We Were Good People

© Maria Dunn & William Dolinsky, 2003 SOCAN

The Edmonton Hunger March took place on Tuesday, December 20, 1932. Protesters planned to walk in an orderly and peaceful manner from Market Square (currently the Stanley Milner Public Library) to the Legislature to ask for government assistance for farmers and the unemployed in the midst of the Depression. Wielding billy clubs, police on horseback broke up the march. In researching this event, I read an unpublished letter to the Edmonton Journal, written by William Dolinsky in 1999, in which he described the events he had witnessed. He wrote: “I remember well this Bloody Tuesday” and asserted, so eloquently and simply: “We were good people”. Of the 10,000 people reportedly in the square that day, I imagined the debacle from the point of view of a mother with two children.

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I was an ordinary mother in 1932
My husband out of work and more worries here than food
I was weary with asking the man for relief
Feeling like a beggar, being treated like a thief

So when word of a protest started going round
I bundled my boys for the long walk downtown
And bless them, they didn’t make a peep about the cold
One was only 5, the other 9 years old

We were good people, gathered in the square
It wasn’t ease and comfort had driven us there

Well the air was almost festive with Christmas trees in view
But as we moved to leave the square and march the Avenue
A sound I’d never heard before turned my heart to lead
The sound of a billy club cracking open heads

Well I’d always taught my sons we were safe around police
But when they charged on horses, I dragged us off the street
It made me so angry they’d endanger children too
In silencing the voices of 1932

We were good people, gathered in the square
It wasn’t ease and comfort had driven us there
But they treated us like criminals for showing our despair
Oh I remember well this Bloody Tuesday

Where was the government who wouldn’t let us starve?
Who wouldn’t take the farmer’s land, who knew we worked so hard
We, the people, were just scraping by for our daily bread
We had voted for the cowards and away they turned their heads

Now I’ve read it in the paper, this supposed “Hunger March”
Was the scheme of Reds, they said, our hunger was a farce
Well I don’t care what they say, for me it did ring true
An ordinary mother in 1932

Maria Dunn vocal, guitar

***

Photo in CD Liner Notes: Edmonton Market Square, Edmonton Hunger March, crowd with signs, 1932 (Glenbow Archives NC-6-13014C)

Sources for We Were Good People:

1. Warren Caragata (1979). Alberta Labour: A Heritage Untold. Lorimer:Toronto.
2. William S. Dolinsky (1999) Letter to the editor, Edmonton Journal, unpublished.
3. W.H. Doskoch (1993). Strait from the heart. Self-published.
4. Walter Doskoch (2001). Unpublished oral history.
5. Edmonton Journal articles, December 20, 1932
– Blood flows as RCMP and City Officers Enforce Government Ban on Parade
– No Arms Found When Officers Search Headquarters
6. Alvin Finkel, historian. Lecture at Alberta History Day, August 1, 2001.
7. Linda Goyette (1999) Millions of everyday Canadian heroes. Edmonton Journal, June 30, 1999
8. Potrebenko, H. (1977). No streets of gold: A social history of Ukrainians in Alberta (pp. 206-212). New Star Books: Vancouver.
9. John Rawluk (1999) Letter to the editor, Edmonton Journal, July 10, 1999