The Scrapbook

Olive Delmage Hawley (1878-1951) was my grandmother. She was the eldest of six daughters born to William Julius and Minetta Price Delmage in the last 20 years of the 19th century.

There were two categories of Delmage daughter – homespun, plain spoken and hard working, or elegant, well educated and career oriented. Grandma Hawley fell into the first category. She didn’t have an easy life. Grandma married George Hawley – a farmboy and horse carter – in 1904. They had a life of hard work, frequent bouts of unemployment and a crippling personal injury suffered by my grandfather. Olive herself had severe lung problems in the 1920s surviving on the other lung into her 70s. A tough lady for sure.

She was said to enjoy fun and jokes -she’d have had to with my grandfather and Uncle Rocky around – but she wasn’t the life of the party herself. That is according to my mother.

Grandma experienced the Depression when her family had to survive the winter of 1930 with only $40 on hand. She was a hoarder of sorts although not as messy. She saved paper, metal foil and string; she made do. My uncles had a wood cutting business so Grandma burned the scraps in her wood stove.

She was a pretty good artist, seamstress, diarist, and archivist. She would have loved Pinterest and WordPress. I don’t think she’d be posting selfies on Facebook though.

But I digress.  What I really wanted to write about is one of my greatest souvenirs – Grandma Hawley’s scrapbook. Here’s a bit of history on it.

Oh my, what a difference 100+ years makes! If you or I were starting a paper based scrapbook now – a decade and a half into the 21st century – we’d hop in the car, drive over to Walmart , buy a brand new book, and start pasting in our stuff. We might even download articles from the Web to include in it. Or just scan everything and go digital – no book needed.

Alas, no such luxuries were available to young Olive Delmage when she started her book in the early 1890s. Even if she had the money for a new book, it was a three hour drive to the nearest town by horse and buggy to buy it. So she recycled her scrapbook, or as she would have said: “I made do with what was at hand.”

Grandma’s scrapbook started life as a prestigious legislative volume: “The Sessional Papers of Upper and Lower Canada, No.3; Victoria 30, 1867.” It originally belonged to Mr. John Martin, who is lost in the mists of the past – he was possibly the uncle (born 1845) of Olive’s Aunt Estella (Martin) Price.

For nearly 50 years my grandmother laboriously covered the pages of this dignified old lawbook with hundreds of articles, obituary notices, recipes, and words of wisdom from the countless almanacs and magazines and newspapers that found their way into her hands. She never failed to find something to keep. Of course she had more time as a youngster and as a mother of grown children, so there’s plenty of stuff from the 1890s and the 1930s and 40s, but not as much around World War I.

The scrapbook stayed with her sons after Grandma Hawley’s death in 1951, and after they passed away in the 1980s, Rocky’s wife (Aunt Evelyn) kept it until late in 1997. Aunt Evelyn then handed it on to my mother, the last of Olive’s children, and in December 1998, the book came home with me.

The articles and stories and poems in the scrapbook give a unique look into the thoughts of a very Victorian lady and her times. Along with her photo album they give me an insight into Grandma Hawley that a five year old boy would never have had based on personal contact. I’m grateful.

The Changing Face of Cleveland

When Edith Delmage left her ancestral home in rural Ontario in 1905 she was anxious to start a working life in a city. So she set her sights on (wait for it) Cleveland Ohio. This wasn’t nearly as scary a prospect for a young Canadian lady as you might think. Edith had two uncles working professionally in Cleveland, and two of her older sisters were already there and gainfully employed. Cleveland was an up and coming financial and industrial center, the 6th largest city in the US. There was certainly no barrier to immigration for a well educated young lady who was willing to work in a shop, an office or a bank.

By 1910 Edith was boarding in a large duplex on East 93rd St not far from Euclid Ave where her Uncle Weston had his dental office. She would have been familiar with the building above which housed the Western Reserve Historical Society back then. By 1920 she had gotten together with her mother and sisters to live a bit further north on Birchdale Ave, and by the 1930s the family had decamped further east to the genteel suburb of Cleveland Heights.

I’d like to show a few of these locations today but unfortunately the area so familiar to Edith and her family has undergone decades of blight and decay, poverty, demographic change and crack to the point where it’s an urban prairie now. Every place they occupied is now either a vacant lot or a parking lot for an inner city mall. Even the stately homes of Edith’s uncles have gone the same way.

Certainly Edith would never settle here if she were moving to Cleveland 100 years later. It’s hard to imagine this kind and gentle 19th century lady talking about living in “C-Town” or “tha Land” as the local rappers do now. Edith’s old ‘hood is now one of the poorest and most crime ridden spots in Cleveland (or the US for that matter.)

On the other hand the long time residence of the Delmage sisters on Glenmont Road in Cleveland Heights is still standing proud:

In fact although this area has some dodgy streets it is quite an up and coming hipster place. Prices are still low but the area is gentrifying. It’s a mixed racial area that has survived and probably is going to continue to thrive and avoid the urban wasteland a bit further west on Euclid Ave.

As for the Prices and Delmages their history with Cleveland started to end in the 1940s when Uncle Weston left Lamont Street and moved to California in retirement. Edith’s nephew Don Fawcett was a Bell Telephone executive, and he took his family to LA in the mid 1950s. Edith and her sister Alice joined him in California after their sister Helen died in 1961. That was all she wrote for Cleveland after 60 years. C-Town we hardly knew ye.

Preserving the Past

You are looking at a photograph of the “younger generation” who attended the Price family reunion in Newburgh Ontario 99 years ago this past summer.This group was made up of the children of the folks organizing the reunion and were the grandchildren of Andrew Valleau Price (1830-1910.)

Now if you are a fan of Strauss-Howe Generational Theory it is clear that we are talking about a “younger generation” that is in itself three possible demographic generations – that’s the way it was back in the 19th century when a big family could have kids born over a 20 year span, and then their kids might do the same.. The oldest grandchild is my grandmother who was close to 40 by then and had kids of her own. The youngest one was probably born around 1910. No matter – the photographer knew best how to organize the photo.

A second question given that we have this photo from a century ago is how can we preserve the memory for future generations to enjoy and talk about? This breaks down into a number of sub topics:

Conservation of the Image

I don’t know how many copies of the original image are still around but I’m willing to bet that if a given image hasn’t been thrown away or burned, it’ll still look good. It’s ironic that 100 year old black and white paper technology gives us the best chance of a long term preserved photo. This one looks far better than some of the fading color slide images I took in the 1970s, and I’m not confident that the Instagram and Facebook digital photos of today will survive that well either.

It does require someone who cares to keep the photo around though. My grandmother obviously cared. So did my mother. So do I. And so did the original photographer who arranged the group and used a high quality early 20th century camera to make the image in the first place.

Who’s Who?

Ay, there’s the rub. Everyone in the photo is dead now, so there’s nobody from Newburgh 1917 who can help us today. There are a few distant cousins in the succeeding generation but they are now in their mid 80s. I have been in contact with one and he has been helpful ruling out some grandkids who were not there.

I am probably the oldest of the grandchildren of anyone in the photo, and I conclude that there are some people in the pic I have met and know for sure, others I have a pretty good probability of guessing, and some I don’t have a clue and don’t know how I’d ever know who they are. All I can say is that I wish I’d discussed this photo with my mother and uncles 35 years ago. Too late now.

Sharing The Knowledge

Here’s the easy part. With the Internet and the rise of websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch I can post the image in the Cloud and make it available to thousands of prospective researchers. Maybe a distant cousin will recognize it as one they have in their collection, and contact me. That happened with the cousin I mentioned above – his wife is a genealogy buff.

It’s sort of like a message in a bottle, but multiplied many times over. Put it out there and see what happens. At least it’s not just sitting in an old photo album in a dresser drawer.

There you have it. I’m doing my part at this distant point in the future. But how I wish I could know more about the past.


Have Camera, Will Travel

Electro M5 (1966)

Like most people I have always liked to travel and document what I saw in my wanderings. That meant I was always  hauling along a camera of sorts. Since my travel experience now goes back close to 50 years the apparatus I took along has changed a bit. Here is a brief history of what I’ve used over the half century.

1969-1981 Yashica Electro M5

Type: Manual Focus Viewfinder

Medium: 35 mm Color slide film.

Summary: Cheap and cheerful, my first serious camera.

Got this one shortly after I graduated from university and it went everywhere with me. It was a rudimentary beast – hand focused, hand cranked film advance, no real controls other than sunny, cloudy, indoor settings. The flash was always a hit and miss proposition.

This one documented the earliest days of my relationship with Maria, our time in Port Hope and Montreal, Sarah’s early days, so it made a lot of great memories. In the right light it took pretty good slide photos.

Ah 1971. Not a bad year.

By the time I got to the early 1980s though. I was ready for something better.

1982-2002 Nikon FE and 3rd Party Lenses

Type: Manual Focus SLR

Media: 35 mm color slide film and later 35 mm color print film.

Summary: My life in pictures.

Pretty amazing that over 30 years I just used two film cameras. This second one I got from a work colleague who had it as a spare camera. It was and is a classic from Nikon. I never really took advantage of its quality though as I couldn’t afford a bunch of Nikkor brand lenses. The camera came with a small 50 mm Nikon lens, but I expanded that somewhat with some 3rd party lenses (Vivitar and Quantaray zooms, Kiron wide angle.) The whole kit was heavy and bulky but it went on a lot of vacations. It still is around somewhere in a closet at my son-in-law’s house. I used it until my eyes started failing in the early 2000s and I couldn’t focus with any degree of accuracy. It was slow and inconvenient to load film in but once you were ready to go, it was a workhorse. However just don’t try to take pictures indoors without a flash. The combination of slow zooms. low ISO film and shaky hands can give poor results with a camera like this.

Got some good memories with it though.

2002-2006 Nikon F80 and Nikon Autofocus Lens Kit

Type: Autofocus SLR

Media: 35 mm color print film.

Summary: Sight for sore eyes.

This was the last great color film camera I ever purchased and I got it just before film died and digital took over. It has all the bells and whistles of a Nikon film camera of the day – auto focus with the appropriate lenses, although backwards compatible with a lot of manual focus stuff. It is easy to load film and has an autowinder. I have quite a nice lens kit with it as well.

This camera went on a number of fine holidays right up to when we started cruising in 2006. But by then I was getting more and more digitally oriented. The film camera required a large supply of print film, and to lug it around I needed a big camera bag and strong arms (or needed to bring along a Sherpa assistant.) Even today when I could bring a digital SLR and a bunch of lenses on holiday, I choose not to do so if we are flying anywhere. Those days are over.

This one was pretty good with low light though, if you chose the right lens.

2007-2011 Fujifilm S6000fd

Type: Digital Zoom Lens “Bridge” Camera

Media: Fuji xD card

Summary: Relief for sore shoulder.

This camera was the first one I took on an extended holiday that didn’t have film of any sort. The Fuji S6000fd had a fixed zoom lens that enabled both wide and telephoto shots and no dust could get into it so I wasn’t worried about having to post process the images. It had a rudimentary electronic viewfinder that I could use if the light was too bright to see the screen on the back of the camera, so I could (and did) use it like an SLR. The only disadvantage was that – like an SLR – it was heavy and bulky and I just didn’t want to take it out on shore excursions after a while.

Can’t miss with photos like this though.

2010-2015 Canon S90

Type: Compact Mid-Zoom Pocket Camera

Media: SD Card

Summary: Light as a feather.

A bit of an overlap here as for a while I carried two digicams on cruises – The longer zoom for taking photos from the ship, and a smaller one for shore excursions. After 2011 though I just went with the S90 – lightweight, compact, and a great camera for good and low light, but there were two disadvantages:

  1. The zoom range isn’t really long enough to capture marine traffic or views of distant islands.
  2. No viewfinder and very difficult to compose photos in bright sunlight.

Be that as it may I did get some pretty good views of Bora Bora on our way through to Hawaii in 2015.

Future Trips Panasonic DMC-ZS50

Type: Compact Superzoom

Media: SD Card

Summary: Hoping for the Best.

No camera can do it all, but I’m hopeful this one might give me what I need for carefree travel photography. It’s light and pocket sized. It’s got a viewfinder that I can see well with glasses in bright light, and the zoom lens goes from very wide to very long. I can’t imagine any situation where I won’t be able to get a photo – even dim light should be OK as this particular camera can take pics at ISO levels I’d never envisioned in my earliest days. It has image stabilization and face detection so that eliminates other glitches. It can take 6000 exposures without running out of capacity.

I guess we’ll see but early results look promising:

So there you have it. After close to 50 years I’ve gone from one camera with a fixed lens, to one with multiple interchangeable lenses, to autofocus, to digital, to two digital cameras, and now to one camera with a fixed lens, I suppose that’s progress for you. Hmmmm….







Get It Right Next Time

Back when I started listening to rock and roll (in its antediluvian days) the saxophone had a prominent role in most tunes. A good example is this Little Richard classic from 60 years ago.

Note that the saxophone in this early rock cut serves to add muscle to the rhythm section in the absence of electric bass (still in development) plus give a honkin’ instrumental solo (that would later be handled by a Telecaster or Strat electric guitar.)

In the guitar drenched 1960s and early 70s the saxophone was seen as a quaint anachronism in most studio recordings. Then in the late 1970s and 1980s it made quite a remarkable comeback.

I can think of two major reasons this happened. First was the popularity of Bruce Springsteen and his long time collaboration with Clarence Clemons. You can get a sense of that here. Lots of guitar and bass – but a searing sax solo as well.

The second reason is because of the work of Scottish folk rocker Gerry Rafferty. Rafferty’s use of saxophone on his late 70s hit “Baker Street” is considered to be the most iconic sax riff ever. And my personal favorite is the follow up hit “Get It Right Next Time.”

This cut from Rafferty’s 1979 “Night Owl” album has pretty much all the elements of a rock hit – infectious shuffle rhythm, spooky introduction, some good guitar licks, and to top it off a rollicking solo by one of the great sax players of the 70s. His name was Raphael Ravenscroft and yes he did the Baker Street riff as well.

Not bad lyrics either:

You gotta grow, you gotta learn from your mistakes

You gotta die a little everyday just  to try to stay awake

When you believe there’s no mountain you can climb

And if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time

Sadly Gerry Rafferty, Clarence Clemons and Raphael Ravenscroft have all passed away. Done too soon, as Neil Diamond would sing. But the sax legacy lives on.



Vale of Tears

My great-great aunt Maud was a widow when she married great-great uncle Norman Price in 1900. I didn’t know this based on the paper genealogy I have (done in the 1950s by her niece Helen Delmage.) When I did find out I did some research on Maud’s first husband Henry Harwood. Henry died of pneumonia in 1895 at the age of 26 – he and Maud were married a year or so.

Anyhow I found an online pic of Henry’s lonely tombstone in Mount Pleasant Cemetery Toronto. Maud never used the cemetery plot herself (she’s buried with Norman in Lewiston NY where they spent most of their married life.) But Henry ended up with plenty of company.

Maud made ample use of the plot for various and sundry relatives. There was her brother Joseph H. Foster who died in Memphis TN in 1905 and was shipped back to Toronto. But what confused me for a time was the presence of two young women – Edna G and Ethel C. Warrington – both who died in their 20s. How did they end up in Henry’s plot?

Well it turns out that Edna (died 1908) and Ethel (died 1898) were Maud Price’s cousins – daughters of her sister Charlotte Foster. Charlotte married Frederick Warrington – who was born in England and came to Toronto where he worked for her father making surveyor optical instruments.

The Warringtons were a star-crossed (one might say snake-bit) family from what I see at a distance of 100 plus years. Fred Warrington took them to Detroit, then New York, then Alberta and finally back to New York over a 40+ year period. Born under a wandering star no doubt.

Ethel Warrington was a diabetic and died at age 21 of kidney failure. Edna Warrington was a nurse, contracted TB and died at the age of 29. Maud Price looked after their funeral arrangements, probably because Fred and Charlotte were too far away. Ethel is commemorated on the back of Henry Harwood’s tombstone although her surname is spelled Warington. I don’t see any trace of Edna except in the cemetery records online.

The Warringtons had a son Arthur who got married in Detroit, settled in Alberta , joined the army in World War I and was killed at Vimy. To top it all off two of Arthur’s sons died in World War II – both in 1944. You can’t make this stuff up.

I haven’t been able to find out what happened to Charlotte and Fred but I hope they died peacefully somewhere. The rest of the family had their vale of tears to contend with.

I find this story rather heartbreaking and these people aren’t even related to me except tangentially. Probably I am the only person on the planet who put their story together. It’s been a long time coming.

There are some days to be grateful you live in an era of relative peace, with available insulin and antibiotics. Today is one of them.

Never Been Here, Never Actually Seen It But…

This stately Victorian farmhouse is in my opinion the home of my great-great grandfather Andrew Valleau Price (1830-1910.) Here he would have raised his large and diverse family which included two dentists, a doctor, a clergyman, and an inventor plus assorted farmers, farmers’ wives, businessmen’s wives, etc. My own line comes down via AV’s oldest daughter who married a local successful farmer. Their daughter married the hired man and the rest shall we say is history.

So what makes me so sure this is the right house given I’ve never seen it? The Internet is a marvelous place. I was able to look at a map of Camden township from 1878 and then at Google Earth – and the roads and topology pictures are surprisingly similar. Then I have this photo:

Reunion of AVP’s family ca 1917. My mother Mary Hawley is the tiny baby being held by great-great uncle Weston Price near the open front door.

The house from 100 years ago and the one from Google Earth look surprisingly alike, and given its location I’m pretty sure that is the “Eagle Rock” farmhouse referenced so often in the family genealogy.

So Google Earth photos, Ancestry, an 1878 local atlas of Lennox and Addington county and a photo from my grandmother’s family album all combined to solve the mystery. Now you know the rest of the story.

I guess I’ll have to take a trip out to Newburgh one of these days to see for myself.


Skule Daze

Another year of school started today with my grandson now in Grade 2 and my older granddaughter in Grade 1. That got me thinking about my own school experience which started almost 65 years ago. That’s me far right first row next to Donnie Keith (or was it Ronnie Keith – never could tell them apart.)

Considering how much time I spent in academia I must say I really didn’t enjoy it all that much. I never really looked forward to heading back to school every year with a few exceptions. Let’s take a look at the various stages:

  1. Elementary School – Yech. Back in the 1950s the experience was totally rote work and seat work. I alternated between stuff that was so easy it put me to sleep – arithmetic, spelling, reading – and stuff that was virtually impossible – art, music, cursive writing. The authorities couldn’t understand how I could ace the hard subjects but fall flat on my face with the “fun” stuff. Besides, they kept trying to move me to the next higher grade level so I wouldn’t be bored. This was great – get me into an older group when I was already immature and shy and just wanted to stay with my friends. I survived thanks to my mother’s influence as she resisted these “acceleration” moves on the part of the school staff. Why they never heard of gifted classes or enrichment activities back then totally escapes me.
  2. Secondary School – Bliss. After getting away from the artsy-fartsy stuff I immersed myself in the love of learning for the high school years – Classics, French and English, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History – I ate it up. Nothing I couldn’t do. I had no social life but I didn’t care at the time – the original Renaissance kid. It really helped that I went to a tiny academic high school where anything I wanted to learn about was available, and the teachers cared.
  3. University – Meh. This was supposed to be the the highlight of academic pursuits – not!!! I needed a job at the end of it all, so I chose STEM subjects as my major – Chemistry and Physics. Things got increasingly specialized as I went on; I did manage a couple of courses in Economics and Psych but that was it. Thank goodness I got a summer job in a food science research lab because then I found my life’s work. I would never have made a good academic chemist, I’m afraid. Add to that the fact I had no money, could not stay in residence and lived hand to mouth all the time I was at Queen’s and you can see how it wasn’t such an outstanding time of my life.

So out of the 18 odd years of schooling I suppose I liked maybe 5 of them. Not exactly a poster child for education, was I?

After I got out and embarked on my career I got into the fun part of learning – lifetime stuff. As a chemist I knew more hard core science than the average food technology grad but I needed to learn some microbiology and food engineering. General Foods was great about giving me the opportunity to do this in a practical way. Over the years I had the chance to learn advanced statistics and quality control methods, more computer programming, unit operations in a variety of processes, plus a wide variety of business software for personal computers. And that was just on the job.

At home I’ve continued to learn about economics, astronomy, history, theology and just about anything else that suits my fancy. I firmly believe that life is all about learning and the relatively small time you spend doing it formally becomes less important as time goes on. You can never stop learning though.

65 years – a lifetime ago. I wonder if my grandkids will look back at their lives in 2081 and think the same thoughts. I’m sure lifetime learning will have a whole other meaning for them.

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