cool and damp, unlike B.C. where forest fires raged.  The area burned in Saskatchewan this year was fairly insignificant compared to The Great Fire of 1919.  Starting near Lac La Biche in Alberta, that fire raced across the provincial border and burned huge tracts of forest in western Saskatchewan.  As a result, the forests surrounding and west of Meadow Lake have a disproportionate amount of 90-year-old stands.

End of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic in 1919

In 1919, health authorities officially declared that the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918/1919 had run its course.  It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 Canadians out of a population of 8 million died in that pandemic.  In 2009 Canada had another flu pandemic on its hands, with 401 deaths as of December 23.  That’s nearly 1/10 the number of annual deaths from the seasonal flu.  I received my H1N1 flu shot, and I’m more careful with hand-washing and sneezing into my elbow.

Paris 1919

I’ve been reading Margaret MacMillan’s history of the 1919 Paris peace talks.  It’s not an easy read, but my ignorance of that chapter of history has been reduced somewhat.  Some ongoing disputes in the Middle East, the Balkins, and other hot spots have roots in decisions made by the world leaders who dispensed their wisdom at the close of the Great War.

One obscure reference that struck me was in the chapter on Arab Independence.  Apparently the French and English were jostling for favourable positions in the Middle East, and the French produced some Arabs who

claimed that their people, whether Christian or Muslim, wanted nothing so much as French help.  Unfortunately, as the gray-bearded spokesman for the Central Syrian Committee was launching into his two-hour oration, an American expert slipped [President Woodrow] Wilson a note pointing out that the speaker had spent the previous thirty-five years in France.  Wilson stopped listening and wandered about the room. [French Premier Georges] Clemenceau whispered angrily to Pichon, “What did you get the fellow here for anyway?” Pichon replied with a shrug, “Well, I didn’t know he was going to carry on this way.”

I couldn’t help thinking of a dilemma that the Liberal Party of Canada is faced with.