Sunday, December 13, 2009

CARE PACKAGES - Did you know? I didn't.

Last week we sent a CARE PACKAGE to our daughter who is serving with the Army in Afghanistan. Describing the process in my previous Blog set me to thinking about the etymology of the term "Care package". I thought I knew, but some Google sniffing opened my eyes. I don't mean I read the wiki page for the term. I used Google news archive and followed the term back to its birth year - 1946.

If you were a Canadian child of the 1960s, the TV addicted generation, you probably have the broadcast pleas of the big box charities burned into your cranial circuitry. (I can scarcely repeat a joke heard last week, but I have a jukebox full of 40 year old jingles in my head.) I haven't seen the U.S.C. television spot for decades but I can still hear the halting voice of its founder and spokeswoman... "This is Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova of the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4" . I don't recall who spoke for C.A.R.E. but I do know that we all assumed that the "C" stood for Canadian, but we were wrong.
The original concept of the C.A.R.E. package was to folks to supplement the efforts of the Marshall Plan in Europe by directing a box of food directly to a relative in bombed out Europe. In 1948 a piece in the New York Times described the Marshall Plan itself as "an enormous CARE package", which indicates the usefulness of the term. The service was convenient. You sent C.A.R.E. the money (with an address of a needy family) and they tapped into the mountains of rations which the U.S. had shipped to European ports.

A photo of a 50 year old CARE Package, from the era of the Berlin Airlift.

In 1946 the Cooperative for American Remittance to Europe C.A.R.E. set up a tiny office in Ottawa - 73 Albert Street, which was still going strong in 1954, as you can read in the news clipping velow. By 1954 the stockpiles of wartime canned and dried foods were depleated and CARE - Canada was purchasing fresh stock from Canadian and U.S. suppliers. By that time the "E" in the acronym had been changed from "Europe" to include "Everywhere". In April 1955 CARE Canada stopped sending food packages to European destinations. Attention shifted to Asia and Africa.
For a CARE official to make a point of telling a news reporter that it was "strictly a new-commodity agency purchasing in bulk" leads me to believe that there was controversy at the time involving CARE's procurement practices.

I also find this comment interesting: "CARE's policy of sending overseas only new grade A quality materials has proved to be a psycholigically-sound policy..." I often think of the psychological impact of the charity my family and our neighbors received growing up in housing project in Saint John, N.B. in the 1960s. We never refused "second hand" anything and I remember everything about being needy. We kids would go to the church basement where used footwear was heaped on the floor, to try on boots till we had a match with our feet. I recall once a boy accusing me with "Hey, that was my coat." "No it's not." "Yes, and that pocket there is torn out. That's why my mom gave it away." He proceeded to prove it in front of his friends. I, rendered mute by the truth, had to stand there and let the donor have his moment.

C.A.R.E. stopped shipping CARE packages around 1964. Though we all use the term as a generic, the charity continues to renew the trademark. Plenty of charities which emerged from the World Wars and which once involved thousands of volunteers in labour intensive relief efforts, now simply solicit cash donations. They form the corp d'elite of international NGOs which we often see in the news.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Attention Vancouver Shoppers - John Candy and Michael Moore

Christmas shoppers are out in full force and some have that Don't mess with me! look. I find the best defensive posture is to restrict my reconnaissance of the major Burnaby shopping malls to early morning or well after dusk. It's not that we need that much to make me happy, but as a film buff I need to browse regularly. I find I must satisfy that itch at the back of the eyeballs and the only balm is a good movie.

As a newly minted documentary film maker I am keen to study the work of others. I constantly add to my library of non-fiction DVDs - an expensive genre to build in. Recently I stumbled on a cache of deleted titles in a store at Brentwood Mall in Burnaby. I scooped up ten DVDs including films by Errol Morris, Patrick Creadon, Michael Wilson, Marc Levin and others. My pick of the bunch is undoubtedly MICHAEL MOORE HATES AMERICA - a Mike Wilson film. The 95 minute feature is virtually unknown in Canada... Big Surprise eh!... and more is the pity. I love discussing good cinema but couldn't find anyone who'd seen it. A young friend at SFU film school told me today that he just couldn't get past the abrasive title. But the harsh title is integral to the story, and all is explained to the viewer. Even the elder statesman of Documentary film Albert Maysles approved, and his integrity is legendary.

Michael Moore Hates America - The title is provocative, the content eye opening, and the DVD now extremely affordable: $5 at WALMART and $6 at ZELLARS in the Vancouver area (very limited supply).

What Michael Wilson did was simple enough in concept - he chose to serve Mr. Moore a generous dose of his own medicine. Wilson made a study of every trick Moore employed in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and then he spent over a year following Moore's trail. The process of discovery exposes a pattern of outright fraud in Moore's technique and execution, but it is done with tact, wit and humour.

Don't fixate on the title. Wilson is not on a vendetta. He does however, mount an an assault for which there is no defence - and as a result Moore's production company went into lock down while Wilson was on the streets with a camera. Neither Moore or any his staff deigned to respond to an investigation of their film making tactics.
I emailed Michael Wilson to express my appreciation for his film and told him that MOST of Michael Moore's features have been broadcast by Canada's state owned television network - the CBC. I asked if his film had ever been broadcast in Canada. The answer was that it has never been broadcast ANYWHERE. And that, boys and girls, is morality tale in itself.

John Candy does a LIVE remote for CBC and entertains the shoppers at Brentwood Mall in Burnaby, B.C. It was Christmas 1976.
The comedy setup was to get some volunteers to gift wrap boxes, and then... well you know John. Out came the moose antlers, and much more. The six minute clip is an entertaining Blast from the past. Check it out at:
The CBC Archives website uses a software which prevents simple screen captures, so I used a digital SLR.
JUSTIN is one of the efficient volunteers staffing the Military Family Resource Center at C.F.B. Jericho Beach on West 4th. MFRC - BC offers support to hundreds of military families in Greater Vancouver.

Since our daughter deployed to Afghanistan our family has taken advantage of the free parcel service offered by the Canadian Forces. We sent our third "CARE PACKAGE" on Monday and are amazed that it has taken as little as twelve days for small boxes to be delivered to her at Kandahar Air Field. Damn that's efficient! I guess the term is now universal for boxes of goodies sent to loved ones, often students at university, far from home. I was reminded of the origin of the term yesterday when I was riffling through a fifty year old copy of AMAZING STORIES magazine. The old advert reads:

"CARE FOOD CRUSADE - $1.00 sends a 22-lb. Food Crusade package to the world's hungry through CARE, New York 16."

22 pounds of food delivered for a $1 donation! Today it costs one dollar & tax just to send a two page letter as far as New York!