Monday, December 06, 2010

Vincent Moore's History of the Twentieth Century, Ctd.

Part 5: The fifties

In the 1950s, my father participated in at least two great historical trends of the time: parenthood and immigration.

Like a great many other wartime couples, my parents, who married in 1945 contributed vigorously to the postwar baby boom. By their fifth anniversary, they had three children. And like a great many other European couples, they responded to the grimness of postwar Europe by emigrating.

My mother came from a British Empire family, with relations all over the red-painted parts of the globe, and she already had a younger brother in Vancouver.  My father started his search for a new start there. Historians of immigration have a phrase for this: chain migration. One of the strongest predictors of immigration is having a relative who has already done so. He soon found an opportunity in Nelson, British Columbia. Six months after he crossed the Atlantic by early transatlantic flight, my mother and their three children went by passenger ship and the C.P.R. to join him there.

In 1950s Britain, my father must have been thoroughly unstuck in class, at once a lower-class Irish Catholic with a Scots wife and at the same time a decorated ex-officer and newspaper proprietor. Where did that place him? In Canada, all such questions fell away. Indeed, the British accents that my parents retained all their lives signified gentility if anything in ’fifties British Columbia. My father, who had joined the provincial judicial administration system, soon seemed thoroughly at home, driving huge distances around the mountain roads of the Kootenays, often with a Supreme Court judge and a sheriff in the car. The Moores became popular members of the sociable Nelson community. (I still have an engraved silver platter presented to him in 1960, expressing the esteem of the Kootenay Bar Association for his services there. People did that kind of thing then.) 

Whatever the hardships of leaving home and family, I do not recall my parents ever expressing a moment’s regret about their decision to immigrate, and they both – but particularly my father -- became proud, enthusiastic Canadians.  And their growing children had a very fortunate fifties middle-class Canadian upbringing.

Of course they had it comparatively easy. British emigrants like us had practically free entry to Canada at that time.  The massive Italian immigration to Canada was already under way, and the part of Toronto I live in now became heavily populated in the 1950s with Balts, Poles, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans, but most of those people had a harder passage here and doubtless more challenges being accepted than Vincent Moore did. 

The second half of the century was starting to work out well for my father and his family.

[Update:  Vincent Moore's History of the Twentieth Century continued and concluded -- December 22, 2010]

The sixties

Like a great many North Americans by the 1960s, Vincent Moore (age 50 in 1960) emerged into his fortunate share of the postwar prosperity.  He had never lived in poverty and been spared the worst of the 1930s. By 1960 he was successfully established in his new country and career, and that year he moved his family to Vancouver, where he rose to a senior position in the provincial judicial administration. He had a good income, the stock market prospered, and there was (I am guessing) an inheritance after my grandfather Lennox died in the late 1950s. My mother, who had worked during the Second World War and early in their marriage, no longer worked for income  They joined a golf club, they acquired recreational property, they travelled.

It was pretty much taken for granted in his family that his sons would have university education, but it did not feel that we were, like so many of our peer group, the first “educated” generation of our family. Neither of my parents had any higher education, but they seemed like cultured, educated, worldly-wise people to me.  It was not as if I had never heard an idea expressed or an issue debated before I went to the University of British Columbia.

A feature of my father’s life that now seems notable was his engrained liberalism. That hardly seems an inevitable result of his life experience, but I wonder if the way he became unstuck in Britain’s class system in the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s left him with an appreciation of tolerance and acceptance. In the early to mid-1960s, when many still thought the United States involvement in Vietnam was probably a correct and inevitable thing to do, he was viscerally sceptical. Though he sometimes expressed a wry admiration for the military and the way it got things done, I think he was convinced by his own military experience that war was nearly always the wrong answer. Near the end of his life, he was similarly appalled by the Falklands conflict.

Nothing would ever have tempted my father to live again in Britain, though he visited happily many times.  Both my parents, but particularly my father, had become very proud Canadians and passport-carrying citizens as soon as they were entitled to be. Where Britain would always be trying to fix him in class and status, Canada was more tolerant of that sort of thing. 

Vincent Moore was hardly of the counterculture, but he was not much threatened by it. Generational conflict was not a big issue in his household. If the sixties were a decade when people were allowed to reinvent themselves, then my father’s life had prepared him for the sixties.

The seventies

In 1975 my father reached the age of retirement.  He concluded his career, slightly extending his retirement, on a task force concerned with reinventing court reporting in the light of new technology and new processes of judicial administration. A man who had built his early career on an ability to take down verbatim transcripts of conversations faster than anyone could talk became fulll of excitement and enthusiasm for the digital revolution he just glimpsed on the horizon.

Then he settled into retirement in Vancouver, come through the risks of the twentieth century into remarkable security. In retirement, he combined his knowledge of the British Columbia courts, his wartime-born love of things Italian, and his old journalist's skills, and wrote a lively biography of a Vancouver lawyer, judge, and pillar of the Italian community that became a west coast best-seller in 1981.

The eighties

Early in the 1980s, a doctor told my father he should not plan on seeing Vancouver’s Expo 86.  The doctor was right.  Vincent Moore died of cancer in July 1983, not quite seventy-three. 

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