History Slam Episode Fifty: Growing Up Consumers

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By Sean Graham

Whenever I go back to my parents’ house, I am confronted with a pile of stuff from my childhood that they want me to go through. From clothes to toys to sports equipment, there’s a lot of things that I had growing up that I no longer need or want. And from what I gather, this is not a unique situation as well have things from our childhoods that collect in basements and attics.

These items are remnants of our roles as childhood consumers. Growing up we all encounter a world in which we are expected to take our roles as consumers – the frequent studies showing how much advertising children are exposed to on a daily basis speaks to this. And that pressure on young people to becoming active consumers has been an important part of the study of consumerism in recent years.

In this episode of the History Slam, I chat with Katharine Rollwagen of Vancouver Island University about her research on childhood consumerism. We talk about marketing towards kids during the Depression, the impact of the Baby Boom, and the methodology of studying consumerism. This is the final episode in our series recorded at this year’s Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting in St. Catharine’s, Ontario.

Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina and like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.


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