King Street, Waterloo, Ontario
(after 1911) King Street, Waterloo, Ontario Postcard. C 5 20. Waterloo Public Library. Alexander house is the grey building on the right hand side

Dominion Day, 1916

Canada celebrated its 49th birthday on 1 July 1916. Today it’s sometimes difficult to think of what it was like when Canada was a fledgling nation.  In 1916, many people were alive (and remembered) the Charlottetown Conference so thinking back to those early days shouldn’t have been a great stretch. A bit of optimistic patriotism is usually de rigueur during national fêtes, and 1916 was no different.

The Berlin Daily Telegraph’s editorial played to patriotic Britishers caught up in the day’s war fervour. The piece reminded readers that a half-century earlier, Canada ranked low on the list of the British Empire’s possessions. According to the writer, Canadian military bravery—at South Africa  and in the current war—is how the Dominion came into its own, and let the country “loom up as the greatest of Britain’s young self-governing nations.”

The Berlin News-Record acknowledged the war but focussed more on what the people and nation did here at home. Amidst the economic and population figures, as well as the country’s growth from four provinces to nine, the writer looked forward to what was yet to come. The war helped Canada find its footing, but afterwards, the country could look forward to a flourishing economy because of better-developed land and resources. “Whatever further trials in the future may bring, the Canadian people will meet them self-reliantly, and will endeavour to hand down its heritage as a finer and better developed whole than it was when received.”

Here in Waterloo County, Dominion Rubber System hosted a giant picnic at Waterloo Park. The day started at Waterloo’s Alexander House with a parade that included “Two rube bands” that marched under the banner, “Good rubber, but rotten music.” 15,000 revellers participated and watched the usual games and athletic spectacles, including married women’s dashes, baseball throwing, and frog-and-wheelbarrow races. After the pie- and watermelon-eating contests, there were musical interludes, smoking races and greased pig catching and burlesque baseball. The evening ended with a firework display. 

Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! It’s off to Camp Borden we go!

Meanwhile in London, Ontario’s Carling Heights, the military training camp was abuzz with its own news. According to The Telegraph, Canada’s Militia Minister, Sir Sam Hughes ridiculed the “higher officers” in front of subordinates, soldiers and spectators: “Things were in an awful muddle the last time I was here, and now they are worse instead of better. You don’t seem to be able to do anything except get in the way of the men. You can’t ride a horse, and if you can’t why don’t you get off and walk?”

Anyone reading both newspapers may have been confused as to whether or not the 118th Battalion were bound for Camp Borden for further training. While The Telegraph printed stories about how the boys would be left behind at Carling Heights, The News-Record’s special correspondent “Huronto,” filed stories to the contrary. On 5 July, Ottawa announced the boys would join a host of other troops at Camp Borden on 13 July to complete their military training. “It is rumoured that the ‘big quit’ is due to London city falling down in promises made to get the summer camp on the heights.” Oh, London. 

Just because the ballot count ended didn’t mean the battle was over.

The two newspapers took different sides on the name change issue and stepped up their inky battle. In the days before last week’s vote, The Telegraph’s editors may have taken a cue from the aldermen and ensured “Kitchener” appeared many times – in letters to the editor, in one-liners, in articles about the late Earl. After the vote, it stepped up its campaign and baited its competitor in matters of patriotism.

The News-Record’s pre-vote coverage was sparse and perfunctory, especially since editors supported the foundering amalgamation bid between the city and neighbouring Waterloo. Afterwards, it kept banging its drum even though Berlin’s council made it clear that joining the two municipalities would not happen on current terms (accepting Waterloo’s name for the joined city).

Among the citizens, a group launched a petition to persuade Toronto’s legislators to withhold assent until the New Year. A few dozen copies appeared throughout the city—including The News-Record’s office—and quickly gathered “thousands of signatures.” Whether or not those signatures were true was up for debate several people to not have signed, but their names appeared on the pages.

At city hall, those opposed to Berlin’s new name tried to ensure those who brought on the name change paid for it. Alderman Gross tried to make the councillors who pushed for the name change pay the $316.98 in legal costs incurred(almost $6300 – see notes on currency conversion). Alderman Hahn retorted that $141 (almost $2800) would have been saved “if the opposition had not been so anxious to go to every extreme to defeat the issue.”

Why wasn’t “Berlen” on the list?

On 3 July, the debate on changing Berlin’s name continued. Referencing the low voter turnout, Gross urged his colleagues to defer the renaming until after the war. He also had problems with the second selection process that occurred about one week before the referendum. The name he favoured (Berlen) was discarded in an early round because it didn’t attract three committee members to support keeping it in the running. He felt this was unfair.

Other aldermen agreed that the winnowing process was fair and “Berlen” wasn’t singled out for tougher consideration. Alderman Hahn dismissed concerns about voter turnout with, “We gave the people an opportunity to vote. If they didn’t vote, it’s their own fault.”

Alderman Cleghorn pointed to May’s high voter turnout and said that was proof citizens wanted the change. Gross replied by saying many who voted to change the name did so for fear of being branded a pro-enemy sympathiser, and several told him they wished they could have changed their vote.

Schisms of race and fear were kept open in the 30-minute debate. Hahn complained of a “certain class” of German sympathiser who seemed to look for a fight. Alderman Reid was intent on “crushing Prussian militarism,” because otherwise keeping the name Berlin would be like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  The petition and its unauthorised names were declared “Prussian methods of the anti-British in this city.”

The motion to change Berlin’s name to Kitchener passed 13:3, with Aldermen Gross, Zettel and Schwartz opposed. It would go to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council for assent.

Want a bit more information?

The Recipe

160707 Chocolate Caramel Sauce2 980x480

With summer fully in play, ice cream is a perfect dessert for hot days. Perhaps later I’ll give one of the ice cream recipes a go, but this week, I decided to try my hand at a caramel ice cream sauce. Like other recipes, the name is misleading, as it’s more of a chocolate sauce, than a caramel sauce.

The recipe, as written, should have made a chocolate-caramel sauce, which hardened when it hit the cold ice cream. I was absolutely unsuccessful at that. Instead, what emerged was a deep fudgy chocolate sauce—delicious and somewhat addictive.

Caramel Sauce for Ice Cream, from Mrs H D McK (The Berlin Cook Book (1906))

Melt 2 quarts of unsweetened chocolate over hot water, add 2 cups of dark brown sugar, ½ cup of milk, 1 inch of stick cinnamon and 1 scant tablespoon of butter. Boil slowly until a little dropped into cold water will form a soft ball when rolled between the fingers. Remove the cinnamon, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and serve at once. This will candy over the ice cream.

Chocolate-Caramel Sauce for Ice cream (Adapted; Modern Equivalent)

Yield: 1-½ cups

100g 100g Scant ¾ Cup Unsweetened chocolate
50g 62ml ¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
125ml 125ml ½ Cup Milk (as needed)
1.25ml 1.25ml ¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
3.75ml 3.75ml ¾ Teaspoon Butter (as needed)
      Pinch of salt
      Splash of vanilla

Over a double boiler (or in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low flame), melt the chocolate.

Stir in sugar and cinnamon until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the milk butter and salt. Let come to a boil. Add the vanilla. Balance flavour and adjust consistency to taste.

Let cool slightly before serving over ice cream.


  • The adapted recipe is what I ended up making. I’m not a candy maker, but the mixture didn’t seem to come together as the original recipe suggested (no caramel), but it did make a lovely, fudgy sauce.
    • When I used the scaled amount of milk, I didn’t create a sauce, but a large clump of melted chocolate—I added more milk until it became a sauce – you may need more or less than what’s listed above.

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