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“Indians Ask Ottawa Aid,” The Globe & Mail. October 27, 1938. Page 03.

Fort William, Oct. 26 (Special). – Seeking redress from the great white father for ills suffered by their tribesmen, five chiefs of Rainy River Indian bands left here today for Ottawa.

The five chiefs will protest particularly against prosecutions of Indians by the Ontario Department of Game and Fisheries for taking moose, deer and other food animals contrary to provincial regulations. They contend that treaties made in the time of Queen Victoria gave their bands perpetual right to hunt and fish. They also will protest against flooding of part of their reserves through control of river waters by lumber company dams.

Some of the Rainy River reserves escaped narrowly from the forest fires recently, which drove all game and fur bearing animals out of the vicinity and made the plight of the Indians more than usually difficult.

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“Youths Given Hard Labor,” The Globe and Mail. October 27, 1938. Page 03.

Barrie, Oct. 26 (Special). – Magistrate Compton Jeffs today sentenced three youthful burglars who entered Reeves jewelry store here at an early hour on October 14, stealing more than $2,000 worth of watches, rings and cigaret holders. The loot was recovered two days later in a house at 26 Beatty Avenue, Toronto, through the efforts of Toronto police detectives and local police.

His Worship meted out terms of twelves months definite plus twelve indeterminate, at hard labor, in the Ontario reformatory, to each of the three youths.

Mike Kornick, aged 18, no address, and Alex. Young, aged 18, no address, pleaded guilty a week ago to breaking and entering. Walter Andrews, aged 22, residing on Beatty Avenue, Toronto, where the loot was recovered by Toronto detectives, pleaded guilty to receiving stolen goods.

Magistrate Jeffs treated each alike in passing sentence. Charges of receiving had been withdrawn against two others.

‘I am influenced to this extent,’ he said. ‘When you consider the deliberate and extensive looting, my first idea was that it was a case for Portsmouth Penitentiary, but in view of what has been said as to your youth, and in hope that leniency may have some influence on you, I have decided that your sentence will be served in Ontario reformatory.’

Crown Attorney F. A. Hammond, K.C. pointed out that Young had a record dating back to 1935, and that both he and Kornick had used aliases

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“Two Weeks In Jail on Assault Charge,” Ottawa Citizen. October 26, 1938. Page 04.

Anthony Menchini, 502 Rochester street, was sentenced by Magistrate Strike to two weeks in jail for assaulting Francis Taylor, 69 Second Avenue.

On the night of October 15th, Taylor, his brother-in-law, Walter Rockburn, 64 Adeline Street, and three women relatives, were on Preston street near Norman laughing and talking among themselves. For the prosecution it was alleged that Menchini and his friend, Albert Carmanico, 438 1-2 Preston street, approached them and resented the laughing which they thought was at them. Rockburn and Carmanico wrestled and for the prosecution it was testified that Menchini hit Rockburn while Carmanico held him and that then Menchini struck Taylor who protested against the assault on Rockburn. The evidence was that Taylor was knocked down by the first blow and that as he tried to get to his feet Menchini struck him again, knocking him unconscious and fracturing his left jaw. Mrs. Taylor said Menchini then tried to kick her husband when he was on the ground but she pushed him aside.

‘It is fortunate for you that you are not charged with a more serious offence,’ said the Magistrate. ‘There is nothing to justify what you did. It is the sort of thing I dislike from a man of the bulky type, a big, husky fellow. It is difficult to understand the mentality of a man who would do that sort of thing, especially the second blow.’

Medical evidence was given that Taylor would be unable to work for eight or nine weeks.

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“Iroquois Hear Chiefs Preach From Wampum,” The Globe and Mail. October 25, 1938. Page 03.

Teachings of Their Prophet, Handsome Lake, Proclaimed in Native Tongue; to Stage Great Feather Dance Today

150 Tribesmen Met

Ohawekan, Ont., Oct. 24 (CP). – Braves and squaws of the Iroquois Tribe that once ruled North America gathered today around long tables to hear tribal chieftains preach in native tongue from the ‘wampum,’ Indian bible based on teachings of the prophet, ‘Handsome Lake.’

The ceremony was part of the opening rites of the three-day convention at the Six Nations Reserve, conducted by Chief Fred Bonsberry and Chief C. Williams of the Senecas.

The convention has attracted Iroquois chiefs from parts of Canada and New York State, Chief Rodeye of Syracuse, noted Indian preacher, is expected tomorrow.

Following exhortations that sometimes last three yours, ceremonial dances are held. The daily powows end with distribution of corn cake and berry wine.

A highlight of tomorrow’s festivities will be the ‘great feather dance,’ one of the most sacred of Indian dances. Individual chants will be the feature of Wednesday’s program.

The convention closes with a peach stone betting game in which all kinds of articles, clothing and blankets are polled and ‘winner takes all.’

About 150 tribesmen are gathered for the festival, near Altkins Corners, three miles from here. The reserve is twenty miles from Brantford.

The main object of the festival is to give thanks to the Manitou or Great Spirit for plentiful crops.

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“Immediate Aid Is Demanded By Workless,” The Globe and Mail. October 25, 1938. Page 03.

Port Arthur, Oct. 24 (Special) – Unemployed crowded the Port Arthur city council chamber tonight to present a petition, signed by 804 men, urging immediate relief until work could be provided for them.

The petition urged a wide-scale work program by Dominion and provincial governments, mentioning particularly resumption of work on the trans-Canada highway, clearing a right of way on the projected road from Geraldton to Hearst, a housing program in Port Arthur, the St. Lawrence waterway, and reforestation, as needed works that would benefit this district and provide employment.

‘The situation this year in the bush camps, with probably only one-quarter the men working that there were last year, is inevitable in view of the unprecedented amount of wood which the Ontario government permitted to be cut for export last year,’ said Mayor C. W. Cox, M.L.A. 

‘The market has been flooded and now bushmen are idle. There is too much dictation in the east about problems in the north, by people who know too little about this part of Canada. Not enough consideration is given to the views of the elected representatives who know conditions,’ said his Worship.

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“Camps Urged For Jobless,” The Globe and Mail. October 22, 1938. Page 04.

Public Work in Centres Similar to C.C.C. Project in U.S. Suggested to Ottawa by Rev C. E. Silcox

‘PEACE EMERGENCY’

To appeals on behalf of unemployed transients made to the Federal government by the Community Welfare Council of Ontario and the Welfare Council of Toronto, there was added yesterday a further appeal from the general secretary of the Social Service Council of Canada.

He suggested camps similar to the C.C.C. camps in the United States for younger men, and separate similar camps for the older.

The position of unemployed transients, of whom 110 are being temporarily housed in Holy Trinity Parish Hall, Toronto, was described by Rev. C. E. Silcox, General Secretary of the Council, in a letter to Hon. Norman Rogers, Minister of Labor, yesterday as ‘a peace emergency,’ and a responsibility of the Federal Government.

‘If we confronted a war emergency – and we came very close to it – the barriers would soon be removed,’ said Mr. Silcox in his message. ‘This is a peace emergency which confronts us and here, too, some solid thinking and co-operation will help mightily.’

‘There would be no necessity for us to make the mistakes which were made in the previous experiment in such camps in this country,’ he wrote. ‘In camps for both the younger and the middle-aged, a certain amount of military training and discipline, together with suitable educational facilities would be wholesome. If these camps could be located where some useful public work is being put through, it would be all to the good. The men might even be employed in the laying out of new and important air fields.

‘In view of the international situation, I strongly believe Canada should not allow any of her human resources to rot and that economic sense, a decent respect for the principles of humanity and even prudential considerations involving a potential military situation, combine to make government action imperative.’

Mr. Silcox pointed to the work camps in Germany and remarked: ‘Much as I dislike most of the things for which Mr. Hitler stands, I cannot fail to recognize that there are certain obvious responsibilities of government that seem to be understood better by dictatorships than by democracies.’

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“Paul-Emile Beaulieu fera

vingt ans de pénitencier,” Le Soleil. October 21, 1938. Page 27.

Le juge Thomas Tremblay a condamné aujourd’hui, à
20 ans, de pénitencier Paul-Emile Beaulieu, le plus
vieux des frères Beaulieu qui tentèrent un vol à main
armée à Beaupré.

POUR VOLS ET ASSAUT

Le plus vieux des frères Beaulieu
qui tentèrent un vol à main armée
à la banque de Beaupré, Paul-Emile
Beaulieu, a été condamné à 20 ans
de pénitencier par le juge Thomas
Tremblay. Cette sentence le punit
aussi d’avoir assailli sur la grande
route, à la pointe du revolver, en
août dernier, une dame Roméo Michel
afin de lui voler l’argent fait
au marché de Québec. Les deux
j frères admirent ces exploits commis en commun. Joseph Beaulieu, le plus jeune des frères, recevra sa sentence mercredi prochain si sa
santé le lui permet.

 "Vous avez fait de la prison et ou
pénitencier", dit le juge Thomas
Tremblay, “sans revenir à de meilleurs
sentiments. Vous êtes des bandits
de grande envergure, dangereux
pour la société, et je vous impose
une longue sentence afin de
vous empêcher de monter sur l’échaufaud.”
Me Ancina Tardif, avocat
du ministère public, déclara
qu’entre un voleur armé et un
meurtrier il n’y avait que la différence
de l’occasion. 

A l’adresse de la sûreté provinciale,
Me Tardif s’exprima ainsi: “Le public
ignore trop souvent les actes de courage de nos policiers. Que l’on
songe bien que dans ce cas-ci les
policiers avaient à faire face à un
des accusés qui tenait déjà en respect le gérant de la banque, à la
pointe du revolver. En telle cirI
constance, il est plausible de croire
que l’assaillant ne se laissera pas désarmer
sans résistance. Que l’on n’oublie pas qu’il a 1 an, Chateauneuf tomba foudroyé par une balle criminelle et qu’Aubin était sérieusement
blessé. Que le public n’oublie
pas ces faits et collabore davantage avec la police.“ 

On se souvient que des policiers,
dont M. Ephrem Bégin, attendaient
les deux Beauüeu à l’intérieur de’
la banque de Beaupré. Me Ancina
Tardif demanda ensuite l’imposition
de sévères sentences. Il est heureux,
ajouta-t-il. que les accusés ne
soient pas devant le tribunal sous
des accusations de meurtres; car entre
un meurtrier et un voleur armé,
il n’y a que la différence de l’occasion.” Il adressa enfin des félicitations
aux directeurs de la sûreté
provinciale.

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“Trois bandits armés
arrêtés à Beaupré,” Le Soleil. October 13, 1938. Page 01 & 21.

La Sûreté provinciale a’emparent de ces trois bandits
au moment où, revolvers en mains, ils exécutaient
un hold-up à la succursale de la Banque Canadienne
Nationale.

La police provinciale vient d’accomplir
un bel exploit en arrêtant,
sur les lieux mêmes de l’attentat
trois bandits qui tentaient, d’exécuter
un vol à main armée à la succursale
de la Banque Canadinene
Nationale à Beaupré, cet après-midi.

L’attentat est survenu vers 1 heure,
alors que trois bandits se présentaient
à la porte de la Banque Canadienne
Nationale. Deux se tenaient
à l’extérieur, pendant que leur compagnon pénétrait à l’intérieur et, revolver en mains, ordonnait au commis de la banque d’excuter ses ordres.

Mais, la Sûreté provinciale avait sans doute eu vent de cette tentive criminelle car quatre détectives se trouvaient à ce moment cachés

à l’intérieur de la banque. Aussitôt qu’ils virent les bandits tenter de terroriser le commis, ils sortirent de leur cachette et s’élancèrent bravement sur les criminels qu’lis réussirent rapidement à maîtriser. La

devant les représentants de la Justice
ils cédèrent facilement. 

Les trois audacieux criminels furent
aussitôt désarmés et fouillés, et puis conduits aux cellules de la Sûreté
provinciale à Québec où les autorités de la police font une enquête, au sujet de cet attentat.
Au moment de l’attentat, le commis
de la banque. M. G. Godbout était seul apparemment puisque les quatre détectives étaient cachés. 

Arrivés à Beaupré, vers 10 heures,
ce matin, les détectives avaient mis le personnel ne la banque au courant du complot tramé. Ils avaient dit. à M. Godbout rie leur lancer le mot “Inconnu” aussitôt qu’il verrait un étranger à la place pénétrer
dans l’édifice. 

Vers 1 heure 05, trois clients bien connus, honnêtes citoyens, se présentèrent à. la banque qu’ils quitèrent rapidement après avoir terminé leurs affaires. Quelques instants
plus tard, trois autres individus
se présentaient. Deux restaient ;
à la porte, l’autre s’avançait vers M
Godbout. 

Celui-ci eut le temps de lancer
aux détectives le mot convenu "Inconnu” et aussitôt le bandit criait :
“Haut les mains!”

C’est alors que les quatre détectives
sortirent de leur cachette et s’élancèrent sur les bandit qui, surpris
par cette soudaine attaque,
n’eurent pas le temps de fuir. 

L’enquête commencée aussitôt permit
à la police de découvrir que les
trois bandits étaient arrivés à Beaupré
le matin, en automobile. Ils
avalent laissé leur auto à environ
trois cents pieds de la banque. Le Lt-Col. Lambert et l’inspecteur
Charland dirigent actuellement l’enquête entreprise. La police se demande
si elle ne détient pas un ou
des auteurs de l’attentat commis à St-Raphael ces jours derniers.

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“All Routes Lead to 10 Downing Street,” Montreal Star. September 20, 1938. Page 01.

“When international affairs are troubled, Londoners gravitate to the little street on which is situated the official residence of the Prime Minister. During the recent days of crisis over the settlement of the Sudeten German problem this penchant has been much in evidence.

At one time the crowd grew to such dimensions that foot and mounted police details had to be reinforced to control it as seen in the upper picture.

The lower picture shows the crowd before ‘No. 10′ on another occasion when tension ran high.”

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Ben Shahn, Untitled (New Orleans, Louisiana). Gelatin silver print photograph, 1935. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Bernarda Bryson Shahn. #P1970.1487.

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Ben Shahn,

Untitled (Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana). Gelatin silver print photograph, 1935. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Bernarda Bryson Shahn. #P1970.1342

 

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“For reasons of timing, as much as anything else, CCYM activities were
shaped to an extraordinary extent by the Communist Party. The CCF had been founded during the ‘‘third period,’’ and the CPC dutifully
denounced the new political formation in hyperbolic terms as ‘‘social
fascist.’’ A couple of years later, the CCYM’s emergence coincided with
the beginnings of the CPC’s turn to the People’s Front policy. This
affected the CCYM in several important ways. Both the CCYM and the
YCL were rivals for the support of young workers, but with the Popular
Front policy, the decline of Communist sectarianism, and increasing
willingness to engage with liberals, church-goers, and the middle class
more generally (along with, of course, the traditional constituency of
workers), the Communists’ broadened gaze increasingly coincided with
the CCYM’s. The CCF was famously suspicious of working with the Communist
Party, at least officially, yet CCF leaders recognized the danger

of their perceived abstention and often allowed members to participate
in ‘‘immediate struggles’’ with the Communist Party. Among the most
successful of all the Popular Front movements were those specifically
comprising youth. The Youth Congress against War and Fascism, and
subsequently the Canadian Youth Congress, was extraordinarily successful
in mobilizing young people from a range of organizations
and political viewpoints.

The declared aim of the Popular Front was to fight the twin threats
of war and fascism, issues that appealed to young people who felt
particularly vulnerable. An initiative of the YCL, the Youth Congress
against War and Fascism attracted members of the YMCA, Jewish,
Catholic, and Protestant organizations, as well as farm and labour
groups. It also attracted the CCYM. T.C. Douglas, a national figure in
the CCYM, accepted an invitation to address the 275 delegates at Youth
Congress against War and Fascism in Toronto in early August 1934. Not surprisingly, given the CCF’s troubled history with the cpc, the
parent organization very quickly challenged this relationship. The ccf
leadership felt that the youth had to toe the line, although cracks
emerged within the adult organization, with many older labour socialists
open to the idea of a working-class alliance.

CCYM units had diverse reasons to be wary of collaboration with the
Communist Party. For many, the compromises of the Communists’
Popular Front strategy conflicted with their Marxism. They saw Stalinists’
appeal to pacifism, reflected in the language of the League against
War and Fascism, as a dangerous concession to liberals who did not
understand the full threat of fascism and the importance of socialism
as an alternative to the capitalist crisis that had bred both militarism
and right-wing movements. This was particularly true of the BC CCYM.
who felt themselves to have, ‘‘perhaps,’’ a ‘‘more revolutionary outlook,
even a keener discipline than some other provincial units,’’ but they
were able to point to CCYM groups in North Toronto, Winnipeg, Moose
Jaw, and Regina whose ‘‘positions on all issues has been consistent
and Marxist.’’ Other CCYMers criticized the CCF leadership for organizational
sectarianism toward the Communists, for placing the interests
of the federation ahead of broader struggles. Given the diversity of the
CCF and its youth movement, a variety of responses to the broadening
movements of the mid-1930s would emerge from the CCYM.

This was apparent in the emerging Canadian Youth Congress,
which came to replace the youth section of the League against War
and Fascism. While CCYM participation in the League against War
and Fascism was uneven and episodic, they found themselves pulled
much further into the workings of the CYC. The CYC was the most successful
Popular Front initiative undertaken by the Communists both
in size and breadth. The first Youth Congress, held in Toronto in
May 1935, represented 162,000 young people in ‘‘all’’ political parties,
church groups, athletic clubs, and social organizations; the 500 delegates
at the 1936 Congress represented ‘‘well over’’ 750,000. These
astounding figures are explained by the composition of the movement.
The first congress was addressed not only by Communist leader
Tim Buck and by James Woodsworth, but by Liberal and Conservative
politicians as well. The executive of the Winnipeg CYC (Canadian
Youth Council, as local branches of the congress were known) included
future CCF Member of Parliament Alistair Stewart and future Manitoba
Communist leader Bill Ross, but also the future Conservative premier
of Manitoba, Duff Roblin. The Saskatchewan CYC was, if anything,
even more socially diverse, with representatives from the regular political,
labour, farm, and church groups, as well as Doukhobors, Metis,
and the Jewish ‘‘Young Judaeans.’’

What was remarkable and reflective of the initiative gained by the
left broadly conceived was that, in spite of its size and breadth, the
CYC was clearly an organization of the left. With only eight dissenting
votes (largely Social Crediters), the 1935 Congress passed resolutions
condemning capitalism as well as tracing war and unemployment to
the functioning of the capitalist system. What made all of this possible
was the CPC’s turn. Ontario CCYMer Murray Cotterill articulated succinctly
the role of the YCL:  

Where two years ago, [the Communists] would have ‘‘ruled or broken,’’
now they seem to have laid down with the lion of capitalism. Standing rigidly
erect for God Save the King, modestly refusing to allow more than one Y.C.L.
delegate to stand for office, although allowing the usual profusion of Workers’
Unity League, Unemployed Youth Councils, etc., who, of course are ‘‘nonpolitical’’
and even voting for a place on the Continuation Committee for
Young Conservatives, the Commies seem to have adopted every one of the
alleged vices with which the C.C. F. was contaminated a few years ago, and to
have added a considerable amount of class collaboration to boot. It is some
zig-zag that the Third International has just taken.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Communists’ Popular Front
strategy were apparent to most CCYMers. Vastly more young people
were mobilized than either the YCL or the CCYM would have been able
to engage on their own; this was the rationale behind the CCF acceptance
of the participation in a Communist-associated movement. The
problem of the CYC was that it engaged huge numbers of young people
but, arguably, was incapable of offering them any useful direction.

CYC congresses, both national and provincial, were valuable venues
for debate and discussion. Developing a common program and plan
for action, however, would potentially demonstrate how fragile the
organization was. Certainly the Communists argued for the broadest
basis of unity possible (even including delegates from the Canadian
Union of Fascists, at one point). In response, in 1935 CCF trade unionist
Al Desser tried and failed to get the congress to explicitly oppose
fascism, and the following year the Trotskyist Revolutionary Youth
League, along with some unionists, resigned in protest against their
continued attendance. In 1937 the challenges of inclusivity emerged
in another way. The annual congress was held in Montreal, and the
Quebec delegation, comprising mostly Catholic youth organizations,
put forward a list of conservative demands as a precondition to their
participation. The CYC was to condemn all ‘‘subversive doctrines,’’

affirm the existence of God, declare the right of individuals to private
property, and seek social peace between social classes. For the first
time the YCL and the CCYM delegates met together in caucus to determine
a response and concluded that they had little option but to
accede. The Communists’ Daily Clarion celebrated the spirit of unity,
arguing that ‘‘the congress, with such diverse views present, was not
the place to present the case for socialism.’’ The Montreal Star lauded
the ‘‘true statesmen’’ for their response to the ‘‘ultra-nationalistic’’
French-Canadian groups. The trajectory was clear. Immediately afterwards,
the Thunder Bay Youth Council opted not to condemn the
Padlock Law (generally seen by the CCF as emblematic of the threat of
domestic fascism) in order not to alienate Catholics.

Such concessions were rooted in the logic of the Popular Front,
which placed unity ahead of a political program. Violet Anderson, a
delegate of the Youth Unit of the League of Nations Society, gave great
credit to the Communists for steering the CYC away from its explicit
critique of capitalism in 1936 (while admitting that the chair was
‘‘somewhat tyrannical’’ in prohibiting any discussion of the question). CCYMers, not surprisingly, were of various minds. Some, like CYC co-chair Kenneth Woodsworth, Student Christian Movement activist
and nephew of J.S. Woodsworth, were entirely onside. Surveying the
movement at the end of the decade, he argued that youth, at least
in the CYC, exercised a greater pragmatism than their parents. ‘‘The
Youth Congress ‘platform’ is not an attempt to provide any panacea
for our economic ills. Proposals for extension of educational opportunities,
technical training, employment projects, recreation, etc… .
seem to many older people to be disappointingly mild. Where is the
much vaunted radicalism of our modern youth? It would be hard
to find.’’ At least, one could add, in the CYC.

In general, however, CCYMers were more interested in winning
the CYC to a more explicitly socialist program. While a vaguely anticapitalist
statement was passed at the Toronto Youth Congress 1936,

for instance, a CCYM resolution calling for social planning, the socialization
of industry and finance, and the encouragement of co-operatives
as alternatives to capitalism were defeated.68 ccymers were at odds
over how to proceed. In the Calgary Youth Council, for instance, a very
public debate emerged between CCYMers. Alberta CCYM Vice-President
Tom Roberts felt that the CYC should be more explicitly socialist, while
CCYMers in the Alberta CYC leadership disagreed. Gertrude Gillander,
the secretary of the Alberta CYC, having recently played a role in
cementing Junior United Farmers of Alberta support for the congress,
wanted to distance the CYC from its initial reputation as a ‘‘red
breeding ground.’’ And provincial CYC President Margaret Archibald
defended the concessions to the Quebec delegates in front of William
Irvine and J.S. Woodsworth, who ‘‘both expressed their disapproval
of ‘our’ attitude towards the French Canadians. They both say that all
socialistic minded youth sacrificed all they stood for in order to get the
French Canadians interested.’’

No doubt many CCYMers felt the same and questioned the purpose
of building the CYC as it seemed to bring Canadian youth no closer to
an understanding of socialism. Tom Roberts, for instance, was far
from isolated; he was chosen Western Canadian officer for the CCYM by the 1938 National CCYM convention. Most CCYMers do not seem
to have bought Kenneth Woodsworth’s or Margaret Archibald’s Popular
Frontism and either abandoned CYC activities or struggled valiantly
to politicize CYC gatherings. This was particularly the case as the Communists’
growing support for collective security contrasted with the
CCYM’s refusal to support, or participate in, ‘‘another imperialist war,’’
and, indeed, willingness to take advantage of a ‘‘revolutionary situation’’
that a war could provoke. Those CCYMers who continued to take part
in the CYC were, according to David Lewis, perceived as ‘‘cantankerous
and doctrinaire’’ by church groups and other CYC participants whom
the CCYM was presumably trying to attract.”

– James Naylor, “Socialism for a New Generation: CCF Youth in the Popular Front Era.” The Canadian Historical Review, Volume 94, Number 1, March 2013, pp. 67-72

Pamphlet cover is from the Canadian Youth Congress, 1936. Source.

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Ben Shahn, Untitled (Ozarks, Arkansas). Gelatin silver print photograph, 1935. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Bernarda Bryson Shahn. #P1970.1146  

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“Nothing
was more consistent in the criminal records of Coxsackie inmates than
convictions for petit larceny and burglary, which together account
more than one-third of the case file sample (if youthful offenders
whose original charges were petit larceny and burglary are included,
the total becomes closer to one-half of the case sample). Petit
larceny was a serious misdemeanour that could result in a reformatory
sentence, and burglary was a felony crime; both offenses were heavily
over-represented by adolescent boys. In 1950, for example, 16-to
18-year-olds accounted for 17.2 percent of all major crime arrests,
but 35.7 percent of all burglary arrests. 

Perhaps
the most critical factor in most of the petit larceny and burglary
arrests was theft as a form of work and survival among young men. One
16-year-old explained his offense: ‘I was hanging around the block
and they said did I want to go out and get some money. I said all
right. We went to a house and got some lead pipe. We did it about a
week before I was caught. The others got away.’ To ‘get some
money’ was the eternal quest of the Coxsackie’s inmate’s life
before prison. Whether caught stealing from cottages on Ballston
Lake, apartments in Auburn, or mailboxes in Binghamton, young men
arrived from across the state from burglary and larceny convictions. 

Petit
larceny and burglary arrests are best understood as the legal tip of
a much larger iceberg of police and community interactions with
adolescent boys living between school and work. In a survey of
Coxsackie inmates, most reported that their time prior to the
reformatory was spent ‘just hanging around’ with friends and
‘goofing off.’ Hanging around, young men became well known to the
police; as a consequence, a burglary or petit larceny charge was
often just the culmination of a long series of encounters. Jerry O.
Was sentenced to Coxsackie after being caught breaking into a
building and stealing a typewriter, but he was already well known on
the streets of Rochester as a ‘petty thief and tough, a corner
loafer and the leader of a gang of tough street urchins.’
While in school, Jerry had appeared in school court three times, for
truancy, insubordination, and fighting. After leaving school at 16,
Jerry worked irregularly as a messenger boy but mostly spent his time
roaming the streets with his friends. Picked up and released numerous
times by the Rochester Police Department, the causes of Jerry’s
contacts with the police give a sense of how he spent his time: for
walking on the railroad tracks; for stealing; for hanging around
girls’ houses; for swimming in a forbidden river; and for morals
violations. Only one of these police contacts resulted in a formal
adjudication of delinquency, before the theft of the typewriter led
Jerry to Coxsackie. For most reformatory prisoners, the police were
simply a part of everyday experience; their Coxsackie sentence just a
culmination of a process of control and discipline deeply embedded in
their lives.”

–  Joseph F. Spillane, Coxsackie: The Life and Death of Prison Reform. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2014. pp.84-86.

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Ben Shahn, Untitled (Natchez, Mississippi). Gelatin silver print photograph, 1935.  Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Bernarda Bryson Shahn. #P1970.1451

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