I grew up in 1950s New Glasgow, N.S., and was a regular at the kids' Saturday matinee from about 1958 to 1962.
There were two theatres, the Roseland and the Academy.
As I recall the Roseland was whites only. The Academy was segregated – blacks allowed, but only in the upstairs balcony section.
As a child I had no understanding as to why this was so, however, how it made me feel was very clear – almost terrified, and very fearful of black people. This segregation (in this form and others) was a message to every white kid that black kids were "less than,” and not part of the larger town community. How it made the black kids, and their parents, feel, is impossible for me to fathom but for many it must have been no less than heart-breaking.
The other feeling I recall growing up in this environment was some sense of guilt. I knew somehow, even as a child, that this treatment of other people was wrong. And although I had not created this separateness, I was definitely on the side that was not being oppressed and the one with all the advantages.
The announcement that the likeness of this courageous woman, Viola Desmond, will soon be on the $10 bill is nothing less than a momentous event for all Canadians. I'm looking forward to always having some "Violas" in my wallet.