Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Happy (belated) Canada Day!

Although I have missed the date itself, I still would like to honour Canada's birthday with a belated posting.

Here is a postcard featuring what appears to be a Dominion Day parade, ca. 1915. The patriotic bunting is plentiful, and the floats are profusely decorated with flowers. The City Hall (and its clock) are visible in the background. The float in the foreground may be a fire engine, to judge from its shadow. Note the plumes on the horses' heads. Also in the background is are incandescent street lights of the type installed in 1912.

(Courtesy of John Parklyn)

The postcard has a white border, from the post-1915 period, and is done in a sepia-toned halftone process. It is labelled "The Armouries, Guelph, Can." and was printed by The International Stationary Co., Picton, Canada.

It is hard to get an exact match with Google Street View because of construction when the photos were taken, but here is a shot that is approximately the same. It is of Lower Wyndham St., at the intersection with Macdonell, looking towards the Armouries.

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I thought that it would be interesting to see what was happening on Dominion Day in Guelph 100 years ago, when these postcards were so popular. Unfortunately, the issues of the Guelph Evening Mercury from July 1st and 2nd of 1913 are missing from the archives. However, the June 30th edition is available and suggests what was happening in the city at the time.

The headline news that day was the arrival of world-famous opera singer Eddie Johnson. A Guelph native, Johnson had been in Italy for over five years, earning his living and building up his reputation. The piece notes the fame that Johnson had gained in Italy, even being ranked with "the immortal Caruso". In spite of his fame, Johnson displays a properly Canadian modesty:

With that inherent modesty, for which all true British and Canadian artists are noted, he would rather talk about anything else than that wonderful voice of his which has made all Europe proclaim him a second Caruso.
In his success, and his modesty, he displays the spirit of his country. He came with his wife and daughter to visit his parents and to rest his voice for the upcoming season in Italy.

Although Guelphites could choose to stay home and enjoy the Dominion Day parade downtown, they could also travel to distant parts, perhaps to visit their relatives. Both Canadian Pacific and the Grand Trunk Railways offered discount rates on fares for travel within the province.

If the train did not offer enough exercise for some, then there was always the chance to participate in the famous Dunlop Trophy Race. This race was an annual event co-sponsored by the Dunlop Tire & Rubber Goods Co. and CCM. In 1913, the race went from Waterloo to Preston Hill and back for a total of 20 miles.

The churches of Guelph held services on June 30 to prepare the way for the secular Dominion Day celebrations on the morrow. Many services involved themes of progress, change, and movement. The Salvation Army, for example, staged a march near the site depicted in the postcard above:

At the splendid open air service on Wyndham and Carden Streets, the band especially excelled itself. As some one said, "Who could help but march to such music? The word of the cornets was often remarked, it was perfect and always sure."
The Rev. J. D. Fitzpatrick of Norfolk St. Church observed a tension created by the mobility that modern life granted to Canadians. On the one hand, Western civilization in general, and Canada in particular, was characterized by enhanced mobility, represented by the national railways:
It was the church that discovered Japan and China and Africa. It produced the world's knowledge and commerce. Reports from missionaries in the Northwest were the original cause of the building of the Canadian Pacific Northwest Railway across the continent.
Unfortunately, the opportunities presented by the nation's transportation networks also threatened to unravel its moral fabric:
"The great foe of the Dominion," said the reverend speaker, "is materialism." No nation ever perished when she was poor; Egypt, Babylonia, Rome and Israel, were all destroyed when at the height of their material prosperity. The reforms needed in the Dominion will be brought about by the church; the evil of worldliness will be conquered by it.
Although it may be a mixed blessing, mobility is something that Canadians expect and enjoy, as their excursions on Canada Day attest.

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