Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘return to civilian life’

“New Superintendent For Limb Factory,” Toronto Star. January 31, 1919. Page 04.

Department Makes Effort to End Dispute by Appointing Returned Officer.

In an attempt to end the strike conditions at the artificial limb factory at Davisville and on Spadina avenue, the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment, which recently dispensed with the services of Superintendent J. E. Burns, which brought about a strike of the 220 men employed in the factory, has appointed Major R. W. Coulthard to the position.

Major Coulthard is an officer of the C.E.F., who went overseas with the Second Canadian Tunnelling company in 1915 from Western Canada, and his appointment, according to Colonel G. F. Morrison, assistant director of the department, satisfies the first demand of the employees that a returned soldier get the position.

On Strike Since Jan. 24.
The strike at the limb factory has been on since January 24, and followed the dismissal of Mr. Burns. The appointment as a temporary measure of E. M. Martin as superintendent was not agreeable to the men and they decline to return to work, and to-day, the appointment of Major Coulthard is announced.

Sir James Lougheed, Minister of the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Reestablishment, issues the following statement on the situation:

“On the recommendations made by those competent to give an opinion on the subject, we brought about changes that were necessary in the interest of the department, the men employed in the factory, and those ex-members of the forces who required artificial limbs and appliances. Some of the employees seemingly do not see eye to eye with the department in the changes that have been made. It is quite manifest that the Government must exercise its own judgement as to how an enterprise of this kind must be operated.

Highest Efficiency Wanted.
‘Regretable as it is that we have not at the moment the co-operation of the men who have thus ceased work, yet it is our duty to place this work upon the most efficient basis possible. We have appointed in charge, Mr. R. W. Coulthard, who has been overseas for a long period. During his experience as an engineer he has had charge of large enterprises requiring such ability as to qualify him for the position.’

Mr. G. E. Beaton, of the Strike Committee, interviewed by The Star this morning, explained that nothing definite can be announced from the men’s side of the question until the appointment of Major Coulthard has been considered at a meeting of the striking employees, which will be held forthwith.

Referring to Sir James Lougheed’s announcement that the department cannot be dictated to in matters of general policy, Mr. Beaton said: ‘We thrashed that out last night, and it was understood that there would have to be some modifications on the demands of the men.’

‘We are pleased to hear that a returned soldier has been appointed, and hold to that demand still,’ he said. ‘That would be quite satisfactory to us if Mr. Burns were retained to tutor the new superintendent in the way we have been working. Possibly some compromise will be reached along these lines,’ he concluded.

As Major Coulthard’s appointment has not been notified yet to the Strike Committee by the department, it is not likely that any official notice of it will be taken until such time as it is announced. Immediately following that, however, a meeting of all the employees will be held, and the future policy of the men decided on.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“In
the era before antibiotics, contracting tuberculosis was devastating.
Victims often
spent many months in a sanatorium suffering
through long recoveries or painful deaths.
In
spite of their dire condition, the

Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment

arranged a series of
vocational training workshops for tuberculous veterans. The
goal was to give them
“the physical and mental stimulation of occupational therapy and to
make ‘taking the cure’ [i.e.,
tuberculosis
treatment] easier, while providing limited industrial re-education.”
The
results were encouraging. Instances of drunkenness and
insubordination were nearly eliminated, while treatment completion
rates rose
from sixty-six to nearly one hundred percent.

During
this transitional period several high-profile
officials
visited Speedwell. The
Prince of Wales stopped by on 21 October 1919 during his visit to
Guelph where, it was reported, he toured the whole hospital and shook
hands wit nearly all of the veterans. In
February of the following year, General Sir Arthur Currie traveled
from Ottawa with the Honourable Hugh Guthrie, Minister of Militia and
Guelph Member of Parliament, to make a “visit of inspection” to
Speedwell Hospital.
It
is unclear if representatives from the Red Cross met with Guthrie
during this visit, but the president of the Guelph branch, Edith
Crowe, contacted Guthrie’s office
the following month. Crowe wanted Guthrie to understand that
conditions at Speedwell were deteriorating daily, and the hospital
presented to visiting dignitaries did not represent patients’ daily
experiences:

I
venture to say that we women [of the Red Cross Society] know more of
the seething discontent out there than any official
in the place. Here is one of dozens of complaints. In the bitterest
of the cold weather an order came through from Ottawa that all heat
was to be turned off in the T.B. Wards. Do you know that the water
froze in the stone hot water bottles, and the bottles burst in their
beds, leaving ice at the men’s feet? Army blankets are heavy but
there is not much warmth in them, and these poor fellows have
suffered
much from this cold this winter. I am not sure how far your
jurisdiction extends, but I know that what you can do will be done.

Crowe’s
complaint was immediately forwarded to Lougheed’s office, but there
was no time to dispatch the DSCR’s medical director to investigate.
In addition to
notifying officials
in Ottawa, Crowe alerted her superior. The Chairman of
the Canadian Red Cross Society, Lieutenant-Colonel Noel G.L.
Marshall, wrote Lougheed that same day regarding numerous complaints,
some from “very direct sources,” received by the Red Cross about
Speedwell Hospital. The
chairman wanted to assure Lougheed that, despite
appeals
for the Red Cross to intervene, there would be no meddling in
Speedwell’s affairs
beyond his organization’s unconditional assistance.

The
situation deteriorated further a few weeks later when Speedwell’s
nursing staff
walked off the job. The
medical director received an urgent letter from Speedwell’s medical
superintendent on 12 May 1920 regarding a bitter dispute between the
dietitians and nursing staff
over
the preparation and delivery of special dietary meals to the
patients.

Standard
practice within DSCR hospitals placed all medical staff (including nurses and dietitians) under the authority of an in-house
Medical Superintendent. The
superintendent reported to a regional Unit Medical Director who, in
turn, reported to the Director of Medical Services in Ottawa.
Speedwell was different;
the dietitians took orders directly from Assistant Director Black.

The
dietitians claimed their duty was limited to preparing special
dietary meals and that responsibility for delivering those meals to
the patient’s bedside rested with the nurses. The
nurses argued their time was better spent on the ward with their
patients rather than in the kitchen with their meals. “We realized
it was not our work,” said Miss A. Hanlan, one of the nurses on
strike, “[t]he dietitians are supposed to be there serving the
trays, but it is bad enough for the nurses to
have to serve the trays without the dietitians standing by watching
them.”
The
nurses told the Toronto
Evening Telegram
that
Speedwell’s chief dietitian, Miss Mabel Beatty, was Black’s
sister-in-law,
and that Beatty had usurped control from Speedwell’s head nurse,
Miss Maud Wald, with the support of Black’s administration.

The
nurses were justifiably concerned. A patient in another DSCR hospital
who had underwent surgery nearly died when he ingested apple pie
shortly afterwards,
mistakenly delivered by an orderly while the attendant nurse was in
the diet kitchen.
Nevertheless,
Black objected to the nurses’ demands, arguing that four assistant
dietitians would need to be hired for each of Speedwell’s special
diet kitchens, which the hospital could not afford.
The
issue went to the Director of
Medical Services, Colonel E.G. Davis, who confirmed
the nurses were responsible for ensuring “her patient receives the
proper diet, one which has been prescribed for him; also to supervise
the distribution of trays by the Orderlies on duty in her ward but
the actual preparation of foods, the placing of food on trays in the
diet kitchen is certainly not part of her duty.”
The
medical director estimated
that delivering meals to patients could be done by kitchen maids
under the supervision of Speedwell’s existing dietitian
staff.

These
conflicts
indicate that the deeper issue at Speedwell was its system of dual
administrative control shared between civilians and military-medical
personnel within the same hospital. Colonel Davis acknowledged this
in his report to the deputy minister: “the
nurses and medical men [at Speedwell], rightly or wrongly, resent the
fact of having a layman in charge of medical arrangements resulting
in lack of co-operation and constant bickering.”
Black
was originally granted vast authority in 1917 as Director of
Industries in order to streamline vocational training with medical
treatment. After
Speedwell’s transition to long-term convalescence care, however,
Black’s decisions were increasingly viewed by not only veterans but
also medical staff as arbitrary, unqualified,
and controversial.

At
least two tuberculous patients died
as the nurses’ strike wore on. Thomas Quin,
who served as a sapper with the Black Watch in France, came to Canada after
the war to carry out his convalescence closer to his mother, who
resided in Toronto. Quin
passed away on 29 June 1920 at the age of nineteen.
Another
patient named McNamara had to plaster newspaper sheets across the
seeping limestone walls
of his cell in an effort
to “keep the damp off him.” McNamara also died during the strike.
The
following week, with the support of the Great War Veterans
Association, the nurses reported the scandal to the press. Black
announced his resignation the same day. He accepted an offer
to manage the H.H. Robertson Company
of Sarnia, manufacturers of construction materials, but insisted his
resignation had “nothing whatever” to do with the dismissal of
eighteen nurses from
his staff.
Colonel
E.G. Shannon, an officer
who served overseas with the 50th
Battalion, was Black’s successor. Shannon’s appointment suggests
that DSCR officials
were beginning to respond to veterans’ objections to civilian
authority.

The
Toronto
Evening Telegram
published
a series of articles on the scandalous state of affairs
at Speedwell based on the testimony of nurses and patients. There
were reports of rusty hypodermic needles being sterilized in tin cans
due to shortages of medical supplies. Others condemned the hospital’s
continued use of so-called “private wards” which were
half-converted prison cells.
William
Barden, a patient of Speedwell’s tuberculosis ward for the past
fourteen months, recounted how a group of patients had approached the
medical superintendent, Dr. G.N. Urie, requesting the windows be
cleaned, which the Telegram
described
as “filthy
and scarcely up to the standard expected in a military hospital.”
The
doctor allegedly refused the patients’ request because the cost of
window washing, around $800, was considered too high. On another
occasion, Dr. Urie was presented with a petition signed by 150
patients requested conditions improve immediately at Speedwell. The
petition was allegedly torn up and the petitioner kicked out of Dr.
Urie’s office.
The
medical superintendent disputed all charges. Dr. Urie’s actions
were consistent, however, with a hospital administration that was
constrained by inadequate funding but also indifferent
to veterans’
concerns.

The
Ontario government released its own report in August. The
bombshell report, commissioned
by Major G.L. Drew, Vocational Officer
for the Provincial Secretary’s Department, led Drew to conclude the
situation at Speedwell “came far short of the service that I
considered patients should receive at the hands of the Department.”
Frustrated
that his repeated allegations to DSCR officials
had been ignored, Drew had ordered J.J. Bayliss, from the Mountain
Sanatorium in Hamilton, to visit Guelph and investigate the
Telegram’s
accusations.
“I
attach this
report,” Drew told the DSCR, “[t]he results are far from
satisfactory to say the least.” In his cover letter, dated 2 August
1920, Bayliss declared that “[…] making a report on Speedwell
Hospital was about the most difficult
thing I ever had to do.”

Bayliss
confided
to Drew:

the
evils of this place are so obvious, that to mention some of them
would only cast a reflection
on certain men who are doing their best, and might possibly let out
those men who deserve blame. There is no doubt whatever, that some men
at Speedwell have done their best in every way for the patients, nor
is there any doubt, that others fell far short of their best, and
knowingly allowed a situation to develop that has caused a great deal
of anxiety and trouble for the Department.

Bayliss’s
report is remarkable for its historical interrogation of the
decisions that had been made during the uncertainty of wartime. “the
root of the trouble is much deeper than any question of
administration,” Bayliss concluded.
His
report did not discuss the nurses’ strike in great detail, nor did
it criticize the staff.

Doing
so ignored the deeper issue rooted in the initial transference of the
Ontario Reformatory to the Military Hospital Commission in 1917. Bayliss recalled the remarks
of a patient at Mountain Sanatorium who, when told of his impending
transfer to Speedwell, had responded that “[t]he place is a prison,
and you can’t change it. Surely we deserve something
better than a jail.”
Bayliss
admitted he thought the patient was exaggerating. What he discovered
was Speedwell had never fully transitioned into a proper veterans’
hospital after 1917, with many necessary improvements never materializing.

While
Speedwell was initially supported by many of the leading physicians
across Canada, “the spirit of their recommendations seems to have
been almost ignored.”
It
required more than fresh paint and curtains covering Speedwell’s
iron bars to make the former prison suitable for convalescent care.
By failing to undertake necessary improvements, Speedwell Hospital,
in the eyes of the superintendent of Mountain Sanatorium, remained a
prison.

The
persistence of a prison-like atmosphere had significant
psychological implications
for the patients at Speedwell. During previous outbreaks of tuberculosis in Canada, it was not unusual for the public to go
through fits of phthisiphobia:
a
fear of tuberculosis and its sufferers.
Demands
were made for the establishment of so-called “prison colonies” to
concentrate tuberculous patients during treatment. “[I]n such a
colony,” claimed Bayliss, “the discipline, while not as strict as
that of an ordinary prison, would still be strict enough to enforce
obedience on the part of a patient for the protection of the public
at large […] Speedwell fitted
the idea exactly.”
Bayliss
was certain the veterans bitterly resented being “imprisoned” due
to an illness contracted while fighting
overseas.

The
former prison cells, known a private wards, were tolerable during
summer months but insufferable
during the winter. “The
condition of a patient in a small cell with solid stone walls at such
a time can be more easily imagined than described,”
Bayliss reported, “especially if the window and door are closed for
the sake of comfort.” Making matters worse, a few prison cells in
its underground tunnel system were maintained for veterans who “acted
up a little.”
Bayliss
concluded that Speedwell “[lacked] the many little things for the
patients’ comfort which are to be found in the modern Sanatorium
and without which treatment would become unbearable.”
In
his opinion the tubercular patients were suffering.
By
the time Bayliss’ report reached the desk of the DSCR’s deputy
minister on 21 August 1920, the Tuberculous Board of Consultants was
concluding its own investigation into Speedwell.

The
fall of 1920 marked the denouement for Speedwell Hospital. Colonel
Davis informed the Unit Medical Director in late August that all
tuberculous patients were to be removed from Speedwell and dispersed
to other sanatoria within the DSCR.
On
28 September, The
Globe
reported
that Speedwell would be closed entirely.
The
next day, by Order-in-Council #P.C. 2338, the DSCR was ordered to
vacate the hospital and return the former Ontario Reformatory back to
the province as quickly as possible.
Patients
were evacuated completely by 15 November 1920 and most of the
administration was transferred to the new DSCR hospital in London.
The
remaining employees were laid off at the end of year.
On
24 January 1921, after
nearly five
years, the Province of Ontario resumed complete control of the
Ontario Reformatory at Guelph. During that five-year
period, Speedwell’s administration was the subject of multiple
investigations, conducted by a range of organizations, including the
Provincial Secretary’s Office
of Ontario,
the
Chief Accountant of the DSCR,
the
Board of Tuberculosis Consultants, the Toronto
Evening Telegram,
 the
Canadian Red Cross,
and
the Department of Justice.

Such
was the ignominious end to the noble
experiment in soldiers’ civil re-establishment that was Speedwell
Hospital. What followed was a thorny and prolonged dispute between
Ontario and the DSCR that dragged on for a decade.
A Board
of Adjustment to negotiate Speedwell’s return was convened in
November 1920, when a detailed inventory of alterations and
installations made to the hospital by the DSCR was submitted. It
revealed that, while the nurses’ quarters remained unchanged since
1917, the superintendent’s residence where George Black lived now
boasted a three-story extension, including a garage at ground level
and sun rooms on the second and third floors.
Despite
initial progress toward a settlement, the Board was unable to reach
an agreement. After
two years the dispute was referred to the Department of Justice.
Each
party made six-figure
claims against the other for unpaid expenses and resolution was
further delayed. On 29 January 1931, eleven years after
Speedwell’s return to the province, the DSCR’s long-serving
Assistant Deputy Minister, Ernest Scammell, now Secretary of the
Department of Pensions and National Health, met with the provincial
secretary in Toronto, where the dispute was finally
settled.

Speedwell’s
greatest strengths as an institution— its farms, industries, and
work shops—were little unrealized by a cost-conscious
bureaucracy lacking the will to utilize them. The
inmates who preceded the veterans at Speedwell received vocational
training in an array of trades while building the prison and later
working in its various industries. These
industries, however, were obliged by the federal-provincial
agreement of 1917 to remain efficient
and productive in order to meet
the
continuing needs of the province’s customers. This
obligation eventually led administrators to return Speedwell’s
unprofitable
industries to provincial control, or
substitute vocational trainees for paid labourers, essentially
ruining Speedwell’s prospect of becoming Canada’s “chief
educational centre” in the soldier re-establishment program. The
fact that provincial demands ultimately prevailed is perhaps
unsurprising considering many of the MHC’s original decision-makers
had close ties to the Provincial Secretary’s Department. In the
end, inmates of the Ontario Reformatory received better vocational
training
than Canadian veterans.”

– Brook Durham, “The place is a prison, and you can’t change it”: Rehabilitation, Retraining, and Soldiers’ Re-Establishment at Speedwell Military Hospital, Guelph, 1911-1921.” Ontario History, 109(2), fall 2017. pp. 204-211.

Photo is: “Speedwell [Hospital] Convalescent Ward, [Department of Soldiers Civil Re-Establishment, c. 1918].” Credit: Peake & Whittingham / Library and Archives Canada / PA-068096.

Read Full Post »

“In
early August 1917 Director Armstrong informed
the Unit Medical Director in
Toronto that Speedwell would not require any specialized therapeutic
equipment typically used in the treatment of convalescents. As the
so-called “chief educational centre,” Armstrong admitted he was
“anxious to transfer [to Speedwell] men who are fairly well
advanced in their convalescence and who wish to pursue their
Vocational work further.”
As
far as the Military
Hospital Commission (MHC)
was concerned, Speedwell would specialize in vocational training for
patients strong enough
for physical labour. The
Ontario government had different
ideas. While Ottawa
had committed to soldier re-establishment, William Hearst’s
Progressive Conservative government remained committed to provincial
concerns. Chief among them was ensuring the supply of agricultural
and manufactured goods from the Ontario Reformatory to provincial
customers continued.

When
the Province of Ontario initially agreed to lease its prison farm at
the end of 1916, Premier Hearst conceded
to MHC officials
that, while the rental agreement was insufficient
to cover the interest payments on the province’s capital
expenditures, he considered any monetary shortfalls “a direct
contribution [by the province] to the war and should properly be
included in our expenditure as such.”
Hearst’s
generosity with provincial prison facilities was pragmatic
calculation rather than patriotic enthusiasm. In a phenomenon that
challenged popular ideas about “heroic” soldiers, many of the men
who might otherwise have been incarcerated in provincial prisons
found themselves, during wartime, with alternative options. Rather
than occupy prison cells, these men instead joined the ranks
of volunteer and conscript soldiers on the Western Front.

When
the transfer of the Ontario Reformatory was negotiated between the
Military Hospitals Commission and the Province of Ontario, Provincial
Secretary McPherson insured the province against the loss of its
industries in Clause 7 of the Memorandum
of Agreement
:

7.
It is expressly provided and agreed that in conducting said
industries the Commission will manufacture for the Province all such
furniture and hospital equipment as the Provincial Secretary may
require and direct as well for customers of the Province as for
Provincial Institutions, and will sell and deliver same to the
Province at actual cost of material and of labour at current rates
[…].

The
MHC reassured provincial customers that Speedwell would meet their
demands like the Ontario Reformatory had before them, proposing to
“continue the manufacture of all lines of Hospital Equipment as
heretofore, employing only skilled [i.e.,
paid]
labour for such purposes.”
Unwilling
to relinquish the profits
of its prison farm, the province ensured Speedwell was contractually
obliged to continue manufacturing goods for provincial customers, but
without the benefit of inmate labour. The
April 1917 Agreement,
hastily arranged during the rush to accommodate returning soldiers,
jeopardized the viability of Speedwell’s farms and industries as
sites for vocational training.

It
was not long before the Commission—now
the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re Establishment—faced tough
questions from the Guelph branch of the Great War Veterans
Association (GWVA) about the lack of “returned men” employed at
Speedwell. The
civilians at Speedwell, many employed at the prison farm before the
war, were known as the “prison gang” among veterans.

Labels
like these underscored the toxic environment between veterans and
civilian administrators
at Speedwell. The
veterans
argued that appointments of civilian officials,
including Assistant Director Black, were unfair to veterans who lost
employment opportunities to civilians who “stayed behind, got good
positions, and
being in the position while the returned men were overseas, got
accustomed to the positions, and when the returned men came back,
held them.”

The
president of the Guelph GWVA, Archdeacon A.C. Mackintosh, questioned whether
men like Black could ever understand the veterans under their care.

Black
reassured the new director of the

Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment (DSCR), F.G. Robinson, that future
vacancies
at Speedwell would be filled
by veterans.
At
the same time, the shuttering of Speedwell’s unprofitable
industries continued: the enameling room, the bed factory, and the
hospital equipment shop closed in March 1919 due to steadily
decreasing demand.
By
July, officials
at the DSCR were forced to admit Speedwell would never become the
chief educational centre of men “fairly well advanced” in their
convalescence.”

– Brook Durham, “The place is a prison, and you can’t change it”: Rehabilitation, Retraining, and Soldiers’ Re-Establishment at Speedwell Military Hospital, Guelph, 1911-1921.” Ontario History, 109(2), fall 2017. pp. 201-204.

Read Full Post »

“Belief
that problematic groups could learn to conform to societal norms
through rehabilitative labour gained significant traction in the years
before the Great War. The
Inspector of Prisons and Public Charities set about reforming
Ontario’s prison system at the turn of the twentieth century. The
inspector believed that, rather than languishing in a prison cell,
inmates should carry out
useful,
skilled labour during their incarceration. Habitual work developed
the inmate’s personal responsibility, while cheap prison labour
reduced the cost of his institutionalization.
Over
a period of two years prisoners built, then worked in, an abattoir,
wood shop, broom shop, tailoring shop, shoe shop, woollen mill,
mattress factory, and a machine and paint shop. The
Ontario Reformatory’s industries produced goods for other
provincial institutions, including other prisons and hospitals.

The
Assistant Provincial Secretary of Ontario, Samuel Allan Armstrong,
who supervised the development of several institutions on behalf of
the province, including the Ontario Reformatory, was appointed
Director of the Military
Hospital Commission.
Walter Segsworth, a successful engineer from Toronto, assumed control
of the Military Hospital Commission (MHC)’s vocational training program. Segsworth believed
vocational re-training should begin early in the veteran’s
convalescence, beginning with arts and crafts
while he was bedridden and moving toward “curative workshops”
once ambulatory.
Officials
at the MHC considered the prison’s workshops, industries, and
farming operations to be excellently suited for re-training
disabled veterans.

Segsworth
insisted veterans submit to “re-education” in order to overcome
years of learned dependence upon military authorities, a process
essential for a soldier’s re-establishment. Segsworth explained in
1920,

When
a civilian entered the army everything was done to make him a small
unit in a large organization. He was taught to obey rather than to
think; he was for the most part relieved of the care of his
dependents; clothing, food and a place to sleep were provided for
him. […] us the whole system, for the time being, tended to reduce
the action of his own will and relieve him of all sense of
responsibility.

The
patients at Speedwell attended lectures and seminars at the nearby
Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) as part of their vocational
re-training. Courses in carpentry and poultry farming were popular,
especially among the blind. A graduate of St. Dunstan’s school for
blinded soldiers, Corporal C. Purkis, attended regular classes at the
OAC for sighted pupils before adapting the course material for
blinded veterans at Speedwell, helping them build hen houses, trap
nests, and poultry runs.
Segsworth
believed preventing disabled soldiers from brooding over their
misfortune was important, as it could lead to apathy and
institutionalization.
It
is understandable that Segsworth, as vocational director, possessed
deeply-rooted faith in economic independence as the best safeguard
against veterans’ postwar dependence and unrest. What is
surprising, however, was the degree which the Department
of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment (DSCR)
’s
medical authorities shared this faith, and viewed the transition from
soldier-to-worker as fundamental to the patient’s medical
rehabilitation.

In
1919, Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick McKelvey Bell addressed the
Alberta Medical Association to discuss his work as director of the
DSCR’s medical services. McKelvey Bell explained that the soldier,
in order to assume his role within the military’s “machinery”
and that
in a cohesive unit, must first
shed
his identity as an individual and suppress his desire for personal
initiative. “It is not surprising,” asserted the medical
director, “that the soldier, for whom everything is provided by the
State, should lose, to a certain extent, his sense of personal
responsibility.”
If
the military required a year to transform civilians into soldiers
then, in many cases, an equal commitment was necessary to
re-establish veterans in society.
At each stage of convalescence, the veteran occupied his time with
craft making,
skilled trades, and industrial reeducation, thereby avoiding “a
restless
state
of mind” which the medical director believed “precludes
steadfastness to continuous
and uneventful labour.

Graduated
training schedules prepared veterans
for their transition into obedient industrial workers. By closely
relating veterans’ health to the strength of the national
economy, Segsworth and McKelvey Bell demonstrated the DSCR’s goal
of transforming sick and wounded veterans into healthy and productive
workers.

The
transfer of the prison to the federal government attracted local
press coverage.  In February 1917, the
Guelph Daily Herald
reported
that

[t]he
buildings and grounds of the Ontario Prison Farm, near Guelph, are to
be utilized as a convalescent home for returned soldiers, and there
the battle-scarred heroes of Europe’s Great War will be given
opportunities of becoming profficient
in some industry that will equip them to take up new positions in
life.

Public
discussions about the imminent return of veterans in newspapers such
as the Herald
often
featured idealized conceptions of veterans as “battle scarred
heroes” who, having completed their patriotic duty, were now
expected to re-engage in “normal” civilian life. This included
swiftly
finding
work, securing economic independent for themselves and their
families, and participation in the city’s postwar economy.
Unfortunately, public expressions of gratitude for veterans’
sacrifices
rarely resulted in programs and policies that offered
veterans what they needed as men and as former soldiers.

Before
the First World War, ideas about
male citizenship in Canada were influenced
by the so-called “Militia myth”—a widespread belief that
Canada’s successful defence against American invasion during the
War of 1812 was due
primarily to highly motivated citizen- soldiers who comprised the
bulk of Canada’s domestic fighting
force. Men in the militia received military training for a few weeks
every year, but spent the remainder of their time employed in
civilian occupations.

Within
Canadian militarist discourse, part time citizen soldiers were valued
much more highly than were professional ‘mercenaries’ […] While
the former were viewed as exemplars of patriotic devotion to duty,
the latter were frequently seen as, in the words of one Canadian
Militia Minister, mere ‘bar room loafers’.

Even
before the Great War, idealized conceptions of masculinity were
closely associated with employment and economic independence.

After
the war, “notions of the common soldier underwent inversion,”
argues Robert
Rutherdale, and “reverence for ‘our boys’ at the front became
dramatically displaced once civilians began to imagine them in
proximity as dangerous men – diseased, drunken, and generally
unfit.”
Civilian
authorities began to
express fears that legions of unemployed veterans, perhaps afflicted
by amputated limbs, tubercular infections, or serious psychological
trauma which left them idle, restless, and unable to return to work, would becoming a
destabilizing burden on Canada’s fragile postwar economy.

In
the summer of 1917 the MHC began transforming Speedwell into a
hospital suitable
for the treatment of sick and wounded veterans. The
Robert Simpson Company
of Toronto was contracted to cover the iron bars and limestone walls
with fresh paint and hide corridor gates behind large curtains. Cell
rooms were outfitted
with linoleum or rug flooring,
window drapes, and a toilet cover to match.
Dormitories
were converted to lounge rooms, the Chapel into a concert hall, and
the waiting room into a smoking room.
The
hospital’s service wing was large enough for seven vocational
training classrooms.
Civilians
filled
the ranks of
Speedwell’s administration. George
Black, Ontario’s
director of the Department of Heat, Light and Power, became Assistant
Director on 25 April 1917.

Black
was involved with the Ontario Reformatory’s industries while Samuel
Armstrong was the Assistant Provincial Secretary. With
Director Armstrong at the helm in Ottawa and Assistant Director Black
in charge at Speedwell, the hospital’s administration was
strikingly similar to the prison’s administration a few years
earlier.

Black’s official
title, “Director of Industries,” was a slight misnomer. Armstrong
was clear he intended to streamline Speedwell’s administration
under Black’s
leadership:

Mr.
George Black is to be Director of Industries and in that capacity
General Manager of the entire plant, responsible to the Provincial
Secretary for management of Abattoir and Stores and such other
interests as remain under the Provincial Secretary’s Department,
and responsible to the Military Hospitals Commission for the
administration generally of all other plant and services. 

Under
Mr. Black will be placed all Accounting, Industrial, and other Staff of both the Provincial Secretary’s Department and the Military
Hospitals Commission. He will be charged with the business
administration of the Hospital, including the operation of industries
of both the Provincial Secretary’s Department and the Military
Hospitals Commission, maintenance and repairs of all buildings, plant
and equipment. These
Industries, exclusive of Farm and Dairy, are to be turned over to the
Military Hospitals Commission immediately on the completion of the
inventory. […]

That
there may be complete coordination between the Soldiers’ Aid
Commission and the Military Hospitals Commission, and the
difficulties
of dual administration eliminated by the creation of one responsible
head, it is agreed that in all work in the farm, including
Green-Houses, Gardens and Dairy and the Industries, the Principal of
the Teaching Staff will take his instructions from Mr. Black.

During
the period when the Ontario Reformatory’s inmates were relocated to
other prisons and veterans were admitted to Speedwell, Black made one
of the most crucial decisions about Speedwell’s vocational training
farms. Speedwell’s various workshops and industries had been
suspended until veterans were found to replace inmate labour.
However, interruption of Speedwell’s farm operations would
be disastrous for the crops already in the field.
To save the MHC from such a
disaster, Black paid local farmhands and labourers to tend
Speedwell’s fields and
herds and these men were never replaced by veterans.
Black
recommended the Woolen Mill be operated using paid labour at the rate
of 30¢ per hour. 

The
farmhands and weavers were soon joined by an extensive list of paid
employees. Ninety-three regular employees were on Black’s payroll
in June: forty-one labourers, fourteen farm hands, seven carpenters
and woodworkers, six labour boys, six teamsters, five
cabinet makers, an assortment of machinists and iron workers, a
blacksmith, a tinsmith, an enameler, and seven foremen. Another
twenty-three civilians occupied management positions.
To
Black, ensuring Speedwell’s
industries remained efficient
and profitable was more important than ensuring
veterans had ample opportunities for vocational training.”

– Brook Durham, “The place is a prison, and you can’t change it”: Rehabilitation, Retraining, and Soldiers’ Re-Establishment at Speedwell Military Hospital, Guelph, 1911-1921.” Ontario History, 109(2), fall 2017. pp. 195-200.

Photograph is “Speedwell Hospital, Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. c.1918.” Credit: Peake & Whittingham / Library and Archives Canada / PA-068114.

Read Full Post »