Nellie McClung
Portrait of Nellie McClung by Cyril Jessop [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the days before Britain’s Military Service Act received royal assent, our political leaders assured American counterparts the new Act had no bearing in Canada. We ran our own show and still believed patriotic young men would willingly step forward for King and Country. Unrelated to this, Militia Minister Sir Sam Hughes informed Canadians of Britain’s request for an additional 20,000 men to fight for the Empire.  At the same time, he announced Saskatchewan’s patriotic contributions: Regina pledged an additional 2500 men and both Swift Current and Peace River offered to raise battalions. Meanwhile, here in Berlin, Ontario, the commitment to the Empire continued to limp along.

Wisdom doesn’t always come with age

Much of last week’s excitement settled down, but the men’s antics and the newspaper volleys were not forgotten. Lieutenant-Colonel Lochead was in reputation repair mode as he continued to beat the recruitment drum at public speaking events. He justified his men’s enthusiasm and deflected their abusive behaviour by and casting aspersions on those who resented being asked why they weren’t in khaki. As to questioning why he should be a commanding officer, he invoked Sir Sam, who told him young businessmen were preferred over “old, stale officers.”

To refocus attention on why North Waterloo’s boys were desperately needed, he talked about a reconstructed map that claimed the true north strong and free a part of the Hohenzollern Empire. Only the “dauntless courage and constant watchfulness” of Britain’s ships would keep Canada safe from this ambitious and ruthless foe, those “Hell-hounds of the Earth.”

Summoned to the Principal’s Office

Rumours of local pro-Germany activities spurred Sir Sam to summon Lochead to Ottawa. Afterwards, Hughes dismissed the tales as “a tempest in a teapot” and most German-Canadians were intensely loyal. Any potential problem lay with some Germans from “other points” who wanted to stir the pot. He dismissed press-ganging concerns: only once did soldiers escort a man to the recruitment office and that was because he spoke disrespectfully to them.  He simply needed an apology forced out of him. “That is all there is to it.”

The Mayer sedition case

The attorney general dismissed a charge against a German-Canadian from Berlin, Ontario. Few details were provided, but what was known was a person named Mayer (see notes) spent ten days in jail for insulting Canadian soldiers.  The dismissal was explained with: “his punishment had been sufficient and that no good purpose could be gained by pressing the prosecution further.”

The Lusitania, the Appam and German-US relations

Tensions grew between the US and Germany over German dilly-dallying in admitting sinking the Lusitania in 1915 was an illegal act. While the Allies continued to hope this would draw the US out of neutrality, President Wilson announced his administration would be one of “genuine neutrality and not pretended neutrality.”

The Appam, a British passenger liner, flew the German man-of-war flag when it arrived in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The steamship left Dakar, Senegal for Plymouth, England on 11 January, and was captured in the Canary Islands by Germans. Of the 425 people aboard, almost 140 were captured British seamen, rescued from other vessels the Germans sunk; it also had $2.5 million in gold ($44 million—see conversion note). The British petitioned the ship’s return, but the Americans declared the steamer a prize. How it would be disposed of was yet to be determined.

Germany is nervous

As Berliners in Ontario read about German gains at the Somme, German spies in Australia, and a spy school at Lörrach, Baden, Berliners in Germany believed the Central Powers were much more successful than they were. Germans were generally satisfied with their army’s performance, but any setback could easily rankle sentiment. Britain, however, was feared and loathed for its strength, perseverance and the blockade–all of which dealt strong blows to Germany.

Votes for women is just a beginning. You haven’t seen anything yet

Listed in the “By the way” section, scrunched between a one-liner on the weather (“January has been on a protracted foot.”) and a 5-½ line story on the Board of Trade (see note) deferred third reading of a radials by-law, was a 3-½ line piece announcing Manitoban women’s enfranchisement, and their right to sit as members of the provincial legislature.  Indigenous women would not get these rights for another 44 years.

We were young and vigorous and full of ambition. We would rewrite our history. We would copy no other country. We would be ourselves, and proud of it.” — Nellie McClung.

Want a bit more information?

The Recipe

Chicken and Pork Chop Suey -

2.3 per cent of Berliners were listed as “other/not given” in the 1911 Canadian Census. When you look at the ethnic breakdown, “Other” encompasses a vast geographic area—the Middle East, Australia, South American countries, and Asia (though not Africa, as the continent was its own category). Forty-three residents were born in Asia—while not all may have been ethnically Chinese, Indian, Japanese (etc.), based on clues left behind there were some ethnically Chinese people here in Waterloo County and it seems one of whom owned Berlin’s Dominion Café.

I can’t say if Mr. Chong decorated the café for Chinese New Year or if he or any of the other Chinese residents celebrated it (I caught no mention of it in the papers), but I thought it appropriate to offer something to celebration the year of the Red Fire Dragon.  While I found a chop suey recipe in a period Toronto newspaper, this gai yuk chee yuk from Sara Bosse’s and Onoto Watanna’s 1914 Chinese-Japanese Cookbook was more appealing to me.  The book was written specifically for Americans who had been curious about Chinese and Japanese food but were too timid to try. Thanks to Shirley Lum, who answered my questions and told me “gai yuk chee yuk” translates to “chicken meat pork meat” (with no mention of chop suey in the original name).

One half pound of breast of chicken; one half pound of lean pork; three tablespoonfuls of sweet lard; one half pound of mushrooms; one half bunch of celery; one dozen lotus seeds; one half can of bamboo shoots; two pounds of bean sprouts; one and one half teaspoonfuls of syou; one half teaspoonful of salt; dash of cayenne pepper.

Take half a pound of chicken cut from the breast and half a pound of lean pork, and cut both into small pieces. Heat three tablespoonfuls of sweet lard; when it is well melted, put the above meat in the fat and fry until brown, stirring to keep it from burning. Have ready the following ingredients: One half pound of fresh or dried mushrooms which have been washed in lukewarm water (if dried mushrooms are used, soak them for ten minutes and pull off the stalks), half a bunch of celery chopped small, a dozen lotus seeds or water chestnuts peeled and cut into thin slices. Cut up one onion, also half a can of bamboo shoots and two pounds of bean sprouts. Wash all well and drain in colander. Put all these, except the bean sprouts, with the meat, and cook for ten minutes; now add the bean sprouts, one and one half tablespoonfuls of syou, a dash of cayenne pepper, and salt, and cook for five minutes. Serve with rice.

Gai Yuk Chee Yuk (Chicken and Pork Chop Suey) (Modern equivalent)

Yield: 6 servings

250g 250g ½ lb Chicken breast, in thin bite-sized pieces
250g 250g ½ lb Lean pork, in thin bite-sized pieces
45ml 45ml 3 tablespoons Oil
3 3 3 Ribs celery, sliced
1 1 1 Onion, sliced
250g 560ml ½ lb Mushrooms, sliced
12 12 12 Lotus seeds, blanched almonds or drained water chestnuts, sliced
150g 250ml 1 cup Slivered bamboo shoots, drained
7ml 7ml ½ tablespoon Light soy sauce
2.5ml 2.5ml ½ teaspoon Salt
Dash Dash Dash Cayenne Pepper
1kg 2.5L 10 cups Bean sprouts (see notes)

Heat the oil and brown the meat in batches. Remove the cooked meat to a plate, and cover with foil.

Add the celery to the pan and fry for a few minutes stirring often. Stir in the onion and fry until barely wilted. Add the mushrooms and cook out most of the water so they are soft. Stir in the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots and heat through. Return the cooked meat and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper, and stir through well. Add the bean sprouts and cook for a few minutes.

Balance flavours to taste.

Serve with rice.


  • When I cooked the stir fry, my wok couldn’t hold all the ingredients.  By the time I got to the end of the recipe, I used 250g/2 cups of the bean sprouts. I don’t think the dish suffered.
  • What I’d do differently next time (and please note I don’t think this recipe needs a lot of fiddling)
    • Fry the meat in a mix of chilli and flavourless oils with a few drops of sesame oil
    • Add a grated garlic clove and about a half-teaspoon of grated ginger to the cold oil and let it heat slowly before adding the meat.

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