Friday, February 14, 2020

75 Years of CARE

Once again I'm straying outside Kitchissippi to write on a topic that's more related to the greater Ottawa history... But this a topic I thought well worth covering.

I'm sure we've all experienced it before, where you hear of something one day, and then suddenly by total coincidence you come across it again multiple times within a short period of time. That happened to me recently with the world relief organization CARE. A flexible acronym, it was originally known as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, but now stands for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.

I'd of course heard of CARE and the work that they do worldwide, but with a little digging, was intrigued to find out that their work originated at the close of WWII. In fact, 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the organization. And as far as it's role in Canada, it all began here in Ottawa, with the founding of CARE Canada (or 'CARE of Canada' as it was officially originally known) just a few months after its origination in the States.

I absolutely love the concept of what CARE first was established for. During WWII, large portions of Europe had been decimated. When the war was over, there was so much work to be done to rebuild these large, historic cities. So many people had been displaced, so many soldiers had returned home to nothing. In Canada especially, many citizens still had close ties to Europe. Many had only recently escaped the Nazis by moving to Canada, while others had come during the years prior to the War with the looming threat in Germany. Additionally, a great many others were first generation Canadians, sons and daughters of Europeans, with still large families of close relatives back home.

CARE was established so that individuals and organizations across the U.S. and Canada could make financial contributions to an organization that would lead directly to a family member (or even a person in need in their old hometown) receiving a food aid package.

Stealing from Wikipedia, at first founding, CARE was "initially a consortium of twenty-two U.S. charities (a mixture of civic, religious, cooperative, farm, and labour organizations) with the purpose of delivering food aid to Europe in the aftermath of World War II. The organization delivered its first food packages in 1946. CARE's food aid took the form of CARE Packages, which were at first delivered to specific individuals: the US people paid $10 to send a CARE Package of food to a loved one in Europe, often a family member. President Truman bought the first CARE package. CARE guaranteed delivery within four months to anyone in Europe, even if they had left their last known address, and returned a signed delivery receipt to the sender. Because European postal services were unreliable at the time these signed receipts were sometimes the first confirmation that the recipient had survived the war."

The establishment of CARE was launched as important news in every major newspaper across North America on the morning of Friday November 30th, 1945:

New York Daily News - November 30, 1945

Louisville Courier-Journal - November 30, 1945

What an amazing concept, and it was a huge success in the first years following the war. Again from Wikipedia: "The first CARE Packages were in fact surplus “Ten-in-One” US army rations packs (designed to contain a day's meals for ten people). In early 1946 CARE purchased 2.8 million of these warehoused rations packs, originally intended for the invasion of Japan, and began advertising in America. On May 11, 1946, six months after the agency's incorporation, the first CARE Packages were delivered in Le Havre, France. These packages contained staples such as canned meats, powdered milk, dried fruits, and fats along with a few comfort items such as chocolate, coffee, and cigarettes. (Several on the CARE Board of Directors wished to remove the cigarettes, but it was deemed impractical to open and reseal 2.8 million boxes.)"

Each of the original CARE packages weighed 21.37 pounds, and contained 40,963 calories of food, as well as blanket packages made from materials that could be turned into clothes.

New York Daily News - full page ad
June 26, 1946

New York Daily News - full page ad
October 8, 1946

It was obviously not long before Canadians wanted to take advantage of the organization. In July of 1946, the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, at its HQ in Ottawa at 78 Bank Street, began offering citizens the chance to contribute to CARE, by filling out a form that would be forwarded to CARE in the States.

Montreal Gazette, July 31, 1946

As well, a small collecting office for Western Canadians opened in Winnipeg in the fall of 1946, established by the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society of Canada, in partnership with the still U.S.-based CARE.

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
November 30, 1946

Official expansion of CARE did not take long. Almost exactly one year after launching in the United States, CARE of Canada was established in Ottawa, at an office in the "Sparks Chambers" building at 193 Sparks Street, between Bank and O'Connor.

A circa 1950 view of 193 Sparks Street, the original home
of CARE Canada. 193 is the segment of the block that
has sets of three identical windows on each floor. CARE
Canada was located in room 313, on the third floor.

Same view now (thanks to Urbsite for the photo
compares and the history of the old Sparks Chambers building
which you can read at: this link

CARE Canada was established primarily through the efforts of A.B. MacDonald, general secretary of the Co-Operative Union of Canada. MacDonald had worked extensively in relief work with the United Nations, serving as national chairman for UNICEF for two years, and saw an opportunity to continue his important work through his firm.

A.B. MacDonald

MacDonald made arrangements for opening of the first CARE Canada office a floor above the Co-Operative Union offices at 193 Sparks Street. He then instituted the first Director of CARE Canada, Mr. Breen Melvin. Breen was 29 years old, Winnipeg born, but educated in B.C., where he worked as a school teacher, then with the Y.M.C.A. War Services during WWII, before working with the UBC in the co-operative field as a field worker in the fishing communities of the west coast. Early in 1946 he joined the British Columbia Co-operative Union as a secretary-treasurer. He later that year
accepted the offer from MacDonald to go to Ottawa and guide the CARE program for Canada, which he did for several years before becoming secretary of the Co-operative Life Insurance Company and the Co-operative Fire and Casualty Company.

The first published mention of the establishment of CARE Canada comes from the Winnipeg Tribune in December of 1946:

Winnipeg Tribune, December 9, 1946

Some Ottawa news coverage followed a month later in January 1947:

Ottawa Citizen - January 4, 1947

Somewhat surprisingly, the United Kingdom was not an eligible destination for the first year or so of operations. It was not until April 2nd 1947 that CARE packages could be sent to the UK. It was explained through the media that it was felt that there was more urgent need elsewhere, and thus the UK waited, becoming the 14th country eligible as a destination on that date. It was reported that CARE Canada, through its Ottawa office had been handling $50,000 of orders per month, which was expected to rise greatly due to the expansion to the UK.

It was estimated that in 1947 alone, over $90,000,000 worth of food and clothing was to enter Europe thanks to the CARE program, all through the $10 packages.

CARE was delivering to Germany as well, beginning in August of 1946. Occasionally blockades were set up by governments to prevent delivery, particularly in German. As a result, CARE stockpiled  30,000 packages in two warehouses in Berlin, and invited residents from the city to come to the warehouse to pick up their packages. Russia would not allow CARE to operate within their country, nor the countries they occupied (which included a portion of Berlin at the time).

Ottawa Journal - Oct 27, 1948

By the early 1950s, CARE Canada had began focusing on war-torn-villages world-wide, focusing village-by-village on rehabilitating the communities. Organizations in Canada (service clubs, youth groups, women's organizations) were encouraged to adopt villages, and contribute directly towards their rebuild. This included things such as tools, livestock, machinery for the making of clothes, school kits, and emergency food. The goal was to build a new life of hope and accomplishment for those who had lost virtually everything.

CARE Canada had moved its headquarters to the more spacious 116 O'Connor Street by this time. An old three-storey brick house that had been converted to a commercial building for three firms, CARE would operate here for the next 15 or so years, until moving to 63 Sparks Street in 1966.

In 1952, CARE Canada made a significant donation when it presented an iron lung to the General Hospital in Rangoon, Burma using surplus funds collected during the previous year. The substantial donation was a contribution to what was known as the Colombo Plan (which was an organized project established by commonwealth countries to battle poverty in South and Southeast Asia). the board of CARE Canada made this decision based on what they felt was an increasing trend in Canadians donating towards the overseas self-help projects, that donors would approve of the sizable contribution to Burma, An iron lung, by the way, was a primitive machine used by hospitals to help improve breathing for those who have lost muscle capacity or simply could not breathe enough. It was known as a 'negative pressure ventilator', and also helped prevent the spread of polio.

7 Years of CARE Canada. Ottawa Journal. April 6, 1953.

By 1955, CARE had raised over $6M in Canada, and $180M worldwide. They continued to offer targeted relief in Europe, but their main focus had shifted to relief and rehabilitation work in other parts of the world, including Asia, South America and Africa. Their primary policies at the time were the distribution of surplus agricultural produce to countries where desperation was prevalent, and establishing self-help program in areas of need, "based on village organization and geared to what the local economy could support in the future and the express desires of the people." The latter would soon develop into CARE's main work over the coming decades.

As wars and devastation continued to affect certain parts of the world, food and clothing became dire needs in certain areas. Hunger and massive crop failures were a major concern in Southeast Asia, while war orphans and refugees were escaping war-torn Russia and Germany.

In 1955, Lillian Wadsworth was appointed Director of CARE Canada, a position she maintained until her sudden passing at the young age of 53 in 1966. She was a trailblazer in Ottawa for women, having started a working career in the 1940s as a director and later on-air host in Ottawa radio at CFRA and CBO, later becoming president of the Women's Press Club Ottawa, president of the Quota Club, president of the Central Council of Service Clubs, first vice-president of the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Council of Women, and had been a long-time member of the Business and Professional Women's Club, the civic committee for the Tulip Festival, and a member of the Ottawa Winter Carnival Committee, all on top of her tireless work with CARE Canada.

Lillian Wadsworth in the offices of the Army Survey
Establishment RCE at Christmas December 1956, receiving
a donation cheque from the unit commander Lt-Col. J. I.
Thompson. Also pictured at left is Gloria Bortolotti.

In November of 1955, Lillian brought Pak Jong Yong, who was Korean-born and an agriculture student at MacDonald College, to speak to a meeting of representative students from all of Ottawa's high schools to talk about the work CARE has done across the world, the effects of war in his country, and the importance of fundraising in the high schools (and everywhere). A photograph was captured from that evening showing Yong speaking to some of the students present.

Pak Jong Yong speaking to Ottawa high school students
November 10, 1955.
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-035277)

The following are a sampling of photos I found through the City of Ottawa Archives related to CARE and the work they were doing at this time. Fundraising and promotion was extensive at this time, and the newspaper photograph archives captured many photos related to these activities in Ottawa:

CARE window in an Ottawa shop, December 5, 1955
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-035727)

CARE exhibit at the  B'nai B'rith convention. Nov 28, 1955
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-035591)

This was captioned as "Mrs. Henry Logan, a typist with the
Department of Veterans' Affairs, makes first donation to CARE's
plan for Christmas funds." A.G. Watson of CARE is receiving 
the money while B.W. Ridley, a supervisor at DVA looks on. 
December 8, 1955. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-035772)

Singing group The Four Aces present A.G. Watson of CARE
Canada with a cheque. December 10, 1955.
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-035812)

Joan Hardy donating a cheque. Dec 12 1955.
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-035832)

Mrs E. Jawahir, wife of the venerable archdeacon of
Lahore diocese, West Pakistan at 140 Bay Street.
February 16, 1956
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-036904)
Ottawa Citizen, February 20, 1956

1956 marked the 10-year anniversary of CARE in Canada:

10 years of CARE Canada
May 9, 1956
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-038326)

Nepean High School put on a fundraising campaign during the Christmas season of 1956. Lillian Wadsworth spoke at the school, and a photo capturing Lillian, principal D.O. Arnold, vice-princila W.R. Sharkey and students Brian Sharkey and Sandra Wilson appeared in the Citizen:

Ottawa Citizen, December 13, 1956

In 1959, Ontario's four major milk producers made a combined gift of $42,000 to CARE Canada, to over the shipping cost of nearly 3 million pounds of Canadian surplus milk powder contributed by the Canadian government, which was shipped to Turkey and Pakistan.

Ottawa Journal. March 4, 1959.

By the 1960s, the targeted relief efforts of donating food to a specific person or individual was phased out, and instead CARE focused on general relief. CARE packages from Canada were still sent overseas with a maple leaf on it, and the words "A gift from the people of Canada", along with the name and address of the Canadian whose donation had purchased the box.

The name of the organization changed in 1959 to "Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere", and by 1961, were involved in the establishment of the Peace Corps with President John F. Kennedy. CARE selected and trained the first volunteers who were deployed to development projects in Colombia. These joint projects with the Peace Corps continued until 1967.

In 1962, CARE absorbed the medical aid organization MEDICO, increasing CARE's ability to improve medicine and health throughout the world. MEDICO trained local personnel in the field of medicine, emphasizing community health care through these development programs that began in the mid-50s. Doctors and medical specialists would donate their time and skills for a month or more to train their international counterparts, paying their own travel expenses.

The last original CARE package was delivered in 1967, a final tally of over 100 million packages sent. (The format would later return on an ad hoc basis following the Bosnian War and through an occasional promotional campaign).

By the 1970s, CARE Canada continued to focus on battling hunger, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy and poverty in developing countries. Though CARE functioned out of the U.S. and Canada up until the mid-1970s, it was not until then that CARE truly became an international organization with the establishment of CARE Europe in 1976, and CARE Norway, Germany, Italy and UK all around 1980. An umbrella organization for CARE International was established in 1982. (There is so much more I could write here, but I'd strongly recommend just reading the CARE Wikipedia entry or any other of a number of great resources on the net discussing the history of CARE).

CARE Canada today has a more directed focus, as per their website "We help women and girls in over 90 developing countries lift themselves and their families out of poverty and out of crisis. We develop solutions with women and girls and their communities to tackle the big issues facing them like climate change, economic empowerment, food security and emergency relief in times of crisis or disaster." The website goes on to detail the very valid and important reasons why the organization focuses on women and girls today, notably that women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination, face the greatest risk, and are an integral part of the solutions needed to truly overcome poverty. (more at

I hope sharing the interesting history of this important organization, and particularly the role Ottawa and its residents have played in it over its 75 years, made for a good read, but may also urge you to consider contributing to the significant work being done by CARE Canada today!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Oliver & Sons Furniture: Early Hintonburg Industry

This month my article in the Kitchissippi Times focuses on a long-lost but important firm that set up shop in Hintonburg back in 1899 and went on to become one of Canada's largest furniture manufacturers. Bankruptcy during the great depression brought about an end to this successful company in the 1930s, but their legacy is one worth exploring.

Please check out the article at

Unfortunately for many months of hunting, I could never find a photo of the factory whatsoever. However I've recently discovered one might exist at Library and Archives Canada, so I will re-add it to this post in the future if I'm able to track it down! In the meantime, I have a few photos that help demonstrate the factory's size:

LeBreton Flats factory in 1895 before moving operations
to Hintonburg in 1899

1922 fire insurance plan showing the buildings
and wood piles. "Oliver" is what is now
Gladstone, and that's Breezehill along the left.

1901 newspaper ad