My grandmother’s scrapbooks
by Laurent d’Entremont
My grandmother, Sarah, was born in 1885 and died close to 90 years later, just missing her birthday by a few months. During her long life, she had travelled as far as Windsor, Hants County, on one side and Liverpool, Queen’s County, on the other shore. Hers had been a small world indeed.
Although my grandmother had traveled very little, she had gone to school up to Grade 9, with nuns as teachers. My grandmother did a bit of reading when they started to have newspapers and, luckily, had the good sense to save lots of clippings and photos and arrange them in scrapbooks. My aunt Therese, who is now well past the four scores mark, still remembers doing most of the gluing while helping her mother with the scrapbooks.
Of course, my grandmother and aunt were not as organized as professional scrapbookers of today. It seems that religion, politics, royalty and local history dominated these scrapbooks. Perhaps what is most interesting is not the fashion the scrapbook is put together, but rather the way it is organized. For example, at the top of one page, you may find a big photo of the Pope, a newspaper clipping of some relatives getting married in the States and an ad for the new Chevrolet for 1928. The middle of the same page could sport a picture of Winston Churchill, with his trademark cigar, and next to him would be a picture of my great-aunt, Rose Edith, at some religious function. On the remaining space at the bottom of the page could be the tin type picture of my grandfather, with his bicycle, right next to a newspaper clipping of Adolph Hitler acting like an idiot when he was chancellor of Germany.
Births, marriages, deaths and family events are all listed here. A family member can learn a lot from such a scrapbook. From clippings of Yarmouth newspapers, I read of aunts and uncles getting married long before I was born. These were well documented, saying what the bride and groom wore, the name of the priest that performed the ceremony, who were bridesmaids, best man, flower girl, etc. These clippings sometimes told where the newlyweds were going on their honeymoon. Often, they were going to the United States, on the Boston boat from Yarmouth, to visit relatives.
There was a very nice picture of the Dionne quintuplets born in1934; it showed Mr. and Mrs. Oliva Dionne posing with their five babies. A picture of Shirley Temple fishing for salmon in British Columbia proved that my grandmother knew who the child actor was. Members of the royalty weren’t ignored by my Acadian grandmother and aunt, either; visits of King George and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) were well preserved. Also some priests, bishops and several popes had their pictures pasted on many pages.
A good picture of the 1,018-foot long motor vessel Queen Mary, with its engines providing 160,000 horsepower, had lots of information on this famous “queen of the high seas.” This would have been of interest to my grandfather, who was a long-time fisherman.
My father subscribed to the farm magazine The Family Herald, and a page from this publication showed the Kentville Experimented Station. The date here was omitted, but it said that Dr. W. Saxby Blair had been director of the experimental farm since 1912.
Of equal interest to Annapolis Valley readers was a very big picture of Queen Annapolisa for 1939. The caption under this black and white picture reads, “Queen: Miss Geraldine Clark, Queen Annapolisa VII. Princesses: Miss Phyllis Morash, Miss Muriel Roop, Miss Fern H. Dakin, Miss Doris Cleveland, Miss Barberie Bethune, Miss Florence Small and Miss Evelyn McKeen. (Are any of these people still living?)
The scrapbook featured a page from the Yarmouth Vanguard of the entire Tuna Queen contestants, which included my sister, Simone. There was a story of my father retiring from the Department of Agriculture after 33 years of loyal service. On the very last page, there was a picture of me as returning officer for Southwest Nova during the election of 1974. This picture is dated June 17; it shows candidate Charlie Halliburton taking the oath while I was signing the nomination papers.
After years of interviewing older people, I have seen hundreds of scrapbooks and they were all, more or less, similar to my grandmother’s. These scrapbooks, no matter how tattered or disorganized they are, should be preserved for generations to come. They are, without a doubt, a real treasure trove of information.