25 February 2013

Freedom to Read Week: On Burning Comic Books

Young minds are so very impressionable, aren't they? How fortunate then that we have dedicated souls like Father B.W. Harrigan and Len Wynne, head of Vancouver's Junior Chamber of Commerce youth leadership committee, to serve as role-models. That's Mr Wynne above adding to a bonfire of comic books, bringing to an end a month-long campaign dedicated to moulding juvenile reading habits:

The Globe & Mail, 11 November 1954
(cliquez pour agrandir]
I wonder if Mr Deschner managed to organize that "meeting of all major Canadian book publishers". If so, he must have left feeling disappointed; later news stories have it that the cost of the exchange books came out of Junior Chamber of Commerce coffers.

Apparently, Messrs Deschner and Wynne hadn't thought to speak to the Vancouver Public Library. Director E.S. Robinson found their proposal abhorrent and refused participation. His opinion was echoed in editorials from the country, the harshest of which came from a hometown paper. "The public hangman burned books in the Middle Ages," said the Vancouver Sun, "Hitler's youth were encouraged to burn them in our day."

Hitler Youth? The Jaycees? Yikes.

Victoria's Junior Chamber of Commerce cancelled its own book burning, deciding that the whole idea smacked of "Hitlerism and communism". Mayor Fred Hume also backed away. The torch was passed to Alderman Syd Bowman, who on 11 December 1954 set 8000 comic books alight at Strathcona Park.

"It may have been a slightly melodramatic gesture," allowed Mr Wynne, "but drastic action seemed necessary to bring young reading habits to parents' attention."

Yes, young minds, so very impressionable...

The Ottawa Citizen, 3 December 1956

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating to see Canada went though this nonsense too. As someone who grew up loving reprints of EC Comics titles--Tales from the Crypt, etc--I've always found this 1950s hysteria misplaced, to say the least.