Monday, 3 December 2012

Q52: Tell me about your 1960s experience

asks: From: Carl Stieren, Ottawa, Ontario

Introduction: This question was asked at the Launch party November 3rd, 2012 for Carl Stieren's board game 'It Happened in The 60s'. The event took place at HUB Ottawa as a fund-raiser for the production of a new game. See photos.

Carl is a writer, editor, former journalist, web content developer and trilingual communications specialist (English, French and German) with experience in government, business and NGOs. For some five years he worked as Co-ordinator of the Canadian Friends Service Committee and for eight years was Associate Editor of Federations magazine at the Forum of Federations. Recently, he was Communications Co-ordinator at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

To play Carl's game, you roll the dice and travel back to the 60s, visiting 31 states and 6 Canadian provinces — plus an offshore square, because what's a 60s game without the Beatles and the Rolling Stones? If you land on a Karma square or a Trickster square, your life could go sideways just like in the 60s.


To gain a flavour of the fascinating 1960s as I recall, I need to go back two decades earlier.

In the late 1940s when I was a high school student at the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate Institute (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), I often went to the Ukrainian Labour Temple where I took gymnastic lessons. On one of these evenings, the Temple hosted a special visitor — a young master banjo player and singer from the USA. We all gladly joined in singing peace and freedom songs. The musician was the famous Pete Seeger whose songs became popular in the 1960s.

In 1957, I attended the War Resisters International Triennial Conference in England just prior to going to the 6th World Festival of Peace and Students in Moscow, USSR. At the Society of Friends House in London, my roommate was Quaker Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., A. Phillip Randolph (1889-1979), and A.J. Muste (1885-1967). Later, in 1963, Rustin organized King's March in Washington where the famous speech 'I have a dream' was presented.

In the early 1960s, I was one of the core organizers with Peter G. Makaroff (1894-1970) of three peace demonstrations on the Canadian prairies. We titled them: "A Manifestation for Peace." Peacemaker A.J. Muste from New York spoke at one of these gatherings in Suffield, Alberta, urging governments to cease research and production of chemical, biological and radiological weapons. Another gathering for peace was held at Orcadia, Saskatchewan. The following year, on June 27th, 1965, 1,500 people stood or sat in the rain for four hours in a bid for non-violent approach to peace. International peacemakers Mulford Q. Sibley (1912-1989) and Frank H. Epp (1929-1986) appeared at the Canadian Air Force Radar base, Dana, Saskatchewan, in a peace demonstration co-organized by Doukhobors, Mennonites, and Quakers with a common concern for the survival of the human race.

Singing was part of all of these memorable 60s events with many popular songs coming from Pete Seeger and friends. Such as 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?'; 'Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream'; 'We Shall Overcome'; 'If I Had a Hammer'; 'May There Always Be Sunshine'. My ancestors, the Doukhobors, participated at Expo in Montreal in 1967. Since then Doukhobor choirs have appeared throughout Canada and the USA as well as the USSR at other expositions and festivals stressing the desire for harmony in human relations analogous to the harmony in their choral art.

Yes, the 1960s was a busy time. Hopefully we have all learned something from that era about the need for peace, equality, respect for nature, honesty and compassion in human relations. Indeed, let's accept the wisdom and 'Give Peace a Chance'! Otherwise, 'When Will We Ever Learn?'

More: Questions and Answers, Comments


  1. Koozma Tarasoff and I have known each other since the 1980s, when we worked together on peace projects when I was Co-ordinator of Canadian Friends Service Committee. When Koozma said he was coming to the launch of "It Happened in the 60s," I was delighted. Not only would we have an excellent participant in the event - we would have wonderful photos. Thanks for both, Koozma!

    At the launch, I announced that I would be editing a book with the working title "Stories from the 60s" in the spirit of the American writer Studs Terkel, whom I interviewed for the CBC in the 1970s.

    Entries in this project are welcome from the general public and the requirements are these:

    1) Each story must be an experience of the writer, from the 1960s (sorry, younger generations!).

    2) Each story must be between 400 and 1500 words in length.

    3) Each story must illustrate the spirit of that decade, such as an individual witness against injustice or participation in an event that was part of the 60s (for example, an experience in the peace or civil rights movements, singing or playing at a folk festival, or even service as a soldier in Vietnam).

    4) Not every entry will be accepted.

    5) All entries will be copy-edited by the editor of the book (that's me: I have 30 years of experience in copy editing).

    6) The compensation to each contributor will be one free copy of the book. If there are reprints, you will get one copy of the book for each additional printing.

    And now for the grand finale ... Koozma's entry has the honour of being the first one accepted: it is the post you see above.

    - Carl Stieren
    Ottawa, Canada

  2. Koozma’s article on the sixties inspires me to share my take on the decade, different but at other times converging with his.

    For me the sixties was my most formative decade and it set my life path for what came after. While fellow class mates dressed in their gowns for the University of Alberta graduation ceremonies, my singing friend and fellow drama student, Red Dootson and I, presented a folk music concert in my hometown of Lundbreck, Alberta. The next day, after a farewell party, brother Alex drove us a few miles to the main highway, and armed with a guitar and one suitcase each, we were on the road with many dreams but few dollars between us. When hitch hiking became futile, we hit the rails, and continued our journey by freight; ‘Trinidad or bust’.
    When we finally arrived in Toronto after a few scrapes, we went down to the docks to be met by striking picketers. The Trinidad part of the journey had to be postponed.

    We came to Toronto at the right time for folk music, and soon were performing with now well known singers such as Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and others. Working with the Guild of Canadian Folk artists, helping to sponsor concerts, I also had the greatest pleasure of playing, informally, with blues giants such as Sleepy John Estes and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee.

    Thoroughly immersed with the socialist justice causes of the time, I remember joining the protest against the John Foster Dulles visit to the University of Toronto, and many similar rallies. This, and association with such groups as The Travellers, earned me a special investigation by the RCMP. We learned later that any person active in the ‘peace’ movement was investigated, and generally kept under surveillance.

    My musical career was capped with a tour with legendary Stompin’ Tom Connors, after which I decided to continue theatre studies and after a summer stint with the Actor’s Studio at the University of New York, enrolled at Case-Western Reserve University in Ohio, There were American options, but I chose to return to Canada after graduating with an Honours M. A. Soon I was off to England under a special theatre internship and upon return, helped form the theatre program at Ryerson University and later ran my own at Canadore College in North Bay.

    I continued to work in Canadiana in theatre and film and music. In particular I mention the film In Search of Utopia, made in collaboration with Koozma Tarasoff, a documentary still viewed, about our ancestors, the Doukhobors.

    The sixties to me was an eye opening, energetic decade with a focus on all possibilities for the public good. Sad to say, I think that energy is lacking today, and our society, including the younger generations, has become more selfish and ego driven. Success now seems to be measured in more cynical terms of greed and avarice and accumulation of wealth.

    In other words, we have traded our definitions of what wealth is, and traded monetary rewards for rewards in the service of fellow man, or as our ancestors would say; Toil and Peaceful Life.

    Thanks to the energy and firm foundation provided by the sixties, I have never deserted those ideals.