Dear Friends: In my long career as a journalist, I collected memorabilia ranging from hundreds of newspapers clippings and photographs to pieces of historic wooden type like this big E — for Elinor, of course!
Since 1972, I have worked for the Battlefords Advertiser-Post, the Western Producer in Saskatoon, the Red Deer Advocate, the Winnipeg Sun, the Province in Vancouver, and the Columbia Valley Pioneer here in Invermere. I’ve been a regular columnist for The Senior Paper, and written countless articles for other newspapers and magazines, including eight years with Reader’s Digest Canada.
After I finally “retired” from my journalism career in 2010 (before I began blogging and writing books), I decided to organize my relics.
The clippings went into file folders, and the complete issues of newspapers and magazines that I wanted to save were stored in labelled cardboard boxes.
Since my goal was to reduce the number of exposed items in my house (and hence my dusting), I finally came up with a plan to display my smaller souvenirs.
I found this glass-topped coffee table at Ikea, with a drawer that pulls out so the items inside can be rearranged. The coffee table sits in my family room. Happily, since they are under glass, my collectables never collect dust!
The drawer has four sections. This one contains my wooden rulers, a paper weight, pencil box, and a proportional wheel I once used used to calculate the relative width and depth of photographs when laying out newspaper pages, or “dummies.”
My collection of press cards is incomplete, but I did manage to save quite a few — even the very first one (top left) from the Battlefords Advertiser-Post, back in 1972.
The first printing press was invented in 1450 in Germany, and the first letters were made of wood. About one hundred years ago, hot metal type was invented, in which melted lead was poured into alphabet moulds.
That method of printing lasted right up until digital type took over in the 1980s. I started my career when hot lead was still in use. On press day, the smell of smoking hot lead would permeate the whole building!
One of my favourite souvenirs comes from the Western Producer newspaper. It’s a lead slug that reads “Photo by Elinor Florence.”
This what the lead bars looked like, before they were melted down and turned into type. This photo comes from the Red Deer Advocate, courtesy of photographer Calvin Caldwell.
About ten years ago, I salvaged a derelict log cabin here in Invermere that once belonged to Ron and Belle Ede, who published the weekly newspaper here, The Valley Echo.
Inside the cabin was an old printer’s type case filled with lead type. After determining that nobody in Ede family wanted the thing, and with the help of two strong men, I dragged it home. (Believe me, there is a reason for the expression: “heavy as lead.”)
After it sat in our garage for a couple of years, I finally steeled myself and sifted through every drawer, which were filled not only with jumbled lead type of various fonts and sizes, but animal droppings, dirt and leaves. It was a filthy job, but I selected a shoebox full of lead type letters that I wanted to save.
I donated the remaining lead type to a printer in Fernie, B.C. The bottom of his car was practically dragging on the gravel road as he left my house! But he was delighted with his acquisition and is putting it to good use in his business, Clawhammer Letterpress, which still uses an old press to create unique wedding invitations, birth announcements, and other types of paper goods.
The cabinet itself was broken and splintered and falling apart, so we had to throw it away. I chose a few type drawers that were in fairly good shape although the wood is very worn. I still haven’t decided what to do with them. Your suggestions are welcome!
In My Email Mailbox
I received an email this month from the Juno Beach Centre in France, requesting permission to sell my non-fiction collection of interviews with veterans titled My Favourite Veterans: True Stories From World War Two’s Hometown Heroes in their gift shop! Of course, I said yes. (Contact me directly to purchase a copy).
This privately-funded centre, operated by a board of directors, is planning a huge celebration on June 6, 2019 for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
And in another happy coincidence, they were looking for a Canadian woman who was serving overseas on D-Day to attend the ceremony. I recommended Eugenie Turner of Kelowna, and she and her son are now happily planning to travel to France!
I visited Eugenie recently, and here’s a “selfie” of us — Eugenie is 96 years old and looks twenty years younger! Eugenie was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force at a bomber station in Yorkshire on D-Day. To read her story, click here: Eugenie Turner.
I know Eugenie will be an excellent representative of the 50,000 Canadian women who served in uniform during the Second World War. Here she is with her medals, in a photograph taken by the Whitehorse Star.
In My Physical Mailbox
This printed photograph arrived from historian Lee Anning in Creemore, Ontario. Although we haven’t met in person, we have corresponded and talked on the telephone. Lee has been so helpful in photocopying covers of wartime Star Weeklies and sending them to me in full size!
This proud Canadian veteran who served 17 years at various bases in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Germany, is a well-known figure in the small community of Creemore. Here he is wearing his poppy jacket in honour of Remembrance Day.
Since this photo was taken, Lee grew out his muttonchop whiskers in order to portray Prince Albert at the 200th birthday party of Queen Victoria at a local event this weekend. There will be Victoria Sponge cake (baked by Lee himself!) plus Victorian games for the children, and an exhibit of Victoria and Albert etchings from Lee’s collection. Thanks for the great photo, Lee!
Deal of the Century
I have written before about staying at the Prairie Bells B&B in Oyen, Alberta. It’s a foursquare house ordered from the T. Eaton catalogue that was the inspiration for the home in my novel Wildwood. This week I telephoned the owner, Manfred Schroeder. He and his wife Cheryle are selling the house for $249,000. What an opportunity to run your own business, or just live in this beautiful period house! Call Manfred at 403-664-0957 if you want more information.
Book Club Phone Call
One day the telephone rang, and the caller identified herself as Cora Doucette from Spruce Grove, Alberta. “I have you on speaker phone!” she said. “My book club is meeting at my house and we just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed Wildwood!” A chorus of feminine voices in the background called their congratulations. What a great phone call – thanks so much, Cora and friends!
Book Club Gift
I’m not visiting book clubs in 2019, but I made an exception for Rosalie Belsher of Calgary, who has been so supportive of my books. I visited her club to talk about Bird’s Eye View, and she presented me with this wonderful gift: a book bag from Indigo, a shopping tote and a tea towel and even a paper doll bearing vintage Simplicity pattern images, an apron made from a vintage Mexican cotton print, and a bottle of sparkling wine! Thank you so much, Rosalie. Every one of these items will be put to good use!
For several years now I have been raving about a trilogy written by Rich Hobson, who, along with his buddy Pan Phillips, founded a huge cattle ranch in the Chilcotin area of British Columbia in the 1920s. The books are: Grass Beyond the Mountains, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, and The Rancher Takes a Wife. The author writes so entertainingly about his life-threatening ranching exploits that you can hardly believe this isn’t fiction!
I loaned the first book to my brother, but here’s my battered copy of the second one, with a photo of the author himself. (Coincidentally, I discovered that my next door neighbour Greg Dubois has a personal connection to the book, because his great-grandfather Jack Dubois is mentioned as the owner of a herd of wild mares that stampeded through downtown Vancouver in the middle of the night! Seriously, you just have to read the books).
The Darling Buds of May
May is my favourite month, in part because my birthday is on May 23. In fact, my full name is Elinor May Florence. As a child, my name was often shortened to Ellie-May (shades of Ellie-May Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies).
When I was growing up, I never had a birthday party because it was seeding time on the farm and every ounce of our family’s energy was taken up with getting the grain into the ground.
However, it’s still a great time for a birthday because it’s so close to the Victoria Day long weekend, and because the trees are coming into bloom, especially my favourite lilacs.
I was hoping to show you a photo of the splendid lilacs blooming beside my garage, but due to the unseasonal chilly temperatures here on the shores of Lake Windermere, they are still in bud!
Friends, wherever you may live, I hope the flowers are blooming and so are you. Happy Victoria Day!