19th Century, Culture, People

“An 1890 Childhood”

The 1890s – when kids still had tea parties with their dogs. Attributed to James Ballantyne/Library and Archives Canada/PA-131941 (click image to go to source)

Before you ask, no those kids in the picture aren’t from Kingston or the child referred to in this post, they’re children who lived in Ottawa in the 1890s. But it’s a cute photo and has the right vibe for the text of this post, which is why I included it.

The title of this post is the original title of a piece composed by Daisy Chown for the 1973 book I Remember When: Stories of Kingston Folk. I believe members of Rideaucrest Home contributed stories for it, and a lot of them are really interesting, especially if, like me, you enjoy reading about the minutiae of daily life 100+ years ago. The Chown family was basically Kingston royalty, and there are still places around the city named for them (e.g. Chown Hall residence at Queen’s). Daisy Chown was born in 1881, and so was around ninety-two when she recounted her early life on what was originally called Gordon Street, now University Avenue. I’m copying it here word-for-word, except for a few typos which I’ve corrected. It’s a bit of a disjointed narrative, but I think that adds to the charm.

“I remember when we moved from Bagot Street to University Avenue, then called Gordon Street, in November 1887. The sidewalk was two planks wide, laid lengthwise. Later sidewalks were planks, maybe 5 feet wide, laid horizontally. Finally, there were cement walks.

“When I was teaching in Whitby Ontario Ladies College in the 20’s, one of my duties was to take as many as 100 girls walking – we called it a division. The sidewalks were of boards, and often a board came off where one could tumble and break an ankle. The front girls in the line said ‘board off’ to the ones behind them, and the word was passed back until it reached me at the end of the line.

“I started school at Gordon Street School which was on the corner where Ban Righ Hall now stands. It was a four room school which would be called a fire trap now, the staircase to the upper two rooms being in a shed-like addition at the back. The only entrance to the upstair front room was through the back room.

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19th Century, Culture, Institutions, People

Hunky Guys of Kingston’s Past, Part Two

This is the second section of Hunky Guys of Kingston’s Past (see Part One here), featuring a few more contentious figures than the first section.

Read on for Part Two! Sorry it’s so long, there’s a lot to pack in here. Continue reading

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20th Century, Institutions, People

KFPL’s Home Town, Home Front Project

The 46th (Queen’s) Battery in England, several weeks before heading to the Front. Queen’s Picture Collection V28 Mil-FieldCo-5. Queen’s University Archives. (click image to go to source, where you can see a larger version)

This post has been a long time coming – and I should probably warn you I’ve turned it into a 2000-word saga – but I think I’m finally ready to present my account of the soldier I received for the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s “Home Town, Home Front” project, which marks the centenary of the First World War. The idea of the project was to send postcards to older homes with the name of a soldier or nursing sister who once lived there. Then, the library provided resources for the current residents of the home to research their subject.

The house I live in is a 1986 bungalow so I obviously wasn’t counting on receiving a postcard. However, a request to the library gave me a name to research, after I specified I’d like someone from the area around Queen’s. (I didn’t care where the person lived in Kingston, but considering how much time I spend at Queen’s working and going to school, it seemed like a good option). After a short wait, the name I received was…

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19th Century, 20th Century, Institutions

Back to School: Queen’s Edition

Fun fact: Arts '10 donated the gate at the Arch St. entrance to Summerhill. You can't miss it because it says

Fun fact: Arts ’10 donated the gate at the Arch St. entrance to Summerhill. You can’t miss it because it says “Arts 1910” in big letters. (click image to go to source)

I generally don’t keep this blog according to any kind of schedule (I just write what I want when I feel like it) but this week I thought I’d put something together for the back-to-school season. I recently bought a trio of KCVI yearbooks (1931-32, 1940-41, 1944-45) but haven’t had a chance to get a good look through them yet. Instead, I’ve gathered together a few interesting items from editions of the Queen’s Journal and I’ll get to the KCVI yearbooks soon.

This post is going to be a bit disjointed because I’ve selected three different items from the Journal mostly at random, but in doing so I’m attempting to highlight a few interesting events and problems Queen’s students would have encountered from the years 1880-1910.

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20th Century, Institutions, People

Wartime at Queen’s and Beyond

Probably members of the 50th (Queen's) Battery at Murney Tower. Canadian Letters and Images Project. (click photo to go to source)

Probably members of the 50th (Queen’s) Battery at Murney Tower. Canadian Letters and Images Project. (click photo to go to source)

The arrow on the above photo is pointing to Gunner Robert Gordon Brown, whose letters home to his family from the point he enlisted in the batteries then recruiting at Queen’s University until after the Armistice open an interesting window onto Queen’s involvement in the First World War. Battery recruitment was just one of the ways Queen’s was contributing to the war effort, so this view is a partial one, but at the same time it is personal and often quite detailed. (Thus, this post is quite long. I’ve tried to whittle things down to the essentials while at the same time maintaining some personality and background, which is not easy to do.)

NB: Unless otherwise indicated, all images and materials quoted in this post are from the Canadian Letters and Images Project. However, it’s an old website and some of the links no longer work, namely the Copyright link. Judging from the policy of the very similar Great War Archive, University of Oxford, my use here should be fine, but as with anything else on this blog, if you feel something should be removed or altered, please do let me know. I run a pretty tight ship on this blog.

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Buildings, Culture

Recent History

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It’s probably obvious by virtue of the fact that I write this blog that I can get a little sentimental about the past. Now that the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts is about ready to open, I’m starting to miss the old days when I took dance lessons at the J.K. Tett Centre and went to archaeology camp in the Stella Buck Building. (Who are J.K. Tett and Stella Buck? I’ve always wondered). The whole waterfront here had a distinct vibe that became very familiar to me. I spent many, many hours here over the years.

One cloudy May day six years ago, I brought out my then-new camera and took a few shots of the area. I wish I had taken more. Particularly I wish I had one of the little public-art sculpture, probably dating to the 1970s, which was supposed to represent the ocean or the lake or something. Alas, I’m sure it’s long gone by now.

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20th Century, Culture, Institutions, People

Technicolor’s Kingston Beginnings

100 years ago, some very interesting experiments were taking place within these walls. (my photo)

100 years ago, some very interesting experiments were taking place within these walls. (my photo)

When I was taking FILM 250 in my second year at university, our class learned a little about the history of film at Queen’s. One of the most interesting stories I remember was about a professor named Herbert Kalmus. This name may not be familiar to most people, but it has a very important place in film history: Herbert Kalmus was the co-inventor of Technicolor. Technicolor is mostly associated with films made from the late 1930s onward. Indeed, the Technicolor process achieves some of its greatest effects in films like The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Red Shoes (1948). However, Technicolor was actually created way back in 1915 thanks in part to some (*cough* off-the-record) research done at Queen’s.

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