56 Sparks Street — a new song is born!

A new song is born today, in celebration of the 111th birthday of humanitarian Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova C.C. (1909-1990), who was recently nominated to appear on the new Canadian $5 banknote.

Thanks to her heart-felt TV and radio PSAs in the 1950s through to the 1970s, Lotta single-handedly made 56 Sparks Street in Ottawa the most famous address in Canada.

Happy birthday Lotta! 

Angus Reid banknote survey – what happened to Lotta?

Yesterday, the Angus Reid Institute published survey results asking respondents which of the eight Bank of Canada nominees should appear on our next $5 banknote.

As I have suggested in an earlier article:

All eight are worthy nominees and should be honoured in different ways. That said, two candidates have so much in common that I feel they would make an “ideal couple” to grace our next $5 bill: Lotta Hitschmanova and Terry Fox.

It is no surprise that a high percentage of the Angus Reid survey respondents (57%) would like to see Terry Fox on the next $5 bill. It is, however, very surprising to learn that Lotta scored so very low (9%) on this survey, and even more surprising that “Quebec residents are also more likely than others to choose Lotta Hitschmanova.” Continue reading

Celebrating Lotta’s legion of loyal supporters: Georgina Margaret Brunette (1913-2019)

From the 1950s to 1970s, humanitarian Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova was arguably the most recognizable woman in Canada, a groundbreaking female leader and role model working in a male dominated society. It comes as no surprise, then, that so many of her supporters were exceptional women in their own rights, who identified with Lotta in so many ways. Margaret Brunette, a vibrant 97-year old Vancouverite when I met her in 2010, was one of these. Continue reading

Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp!

My sincere thanks go out to the more than 1,300 individuals who signed the “Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp” petition.

I have just written a letter to the Stamp Advisory Committee of Canada Post proposing that a commemorative stamp be made in honour of Lotta Hitschmanova.

I will keep readers updated on any developments, as soon as I learn of them myself.

Here is my letter:

It is my great pleasure to propose to you that a Canadian commemorative stamp be created in the name of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, CC (1909-1990).

Here are a few of the reasons why I feel Dr. Lotta – as she affectionately came to be known – should be honoured in this way. Continue reading

Remembering Auschwitz: How personal tragedy led to Lotta’s mission in life

Remembering Auschwitz: How personal tragedy led to Lotta’s mission in life

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

Lotta Hitschmanova can help save the Sparks Street Mall – Part II

I read with interest Randall Denley’s Ottawa Citizen column, “A very ‘sorry’ plan for Sparks Street.”

Here is my response, published as a letter to the editor on November 22:

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

How to save Sparks Street – Part III – is it time to create a “Lotta56sparks” app?

The Ottawa Citizen has just published my letter to the editor:

I read with great interest Thomas Brawn’s suggestion of creating an app to highlight the story of Sparks Street. I salute this idea and add one of my own.

Canada’s most famous address is 56 Sparks Street. Ottawa humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova, who helped found the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, forever implanted that address in the memories of millions of Canadians via her heartfelt appeals on TV and radio in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

A bust of Lotta currently resides on the wall beside the entrance to 56 Sparks. Imagine what it would be like to have a recording of her old public service announcements playing for visitors as they passed by.

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)

Globe and Mail letter to the editor: “A force for humanity”

This wonderful testimonial about Lotta Hitschmanova was published today in the Letters section of the Globe and Mail:

Re One Man’s Continuing Quest To Honour A Humanitarian (Jan. 23): The attempts to honour Lotta Hitschmanova on a commemorative postage stamp brought back memories of how she made the Unitarian Service Committee famous in Canada in the years after the Second World War, when so many were trying to survive in brutal circumstances.

I was a high school principal and invited her to address the student body in the late 1970s on one of her cross-country fundraising tours. She was a diminutive figure in her unique uniform and I heard some of the “cool” students snicker as she headed to the stage. She soon had them eating out of her hand, and the student council voted to donate the whole proceeds of the next school dance to the USC. Dr. Lotta was a force for humanity and deserves to be commemorated.

Kerry Johnston, Toronto

Globe and Mail article: “In honour of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova”

Photo credit: Dave Chan/Globe and Mail

Sincere thanks to Tu Thanh Ha for his excellent article in the Globe and Mail that features Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, her biographer Clyde Sanger, supporter Bruce Cockburn and myself.

 

He spent a decade in Tanzania, teaching, co-ordinating rural development projects and earning a master’s degree in development studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. “A lot of what Lotta said started to make sense to me,” he said.

It is nice to see the spotlight shone like this on a refugee to Canada who made such an important contribution to her adopted homeland and who connected her new society so deeply to the far corners of the globe.

My hope is that this article will stimulate many others to further explore this fascinating part of Canadian social history.

And of course, launching a campaign to have Lotta’s iconic image on a Canadian postage stamp is now front and centre for 2018!

David Rain

How to save Sparks Street – Part II – Let’s hear Lotta’s voice again!

The City of Ottawa wants your views on how to revitalize Sparks Street, Canada’s first pedestrian mall.

I’d like to add something new to what I wrote in a previous blog post, where I suggested building upon the only pre-existing “anchor” that already draws people from coast to coast to this narrow dark pedestrian mall – that anchor being Canada’s most iconic address, 56 Sparks Street, made famous by celebrated humanitarian, Lotta Hitschmanova, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee, USC Canada.

Continue reading