girl guides of canada
Exhibit prepared by Heather Fitzsimmons Frey
Just prior to and during the First World War, the newly formed Girl Guides of Canada (established in 1909) did a wide range of performances to entertain, demonstrate skills, to participate in rituals created by the Guides, and to raise money for various causes (including the Red Cross, local hospitals, and going to camp).
“Entertainments:” musical concerts; dance performances; plays, operettas, and comedic sketches written by girls or their troupe leaders; Empire pageants and tableaux. The culture and goals of the girl guides suggest that girls had a great deal of control over the content of these performances, and they probably built their costumes, props, and sets themselves.
“Spectacles” of physical culture (also called “Swedish” exercises or gymnastics)
Demonstrations of First Aid skills and drills
Demonstrations of military drills, including flag signaling
Rituals, marches, and ceremonies directly related to the Girl Guides (receiving badges or honours, “flying up” to a higher level, etc.).
The following documents are from the Girl Guides of Canada Archive. Researchers are welcome to visit: scrapbooks include images and reports from across Canada, starting in 1913 and reaching to the present day. There are photographs, newspaper clippings, and performance programmes. Please contact archivist Catherine Miller-Mort at girlguides.ca to arrange a visit or to ask questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Images 1 and 2, printed in Toronto Sunday World, June 29, 1913. The Girl Guides of Toronto present their original play “The Adventures of the Princess Ring,” on the grounds of Casa Loma. In image 2 the newspaper caption reads “Prince Charming Discovers Princess Virginia in her Bower.” All roles were played by girls.
Image 3 and 4 “Triangle Club Girl Guides, 14 – 18 years of age Dumbell Drill” Kenora; Burnaby Club Girl Guides “Club Swinging”. These images are two of many in the collection of girls performing physical culture drills. These exercises were intended to improve strength, flexibility, endurance, and grace. They were often performed to music. Note that the girls in Burnaby are probably wearing clothes that were not their regular Guide uniforms, but were probably specifically worn for exercise drills.
Image 5 “8th Girl Guides Club, Toronto” performing First Aid Drills. For an audience, girls had to speedily create stretchers from found objects, performing bandaging, and other safety and rescue drills.
Image 6 “Empire Pageant” Toronto. Performing “the Empire” featuring Britannia in the middle, surrounded by her colonies, was a popular form of entertainment throughout the nineteenth century. Performed in “national” dress, these entertainments offered opportunities to wear costumes and fancy dress, and to solidify a sense of loyalty to the crown. They were also used in schools as ways to teach geography. Note, for example, in this tableau on the far right that Australia is represented by a girl wearing a kangaroo dress, and next to her is a girl dress with long braids, presumably representing Canada in stereotypically “Indian” (First Nations / Indigenous) dress. The text on the back of the photo is faint, but may indicate that this photo is from 1925.
Image 7 “Do Your Bit.” For this inventive tableau and performance, Girl Guides were promoting the importance of Victoria Gardens to address First World War food needs. The scrapbooks do not indicate what the girls did while dressed as vegetables.
Image 8 Little Girl under a Toadstool. Guiding involved particular performances of rituals loosely connected to Juliana Horatia Ewing’s story “The Brownies.” Involving recitation and pledges, the girls performed their commitment to Guides and Empire.
Image 9 “The Magic Kiss” by Jean McConnell Casa Loma. In 1914, Lady Pellatt invited the Girl Guides to perform another play at Casa Loma, the perfect performance space for a fairy tale. The images were printed in The Globe on June 20, 1914 and Toronto Sunday World, June 21, 1914, but it was performed on June 13.
canadian national institute for the blind (CNIB)
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) devoted its first year of conception, 1918, engaging both the public and also the small blind community made up of mostly veterans in post-War Toronto. The organization was providing rehabilitation services for blind and partially sighted people around Ontario at this time, while specifically focusing on supporting Toronto’s blind community with living and working opportunities. This period in Toronto explored the needs of blinded soldiers and others, and was attended to by a staff who took into consideration the varying conditions, and developed programs and staff positions for support which ultimately stands today as a primary infrastructure for an organization that still develops and support blinds people in Canada.
The Bulletin, which began in October 1918 acted as a public notice for changes within the organization, its staff and board, and the programs that they were beginning to develop. These materials were discovered after a trip to the CNIB archives where the experience was beyond visual and became a tactile experience. Whereas many elements of the archive were braille documents, writers, and propaganda from the ast 100 years. The Bulletin exsts in the National Archive in Ottawa, Ontario, and was shared from the generous Jane Beaumnt, CNIB’s current Archivist, upon preparations for the upcoming Centennial Celebration for the Organization. Beaumont and her team are creating a “living history” exhibit based on these documents and many like them to celebrate the conception of the organization, its growth, and pointing to the future.
An example of this would be in the November 1, 1918 issue pictured here The Bulletin editors chose to showcase an exhibit in which blind people show “what they can do” at a local event called “Carnival of Nations”. Real blind people performing real blind activities in a curated setting, possibly a small hint of freak show, but more prominently the CNIB gravitates towards advocacy in showing a successful blind person doing those “normal” things. These performances act as the first recorded instance of shared experience between the private and public lives of blind Canadians and the public in Toronto, but also suggests a context and relationship between the two as well. The need to “prove” their competence while also showcasing their exoticisized private lives creates an idea of what the CNIB believed the public thought of blind people, but also possibly hints at what needed to happen in order for their experiences to be understood and supported. The organization has developed over the last 100 years but continues to showcase blind skills today in various ways.
Shown here in the May 1, 1919 issue of The Bulletin the editors announce the inclusion of blind persons with a sensory experience of the Royal Ontario Museum. The Museum offered guided and tactile tours of museum exhibits, which is a formal tour but more prominently the visceral interaction with artifacts acts as a performance of history, an experience not based on vision to introduce blind people to the historical artifacts that are primarily visual. This piece from The
Bulletin explores the advocacy within the community that CNIB had been doing, but also how integrating performative qualities such as a tour guide vividly describing artifacts, blind patrons interacting with the exhibits, enlivens a museum experience that is otherwise passive. The tactile tours at the Royal Ontario Museum have developed over the past 100 years but remain a key role in blind culture and inclusion in Toronto today, although blind patrons can request a tour at any time now and are not restricted to any particular day. These explorations of exhibits have been integrated into the patron experience, normalizing both found performance of history but also inclusion of blind people in Toronto’s popular culture.
Written by Jessica Watkin
Al W. martin's mammoth production
chez gerard & Quebec's Theatre Scene
CHEZ GÉRARD: A Glimpse into Québec City’s Cabaret Scene
These images are digital copies of a bilingual handbill for performances at Chez Gérard and À La Porte St-Jean, with an advertisement for À La Page Blanche. All three establishments were founded by Gérard Thibault (1917-2003), who was Québec City’s “king of cabaret” from the late 1940s to the late 1970s (Boivin-Allaire). While undated, this document is from the summer of 1963; it was shared with the Theatre Documentation and Reconstruction Project by Nadia Cantin, daughter of Clément Cantin (1933-2013). Clément Cantin, whose nom d’artiste was Endré Clément, performed in several of Thibault’s cabarets as a singer and master of ceremonies in the 1960s.
On 10 July 1938, Gérard Thibault, with his brothers Émile, Paul, and Jean, opened Chez Gérard, a small restaurant situated on rue Saint-Nicolas, in the Lower Town of Québec City. Thibault had bought the place for $750 (Thibault and Hébert 24). At the time, it had only three tables and “a minuscule kitchen” (Ibid). “A full meal – which included a soup, entrée (among which boeuf à la mode was a favorite), desert, and beverage – costed 25 cents and, even at that price, it was profitable,” exclaims Thibault. “[We made] about $1500 in profits in the first year!” (Ibid) When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Chez Gérard opened 24 hours a day, feeding workers of the nearby arsenals and Morton shipyards, as well as “many travellers, politicians, military personnel and others, and convoys of troops that arrived by train from all over the country” (Thibault and Hébert 25). Chez Gérard eventually relocated to rue Saint-Paul, also in the Lower Town, only steps away from Québec City’s train station, the Gare du Palais.1
After the war business slowed down, which led Thibault to think of new ways to attract customers. In 1946, he invited Will Brodrigue’s orchestra to perform twice a week in his restaurant, on Fridays and Saturdays. On 6 November 1948, he hired accordionist Fredo Gardoni, French singer Michèle Sandry, and local radio-celebrity Saint-George Côté to entertain his clientele. “In the early days,” actor Paul Berval remembers, “Chez Gérard was not known as a cabaret. A proof of this is that we dressed in the kitchen with the pots and pans. There were no dressing rooms for the artists at first. We found ourselves standing between chickens and hors-d’oeuvres. Sometimes we laughed!” (Qtd. in Thibault and Hébert 52) The consecration of Chez Gérard as Québec City’s premier “Parisian-style” café-concert happened in 1949 when Charles Trenet offered to sing in Thibault’s restaurant. He performed there from 01 to 18 February and from 27 February to 05 March, attracting well-to-do spectators from Québec’s bourgeoisie who would otherwise not set foot in the Lower Town (Thibault and Hébert). Numerous local and international artists followed in the steps of Trenet (who returned several times to Québec City), making Chez Gérard a first-choice establishment for night-life entertainment, and an important venue that promoted French and Francophone music. Here is how French singer Monique Leyrac, who first performed at Chez Gérard in 1950, describes her experience at Thibault’s institution:
At the time, singing in Québec City, alongside friends like Saint-Georges Côté, felt like vacations. […] I knew the club by reputation, but I had never met the owner. He was approachable and extremely friendly. […] Before presenting my singing act, I rehearsed with three musicians and it took the time that it took. The musicians were not supervised by the union and it was cheaper. For my repertoire, I looked for Québécois songs. […] The rest of my repertoire was made of French songs that I liked. As for stage costumes, we wore what we wanted, […]. I had a sophisticated look. My hair was pitch-black, pulled back up into a bun like a Spanish lady. I wore elaborate custom-
made dressing gowns that suited my personality. Shows unfolded according to the European model, with an artist in the first half and another, usually the star, in the second. (Qtd. in Thibault and Hébert 68-9)
For many French-speaking artists, Chez Gérard became a gateway to America:
Indeed, there were many French artists who, after performing at Chez Gérard, obtained a contract in the United States. It had become usual that impresarios and owners of American cabarets-- from New York, Washington, and Los Angeles especially-- should come to Québec City, at Chez Gérard and, later, at À la Porte St-Jean, to see and hear “the best and the brightest” of French artists, and to offer them engagements that would secure a breakthrough in the land of Uncle Sam. (Thibault and Hébert 56)
Chez Gérard’s success was such that Thibault opened other cabarets in the city: Chez Émile (1942-63, first a restaurant, it started offering performances in January 1950), À La Porte Saint-Jean (1951-67, hosting its first performances in October 1951), À La Page Blanche (1958-65), and À La Boîte aux Chansons (1960-65). Between 1948 and 1977, Thibault’s venues welcomed hundreds of entertainers, including actors and comedians such as Gratien Gélinas, Ti-Gus & Ti-Mousse (Réal Béland and Denise Émond), Olivier Guimond, Dominique Michel, Denyse Filiatrault, musical comic duo Les Jérolas (Jean Lapointe and Jérôme Lemain), and La Poune (Rose Ouellette); singers, musicians, and song-writers, among them Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Félix Leclerc, Ginette Reno, Michel Louvain, Jacques Normand, Fernand Gignac, Sasha Distel, Gilles Vigneault, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Willie Lamothe, Les Baronets (René Angélil, Pierre Labelle, and Jean Baulne), and the Duke Ellington Orchestra; as well as female impersonator and cabaret artist Jean Guilda, and global entertainer Josephine Baker, to name only these few.
Chez Gérard, Thibault’s first and longest-lasting cabaret, held its last performance in December 1977. This ended a thirty-year chapter in Québec City’s night-life.2
Written by Gabrielle Houle
1 Gare du Palais is referred to as “Union Station” on the handbill.
2 The Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is the repository of a large number of photographs, written documents, paintings, architectural drawings, a wide variety of audio-visual material, and other types of documents that trace the life and work of Gérard Thibault. Collections kept at the BAnQ that would be useful to anyone interested in researching the topic include the “Fonds Gérard Thibault” and “Exposition Gérard Thibault”. Further research into Thibault’s career could look into the Productions Jacques-Gérard (1961-63), through which Thibault produced shows that were performed at La Comédie canadienne in Montréal and often toured across the province. Another area of inquiry would be the performances by French and Québécois artists Thibault organized for patients at the Sanatorium Bégin between 1949 and 1962. Works Cited: Boivin-Allaire, Émilia. “Gérard Thibault: Le roi du cabaret.” Cap-aux-Diamants, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 27-29, Winter 1989. www.erudit.org. Accessed on 18 August 2017. Thibault, Gérard and Chantal Hébert. Chez Gérard: La petite scène des grandes vedettes. Les Éditions Spectaculaires Enrg, 1988.