The Clifford quilters – a unique patch of Canadian social history

Members of the Carry on Club at Gramma Jo’s restaurant in Clifford. Front: From left, Esther Hallman and Jean Field. Back: Marion Derbecker, Ruth Anne Cummings, Lynne Nancekivell and Phyllis Kaufman. Photo by Bonnie Whitehead

I came across a remarkable news item recently, in the Wellington Advertiser, a community paper in southwestern Ontario. Continue reading

How to save Sparks Street – Lotta may offer the answer

A recent Ottawa Citizen column re-ignited a debate about what to do with Canada’s first pedestrian mall on Sparks Street. Here is my response:

As someone who worked on Sparks Street for two decades, I have followed with some interest the debate on whether this street can be “saved” or not. Continue reading

Mike Myers, Lotta Hitschmanova, and on being Canadian

Mike Myers, Shelagh Rogers, CBC radio photo

“What does it mean to be Canadian? Well, for one thing, if you’re of a certain age (Mike Myers is 53), it means you have stored away in your memory banks one of Canada’s most famous addresses, 55 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4 – or was it 56 Sparks?” Continue reading

Little known Lotta facts for a Friday: a big mystery solved!

Czech costumes,1943, Ottawa. Lotta top row 2nd left. Photo courtesy of Heather Haas Barclay.

Did you know that Lotta Hitschmanova performed in the same Ottawa theatre as Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Nat King Cole and Jimi Hendrix?

Earlier, we posted an article that included this remarkable 1943 photo of Lotta and other women dressed in traditional Czech costumes.

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Sharing a Lotta Story: “She loved to party”

Lotta in Ottawa, 1943.

Lotta Hitschmanova is revered by many as a kind of “saint”, but she was as human as the rest of us, had a great sense of humour, and apparently in her early days, loved to party!

Here is a Lotta story shared by Heather Haas Barclay of London, Ontario, as she recalls the remarkable personal connection her parents had with Lotta. Continue reading

56 Sparks St – Canada’s most famous address?

56-sparks-photoWhy is it that so many visitors come to Ottawa from across Canada, and after taking a tour of Parliament Hill, they find themselves strolling down the Sparks Street Mall, when all of a sudden, they catch sight of a big door with the number 56 on top of it, their eyes pop out with incredulity, they come to a quick stop and then they start taking souvenir snapshots – to show the folks back home – to prove that there really was, and is, a 56 Sparks Street?

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How did a Jewish refugee to Canada become a Unitarian “saint”? Part I

How did a World War II refugee, born into a Jewish family in Prague, Czechoslovakia, become a revered figure for Unitarians, a small liberal religious faith in Canada?

The following is a brief response to this question, taken from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC Story.” Continue reading

The most iconic – and confusing – uniform in Canadian history?

museum-of-history-hitschmanova-bio-portraitaLotta and her iconic uniform were inseparable. She wore it everywhere. It became part of her public persona.

And it inevitably led to some misunderstandings and amusing stories that she herself would enjoy relating.

Here is what her biographer, Clyde Sanger, has written on page 150 of his book, “Lotta and the Unitarian Service Committee Story.” 

“Dr Lotta’s sense of humour made her collect stories of misunderstandings about her uniform: Continue reading