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Status and influence of sport and physical recreational activities in British Columbia during the Depression and World War II Arnold, Trevor Charles

Abstract

The Depression and World War II were two distinct sociological eras in the 20th century. Both of these periods played dramatic roles in the history and development of British Columbia. This research examined sport and physical recreational activities, to demonstrate the status and influence that these activities had during these two periods of social and economic turmoil. The research was carried out by reviewing government documents related to this era and this field of study, and then reviewing the effect these government acts, debates and discussions had on the sport and recreation programmes of the time. Newspaper reports and historical sketches of various sports and recreation programmes were the main source for gaining information of these activities. It was during the Depression that both the British Columbia Provincial Government and the Federal Government first introduced financial support for sport and recreation. The British Columbia Government inaugurated its Pro-Rec activity programme in 1934 and the Youth Training Act of 1937 saw the first Federal Government finance allocated for leisure-time activities. In 1943, during World War II the Canadian Government passed the National Physical Fitness Act which supported and funded sport and physical recreational activities as well as financially aiding the provincial programmes of Pro-Rec. The Depression years saw a definite rise in the status of sport. This was displayed in increased participation, increased spectator attendance, and increased coverage in newspapers and on the radio. This same increase was also noted in recreational activities, particularly in the programmes of Pro-Rec, the YMCA, the YWCA and such programmes as the Sunday School Activity Leagues. Physical education in the schools was improved in status to equal all other school subjects. The Depression years also saw the birth of such sport and recreation associations as the British Columbia branch of the Canadian Physical Education Association, the Vancouver Elementary Schools Physical Education Association for Women and the Vancouver Elementary Schools Physical Education Association. Sport and physical recreational activities influenced the life of many people. It was the type of activity that was being promoted to fill the long idle hours of unemployment. Promotion was undertaken by many agencies, the most prominent being the British Columbia Government with its Pro-Rec programmes. The war years that followed, however, saw a reversal in the status of these activity programmes. With the war effort consuming so many workers and so many hours, very few people had the time to participate in, organize or administer sport and recreation. All areas of sport and recreation seemed to suffer in the number of participants and the standard of participation. Sport and physical education in the schools and university also deteriorated; the new programmes introduced in the Depression years being disregarded or discontinued because of a lack of physical education teachers.

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