As Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee is celebrated with varying degrees of fanfare across the Commonwealth, Advocate staff received a window into her long-ago coronation with the drop-off of some very old newspapers.
“God Save the Queen! Long May She Reign!” are the words printed on the front page of the May 27, 1952 Red Deer Advocate. The special celebratory issue was distributed in advance of Queen Elizabeth II’s June 2 coronation.
Beside noble-looking Page 3 photos of the Queen and Prince Philip is an earnest editorial about the “charming woman” who will be anointed with oil in Westminster Abbey…
“It will be the hope of her people that… she may be spared for many years to give them leadership and inspiration,” penned the editorial writer.
These good wishes have certainly come to pass. The 96-year-old Queen became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch on Thursday, and the third longest-reigning monarch in recorded history.
The celebratory Advocate — truly a broadsheet at 17 inches across — is also sprinkled through with advertisements from local businesses that wanted to show support for the new Queen.
“May peace flourish under her reign!” states Red Deer’s “smart store,” Osborne’s Ladies Wear.
A Park Hotel advertisement proclaims “14 million Canadians wish her happiness.” It’s juxtaposted with a photo of an elephant standing on a barrel to promote Alberta Slim and his Western Circus Revue.
Red Deer’s population was just over 9,000 in 1952. The Advocate sold for seven cents and came out weekly — on Wednesdays. There was no publication on June 2 (the Queen’s coronation was a holiday), so readers were advised they would get their paper on Thursday instead.
The coronation issue was in a pile of old Advocates that were dropped off at our Bremner Avenue office a couple of months ago. A central Alberta woman had been cleaning out an elderly relative’s home when she came across a treasure-trove of old newspapers that showed what life was like in Red Deer and region in the early 1950s.
A quick perusal of these unwieldy — and now brittle — pages attests to the truth of the quotation: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” (From L.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between.)
The 1952 issue contains an article on Penhold air base welcoming 50 NATO cadets for flight training. Meanwhile, three-dimensional films were shown in Red Deer for the first time — and pleased patrons. And “The Gay Fifties” Dance Revue was held at the Memorial Centre.
A Local Happenings column features families who spent the weekend in Calgary and were planning to fly east (the Botterills), and who just returned from a 10-week European holiday (the Parsons).
A “Golden Jubilee” edition of the Advocate, celebrating Alberta’s 50th birthday on Aug. 3, 1955, pays tribute to many Central Alberta locales.
While Sylvan Lake is described as “a grand and flourishing place” with a “staggering” history, another article confirms the official closure of Nordegg. The once-bustling town of 1,000 people was reduced to 25 residents following the closure of the Brazeau Collieries mine earlier that year, leaving the community a virtual “ghost town.”
A Christmas issue from 1953 contains a story about the “anti-polio vaccine being given out to half a million more children.” Another article speculates about what Canada could look like in another 50 years, decrying the proliferation of billboards and traffic arteries, and calling for cities to be “more pleasing to the eye.”
And the raging controversy about Canada possibly adopting its own flag — some said this would “diminish ties with the Mother Country” — features in another story.
The earliest Advocate dropped off was from June 7, 1928. A story critically points out that while waiters pay for their aprons here in Canada, they receive no tips to defray this cost. Any tips they receive, by right of parliament, had to go to the boss.
Flip the page and there’s an article about a “good manners in motoring” talk, sponsored to improve Red Deerian driving habits.
Maybe bad driving is a sign that the more things change, the more they stay the same.