HISTORY MAKING KIDS: HISTORIC JUVENILE OUTRAGE

Chocolate Bar

Do your kids know what a boycott is? A good introduction to the concept might be the 1947 boycott of a product dear to their hearts – chocolate! It started in the small Canadian town of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island when some children went into the Wigwam Café buy chocolate bars. They expected them to cost a nickel (five cents), and were not pleased to learn the price had gone up by sixty per cent and these items were now eight cents. Incensed, they painted signs, came up with a protest song, and stood outside candy selling establishments urging the public to not accept this kind of highway robbery.
A photo in a newspaper inspired kids across the country to do the same and the ‘Chocolate Bar Strike’ was on, with over three thousand children signing a pledge to refrain from purchasing chocolate bars until the price went back to a nickel. In some areas, rallies attracted so many young demonstrators that the police were called in to disperse them.
Several organizations supported the kids’ efforts, but some people believed such large scale rabble rousing could not possibly have been orchestrated by mere children, and a major rally that was to take place in Toronto on May 3rd was called off after a story in the Toronto Evening Telegram suggested that the whole candy-strike thing was the work of one of the kids’ backers, the National Federation of Labour Youth, which helped establish unions and therefore had to be Communist. (Yes, you read that right. The whole candy-strike thing was a sinister Communist plot, with evil masterminds in Moscow using innocent Canadian children to challenge the powers that be and thus destabilize the country.)
Ridiculous as this sounds, North America was entering its ‘Reds Under The Beds’ phase, and many people bought into this. Organizations withdrew their support, and parents would no longer let their children march in protests. As a result, the strike came to an end.
Interviewed in later years, people who had been among the alleged young Marxist radicals said the Chocolate Strike really had just been about the price of chocolate, with no communist overtones. At the time, most of them probably didn’t even know what communism was – but I dare say they all learned something about capitalism.

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