Unfortunately, this closeness also prevents many Canadians from learning the history of their nation. American blockbusters tell the story of Pearl Harbor and Apollo 13, but Canadian history is not glorified in the same way.
You'll never see a big screen version of "The Making of Maple Syrup."
Tom Hanks and Ben Affleck would probably make themselves unavailable for that one. Well, maybe not Ben Affleck.
in 1991 Historica Minutes: History by the Minute, better known as Heritage Minutes, began airing. I'm not ashamed to admit that the majority of my knowledge of Canadian history came from these 60-second pieces.
One of the most memorable was the minute on Dr. Wilder Penfield. Dr. Penfield was a brain surgeon. The heritage minute (you can view it in its entirety here) told the story of a woman who would always smell burnt toast before she had a seizure. Dr. Penfield discovered which portion of her brain created that same sensation and thus figured out how to cure her seizures. It was definitely a great moment in Canadian history and one that should be celebrated.
However it completely freaked me out.
You see, the average ten-year-old watching TV doesn't care about great Canadian medical discoveries. They just want the cartoons to come back on. So I didn't understand the significance of the piece when it was first aired. All I knew was that while a woman was missing a piece of her skull and a doctor was touching her brain she screamed "I can smell burnt toast!"
There was a six month period where I thought I needed brain surgery every time my parents used the toaster.
But "burnt toast" wasn't the only heritage minute to have an impact on me. No, I can tell you all the memorable lines now.
"I don't know, just 'Winnie. The. Pooh.'" (Winnie)
"Now the people will know we were here." (The Inukshuk)
"It'll never fly!" (Superman)
"You can't see down with that thing!" (Jacques Plante)
"Nice women don't want the vote!" (Nellie McClung)
"But I'm sure it means 'the houses,' 'the village.'" (Jacques Cartier)
"Take me to Fitzgibbon" (Laura Secord)
They were all quite memorable and all taught Canadians a lot about their history. The downside was a generation of Canadians grew up fearing their toasters.
The upside is that this fact has provided us with a good way to spot Canadians. If you suspect someone of being Canadian, tell them you "smell burnt toast." If they rush to the phone and call 9-11, they are Canadian.
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