Friday, July 30, 2010

Photographs and Moving Images

A Camera in Hand

Every day I sit and look at pictures from the past. There is something marvellous about finding the shot in a landscape – the one that captures “the moment” in time, as the summation of all you have experienced in that place.

Perhaps you have read about Ottawa photographer Yousuf Karsh who removed the cigar from Churchill’s mouth, clicked the shutter and captured, for eternity, the very being of the British Prime Minister? However, chances are few of you have heard about Chilliwack’s itinerant photographer James Orville Booen whose series of glass plate negatives are held by the Chilliwack Archives? Mr. Booen had an experienced eye and during his time in Chilliwack from 1895-1897 he captured many moments that today allow us to look into the early eyes of Chilliwack, First Nations families, new settlers, youth and adults, businesses and events. These images create wonder with curiosity and like Karsch capture the very being of those pictured.

The Chilliwack Museum is also very fortunate to have an extensive camera collection along with many related accessories. Recently we received the cameras used by Norm Williams in his photographic business which complement our extensive holdings of images taken by Mr. Williams throughout his years as a professional and Master photographer. Similarly, we are thrilled to have the Paillard-Bolex movie camera that belonged to Cecil Bradwin of Fairfield Island, Chilliwack. This camera, purchased in 1948, was used by Mr. Bradwin to film the 1948 Flood which we also retain in the Chilliwack Archives.

On the other hand I sometimes find myself thinking about the distinguished Canadian cinematographer Osmond Borradaile. Born in Winnipeg he saw his first film in Medicine Hat at the age of seven and his imagination was launched. Through his work he became friends with Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes met Lawrence of Arabia and worked for legendary film-maker Alexander Korda of London Films.

Borradaile travelled extensively and it was Osmond who discovered Sabu who became an international star. In 1939 Borradaile filmed in the Sudan on Korda’s classic film, The Four Feathers which was nominated for an Oscar for best colour cinematography. Borradaile’s other work included, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Elephant Boy, The Thief of Baghdad, Scott of the Antarctic, Drums and many others.

So what does this all have to do with Chilliwack?

When Mr. Borradaile retired from film, he and his family moved to an 80-acre farm in Cheam living there circa 1951 to 1959. I recall Gordie Mitchell pointing out Borradaile’s farm to me when we drove around Chilliwack and district many years ago. I may not have really understood who Osmond Borradaile was at that very moment, but once I researched him I learned that I had known of his film work for years. So it would be a wonderful bonus, if one day maybe a camera, maybe a film poster, might show up at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. I can picture this moment in a future time. A visitor comes through the door carrying a box, smiles and says, “I have this camera it belonged to Osmond Borradaile, do you know who he was?”

Image One: J.O. Booen image of Edenbank Farm
Image Two: Paillard-Bolex camera belonging to Cec Bradwin
Image Three: Osmond Borradaile, Chilliwack Progress, September 19, 1951

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Unique Bicycle in Chilliwack

Count Van Rechteren's Fongers
My first bicycle came from an auction in Nova Scotia. With its high handle bars, banana seat it was the epitome of bike fashion, circa 1970. I remember how I had injured my wrist that same summer and with a cast on my arm my Dad took me out onto the sidewalks to learn the art of balance. To my astonishment, and more likely his, when I said to let go I was already sailing down the path on my own.

Now, 40 years later, while I was walking through a park I saw a mother with her daughter gainfully attempting to teach the same art on a highly colourful bike. There was a lot of giggling and laughter and as I walked by there was great joy as the daughter managed to pedal a few feet further on her own. These days of magic are all too familiar and once again it beckons to another bicycle, one that came to the Chilliwack Museum in 2006.

The Fongers’ bicycle had sat in storage for a number of years but its colourful history was known to the donor. The bicycle once belonged to Count Van Rechteren, a well-known Chilliwack personality who was born in the Netherlands. The Count’s bike was unusual as it had an elongated peg attached to the left side of the rear wheel, and the driving gear was fitted to the left side of this unique velocipede. These modifications were made as the Count did not have the use of his right leg and these alterations allowed him to transport himself around town. The Count was careful to look after the bicycle and regularly took the Fongers in for work. In 1943 a professional bicycle mechanic named George Paris worked locally and perhaps his careful adjustments over the years ensured that the bike was used and saved.

When the bicycle came into our collection, we had one researcher who shared a particular interest in bicycles and was quite pleased to see this particular Fongers. Together, we had several discussions as to how to care for the bicycle and eventually agreed to have the bike returned to riding form. Over a short period the Van Rechteren Fongers was cleaned, and its wheels tuned. We were fortunate that our researcher was also a skilled bike mechanic, with all the appropriate tools, and so we had little difficulty in agreeing to most requests for the bike’s restoration. Our researcher was so eager to contribute to the preservation of the Count’s bike we were overjoyed with his enthusiasm! After all our bike mechanic of 2006 was the same mechanic from 1943, none other than George Paris himself!

Image: Count Van Rechteren's Fongers' Bicycle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Harvest Time in the Valley

Berry Industry Artifacts

The time of year has come when all the vines we watched being prepared for the new season have filled themselves to capacity with their delicious berries. As I drive along I watch the crews tending the parallel lines of berry crops while the unusual machines, standing tall, work their way down the rows. Every once in a while I see a plastic container off to the side of the road with a batch of crushed berries nearby, their flavour and taste lingering in the air.

The Chilliwack Museum has a few items directly related to the modern harvesting of berry crops but not many. In 1996 a wooden raspberry crate from the East Chilliwack Co-op was brought to us. This organization started in 1947 with 23 growers investing $973.00 to begin the “pool marketing” of raspberries.

Another wonderful donation was made in 1995 when a box opener was brought in to us. The opener, resembling a hatchet and crowbar, was used by Roy Cunningham, Station Agent for the C.N.R. to open and close shipping crates. During the 1920s when Chilliwack was shipping a large amount of fruit to the prairies there was a shed, on the spur-line beside the station that was used to store fruit crates. All the farmers brought their fruit there, mostly raspberries and strawberries. Mr. Cunningham would check on the fruit on a regular basis to see ensure that fruit was actually in the cases and that it had not spoiled. In the fall farmers shipped prunes, pears and apples.

It takes time to build collections. After all, it does not often occur that a collection of objects can be obtained from one place to represent an industry. Maybe one day, from these humble beginnings, we will have a collection that will do historical justice to this thriving industry.

Image: Box Opener used by C.N.R. agent Roy Cunningham.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Artefacts, Memories and Inspiration


I know – let’s all go to the dentist!

Surely not something one would hear often, but after a successful trip to the specialists of the buccal and lingual I thought I might explore the realm of the enamel artist in Chilliwack.

As we walk about the Chilliwack Museum storage area we find, glowing in that all too familiar green colour, the dentist’s drill reminiscent of my 1960s. I stand in suspended belief recalling my early visits. I do not really remember sitting in the chair. My memory recall system suggests that it was more of an intense desire, and at anytime, that I would be launched from the chair similar to that fellow from the James Bond Aston Martin Corgi toy I cherished. (I wonder where the little blue guy in the passenger seat ever went?)

However, like the Aston Martin the style of dental equipment has changed and no longer resembles those green machines that seem so similar to a character from Dr. Who. I’ve changed too, now I am 007 or at least 008 in the chair, now in the Aston Martin's driver's seat, no longer waiting to be propelled! Calm, cool and collected I ask questions and gather information that might be applied to the dental collections of the museum.

Back in storage I wander over to Unit Two where a cased set of dentures are kept and recall our one summer student who became a dentist. I open the case and have a look. We know who wore these dentures, but I must have Dr. Kathy visit and tell us more. It’s strange too - thinking about collections and how they enable us to recall our own past and interests. I briefly return to my visit of the Gillies Archives, Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, England. Here is an amazing collection of original material relating to the reconstruction of soldier’s faces, jaws, and teeth from the First World War - very powerful, and extremely emotive. I recall telling the dentist’s sister about this early place of care and the related website she saw online, and how thrilled we were to hear she was accepted to medical school. That’s the power of artefacts, archives and the past. One just has to have some imagination.

It’s thanks to one donor that we have many dental objects that belonged to Dr. J.C. MacDonald who graduated as a dentist in 1911. In 1917 he moved to Chilliwack and took over the dental practice of Dr. Hacking continuing to work in the field until his retirement in 1959. Our green dental drill came from the office of Dr. Newby who, after nearly 60 years of work, is thought to be one of the longest practicing dentists in all of Canada.

All in all it makes me wonder what year my early dentists graduated, especially the first one with the treadle style drill. That was another time and another place – it’s magical how artefacts can transport people in time.

Image: The dental drill from the office of Dr. Newby.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two Scoops Please!

Chilliwack’s Palms Confectionary

It seems that our neighbours to the south will be enjoying July as National Ice Cream Month, complete with a special day for indulgence in all those tasty treats. Plain cones, waffle cones, sprinkles, toppings, chocolate or butterscotch-dipped, vanilla, strawberry, mint chocolate chip, bubblegum and tiger stripe flavours beckoning to not just kids but adults alike. I like ice cream, but the fanciest I seek out is spumoni reminiscent of my earlier, sunny days in the Mediterranean. I also like good old fashioned vanilla and strawberry and sometimes when I feel daring its one scoop of each! Yum!

Ice cream and any treat that can be made from it were proudly on offer during the early business years of Five Corners. A well known ice cream parlour in Chilliwack was opened by Fred Leary in 1914 when he established “The Palms Confectionary” on Wellington Avenue. Later, Mr. Leary relocated to the Barber Block at Five Corners where a picture, now in the Archives, was taken of the storefront complete with eager children vying for entry while mothers seem to wait patiently as the kiddies seem to bound with joy.

Mr. Leary’s menu was filled with ice cream sodas, milk shakes, ice cream and sundaes. At 15 cents each, one could sip on one of 13 different flavours of soda including Crème de Menthe. There were 28 different sundaes ranging in price from 20 to 50 cents with names reminiscent of song titles like Cherry Dip, Date with a Peach, Victory, Aviation Glide and the Fraser Valley Taxi Special. As I glance through the menu, I have made my 1914 choice. Even then it would be the same - one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of strawberry. That will be 30 cents please.

Image: A selection of artefacts from Palms Confectionary donated to the Chilliwack Museum in 1991.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Putting the Best Paw Forward!

Celebrating the Dog!

This week, July 7th, the annual Chilliwack Music ‘n’ More program begins with a celebration of the dog by way of “Pet Parade”. Owners bring down Fido and Fifi (as well as other critters) dressed in all manner of personalities. Some dogs look as excited as ever, others complacent and my favourites - the ones who seem to say, “Why are you doing this to me?” Nevertheless dog owners enjoy their faithful companions, they give them a home, food and water and provide Rover with something to do like “Take my human out for a walk!”

Dogs have been in history for centuries and at the Chilliwack Archives one just has look through the many pictures and one will often find that Dixie is included. Just look at the James Orville Booen collection and the companion dog is shown in portraits, hunting scenes, and downtown. Sometimes they are lying down, sitting down, one ear up, one ear down, with tilted head just waiting for that moment when they are called to play. It reminds me of George Carlin asking “What does a dog do on his day off?”

Then again we still have to remember all those working dogs, police dogs, guide dogs, herding dogs and others. One of my favourite donations to the Chilliwack Museum was a gift of four rubber dog boots, manufactured by the Lewis Dog Boot Company of Enid, Oaklahoma. It was a complete set, four boots with carry bag and receipt indicating that they were purchased by Herb Ling in August 1964. The boots are worn to protect hunting dog's feet “from sand burrs, rocks, and brush or to protect an injured foot or sore pad.” The company remains in business today providing for our faithful friends of the furry kind.

Image: Lewis Dog Boots

Friday, July 2, 2010

School's Out

A Gift of Ebony and Gold

Every year as the school year draws to a close, teachers seem to gather a wide range of small appreciative gifts from students. Ranging from gift cards to chocolates, store-bought and homemade cards to things that say “I know teacher will like this!” it is these thoughtful expressions of, “Thank you! You’re a great teacher”, that speak volumes to their instructors. It is also a tradition that has been around for many years and in 1883 one Chilliwack teacher was presented with an ebony cane fitted with a heavily ornamented and engraved gold top. Amongst the cane’s golden scrolls and floral motifs is the simple inscription, “Presented to J.P. Johnston by his pupils Chilliwhack July 1883".

Scottish-born John P. Johnston taught in Chilliwack for more than 15 years and was considered to be one of the finest Latin and Greek scholars in the province. We do not know much about him, other than he died in New Westminster February 9, 1899. His obituary was printed in the Chilliwack Progress newspaper from which we were able to gather the above scant details. Obviously he had left a lasting impression on the community and was remembered by many.

Image: Cane top of the Johnston presentation cane.

P.S. Chilliwhack is an early spelling for the community of Chilliwack.