While some Ladysmith residents may be too young to remember the Five Cent Candy War of 1947, the tale of the local protest that went national will be told when the Seeds and Salt Theatre comes to town July 15 at 2 p.m.
The four-man troupe will perform Bedtime Stories: Dreaming of Vancouver Island, a four-viginette piece on historical events, outside the Maritime Heritage Society.
Every year, the Seeds and Salt Theatre researches and puts together a production on four true Island stories, then tours across the Island. This year will be the first time that Ladysmith has been featured in a production.
“The premise behind creating live theatre was the history component, not to be just another theatre company,” said Maureen Alexander, Seeds and Salt producer. “We’re trying to not only preserve the oral history of Vancouver Island but present it in such a way that people are interested and want to find out more.”
The Five Cent Candy War actually broke out in 1946 in Victoria but got national attention when 16-year-old Chemainus student Parker Williams and about 30 of his friends and schoolmates staged a strike against the increase in candy bars to eight cents from five.
“This is hard to understand because today we’re use to inflation, we’re used to ‘every time you turn around something costs more’,” Alexander said. “But in those days, because of the war, the prices had been very constant. 1947 was the first indication that inflation was going to take off.”
The children, ages 10 to 16, lined First Avenue with picket signs telling people not to be ‘suckers’ and to boycott candy bar sales.
What they didn’t realize was the story was picked up by the national wire service and sent across Canada so there were protests and pickets in every major city in Canada, Alexander said.
Bedtime Stories, written by Justin Conley, also features three other tales out of Victoria and Strathcona. Several months of research has gone into its creation.
Bride Ships is set in the 1850s when gold miners flooded into Victoria and turned it into a wild west. In response, the governor sent women over from the homeland in England in an attempt to marry the men off and the play chronicles how that turned out.
Second Son features the remittance men of Victoria, which were commonly the second sons of wealthy families who were sent to the colony. Strathcona 100 captures the tale of Strathcona, BC’s first park, and the expedition which founded it.
Alexander, who is also the head of the Bamberton and Mill Bay/Malahat historical societies, says the outdoor theatre style of the production will appeal to people of all ages. Their mandate is to present the stories as they would have been 100 years ago.
Thanks to the generosity of the Ladysmith Maritime Society, the ticket fee will be waived. This will be the second year the society has teamed up with the Seeds and Salt Theatre.
“We thought what a great opportunity to show them what happens in Ladysmith,” said society executive director Dave Ehrismann.
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come enjoy the play, which runs about one hour and 15 minutes, weather permitting.
“It’s just another wow factor about Ladysmith, as a boater or a visitor, there’s always something going on,” Ehrismann said.