Aside from its overall weathered appearance and striking shades of blue, this barn stands out for its second-story house-style doors and its slightly asymmetrical design with an upper window thrown in for good measure.
Prior to the great stock market crash at the end of the decade and the ensuing economic chaos, the prevalent mood of the 1920s in many places was upbeat and carefree. Magazine covers from the era typify this, including these fabulous illustrations from Canada’s Goblin, a monthly humor magazine. Launched in 1921, it was in print for about ten years during which time its highly stylized, and at times witty, covers helped it to become Canada’s then most widely circulated magazine.
(Image Source: University of Toronto Archives)
Before seeing the acclaimed “Maudie,” I knew a little about Maud Lewis and her folk art but I was unaware of her life story and the everyday struggles that she faced from a very early age. Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke each give deft performances in this emotionally touching movie about persevering and finding happiness in the face of difficult circumstances. There are notes of grace here, along with a number of tear-jerker moments.
Lewis received some early art instruction as a child from her mother, with whom Lewis would make homemade Christmas cards to sell. From this basic foundation, Lewis’s many, mostly smallish paintings of bright-colored animals, plants and farm and shore scenes provided her solace in the face of a hardscrabble life in rural Nova Scotia. The occasional sale of her artworks eventually provided a modest income for her and her husband, Everett, in the later years of their lives. The movie does a nice job exploring the initially reticent relationship that the two shared and the deep interdependent love that they came to nurture. A more thorough overview of Lewis’s life can be found in the online Canadian Encyclopedia.
(On a side note, for those familiar with the Maritime Provinces, the rocky shoreline and cozy coastal villages featured in the film will be recognized as distinctively those of Newfoundland, which is where much of the movie was filmed. Quite ironic given the subject matter and that there are, of course, many beautiful vistas in Nova Scotia. The explanation for the filming in a different province appears to be the greater availability of film production tax credits in the more northern province.)
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Because I love doing projects that involve hand tools I probably have way more than any reasonable person should have. But if you work enough with your hands you know that the right tool makes all the difference. Traditional hardware stores are now a dying breed of retail but back in the day they were the one-stop shop for most tool needs. The McLennan, McFeely & Co. Hardware Store opened in Vancouver in 1885 and for many years was a substantial business enterprise.
These pages are from that merchant’s 1912 catalogue. Among the wrenches above, the crescent adjustable wrench must have made quite a splash because it was only first introduced around 1907 and to this day is a standard in any well-equipped tool box. Though less common nowadays, variations of the hand drills pictured below can still be found today and are quite useful.
The City of Vancouver Archives has digitized some of the old McLennan, McFeely catalogues, and flipping through the pages makes for an interesting diversion as you ponder how much more laborious it was to do various chores over a century ago.
Songbooks fascinate me, particularly when they highlight song variations from earlier times. So while browsing through a dusty stack of materials in a used bookstore a few months ago I was drawn in by this 8-page vintage booklet of songs, which was printed as a promotion around 1930 by the Dominion Life Assurance Company of Waterloo, Ontario.
This bit of ephemera is spare of graphics and contains a wide variety of songs, including songs specific to Canada (such as “O Canada!” and “Alouette”), American standards (“Home on the Range” and “She’ll Be Coming’ Round the Mountain”), and songs indicating the then closer historical connection to Great Britain (“God Save the King” and “Loch Lomond”). A few of these have lyrics that would not be considered racially sensitive but presumably reflected the time back then. It’s an interesting mix of tunes, many that I’ve not heard in ages and others for which I only knew a line or two of the lyrics.
(Click image to enlarge)
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Regent Gas Station (Left View), Toronto (1949),
Designed by John Parkin, Photo by Hugh Robertson
Although these vintage images only showcase a humble gas station they’re amazingly good! That’s because they combine the modernist industrial design of distinguished Toronto architect John Parkin and the often-dramatic photography of Hugh Robertson and his team at Toronto’s former Panda Associates firm, both of whom helped popularize modern design in Canada during the 1950s and 60s.
Regent Gas Station (Right View), Toronto (1949),
Designed by John Parkin, Photo by Hugh Robertson
A trove of other vintage architectural photos can be seen at the Panda Associates Digital Image Collection, Canadian Architectural Archives, which is maintained by the University of Calgary, and in the book John C. Parkin, Archives and Photography: Reflections on the Practice and Presentation of Modern Architecture (University of Calgary Press 2013).
(Image Credits: Hugh Robertson/Panda Associates, Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary)
Happy Canada Day!
As many know, throughout 2017 Canada has been marking its 150th anniversary as a confederation. Of course, the history of the country is much richer and extends more than twice as far into the past. More notably, in recent years Canada has truly shined as a stellar example on the world stage. Like any country, it has its issues but it generally gets a lot of things right and that resilient effort, its vibrant culture and its wonderful people deserve immense appreciation.
Best wishes on this day and in this year and for 150 more!
Poster from First Calgary Stampede in 1912
Many people associate Calgary, affectionately nicknamed “Cowtown”, with its annual summer Stampede in the same way that a place like New Orleans is tied to Mardi Gras. The character of those places seems inextricably linked to these major civic festivals. Prior to the area’s post-WWII oil boom, Calgary was predominantly an agricultural area and held a traditional yearly agricultural fair called the Calgary Industrial Exhibition.
The Stampede was conceived in 1912 by an American rodeo promoter, Guy Weadick, as a way to add a cowboy-themed element to the fairly staid farm-focused Exhibition. After some fits and starts the two events combined in 1923, with the Stampede under Weadick’s longtime guidance eventually overshadowing the Exhibition. Ever since, the cowboy theme has stuck with Calgary even though agriculture, farming and ranching are now only a very small part of its economy. This year’s Stampede will take place July 7-16 and, as can be seen on the official Stampede site, will be quite a spectacle with something to offer just about everyone.
Image Credits: Calgary Stampede Archive, University of Calgary
Personal confession: I fit most comfortably in the “spiritual but not religious” persuasion, and especially value the sense of human connectedness and community that touches all of us, which spiritual and religious traditions tend to foster. With that in mind, I thought this post would be fitting for a Sunday.
About a year ago I posted some photos I snapped one late-Spring afternoon of a well-weathered but cozy church picturesquely situated on the Bay of Fundy in the rural community of St. Croix Cove, N.S. As a modest amateur photographer I was happy to see the photos used a few months later to promote a chapel choir concert by Acadia University. Now these images have been put to an even more appropriate use to assist with a just-launched GoFundMe campaign to restore this almost 175-year old structure.
Darla Mitchell, who grew up in the St. Croix Cove area and is one of the organizers of the restoration effort, notes on the GoFundMe site:
“Many people have come to love this little church and the surrounding communities. Countless photographers have admired its simple sturdy lines, people share memories of first communions and every Christmas multiple generations return to fill the church to sing carols, hear the Christmas story and continue the traditions of our grandparents and great grandparents. Most importantly, gathering in fellowship with each other. “
The historic St. Croix Cove Church
“Heartwarming,” “human,” “genuine” and “community” are among the words that come to mind to describe “Come From Away,” the Canadian-produced musical that just opened this week on Broadway after a preliminary tour across Canada and the U.S. The musical tells the story of how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland (about 10,000 people), with good cheer and resourcefulness, memorably accommodated during a week-long stretch the more than 6,500 air passengers from all over whose planes were unexpectedly diverted there following the 9/11 attacks.
The reader comments on the NY Times review of the production are striking by how moved people have been by this story. Having visited Newfoundland on multiple occasions, I can attest that the people of this ruggedly beautiful province are as sincerely friendly as this musical depicts.
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.
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.
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.
Angela Carlsen, “Copper Manor Motel”
Angela Carlsen, “Fresh Donuts”
Angela Carlsen, “Supai Motel”
Angela Carlsen, “Four Winds Motel”
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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.
“I’m so glad you’re here . . .
It helps me realize how beautiful my world is.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Postcard of Helen’s Motel, Near Quebec City (1950s)
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.
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.
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.
Jacques Cartier Market, Montreal, Early 1900s
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Pathway Near the Earthworks, Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
“The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Hillside Cannon, Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
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.
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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.
Capstick, N.S. (from July 2015 Calendar, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation)
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:
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.
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).”
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.
Political 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635)
James Wolfe (1727-1759)
John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806)
Isaac Brock (1769 -1812)
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.
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.
Athabasca Glacier — About 1960 (Love that funky snow bus!)
Bow Valley, Banff — About 1950s
Bow Valley, Showing Golf Course — About 1950s
Cascade Mountain, Banff — Early 1900s (This was quite a ride then in a horse drawn carriage.)
Cascade Mountain, Banff — 1920s
Wind Mountain, Alberta — About 1910s