Because I Wrote About It

Margarine

Because I wrote about it, because I slipped it into several posts, because I even had a post titled “Oleo Olio”, I felt that I should set the record straight, and honor a local almost-hero.  The following is a reprint of an article in the Waterloo Region Record about margarine in Canada.  It is presented without their knowledge or permission, so, if I suddenly open a Patreon account for bail and lawyers, I hope that you will contribute generously.

THE MAN WHO MADE MARGARINE “SAFE”

Kitchener’s William Daum Euler championed butter substitute

Psst!  Want to buy some margarine?  Seventy years ago, that wasn’t a simple question.

As Canadians celebrate the legalization of marijuana this month, they may be forgetting that, just a few generations ago, this country was having a fierce debate about another controlled substance – that’s right, margarine.

Banned in Canada between 1886 and 1948, the oil-based butter substitute was once labelled a serious public health risk.  Its opponents vilified it, calling the spread a “compound of the most villainous character, which is often poisonous,” according to W.H.Heick, who wrote a book on the subject back in 1991.

Many people may remember mixing color packets into their margarine, since Ontario law used to require margarine only be sold in its natural white state.  But they may not know it was a tenacious politician from Waterloo Region who led the campaign to finally legalize it after the Second World War.

Margarine has had a complicated history since it was first created by French chemist Hippolyte Mėge-Mouriės in 1868, by churning beef tallow with milk.  Dairy producers, concerned about a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to butter, lobbied hard to have it banned.

For decades, they succeeded, convincing law makers it was unsafe and unhealthy for consumers – and bad for their rural economy.  William D. Euler, a Liberal senator and former mayor of Kitchener, had the support of urban organizations like churches, unions and Boards of Trade, as he went to war for margarine.

As part owner of the Kitchener Daily Record, he pushed for editorials supporting the end of the ban.  In 1947, he introduced repeal legislation, and was met with fierce resistance from the dairy lobby.  He wrote letters to newspapers across Canada, pushing his position.  Polls suggested that half the country was behind him – and he leaned on women, veterans, and hospitals for support.

Many Canadians were already using and cooking with margarine, bought on the black market.  Often it was smuggled in from the Dominion of Newfoundland, where it was made from whale, seal and fish oil, by the Newfoundland Butter Company.

Newfoundland, which was still a British colony then, was busy churning out bootleg margarine at about half the price of butter.  Euler, who became the first chancellor of Waterloo Lutheran University, used legalization of margarine as a key bargaining chip in the negotiations with Newfoundland to enter into Confederation.

In November 1947, he got helped by a butter price increase, from 53 to 66 cents a pound, which only reinforced his campaign for a more affordable alternative.  In newspaper pages, town halls, and on Parliament Hill, the debate raged.  Senator James Murdoch accused the butter lobby of using “Communist tactics.”

“The wishes of 150,000 producers of milk had to give way to the desires of 13 Million consumers,” Heick wrote in his book, “A Propensity to Protect Butter – Margarine and the Rise of Urban Culture in Canada.”  The fight went to the Supreme Court, which struck down the ban, and left the control of margarine to the Provinces.  By this point, a poll suggested 68% of Canadians supported legalization – a shift in opinion owed in large part to Euler’s public relations campaign.

Ontario didn’t repeal its Oleomargarine Act until 1995, which made it illegal for companies to make or sell margarine that was colored yellow.  Quebec didn’t follow suit until 2008.  Margarine finally had equal footing with butter, at least in the eyes of the law.  And consumers had a senator from Kitchener to thank for it.

***

What??!  Businessmen would lie, and politicians would support them, for financial gain?  Tell me it ain’t so!  FAKE NEWS!  FAKE NEWS!  You can butter me up by stopping back again soon.  🙂

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Old Stuff – Part 4

Nun

As the youngest of nine Catholic children, the wife’s two oldest siblings, through no fault of their own, both became nuns. The eldest rather vainly insisted one day, that she was not 20 years older.  Careful calculation revealed it was only 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

Not being terribly Catholic, I knew that priests moved from parish to parish as needed, but thought that nuns more or less served where they enrolled, or were sent where needed – and left there. Watching these two women over the years, I was amazed at the frequent-flyer miles they racked up.  Join a convent, and see the world.  If I’d known that there was this much free world travel, I’d have become a nun.

They both became School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The younger of the two was a better administrator, so she got more trips.  She was sent for two years to Le Pas, Manitoba, to organize a school district for Aboriginals, although that was more cruel and unusual punishment than reward.  She went for six months of missionary work to Ecuador – in our winter.  She flew to Rome, to the Vatican, where she met the then-Pope, and spent six months with a world-wide think-tank group.  She was brevetted to Mississippi for two years to reorganize their Catholic school system.

After several years of break-in period at a local Catholic girls’ school, the elder sister went to work at the Mother House in the Hamilton Diocese, which administers most of Southern Ontario. Not exactly world travel, it’s only an hour’s drive away and, if nuns owned cars, she could have commuted home each evening.

She returned after a couple of years, and worked as an aide at the Catholic School Board offices. Finally she was awarded a real trip.  While her younger sister, the Sister, spent six months in Ecuador, she was parachuted into the jungles of El Salvador.  She returned to Canada, and spent another couple of years at the Hamilton Mother House.

She so impressed upper management with her rigid, assertive attitude, that they offered her a five year post as a house mother to about twenty teenaged Catholic girls at an upscale private school in London, England. These were the privileged daughters of ambassadors and minor foreign royalty.

The boarding house, along with its convent and school, were hundreds of years old. With solid stone outers, there wasn’t much need for interior repair and redecorating.  The dining hall had gorgeous oak wainscoting on the lower halves of the walls.  Oxidization and polish had turned it almost black, but the grain still glowed beneath the shine.

The same oxidation eventually deteriorated the plaster walls and ceiling and it was finally decided to redo them. The Sister watched in dismay, as the glorious wood was pried off the wall and thrown away.  As the tradesmen worked, suddenly something fell from between the wood and the wall, and rolled almost to her feet.

When she examined it, it was a very thin coin. At first, she thought it might be something one of the girls had inserted, a toy, like Monopoly money.  A closer look revealed that, as thin and worn as it was, it was a real coin.  It is still a prevalent practice around the world to add a coin to a new building or addition for good luck.

Knowing that I collected coins, she held it until she returned to Canada and gave it to me. Study reveals that it is an Edward II, short-cross, silver sixpence, minted between 1547 and 1552 – Eddie didn’t rule very long – back then coins often weren’t dated.

From the wear on it, it probably didn’t get hidden till near 1600, but it gives you an idea how long ago the building was erected. Because of the wear, it’s worth ‘only’ about $25 today, but would have had about that level of buying power when it was minted.  Someone was serious about this one.  It was more than mere pocket change.

At over 450 years old, it’s the oldest thing I own. I’ve also included a few photos of my older, 1850 – 1900 Canadian coins, including a couple that were minted before the government got around to producing coinage, and allowed individual banks to issue their own.

For those who can’t see the detail, Tails side first;

Pre-1858 Bank of     Bank of Upper    Two-headed 1965
Montreal token        Canada token      Churchill commemorative
one sou.                      one penny            crown

Edward VI                 Hanover                Victorian penny
short cross               love token              186?
sixpence                   penny equal

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