Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II


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Mission BBQ provided a catered dinner. Retired Army Lt. Among the distinguished guests were several former Fort Meade garrison commanders including retired Col. Kent Menser and his wife, Arlene, and retired Col. Brian P. Foley, his wife, Lee, and their son Liam; retired Col. Bruce Hopkins, former Fort Meade deputy garrison commander. Shehab was commander-in-chief of MOWW from to During his tenure, Rice said, Shehab required MOWW leaders to report on the status of their chapters — a practice that has continued today.

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He was genuinely lucky not to have either died or been permanently paralysed by the injury suffered in the win over Birmingham City at Wembley. It was just a pain in the neck. In those days goalies could be tackled. Often he would come off the pitch black and blue.

Only another piece of bone being lodged in it was keeping him alive and even the jolt a car suddenly breaking could have finished him off. The trauma of the loss of their six year-old boy took a toll on their marriage with the couple getting divorced 15 years later when Mark was aged ten.

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My brother and I came along afterwards and my mother was very protective of us, obviously. I think my father dealt with it by focusing on his sport. Mark went to live with him mum in North Wales, while Bert coached football around the world after retiring from the game. While Bert was working in Burma he married a fellow German called Ursula Van der Heyde and for the next decade Mark only saw his dad every two or three years.

It was only when Mark was stationed out in Germany in the RAF that they grew close again, with his dad Bert opening up about his time in the war. The report was written as communism worldwide struggled to deal with the great blow it suffered with the events in Czechoslovakia of Whyte was the Canadian Tribune correspondent in Moscow at the time; this distance from internal debates within the CPC allowed him to avoid having to take sides on the matter directly. The RCMP assessment of March , based on the observations of an informer who was extremely well placed in the CPC, detected a profound malaise in the party.

The five-page report surveyed the outlook of CPC leaders and offered trenchant judgments of their strengths and weaknesses and the difficulties each faced in the power struggle within what the source considered to be an ailing, stagnant organization. Whyte had worked with Morris for several years and was approached by the party elite to write a biography of him.

He wanted to write a biography that could be sold as a pocket book on the newsstands which would tell ordinary Canadians what a leading Canadian Communist was like. As a result, it was never published. The memoir likely benefited from being written in Moscow, where he was living at a safe distance from CPC oversight. Champagne and Meatballs is his unvarnished declaration of independence, a statement of self-affirmation in the face of authorities from right and left.

Why, despite being a dissident in his own party, Whyte remained in it is never openly addressed in the memoir. This is at once its weakness and its strength. Champagne and Meatballs is not a chronicle of self-reflection but a recollection of events and action. As the narrative of an engaging rogue, especially in its account of life on the bum in the s, it joins a long list of picaresques from the legions who were made into drifters by the Great Depression.

He quit a good job to join thousands of young men who had no work. And when he tired of tramping, when the daily toil of not working finally wore him out, Whyte returned to the hard-rock smelter he had left earlier. Giving up a job in was a brave, some might say foolhardy, act. Many working people were putting up with wage cuts, speedups, and other daily humiliations just to keep jobs. Choosing to leave a job and becoming a blanket-stiff put him among the hundreds of thousands of men his age for whom the open road was not a choice. Not only in recounting his experiences on the road but throughout Champagne and Meatballs , Whyte portrays humanity affectionately but not romantically.

He presents a host of engaging characters — the small businessman who gives Whyte his first job, his hobo pals, his workmates in the smelting plant, his comrades in the Communist Party. Although Whyte is political, these vignettes are often not politicized. For Whyte, experience came first, ideology second.

Humanity was primary for him, communism secondary.

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Like many young Canadians who in the s rode the freights to a leftist political consciousness, Whyte was ready to make the next logical step and fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Tens of thousands of people worldwide saw it as their duty to fight this fascist threat. Close to 1, of them were from Canada.

Whyte desperately wanted to join them, but internal Communist Party dynamics ruled this out. Party leaders saw Whyte as a relative rarity among party activists — a native-born, articulate Canadian with a knack for organizing.

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They were not prepared to let this promising activist, whose roots went back to the United Empire Loyalists, run the risk of dying in Spain. So Whyte was kept at home, while his long-time friend and travelling buddy, Jimmy Black, volunteered and went overseas with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.

In Spain, Black earned commendations for his bravery in battle and, at the age of only twenty-six, an untimely death. This time the party did not stop him. Ben Swankey, another CPC organizer who was instructed by the party to vanish and organize secretly, was not so lucky. No doubt it was poorly carried out. Despite repression in the s, the Communist Party of Canada had little experience in this kind of politics.

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But, had the two men conferred, Whyte might have taught Swankey a few lessons. Whyte positively thrived during his days underground in Ottawa. Whyte decided that avoiding arrest required being open and looking as conventional as possible. His cover was that he sold picture frames, which justified him travelling in and around Ottawa.

I avoided eating in cheap cafes and often conferred with the chain store manager [a covert CPC member] over a good dinner at a respectable hotel dining room — letting him settle the tab. I dressed conservatively and wore a blue homburg. Another aspect of his strategy for survival underground involved hobnobbing with people who could never be accused of radicalism.

They were simple mimeographed productions, but for the better part of six months, as the party struggled under illegality, these publications tweaked the noses of the establishment. Just to show that the arrest and jailing of party members like Harry Binder in had not entirely stifled opposition, in January Whyte and his comrades mailed a copy of the Clarion to the editor of the Globe and Mail.

There is a defiant ignoring of the fact that the Communist Party is declared an unlawful organization in this country. The resulting article gave Whyte and his comrades still more grist for humour.


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Perhaps the RCMP sleuths lack only a starting clue — a whiff of perfume, a broken comb, a soiled handkerchief, or something. The editor of The Clarion , anxious to be of help, is herewith enclosing a lock of his hair with this issue of The Clarion going to the Globe and Mail.

The first two years of World War II, however, were not all spy-vs. It was not just a matter of being outlawed. The CPC also found itself losing support because of dramatic shifts in its political position. After the outbreak of hostilities on September 1, , the CPC leadership initially thought that Canada should join the war, viewing it as a campaign against fascism. Yet on September 20 it reversed direction, calling the war a fight between rival imperialists that people should reject.

The reason was the political volatility of the Great Depression and the terrifying advance of fascism, which was an aggressive, anti-democratic bid to preserve capitalism in what appeared to be its hour of final crisis.

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The intense political manoeuvring inside Germany that led to Hitler being appointed chancellor of Germany in January soon turned into an even more complicated international contention over the political future of the world. In this time of heightened conflict, the consequences of error could be catastrophic — witness the destruction of the sizable Communist Party of Germany after Hitler took power.


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In response to these explosive changes, international communism was forced to shift its tactics more than once. But to claim that communists alone changed their tactics in this complex situation is to ignore the facts. The British elite, for example, reversed course frequently between and Chamberlain hoped that sacrificing part of Czechoslovakia in this way would guarantee peace between Britain and Germany. Hitler, however, upped the ante in the spring of , seizing the rest of Czechoslovakia. As a tactical response, the British elite shifted to threats of war. When, on September 1, , Germany invaded Poland, which Britain had pledged to defend, Britain declared war.

Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II
Berts Boy: Growing Up During The Great Depression and World War II

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