1969 Revisited Poster for Grey Roots 2014 exhibit
Wendy Tomlinson - Visitor Services

What a Difference 45 Years Can Make in Canada

Wendy Tomlinson - Visitor Services

In 1969 Canada was a different place and we Canadians were different people.

For one thing there were fewer of us, only 21 million compared with today (34 million) and we didn’t live as long, perhaps due to the fact that doctors had only recently stopped endorsing cigarette smoking. And when those cigarettes finally caught up with us we couldn’t turn to national health care, as that wouldn’t be fully realized until the 1970’s.

Speaking of the state, Canada didn’t have much in the way of national identity yet. There wasn’t an official national anthem and the red & white maple leaf flag was brand new and fairly unpopular, unlike our recently elected Prime Minister- Pierre Trudeau, who heralded the age of “Trudeaumania”.

In 1969, the average man earned around $1.25/hour and with that you could buy gasoline for .42 cents a gallon (we hadn’t switched to the metric system yet), one of those new-fangled cars from Japan cost you about $3000.00 and you could buy the average Canadian home for around
$15 000.00 or rent one for about $130.00 a month. That house was likely not in an urban setting and definitely didn’t have air conditioning and your neighbours probably had a European background.

In that home the average family, considered “traditional” by today’s description, had Dad as the unquestionable head of the house and breadwinner, who generally worked a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 type job or was a farmer. Divorce was expensive and rare, common-law arrangements were unheard of and mixed race unions were scandalous. Homosexuality was illegal and could earn you a prison stay. Mom didn’t likely work outside the home and wore dresses and skirts rather than pants in public. And she wouldn’t think of going to church on Sunday without a hat and clean gloves on.

There were no computers, video games, ATM’s, microwaves, cell phones or cable TV. When we did turn the television on it was not by remote control or in colour and it may have required some tedious fiddling with the rabbit eared antennae, but there were lots of interesting things to watch. The three channels you got featured new children’s programs like the Brady Bunch, Sesame Street and Looney Tunes cartoons and the top news stories were of the FLQ bombing of the Montreal Stock Exchange, the Vietnam War and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

For entertainment, Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro published their first books. On Canadian radio, a new band from the UK called Led Zeppelin topped the charts along with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. The Rolling Stones concert in Altamont and the crowd at Woodstock made history and the Beatles gave their final public performance from the roof of the Apple Records building. For music fans 1969 is probably one of those moments in time you’d most like to have a time machine for.

For better or worse we’ve come a long way from the from the stereotypical ‘peace & love” idealism that so often accompanies memories of 1969.

Forty-five years makes a difference.

… and just in case you don’t have a time machine hidden in your basement you can still enjoy the great music of 1969 on April 25, 2014, 8 p.m., at the Owen Sound Legion when Grey Roots presents the fundraising concert 1969 Revisited. Tickets are $25.00 each and available at Grey Roots, Fromanger Music and the Owen Sound Legion.

1969 Revisited features the beloved songs from the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s.Fundraising proceeds from the concert will benefit the growth of Moreston Heritage Village at Grey Roots Museum & Archives. 1969 Revisited is presented by Bognor Jam Production and is generously sponsored by 560CFOS, The Dock 92.3, and Have1.com.

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