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Facing the Future

After six long years, the Second World War came to an end in the summer of 1945 following the unconditional surrenders of Germany and Japan. Canada's military personnel returned home to their friends and families and began planning for the future.

Governments were ill prepared and equipped to aid returning soldiers following the First World War. They did not make the same mistake twice. Both the federal and Alberta governments offered veterans a range of programs and services to help them transition to civilian life.

The provincial government published "Alberta's Post-War Reconstruction Projects and Problems" outlining its initiatives and addressing potential economic problems. The plan outlined the development of roads and public buildings and the expansion of the oil, coal, and forestry industries. The Alberta government spent $80 million to set aside 607,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of farmland to be granted to 8,000 ex-servicemen who were eager to farm and ranch. The federal government reduced taxes and added to its fledgling social security system which included an increase in family allowance payments from five to eight dollars per child each month.

Veterans who were eager to complete or upgrade their education were given the means to do so at a host of different educational facilities. The transition to civilian life was much more difficult for disabled veterans. Programs established by the newly-formed Veterans Affairs Bureau in Ottawa ensured that amputees and those with other disabilities could find meaningful work and lead relatively normal lives.

The Edmonton Rehabilitation School provided instruction and training to those seeking a career in the trades and the Veterans' Land Act helped ex-servicemen established farms and acquire homes. Some opted to remain in the military, but most looked to move on.

All Albertans looked for a means to recoup the six difficult and tumultuous years they had devoted to the war effort. Returning soldiers were keen to marry and begin families; marriage and birth rates skyrocketed following the war, creating a baby boom. Veterans sought high-paying jobs to care for their new and growing families and homes filled with modern comforts. This in turn sparked the development of suburbs adjacent existing communities throughout the province.

Mass consumerism and commercialization lead to the expansion of many sectors of the economy, notably the entertainment industry. Theatres did a booming business and drive-in theatres were built in communities throughout the province. In Lethbridge the Paramount and Greenacres drive-ins opened shortly after the conclusion of the war. Television emerged as a popular mass medium, and families purchased TV sets en masse. Television transformed popular culture and increased Canadians' exposure to American culture. The postwar generation settled into family- and friend-oriented lifestyles very different from that which people had known in the 1930s.

The war served to unite Albertans and help them overcome some of their biases and prejudices. Many who served in Canada’s military were from or were descended from parents who came from eastern Europe. Unlike the circumstances during the First World War when ethnicity other than British or French often proved to be an impediment to service, Canada’s military took on a multi-ethnic appearance during the 2nd WW and everyone’s deeds were acknowledged and appreciated.

References

Alberta Post-War Reconstruction Committee. Report of the Post-War Reconstruction Committee, 1945. Edmonton: Alberta Post-War Reconstruction Committee, 1945.

Byfield, Virginia. “Bands blare, crowds cheer wildly as Alberta's heroes return home”, in Alberta in the 20th Century: The War that United the province, 1939–1945, ed. Ted Byfield. Edmonton: United Western Communications Ltd., 2000.

Canada: A People's History. “The Canadian Dream.” (accessed November 2007)

Viel, Aimée. Lethbridge on the Homefront, 1939 to 1945. Lethbridge: Lethbridge Historical Society, 1998.


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