Vintage / Mod Design: The City Bus

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City Bus on Vancouver Street (about mid-1950s)

Distinctive industrial design reveals itself in many ways and, when done well, can be a genuine pleasure to take in.   While the specialness of such design is often difficult to see in our contemporary surroundings, its otherwise subtle impact jumps out when looking back at vintage images. A case in point: the humble municipal bus, operated in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and other cities across Canada.  Over this period theses buses began to display a very mod sensibility as they evolved from the severe boxiness of earlier 1930s and 1940s versions to later, during the 1950s through the 1970s, being adorned with more rounded contours, sleek curves and very stylized lines and chrome elements.

Bob Pitzel’s Art of the Vanishing Prairie

B. Pitzel, Redline (2009)

Our fresh snow cover here this morning sent me looking for some wintery inspiration, which I happily found in the wistful watercolors of Saskatchewan artist Bob Pitzel.  Pitzel’s art captures the stark and vanishing rural landscapes of western Canada, typified by imposing grain elevators, graying farmhouses and sheds that dot wide expanses of  prairie, and weathered fences erected more as barriers against the elements than to fence in or out people or creatures.

While Pitzel’s subject matter ranges beyond winter settings, it struck me while surveying his masterful work that many of his scenes are rendered with the coldest of seasons as a central element.  In the biography on his site, I love the ethos of humility, practicality and community that he expresses when noting that given the remoteness of rural life “we had to help ourselves out of the corners our inexperience got us into.”  More broadly, the following observation by Pitzel suggests some further inspiration for the muted emotional feel and sense of isolation conveyed in much of his winter-themed art:  “As the human race, we fool ourselves that we’re in control. But look at global warming, and history. At the end of the day, we’re only spectators.”

More about Pitzel and his wonderful watercolors can be found on his artist site here.

B. Pitzel, Trackside (2014)

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B. Pitzel, Deep Snow and Treeline Study (2010)

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B. Pitzel, Fresh Snow (2012)

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B. Pitzel, Pioneer Grain, Lake Lenore (2007)

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B. Pitzel, Maybe We’ll Start Her Up in Spring (2007)

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B. Pitzel, No Glass Left (2005)

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B. Pitzel, Six in a Row (2014)

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B. Pitzel, Fuel Storage (2005)

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B. Pitzel, Regular or Premium (2016)

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Angela Carlsen’s Retro Americana Art

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Angela Carlsen, “Boulevard Drive In”

If you take creative photography, neon signs and other roadside kitsch and mix them together with a retro-pop art sensibility, for me that’s a winning formula and is the approach taken by Nova Scotia-based artist, Angela Carlsen with her artwork.   Much of her recent mixed media art focuses on bygone Americana as a result of her road trips over the last few years through the American West.   Vanishing roadside relics, such as those depicted in this sampling, comprise a significant part of both the Canadian and America car cultures, and her work serves as a fitting artistic bridge between them.

You can see more of her retro art at Carlsen’s artist site here.  She’s also represented by Argyle Fine Art in Halifax.

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Angela Carlsen, “Copper Manor Motel”

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Angela Carlsen, “Fresh Donuts”

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Angela Carlsen, “Supai Motel”

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Angela Carlsen, “Four Winds Motel”

Related posts on O’Canada:

Artist to Appreciate: Katharine Burns

Artist Appreciation: Andrew Horne

Vintage Quebec: Helen’s Motel

— Acadia Theatre’s Classic Neon Splendor!

The Ancient Prayers of Compline

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I’m definitely an amateur photographer at best.  So I was pleased to be asked recently to allow a photo I’d taken of a simple, well-worn pew inside an old church on the Nova Scotia shore to be used for a poster for an upcoming concert  by Acadia University’s distinguished Manning Chapel Choir.  Of course, I was more than happy to do so (and the request  made my day)!

The sunset concert of Compline, or night prayers, will be sung, appropriately, in a former old church in the small town of Harbourville on the Bay of Fundy about a week before Canada’s Thanksgiving Day.  The concert poster is above and the original blog post and series of photos that prompted the request is here.  More about the concert and the Manning Chapel Choir can be found here.

For the Love of Old Barns

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Rustic Barn with Red Doors, Windows and Roof, Ile d’Orleans, Quebec

“I’m so glad you’re here . . . 

It helps me realize how beautiful my world is.”

                                                              ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

The Atlantic Advocate – Part 1: Vintage Trade and Tourism Ads

Newfoundland Trademarks

The Atlantic Advocate was a general interest magazine published monthly from 1956 through 1992 with a focus on life, culture and business in the four Atlantic provinces — New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  While browsing through a stack of issues from the late ’50s and early ’60s, one of the things that stood out to me was the enthusiastic boosterism of many ads promoting economic development and tourism in those places.  The fact that ads of this nature are so prominent in a general interest publication is partly a testament to the economic challenges long faced by the Maritimes and an appreciation by their relatively small populations of the significant impact of industry and natural resources development on daily life in their regions.

 

Mod Design: Vintage Postcards of Expo 67

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Canada Forestry and Paper Pavilion

With the Rio Summer Olympics being just around the corner this prompted me to ponder the differences between the Olympics and the World Fairs.  While both are cultural showcases that bring together people of many nations to good-naturedly preen about their countries, World Fairs seem more ad hoc than the more structured, media spectacle of the Olympics.

Coinciding with Canada’s centennial in 1967, Montreal hosted what is considered to be one of the most successful World Fairs, which was the first to adopt the “Expo” moniker by which all subsequent World’s Fairs have been named.  As attested by these postcards, the various national pavilions at Expo 67 served as grand displays for then cutting-edge, very “mod” design and innovation.

Canadian Cities in 1950s Watercolors

Edmonton

For Canada Day weekend, this post features images that span the geography of this vast country.  Around 1953, in a grand display of national pride, the Montreal-based alcohol and beverage giant Seagram Company commissioned over a dozen Canadian artists (including several among the famed Group of Seven) to create a series of  watercolors of major Canadian cities. The paintings were subsequently the focus of a world tour organized by Seagram to showcase Canada and its urban landscapes.

While recently rummaging through an antique shop I came across a small booklet, dating to 1953, in which these paintings were reproduced and for which this post shows a sampling of the now somewhat faded images.  While many of the provincial capitals are depicted, I find the inclusion of several less prominent cities (including Fort William, Hamilton, Sarnia, Shawinigan Falls and Trois Rivieres) to be fascinating.

St. John's

Calgary

Shawinigan Falls

Charlottetown

Halifax

Montreal

Regina

Quebec City

Saint John

Hamilton

Vancouver

Toronto

Winnipeg

Windsor

Quebec Charm in Vintage Postcards

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Jacques Cartier Market, Montreal, Early 1900s

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Similar Posts on O’Canada:

• Bridges As Depicted in Vintage Postcards

• “Having a swell time . . .”: Vintage Hospital Postcards

• The Great Canadian Outdoors: Vintage Rockies Postcards

• Ever-Bustling 20th Century Toronto

• Vintage Quebec:  Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs

Eric Bergman: Master Wood Engraver

H. Eric Bergman, "White Morning" (1932)

H. Eric Bergman, “White Morning” (1932)

The intricate artistry of wood engravings amazes me and Canada has its fair share of accomplished artists in this medium. Chief among them is H. Eric Bergman, who emigrated from Germany in 1913 and made Winnipeg, Manitoba his home throughout a highly productive career until his passing in 1958.  Images from the Canadian wilderness figure prominently in many of his very stylized and moody works.

Similar posts on O’Canada: 

Lisa Brawn’s Vibrant Woodcuts

Laurence Hyde’s Southern Cross

Come On In!: Doors of Annapolis Royal

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Annapolis Royal occupies a special place in both the far western part of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and the province’s history.  Situated on the sweeping Annapolis River, the site was originally called Habitation at Port-Royal by French settlers around 1605 and was the capital of French Acadia.  In 1710, the settlement became the first capital of Nova Scotia during British rule. The charm of this small town is typified by its wide variety of doors and entryways, many of which hint at the town’s early history and its seaside heritage.  Here’s a sampling from a recent stroll on a brisk fall day.

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Interconnectedness: Of Capstick, Breast Cancer Awareness and Calamity Jane

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Capstick, N.S. (from July 2015 Calendar, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation)

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Occasionally, we all encounter people, situations and things that help to remind us what a small, interconnected world we live in.  Yesterday, I had one of those moments when I received this very nice email about part of the property shown in this blog’s header photo of a weathered, wood-shingled barn situated on the Atlantic, which I took several years ago in Capstick, Nova Scotia, a remote and gorgeously beautiful area of Cape Breton:

“Hello Brett,

I must say, very impressed that you would travel all the way up to Capstick, Nova Scotia to take wonderful pictures of that area. Ironically, the lead picture on your O’Canada website is of our family property. Every now and again I do a Google search of images on Capstick to see what pops up and your website did appear.

The picture of the grey home in your Blog called ‘Gentle Waves Near Capstick, Nova Scotia’ is actually my Uncle Peter’s home. Unfortunately, arsonists burned down that home about 3 years ago and my cousin had to go after them in court.

Each year the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation launches a calendar to raise money called ‘Shop 4 Charity Calendar Sweepstakes’. This year the calendar highlighted a picture representing each Province and Territory in Canada.

As I sat in my home office, the 2015 calendar was up on my cork board and when I flipped to the month of July the Province of Nova Scotia was represented by a picture.

See attached picture.[Note: This is the calendar image above and is of his family’s property.  Click on it for higher resolution]

I grew up going to Capstick every summer in the 1970’s and visiting Uncle Peter and Aunt Irene Kanary in that grey home. Our home (the original home from 1914) was just above Uncle Peter’s home closer to the road but it was burned down about 10 years ago.

Our family settled in Capstick back in 1840 from Ireland during the Potato Famine. The community was basically two families, the Capsticks and the Kanary’s. Not sure why they got their name on the community. Must have been there first.

Thought you might find this little tidbit interesting about your own website.

Dave Kanary
Calgary, Alberta
Canada

What great history and connection to place.  Nice to see that the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (and its photographer) also appreciate this scenery.  I asked Dave’s permission to post his email here, to which he agreed and added by way of a P.S.:

“PS: You may find this interesting as well, take a look at the history on Google for Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary). According to my relatives she is a Kanary (or Canary if you will) from our clan. Some of my own relatives spell their name with a ‘C’ as evidenced by the tombstones in the Capstick graveyard located in Bay St. Lawrence, Cape Breton (about 10 mins away from Capstick).”

Wonderful stuff!

Early U.S.-Canada Political Cartoons

Given that Canada just had a memorable election and the U.S. is still in the throes of its year-plus presidential campaign marathon, this seems to be a good opportunity to interject a smidgen of politics into the mix.  But not too heavy —  so let’s look at some early pop culture.

I'll CatchPolitical cartoons depicting relations between Canada and the U.S. extend back to the founding days of both countries. The images depicted here, from the late 1890s through early 1900s, mostly play on a recurrent theme of the U.S. being attentive or aligned with Canada for reasons that were alternately virtuous or of a more self-interested intention.  With Canada then still firmly part of the British Empire, Britain also figured prominently in many such scenes from this period.

Dangerous

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Flirtation

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Pertinent

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Money Bags

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Go By Air With TCA

TCA -- Go By Air

Before it was known as Air Canada, Canada’s major airline was called TCA or Trans-Canada Air Lines.  The leading railway companies in Canada — particularly Canadian Pacific and Canadian National — played an early major role in connecting the far-flung dots within that country’s vast borders. In 1937, one of those rail companies, Canadian National, in an effort to diversify, formed TCA thereby filling another vital transportation niche to serve Canada’s expansive geography as well as beyond.   In 1965, TCA changed its name to Air Canada.  These stylish travel posters from before 1965 (when its name was changed to Air Canada) harken back to TCA’s first few decades as a national flag air carrier.

Distillery District Door and Window Combo

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This smallish window and nearby door in Toronto’s Distillery District caught my eye both because of their curves and the forest green shared by each opening.  In addition to the well-preserved historic buildings, this area of the city features a wide range of exceptional restaurants, bars and small shops.

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They’re Giving Away Land!

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Back in the day, Canada needed more people to build up its country and, in particular, in its vast western inland plains. With lots of land and not so many people, the federal and provincial governments and land companies starting in the late 1800s on into the early twentieth century launched  recruitment campaigns  around the world, especially in Europe, with the lure of free land grants and the potential for prosperity.  The distance was far and farm life was (is!) tough, but the appeal drew many new immigrants to Canada’s west.   I love the variety and details in some of these posters! (Click on images to enlarge)

“Now God be praised. I will die in peace.”: Early Canadian Military Heroes

Stricken at the battle for Quebec City in 1759, Major General James Wolfe uttered those words as he lay dying just as his troops’ victory was assured.  Imposing bas relief sculptures of Wolfe and three other early Canadian military heroes — Samuel de Champlain, John Graves Simcoe and Isaac Brock — grace the facade of the Archives and Canadiana Building at the University of Toronto.  Like their real-life counterparts centuries earlier, these sculptures keep a watchful and weathered gaze upon the surrounding landscape.

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Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635)

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James Wolfe (1727-1759)

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John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806)

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Isaac Brock (1769 -1812)

Toronto Public Art: Barbara Hepworth’s “Parent 1”

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“Parent 1” (1984), by Barbara Hepworth — Her modern work calls to mind Inuit forms.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

                                                                                     ~~ Thomas Merton

“Woke Up This Morning” on CBC Radio

Although I’ve not posted much about music on O’Canada, exploring music and its many genres is one of my favorite pastimes.  While I’ve been clued in to some great Canadian music through CBC Radio over the years, the diverse programming of CBC Radio One is such that I’ve also discovered from time to time new (for me) American pieces. Such was the case earlier this week as I listened to “As It Happens” , which is hosted by Carol Off and Jeff Douglas.  On that particular evening, the show payed homage to Claude Sitton, a journalist who passed away this week and who covered many of the key events of the early 1960s civil rights movement, by closing out with “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind on Freedom)” performed by The SNCC Freedom Singers.  It’s a powerful song. Video below.

The Great Canadian Outdoors: Vintage Rockies Postcards

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 Lake Louise & Victoria Glacier — About 1949

It’s safe to say that when many Americans think of Canada they visualize vast expanses of nature and, in particular, the Canadian Rockies.  These vintage postcards — most of which are colored photos — feature scenes of the Rockies in Alberta, spanning the early 1900s up to the early 1960s.

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Athabasca Glacier — About 1960 (Love that funky snow bus!)

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Bow Valley, Banff — About 1950s

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Bow Valley, Showing Golf Course — About 1950s

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Cascade Mountain, Banff — Early 1900s  (This was quite a ride then in a horse drawn carriage.)

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Cascade Mountain, Banff — 1920s

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 Wind Mountain, Alberta — About 1910s

Magical Winterscapes by Group of Seven

A.J. Casson -- Rooftops

A. J. Casson, Rooftops

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As the chill of wintry winds, snow and ice continues, a compilation of Canadian winterscapes by the Group of Seven artists seems in order.  As always, the scenery by these talented artists is captivating!  (Click on image to enlarge)

Similar posts on O’Canada:

→  The Group of Seven’s Landscape Explosion

→  The Very Vital Canadian Group of Painters

Let’s Visit Ontario!

Ontario Lakelands

This nifty selection of vintage travel posters do a nice job capturing many of the wonders to be experienced in Ontario.

Bungalow Camps Ontario Vacation Ottawa

Toronto United Air

Similar Posts on O’Canada:

—  Retro Winter Recreation and Travel Ads

—  Magnificent Travel Art of the Canadian Pacific Railway

Love These Vintage Neon and Bulb Signs!

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Mixed in among modern urban streetscapes, the look and feel of the rare classic neon and bulb-lit signs are distinctive. I spied these in Toronto and one in New Brunswick (the fabulous sign for Mel’s Tea Room!), which happily stand the test of time.

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Robert McAffee — Artist to Appreciate

R. McAffee -- The Foot of the Falls

Robert McAffee, The Foot of the Falls

Toronto-based Robert McAffee’s contemporary landscape art is striking in many ways.  His lush scenes of the Canadian wilderness pay homage to the influences of several Group of Seven artists — notably Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson, A.J. Casson and Arthur Lismer.   McAffee seems to have internalized aspects of each with a resulting style that is wonderfully distinct from any one of them.  More about McAffee’s beautiful artwork and links to galleries that carry his pieces can be found at his website here.

R. McAffee -- The Three Sisters

Robert McAffee, The Three Sisters

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R. McAffee, Fishing By the Rocks

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R. McAffee -- North Shore Twisty

Robert McAffee, North Shore Twisty

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R. McAffee -- Waterfall

Robert McAffee, Waterfall

(Image credits:  Artist’s website)

Similar Posts on O’Canada:

> David Silcox’s Exquisite Book on The Group of Seven

> The Group of Seven’s Landscape Explosion

> Amazing Landscape Artistry of Philip Buytendorp, Jennifer Woodburn and Steve Coffey

 

 

Bridges As Depicted on Vintage Postcards

High-Level-Bridge,-Edmonton

 Steam train crossing as onlookers leisurely enjoy the vista.  Postmarked 1921. 

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Even with sophisticated modern equipment, bridges are marvels of engineering skill.  Bridges from earlier periods, such as the array of Canadian ones featured on these vintage postcards, built without the benefit of such conveniences and often at the cost of many lives and injuries, are that much more impressive!

Heading into Canada from Detroit.  About 1940s, when cars featured many curves.

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Victoria-Jubilee-Bridge

Love the simplicity of this image and the partial reflection. Postmarked 1906.

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Similar posts:

•  Beautiful Old Railway Bridge, Near Clementsport, N.S.

•  Canada-U.S. Friendship Postcard and Stamps

•  Vintage Quebec:  Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs

An A++ for Toronto’s Gadabout Vintage

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While spending a late morning in Toronto’s very hip Leslieville neighborhood I happened upon Gadabout, a fantastic vintage shop showcasing all manner of things from bygone eras.  The store’s very friendly proprietor, Victoria Dinnick, was cheerily helpful and wonderfully gracious in allowing my impromptu photography in her jam-packed two-story shop.  Equally as impressive as Gadabout’s extensive offerings of vintage items are the mad and clever organizational skills on display.  For instance,  numerous rustic cabinets and drawers are carefully labeled to hint at the nifty contents tucked within just waiting for the curious.   (In one such drawer I found the heart-shaped box pictured below, with which I later happily surprised my sweetie.)

I plan to share several categories of photographs — including clothing, housewares, figurines and toys — from this neat little shop in future posts and these shots are just a sampling.  More on Gadabout can be found at its official site here (or stop in over on Queen Street East!).

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The Orenda and the Constant of Change

 

The Orenda

Oh, that bittersweet feeling of finishing a good book that not long before was a welcome and constant companion!   So it is with my having just finished Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, a gripping epic set around the mid-1600s during the time of first contact between First Nations people and Europeans in what would become Canada.   The Wendat, or Huron, people, who are one of the principal subjects of this book, believed that each of us and every thing is endowed with an “orenda” or life force, and, so it is, more broadly, with cultures.

Not surprisingly, The Orenda was the top choice in the 2014 Canada Reads competition and good reviews abound for this riveting novel (for instance here on GoodReads).  So, rather than pen another, below is a brief excerpt that encapsulates one of the deep philosophical themes underlying the drama that unfolds within its pages. Throughout my reading of Boyden’s poetic work my thoughts continually dwelled on how this snapshot of a not-too-distant earlier time aptly reflects the concepts found in Buddhism, Hinduism and some other spiritual traditions  of samsara (the cycle of birth, death and re-creation), change and suffering, each of which are constants in our world and in the clash of civilizations throughout history.

“Success is measured in different ways.  The success of the hunt.  The success of the harvest.  For some, the success of harvesting souls.  We watched all of this, fascinated and frightened.  Yes, we saw all that happeed and, yes, we sometimes smiled, but more often we filled with fret.  The world must change, though.  This is no secret.  Things cannot stay the same for long.  With each baby girl born into her longhouse and her clan, with each old man’s death feast and burial in the ossuary, new worlds are built as old ones fall apart.  And sometimes, this change we speak of happens right under our noses, in tiny increments, without our noticing.  By then, though, oh, by then it’s simply too late.

“Yes, the crows continued to caw as crows are prone to do, and after a while we got used to their voices even when they berated us for how we chose to live.  Some of us allowed them their cackling because we found it entertaining, others because we believed our only choice was to learn how to caw ourselves.  And still others kept them close for the worldly treasures their masters promised.

“It’s unfair, though, to blame only the crows, yes?  It’s our obligation to accept our responsibility in the whole affair.  And so we watched as the adventure unfolded, and we prayed to Aataentsic, Sky Woman, who sits by the fire right beside us, to intervene if what we believed was coming indeed coalesced.  But Aataentsic only need remind us that humans, in all their many forms, are an unruly bunch, prone to fits of great generosity and even greater meting out of pain.”

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Cheeky Humor of Vintage Canadian Tire Catalogues

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Wherever you go in Canada, you’re probably not far from a Canadian Tire location, a retailer that carries auto parts, sporting goods, hardware and some appliances, clothing and all manner of other goods.  Canadian Tire is so popular it even has its own pseudo-currency — Canadian Tire Dollars — that are both usable and collectible.  Many of the retailer’s older advertisements featured humorous bits — some slightly suggestive — as illustrated by these Spring and Summer catalogs across the years. (I’ll post later some others from Fall and Winter editions of the C.T. catalogs.)

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Ever-Bustling Early 20th Century Toronto

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No Postmark– Around 1920s

The cityscape of Toronto, with its many tall buildings adorned with fine architectural detail and its bustling street-level activity, is most akin to what Americans encounter in the busy cities of New York and Chicago.  These early 20th century postcards highlight the magnitude of Toronto even then.  The people and vintage vehicles in these tinted images add interest and help define scale.

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No Postmark — Around 1920s

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Postmarked 1910

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 Postmarked 1918

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Postmarked 1939

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