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Textbooks, Propaganda and Pretty Poems



All Sails Set is the the third book of the Canadian Reading Development Series, used in the 40's to the 70's, all across Canada to teach school children to read and to promote Canadian nationalism.


I've written posts about Bunga of Malaya, the first story in the Geography book Visits in Other Lands, used in the US and Canada to teach social studies.


It's true, a week doesn't go by without someone looking up BUNGA Geography Book or some such keyword and landing on this blog.


 I've also posted thoughts about this Canadian Reading Development Series but no one ever looks THAT up. And it's easy to see why. Not one story in the series sticks out. The stories were chosen just for this their,ahem, non-controversial nature. They are good stories, Kipling, Hawthorne and Leacock being contributors, but,in general, they lack that special magic, you see, being toned down, I guess. Edited.







Just now I flipped through All Sails Set (which I bought of eBay researching my play Looking For Mrs. Peel,  and except for picture of two horses, from  a story about a black stallion and red mare, I recall nothing.


Oh, except for a poem. (The poems were the best thing in these books.)  The poem was Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards.


"One there was an elephant, who tried to use the telephant.

No, I mean an elephone, who tried to use the telephone."


(What is a telephone, anyway?)


I am surprised to see that there are two radio plays in the grade six reader.  Radio plays?


All Sails Set, you see, was first published in the forties, when the CBC was still running excellent radio plays and TV was in embryonic form.


The play, The Land of Dreams Come True, comes with instructions for the teacher. "Choose the best player for each part after listening to them over the loud-speaker." "Creating sound effects for radio plays appeals to anyone who has a mechanical turn of mind."


I don't recall doing this play, or any play in class. (I was, indeed, the star of our Grade Six Stage play, Cinderella, and hated every moment on stage - in front of the audience.  I was the only one who enunciated, said my father afterward, grappling for something good to say about my performance, so it follows  I probably would have been good at these radio plays. )


Goes to show you. Missed opportunities.  There is a chance that these plays were expunged from the editions we used in the 1960's. Radio plays were out of fashion then. Radio was about music.



(The one image I remember from the book. No doubt, I attempted to draw it. The picture and story informed me about the male/female relationship. In the story, these horses were from an outlaw band of wild horses, but the stallion won't be separated from the mare. At the end it is discovered the mare is blind. )


I went on to work in radio, actually writing ads and in TV. (Some of my fellow ad writers went on to LA produce television shows. )


 I discovered a love of radio plays in 2006, when BBC Radio 4 came online.


I simply love BBC Radio 4 with its plays, dramatizations and documentaries.


Anyway, this ALL Sails Set volume was for the sixth grade, the year of Expo67, so I didn't do much work at school.


I just figured out, All Sails Set refers to the Bluenose, the boat on the Canadian dime. And there's a story ALL Sails Set inside, the story of the  Blue nose and  its birthplace Lunenberg, Nova Scotia , which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. (I seem to remember a big event at Expo 67 was the arrival of the Bluenose.)


Canadian Heritage, you see. All Sails Set has stories about Sockeye, beavers, Doctor Banting (ooh, that's just come up again in the headlines, wrapped in a controversy about multi-culturalism and the 100 dollar bill)buffalo, Iroquois, sled dogs, and the poem In Flanders Fields. The CBC aired a version of In Flanders Fields and I recall "getting it" only when I heard it well recited.