Guest Commentary

Shirley Douglas, In Memoriam

Prairie Days

(Editor’s note: Actress Shirley Douglas, daughter of New Democrat founder Tommy Douglas, died in 2020 at 86. Ms. Douglas in an April 10, 2008 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan recounted her childhood in Weyburn, Sask. and her father’s election as Premier of Saskatchewan with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1944. Here is a transcription of Ms. Douglas’ memories)

I grew up in the Depression. You know what it’s about when you see the streets lined with unemployed men and people with no food. You know what’s going on.

My father used to worry a lot about money but it was never discussed. This was a man who grew up with no money. He went from an apprenticeship in a print shop to university for six years. He was a driven man.

He pushed people hard and he had terrible stomach ulcers. He ate a lot of porridge, and never talked about it. My father was not a complainer. No, no, no, my father never complained about things like that.

He liked shortbread cookies. My mother would fill these big glass jars with cookies. When he was dying he asked for raisin pie. The doctor said, “Does he like raisin pie? If he likes raisin pie, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have it.”

Nothing thrilled me more than the years of campaigning in Saskatchewan. My first memory of my father is on stage, with people reaching out to shake his hand. Walking on the street, it would take us forever to go downtown to get the mail. Every twenty-five feet, somebody would stop him. I was six at the time.

My mother used to say, “I don’t know why it takes you so long to get the mail,” and I replied: “Because we had to CCF all the way down and CCF all the way back!”

Often people would approach him and they were really upset. They had terrible problems. He always carried an envelope and a pen and he’d write down their names. Political life was hard on him. When we moved to Regina he worked dreadfully hard. He used to be so tired that sometimes when he was having dinner, you just didn’t want to bother him.

My father didn’t have any hobbies. On Saturday night we’d go to a movie. He loved to listen to opera on the radio. I remember as a tiny child watching him listening to music and he would say: “Here comes Caruso.” He never had time to do everything he loved.

I think about him a great deal. He said about his own father, that every year he appreciated him more. It was like that. I missed him more with every passing year.

Whenever I see children of people who are elected, I have a lot of sympathy for them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the mayor or a Member of Parliament, it separates the child in a way. It can be tough.

Back to Top