Thursday, February 12, 2015

The H.M.C.S. Swansea's mascot, "Townie"

I'm doing some fascinating research right now, and some of it has me trying to find images of H.M.C.S. Swansea (a River Class frigate in WWII).

In looking for these photographs, I've come across a side story that touches my heart - the ship, for some time at least, had a mascot named "Townie."  From the pictures (found here: a story emerges.  I know nothing beyond the photos, so probably best just to show them to you here with their captions:

"Townie - the best mascot any ship ever had." From the Bob Pearson collection.

"Robert (Bob) Pearson with Townie on HMCS Swansea K328." From the Bob Pearson collection.

"Townie (left) the ship's mascot and Herman, the stowaway on HMCS Swansea K328." From the Bob Pearson collection.

"Albert Tomlinson on left.  Unknown sailor holding ship's mascot Herman."  From the Albert Tomlinson collection.

"Townie's pups on HMCS Swansea K328." From the Bob Pearson collection.

"Feeding time for Townie's pups."  From the Bob Pearson collection.

Drawing from a sketchbook by Ken Gray.

And, sadly ... "Burial at sea of Swansea's mascot 'Townie'"
Photographer/Credit: J. McFerran

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Postcards #44 - The rest from the gold mines

As a continuation of the last postcard post:

So before we continue with the story of Dick Grant headed to war, it would probably be better to go back and see the rest of the cards that ended up in our collection from the Atlin area.

Since I didn't know most of the story before, and since these cards are not post-marked, I really didn't know where they fit into the story.  But now I do - before Dick signed up with the 47th.

So here are some postcards from the Atlin and Discover, B.C. area.  None of them were postmarked, and most of them did not have much of a message if any at all, so really I was just dealing with images - except for this first one.  But now that I know who was up there, I have some answers (and way more questions).  For now I am (reasonably) assuming that these cards are associated with the Grant brothers.

Message on back reads:  "Thanks for PC this is what is left of Atlin after the fire.  it was a good thing that it was not Discovery. well how are you always getting along. is Jack done of the garden yet.  we are very busy up here and the weather is very cold yet but we will soon get the summer how is Van looking I just try and come down this winter to see what you are all doing.   __ __ one that I am asking for them  WG"  (I think that's a WG - it could be an RG, but the author mentions "D" whom I assume to be Dick)

The fire that burned Atlin started in May 1914 - it wasn't the first time the town had a major fire.  The town had a major fire in August, 1900 as well, with damages estimated at $43,000.  The 1914 fire, though, took most of the town's buildings and did more than twice the estimated damage at $100,000.  

On the back of this one is written simply "this is one of Atlin."  In the corner it says "Publ. By H.E. Brown, Atlin, BC"

On the back of this one is a note stating:  "what do you think of this lot"

These "real photo" types of postcards were very popular at this time.  A photographer likely had the dogs and sled set up and took pictures for tourists or locals.  These two photos were taken at the same spot from two slightly different angles.  If you look closely, you'll see some snowshoes in the trees behind the last dog.  

I have been in touch with one of Richard Grant's descendants (well, one of his sister's descendants, as he had no children), and am hoping to get a picture of him.  If I do, I want to see if it happens to be the man with the hat and glasses (front in top one, back in bottom).  If it is him, we can see that it was not just two bachelors mining in the wilds.  And it looks like they might be having a grand time.

View next postcard post.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Photographer Jim Cox

I've just come across a photographer from Edmonton and I love what I've seen of his stuff so far.  If you are interested in local artists, please check out Jim Cox at:

He does a wide range of stuff:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ricki Covette

I just got off the phone today with a wonderful 89-year-old woman.  Her name is Irene Jewell - but in the 1950s and 1960s, her stage name was Ricki Covette.

She was a 6'8" tall burlesque dancer who was born right here in Alberta.  She was gorgeous, independent, and she made a good living doing what she loved.

After she quit the burlesque scene, she was a real estate agent for a while and she married a man named Stuart Jewell.

Stuart Jewell was a cinematographer.  He filmed quite a lot of the natural world and Irene travelled with him to some incredibly exotic places - check him out here on IMDB.  Now, he's not credited for it, but Irene told me that he did the time-lapse photography of Disneyland being constructed - which you can see on the Disney and More blog here.

She recently was asked to donate a lot of her burlesque memorabilia to the Smithsonian.  You can read all about her in this article from the Daily Pilot in Cosa Mesa (where she lives). 

Anyhow, it's a really interesting story, and I just thought more people should know about her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Postcards #43 - Dick! Found him! Then lost him ...

So I just shared an older post (#34) with a LinkedIn group and came to the stunning realization that the author of that postcard is none other than the friend, Dick - same guy who was off to WWI.

How did I miss that??

So this friend Dick (who I assume to be a Richard), on December 18, 1914 was in the wilds of BC in Discovery apparently mining for gold.  Less than a year later, in October 1915, he was in the Okanagan Valley at the training camp in Vernon, having joined the 47th Battalion, C.E.F.  By November 11th, 1915, he was on the train in Fort William (Thunder Bay) headed to either Quebec or Halifax to head to England. (Spuzzum Post, Fraser Canyon Post).  [There will be at least 3 more posts upcoming about Dick.]

I have been trying to find out who Dick is, and will continue to look through information on the 47th Battalion as well as the gold rush and see what I can find.  But this is one mystery that keeps intriguing me.


Okay - so I wrote the above paragraphs last week.  I e-mailed the Royal Westminster Regiment, who perpetuate the 47th Battalion (keep their records since the 47th no longer exist), and found out that they wrote and published a book called "For King and Country - 150 Years of the Westminster Regiment."  The book lists all the men who left with the 47th in November of 1915.  The person I e-mailed told me it would be "like looking for a needle in a haystack" to track down a Richard from the Battalion.  He doesn't know me, though, does he.

Anyhow, there were 150 copies of the book printed.  If I buy it from the Westminster Regiment, it's $65.  From Amazon, it's $99.  But I have a wonderful brother-in-law (BIL) in Vancouver who is very familiar with the Vancouver Public Library, and today he went and wrote down all the Richards who departed with the 47th in November of 1915.  There were only 10 - I'd have thought there would be a lot more.

So off to the Solders of the First World War search page of Library and Archives Canada.  If you have anyone in your life who was in WWI in Canada, you can find information out about them there. You can only look them up by name or regimental number right now, but the Archives are working on a more detailed search engine - and some of the WWI soldiers are on that now.

So I started with the first name on my BIL's list - Richard Bell.  There were 22 who were in WWI with Canada.  The one who departed with the 47th was regimental number 629030.  He was from Scotland, so he was a possibility.

Next came Lieutenant-Corporal Richard Hoskin Duce - there was only one of them in the database and he was regimental number 629360 - but he was from England and I'm pretty sure my Dick is Scottish - my GGparents seemed to stick with their fellow nationals a lot.  I wouldn't rule him out, but there was nothing screaming "Dick" to me.

And then the third name on the list:  "Richard Grant" and something twigged - I have a postcard to a "W. Grant" in Discovery.  Could they be brothers??  There were 9 Richard Grants that went overseas from Canada in WWI.  And 629491 was Richard Grant from Inverness, Scotland.  His attestation paper gives us lots of information.  He was 30 years old (was the same age as Jack's older brother, Alexander), 5 feet 7 inches tall with brown eyes and black hair.  He signed up for the army on September 1, 1915 in Vernon, B.C. - a little over a year after the war started - and after he no doubt lost money trying to gold mine in Discovery.  He was not married and his next of kin was listed as his mother, Mrs. Richard Grant, who lived at 15 Booth (or possibly Boath) Terrace in Nairn, Scotland!  He was also listed as having the occupation of a miner.  Found him!  Didn't think I would.

Now in the 1901 census and until he left for Canada in 1910, Jack lived with his parents on Roseneath Terrace in Nairn, Scotland.  In the 1901 census, Dick's family lived at 27 Harbour Street in Nairn (on the 1891 census they lived at 25 Harbour Street - I'm guessing that numbering changed or was not incredibly fixed).  Here's where their houses were:

Dick's father was a Market Gardener - so they were likely in a similar financial situation.  But with such a small town, young men of a similar age would have a good chance of knowing each other.

By the census of 1911, Richard is living in what looks like a boarding house at 732 Drake Street - right in downtown Vancouver.

So there we have it.  Dick Grant from Nairn.  His brother, who was a year older than him, was named William Grant who we have a postcard for as well - only further confirming the identity.

Now comes the terribly sad part.  In doing this research, I also found Corporal Richard Grant, Regimental Number 629491, listed on the Canadian Great War Project's webpage.  He was killed in action on April 13, 1917 at Vimy Ridge (I had a good cry over that one - not sure why).  He is buried at the Petit-Vimy British Cemetery in France.

Jack McCurrach, my great-grandfather, and Dick's friend, was transferred to Dick's unit, the 47th Battalion C.E.F., in June, 1917 - I don't know if he was hoping to find his friend still alive and well with the battalion or if he already knew the worst.  My family was lucky - Jack got wounded but stayed alive and eventually got to go home.

I wonder if Dick has anyone to remember him ....

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Postcards #42 - White's Creek Bridge and Fraser Canyon

As you can see, this postcard is from White's Creek Bridge in the Fraser Canyon (not actually "Canon" as it says on the card).  You'll also note that it says "Canadian Rockies."  Not sure if this was a series of postcards called "Canadian Rockies," but the Fraser Canyon is not in the Rocky Mountains.  In this area the river divides the Canadian Cascades from the Coastal Mountains (from what I understand).  

I can't absolutely identify this spot on the map, but another postcard (found on the internet) notes that it is near Spuzzum (which you can barely read at the top):

"White's Creek Bridge and Fraser Canon (looks like it is mis-spelled here, too - what's with that??), near Spuzzum, B.C., Canadian Pacific Railway"

As seen in this past post, Spuzzum is an interesting town just north of Yale on Highway 1 in B.C.
The CPR was built in the 1880s, with the last spike being driven in 1885.  So I assume that this bridge was built during the construction of the RRd.  I'm sure if I am wrong on that, someone out there will tell me, please.  I can't find White's Creek on any maps, only in other postcards of a similar age.  

The back of the postcard reads:  "Got to Winnipeg this morning.  Met Bill and the wife.  they were down at the station at 3 in morning and we got in at 4 but we only had a few minutes with them the two of them are looking well.  we are having a fun time.  Dick"  He was writing from Winnipeg although he seems to have mailed it later.

The red line is the CPR - Dick would have travelled along the main line that went through Calgary.

The post mark is from Fort William - Now part of Thunder Bay. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Postcards #41 - Spuzzum

In the last postcard post, Jack's friend, Dick, was in Vernon, BC and headed to New Westminster to start his WWI journey to Europe.  On this card, we see he is travelling east toward Europe - but he hasn't gone too far, yet.  The card is from near Spuzzum, BC.

"SPUZZUM"??? you may ask.  What kind of word is Spuzzum???  According to Wikipedia, it may be a First Nations ("Indian" for those of you who don't reside in Canada, but First Nations is the term used here) word meaning "little flat."  It is the boundary between the Sto:lo and Nlaka'pamux peoples - just north of Hope, BC - often referred to as "beyond Hope." (Spuzzumites have had quite a sense of humour regarding their size and name).

To put it in the context of my experience, when I was younger, Spuzzum was a stop on the highway - a gas station and cafe.  Before the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) was put through in 1986, the Trans-Canada Highway was the main route we used to travel from Vernon to Vancouver - every year or two.  Here is a picture of what it used to look like (from the cars, I'd say late '70s, early '80s):

If I remember correctly, behind the photographer would be a rather steep hill going up and behind the restaurant/gas station was a rather steep hill to the river - but not too close, as there were some houses down there.  As we were driving through, my father would say "there's Spuzzum, don't blink or you'll miss it!"  And, to show their own humour, the hamlet had a sign which on both sides read "You are now leaving Spuzzum."  The other highway being put through must have really killed their business in the mid-80s.

In 2002 the gas station and restaurant burned down.  They were not re-built.  Here is what the spot looks like today:

This postcard was written to Jack's sister, Belle, and the text reads:  "On the train 9th Nov Hello Belle how are you getting along.  we are having a fine time with the girl's all along the line the weather is a bit cold here but every one is happy Dick".  A curious little note.  Not sure why he needed to tell Belle he was having fun with all the girls ...

The postmark is from Regina, Saskatchewan, so from this and the previous postcard, we can see where Dick has been (on a 1915 map of the railroads across Canada):

Remember, he started in Vernon, went to New Westminster (which is part of the Lower Mainland along with Vancouver and several other cities) and then got on the train headed east.