By Mike Smith
Many years ago when Elwy Yost hosted Saturday Night at the Movies on TV Ontario (TVO), I heard a well-known movie critic state that he (Elwy) could never be a movie critic because he never saw a film he didn’t like. The same, I suppose, could be said of me when it comes to postcard shows. I love those darn little cardboard rectangles so much that I’m thrilled to attend any venue where they’re bought and sold. And whether or not you’re collecting postcards as a beginner, or a mad enthusiast like me, the Toronto Postcard Club’s (TPC’s) annual show is a must-attend event.
Held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre near the junction of Highway 401 and Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway, this year’s February TPC Show was one of the best I ever attended. No doubt aided by the beautiful sunny weather on the day of the event, within 30 minutes of the 10:00 a.m. start time the centre was packed with postcard hunters. Figure 1 is a snapshot showing the size of the crowd that gathered in the lobby well before the doors opened. Standing in the center with the clipboard is TPC president George Sachs; the gal seated at the table is TPC past-president Shirley Avery.
With over 20 dealers manning more than 40 tables loaded with cards and other paper collectibles, the TPC Show has evolved into an essential winter event for Canadian collectors. And even though I was tethered to my postcard handbook table for most of the day, as usual I managed to slip away long enough to pick up some really great cards. For example, you might not think that there was anything particularly appealing about a Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard of the interior of Aussem’s store in Hamilton (see Figure 2). After all, golden age (1900–1914) postcards of store interiors are not uncommon. What makes this postcard special however, is that it’s a newbie. Thanks to a decades-long mission by TPC archivist Bill Buchanan to record every postcard issued by Toronto’s Warwick Bros. & Rutter, very few unlisted cards by this firm have turned up since Bill’s death in 2012. So the Aussem store find is an important addition to Bill’s legacy.
If you like Canadian patriotic postcards as much as I do, the TPC Show is definitely your go-to venue. One of the cards I took home from the show has a great image of the Niagara Navigation Co.’s paddlewheel steamer Corona (see Figure 3). With its red Canada crest in the upper left corner and the clean postmarks front and back, this card is a delight. Published by the Canadian View Card Co., Toronto in the year it was postmarked (1905), the Corona card is from one of the 18 different patriotic postcard series published by the firm during the golden age. For the record, Canadian View Card Co. cards with the red Canada crest come in two types – those with colour images (Series 9A) and those with b/w images like the Corona’s (Series 9B).
Although we Canadians technically took responsibility for our national security with the passage of the Militia Act in 1868, we still relied on several in-situ British garrisons and the Royal Navy in case of an emergency. (It seems unbelievable now but for most of the 19th century our biggest fear was a US invasion.) With the success of the Canadian Contingents during the South African War (1899–1902), the withdrawal of the last of the British garrisons in 1906, and the creation of our own navy in 1910, all roads led to a proud and autonomous Canadian military. This no doubt is one of the reasons why so many postcards of Canadian militias, regiments and military camps were published during the golden age. And one of the little beauties I took home from the TPC Show is of the 53rd Sherbrooke Regiment watering its horses (see Figure 4). For the military buffs out there, the 53rd Sherbrooke Regiment started life in 1866 in Melbourne, Quebec as the Sherbrooke Hussars. It later served as part of an armoured regiment in the Second World War.
The last little gem I’d like to show Wayback Times readers is a postcard published by Moncton, New Brunswick’s P. D. Ayer & Co. (see Figure 5). My interest in P. D. Ayer was kindled many years ago when I discovered this firm’s patriotic postcards. Today however, I pick up P. D. Ayer cards simply because they’re not common and well deserving of a handbook someday.
Finally, don’t forget to attend the Post Card Memories Show & Sale in Kitchener on Sunday, April 26. This is Southwestern Ontario’s largest postcard expo and another key event on the show calendar.