“I never met Lotta, but I do remember 56 Sparks Street, I do remember that voice.”
In 2009, more than 50 events were held coast to coast to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-2009). In Ottawa, USC Canada (now SeedChange) organized a special “Lotta 100” event to honour their founder.
The M.C. for this event was Bob Carty (1950-2014), an award-winning CBC documentary producer and justice-seeking singer-songwriter.
As a tribute to Lotta during his introduction, Carty leads the audience in the singing of his haunting anthem of hope, “Desert Eyes.”
Millions of Canadians can still remember her heavily accented voice on those celebrated radio and TV ads in the 1960s and 70s: “This is Lotta Hitschmanova of the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4.”
For generations, Lotta was Canada’s most beloved humanitarian, a constant voice of caring and compassion for those in need far away. But the deep-rooted inspiration for Lotta’s lifelong humanitarian mission is not so well known. Continue reading →
There will no doubt be much debate on the pros and cons of the City of Ottawa’s new Sparks Street Plan.
One element, however, deserves universal praise, as it doesn’t try to create something new, but rather builds on pre-existing social forces that ALREADY draw people to the Sparks Street Mall. Continue reading →
I wrote this letter to the editor on March 22, 2019 and have sent it to the Ottawa Citizen:
I read with interest this morning’s Ottawa Citizen article, “City’s public consultation yields Sparks Street vision,” and went down to 79 Sparks to check it all out.
I was disappointed to learn that there is no direct reference to Canada’s most famous address, 56 Sparks Street, nor to the celebrated woman who made this address so well known across Canada, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, CC (1909-1990).
“I am one of those tourists who went looking for 56 Sparks St Ottawa. It was around 2015 and my first summer trip to Ottawa. My main goal was to find 56 Sparks St, which I did, just a number above a door, but it was rewarding to actually see it. And Sparks St was amazing, stone covered and no vehicles. The buskers were fascinating. I highly recommend a visit to this historic street.”
Let’s take a tip from the Oscar Peterson memorial at the National Arts Centre: his music can be heard alongside Ruth Abernethy’s amazing sculpture.
If Thomas Brawn’s proposal could also be implemented, imagine all those visitors to Ottawa strolling down this pedestrian mall, checking out the Sparks Street app on their smart phones, suddenly hearing this voice from the past, having a listen, perhaps taking a photo or two to show the folks back home.
Brilliant idea, and Ottawa tourism would be a direct beneficiary.
David Rain, Ottawa
(Editor’s note: David Rain established a blog in memory of Lotta Hitschmanova: lotta56sparks.ca)
“I remember a slight woman in an olive military suit who held the room spellbound.”
I was saddened recently to find out that Gerry Brown, a long-time fan and supporter of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, had passed away in Winnipeg at the age of 98.
Gerry was one of USC Canada’s most dedicated volunteers and Board members. She first met Lotta in Vancouver in 1944, and decades later she joined USC’s legendary group of Winnipeg volunteers at Firehall #5.
Here is a biographical note that Gerry wrote in 2012.