Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Relief Stiffs and Straw-Pushes

May 10, 2018


While preparing to set sail (see below) I've been reading a fascinating account of daily life in the Depression-era government work camps established by the Department of Defence to get single, jobless men off the streets. The book, edited by Peter Neary, collects the correspondence of Alan Collier, a Toronto-born artist who travelled west in search of work in 1934 and ended up in one of the camps. Most of the letters are written to his girlfriend, Ruth Brown, back in Ontario. Collier was middle-class and well educated so his take on the camps is not typical, which is partly what gives the collection its interest.

You can read my response to the book at The Ormsby Review.