In her latest book, Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford tells the story of the time Vancouver Island children stood up to the rising price of candy.
In spring 1947, children in Ladysmith awoke to find that the price of chocolate bars had risen from five cents to eight cents overnight. This led to children picketing outside their general stores and boycotting chocolate in favour of ice cream, which was still five cents. Ford recounts this historical episode in her latest book, Candy Bar War.
“I found it very interesting that a group of children got upset about the price hikes on the chocolate bar and then decided to do something about it and have their little protest,” she said.
Ford said the movement, which started in Ladysmith, quickly spread to Chemainus, where a mural commemorating the protest is on display, and Victoria before going Canada-wide.
She said slogans included, “Don’t be a sucker and buy that bar, eight cents for chocolate is taking things too far,” and, “Join our strike if you can’t pay for candy, because eight cents a bar just isn’t handy.”
Ford’s research included meeting with one of the original protesters in Chemainus. In writing the book, Ford said she put herself in the children’s shoes and imagined what it was like from their perspective.
“You go to sleep one night and everything is all good. You’ve got your money saved for the very next day to go get your candy bar, you’ve saved up your pennies, and then you go in and the General Store Joe is like, ‘Sorry guys, it’s gone up in price,’ and you’re aghast…” she said. “What would I have done?”
Ford said she didn’t know anything about the chocolate price protests until a friend mentioned it to her. She said it suits the kind of books she writes.
“I felt it was very fitting to the series that I make which is all about unlikely heroes and children doing something really crazy, like giving up chocolate,” she said. “It’s kind of funny. It sounds like a made-up thing.”