Authors who write historical fiction know they have to ensure that things such as attitudes, clothing and language are appropriate to the time. Sometimes, even the day of the week matters.
My current venture into historical fiction, or, as I call it, semi-fictionalized family history, is the story of my maternal grandparents who (independently) came to Canada from different parts of England a hundred years ago. Rather than writing the chapters sequentially, I am hop-scotching around, picking a year or event at random. This year, being the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, I decided to work on 1969. What would my then 80-year-old grandfather and his buddies have thought of this event?
Grandpa Higham drank and smoked so I decided to situate him and his friends in the beer parlour watching the event unfold late that evening on the beer parlour’s little black-and-white TV.
Bear in mind: In Saskatchewan in 1969, there were no pubs or sports bars, only beer parlours. If you wanted to drink “up-scale,” you went to cocktail lounges and licenced dining rooms. All were strictly regulated. No one under 21 allowed. Ever!
Beer parlours were dark, dingy and smoke-filled, almost entirely populated with men; no self-respecting “lady” would be caught dead in a beer parlour! Beer choices were limited – no craft beer in those days. Draft beer cost 21 cents a glass. If you wanted to move to another table, you had to ask the waiter to move your beer for you. Beer parlours closed for “supper hour.”
But back to the Apollo 11 landing.
Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. I was curious as to what day of the week that was, so I called up a 1969 calendar on the internet. July 20 was a Sunday.
In 1969, in Saskatchewan, any place that sold any kind of alcohol in any form was closed up tighter than a drum on Sunday. All day Sunday. Every Sunday. No exceptions. There went the story I had just crafted. Time to hit the Delete button and start over.
Grandpa Higham and his buddies are now discussing the event over breakfast in the café Monday morning.
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My first venture into semi-fictionalized family history was “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead, the story of my paternal grandparents, Abe and Addie Hanna. I didn’t have to worry about what day of the week it was with their story – they were affirmed teetotalers and staunch believers in prohibition.