musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Sunday, January 04, 2015

time travelling ... back to the 1930s

I made the most wonderful discovery last week, while going through some of my Mom's old papers  - a small, leather-bound book with gilt-edged pages. Judging by the worn spots and scuffed corners, it had been well-loved and handled often. A single word, 'Album' was embossed in tarnished gold on the cover.
I opened the book, expecting to see my Mother's familiar handwriting, "this book belongs to Phyllis..." but instead found the following inscription to Mom's older sister:
Presented to Margaret May, member of winning team in Bowling Tournament held by Bellefair Young People's Society, Monday, January 6, 1930.
I turn another page and time falls away. I'm transported eighty-four years into the past, sitting in a classroom at Malvern Collegiate in Toronto with Margaret. The little leather book is new, its pastel pages clean and crisp.
"Psst." Tap a curly-haired girl on the shoulder and hand the book forward. "Autograph, please, and pass it on."
I blink and am back at my desk in 2015, turning pages, reading the thoughts and wishes of schoolgirls whose lives were just beginning. Most, like my aunt, probably passed from this world years ago. But their words, heartfelt, teasing, silly, and hopeful, live on.
From Theressa:
You asked me to draw but I can't
You asked me to paint but I shan't
And so to spoil the look of this autograph book
I am writing these words on a slant.
From Helen:
One is a friend for a reason
One is a friend for a rhyme
One is a friend for a season
But I am your friend all the time.
From Marion:
In the pantry of your heart,
Consider me a lemon tart.
A musical message from Queenie:
Never B sharp
Never B flat
Always be natural
From another Margaret:
Some write for fortune,
Some write for fame,
But I write simply to sign my name.
From Daisy:
When the gold sun is setting,
And your mind from care is free,
When of other girls your* thinking,
Won't you sometimes think of me.
(*Even back then the dreaded your vs. you're marred social media!)
From Melba:
To meet, to know, to love, to part
Is a sad, sad fate of a school-girl's heart.
And finally, the class clown makes her mark ...

From Margaret #3:
When on this page you look,
When on this page you frown,
Remember the girl who spoilt your book
By writing upside down.
Each of these autographs is dated February 7, 1930 - a time capsule of young women in their third year of high school. Did they marry? Have children? Write a novel? Did any of them imagine their future would include a second World War or human beings walking on the moon?
After graduating from Malvern Collegiate, Margaret attended Toronto Normal School (teacher's college), and collected more autographs there, as well as a few intriguing photos of her classmates which I'll post another time. Margaret married in 1940, had two sons, and lived a long and happy life in a little house in the East York area of Toronto. She collected Royal Doulton figurines and Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which are part of my library now.

Her little autograph book was also passed around for family signatures - I'll share some of those surprising autographs in a future post.
I know many people still pursue celebrity signatures, but whatever happened to personal autograph books? Does anyone collect these days? I remember having one in grade school, although I've no idea where it is now. I do recall my grade five teacher's inscription, though: "Step up the stairs, don't stare up the steps." Good advice, Mrs. Mackey. Good advice.

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Books of 2014

Happy New Year and welcome to my fourth annual New Year's Day Booklist!
I read a total of sixty-six books in 2014. Slightly more than half were audiobooks - I listen while driving to and from work - and the remainder are about evenly split between ebooks and books on paper. Most enjoyed? It's so very hard to choose! I absolutely loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Lodger: A Novel by Louisa Treger, and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. New to my best-loved mysteries list are Steve Burrows' series debut, A Siege of Bitterns: A Birder Murder Mystery, the Father Christmas Mystery series by C. C. Benison, and the Cait Morgan series by Cathy Ace. I'm eagerly anticipating more from all three authors. And speaking of anticipation, I'm positively itching to read more from Ben Aaronovitch, Susan Elia MacNeal, and Judith Kinghorn. Yes, 2015 is shaping up to be a very good reading year.

Just a few of the sixty-six...

Here's my complete 2014 list, in order of reading:

Murder in the Dark by Kerry Greenwood
Terms of Surrender by Sheila Seabrook
Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland
Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn
A Fatal Thaw by Dana Stabenow
Bryant and May Off the Rails by Christopher Fowler  
The Vault by Ruth Rendell 
A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia #3)  by Alan Bradley
Double Shot (Cue Ball Mystery #2) by Cindy Blackburn
A Serpent’s Tooth (Walt Longmire #9) by Craig Johnson
Sick of Shadows by Marion Chesney (aka M. C. Beaton)
Murder of the Bride by C.S. Challinor
Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
Our Lady of Pain by C.S. Challinor
Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering
The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths
His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal  
The Windermere Witness by Rebecca Tope 
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia #4)  by Alan Bradley
The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn

Still Life by Louise Penny (re-read)
Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (re-read)
A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows
A Colourful Death by Carola Dunn
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (re-read)
The Ambleside Alibi by Rebecca Tope      
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (re-read)
Dying to Sin by Stephen Booth
Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood
The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson
Fated (Alex Verus #1)  by Benedict Jacka
Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (re-read)
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude
The Valley of the Shadow by Carola Dunn
The Corpse With the Silver Tongue by Cathy Ace
An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
The Corpse With the Golden Nose by Cathy Ace
The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal  
A Quiet Kill by Janet Brons  
Murder Most Frothy – A Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle
The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price
Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia #5)  by Alan Bradley
Daggers and Men’s Smiles (Moretti and Falla #1) by Jill Downie
An Unwilling Accomplice (Bess) by Charles Todd
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Silver Totem of Shame by R.J. Harlick
The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Unlikely Traitors by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
A Breach of Security by Susan Hill (Serrailler Short)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler 
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Dry Bones (aka Extraordinary People) (Enzo #1) by Peter May
Forever Dead: A Cordi O’Callaghan Mystery by Suzanne F. Kingsmill
A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet
The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill (Simon Serrailler Book 8)
Falcon’s Return by Rebecca K. O’Connor
The Lodger: A Novel by Louisa Treger
Gone West: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery by Carola Dunn
Cold Mourning: A Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery by Brenda Chapman
Bryant and May: The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler  
The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia #6)  by Alan Bradley
The Cornish House  by Liz Fenwick
The Walker on the Cape (Sgt. Windflower Book 1) by Mike Martin

Ongoing: The Complete Journals of L. M. Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900, editors Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston. For me, this isn't a 'sit down and finish it' sort of book, rather I pick it up every once in a while to read a few entries. As a life-long Anne of Green Gables fan, I'm enjoying the personal glimpses into the author's life as a young girl.

First up in 2015:

Audiobook: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Kindle: The Body on the T by Mike Martin
Paper: I can't decide! Something from my tottering TBR pile.

What were your most memorable reads of 2014? Recommendations are always welcome because there's no such thing as too many books!


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