Saturday, July 22, 2017

CPR Montreal to Victoria in 1954

Warning: Contains no motive power photos whatsoever!

This is an trip account my mother created.
In 1954, she travelled with her mother via CPR to visit relatives in British Columbia.

Here is my mother during this trip on the platform at Banff. Most of the following photos were taken by her using a box camera. As you'll see, the account was typed and pasted into a 12 inch by 9 inch photo album. She discloses her age in the text.

By this point, my mother was already an experienced pen-pal correspondent. Shortly after World War Two, she began writing to a girl in England. At times, this pastime expanded to include correspondence in 3 languages to about a dozen partners in Europe and Australia.

This may have been the very first of an extensive series of trip accounts. After our own family vacations, she would sit down at her portable Remington Letter Riter. Like an Operator, she would use onion skin and carbon paper to produce manifold copies for the recipients. Unlike an Operator, the finished product was consistent in appearance with those below - leaving some characters open to interpretation. 

Given my interest in allowing original artifacts to communicate what they can about their historical era, you can assume that life was more difficult before spell-checkers ... and backspacing which automatically erased an error. While only one copy of my mother's hard copy record existed (until now) it was still easily 'readable' ... unlike my own 1980s/90s writings in WordStar or PublishIt! or my databases created with IBM Filing Assistant. 

Through close reading of the text, you'll be able to identify some fellow train-travellers by name - but it is not clear how they knew my grandmother or why they were travelling together.

By way of introduction, my grandmother is to the right. She was a Presbyterian (technically: United Church) church organist and she and her spouse had been choir members together - sometimes being brought into other church choirs to bolster them. 

My grandfather died before I was born. He broke off his civil engineering studies at McGill, and volunteered for the Canadian Railway Construction Corps - being taken on strength at Saint John in April 1915. Late in the war, he went to England for artillery training - perhaps to get a chance to shoot back for a change. After the war, he couldn't get on a ship back to Canada until 1919. Consistent with the lack of support given to veterans on their return, he never completed his engineering studies. He started his family in northern Quebec - on various construction jobs along the National Transcontinental and at other similarly remote projects.

*  *  *

As you may have inferred, my father excelled at creating neat and precise databases. His written correspondence was tactful. My mother also created records ... but she tended to stretch, and to poke at, and to explore the data - often using humour. You'll read about a Lulu Island dispute over the weight of U-pick raspberries - my mother would often take a stand on a point of principle.

As you would with any artifact, you'll notice a few cases of nomenclature, and ideas, which are inconsistent with how many people think today - 'artifacts' of society back then. The Stanley Park Zoo photos present some examples of how our ideas regarding nature have changed. 

... For human society: To use a parallel example, the CPR General Instructions to Train Conductors, May 1, 1954 - a couple of months before my mother is actually travelling - has these two items:

Item 180. "Domestic" Chinese Passengers - Chinese may be ticketed between any two stations in Canada, via lines wholly within Canada, or between any two stations in United States via lines wholly within the United States. 
Item 181. The previous regulations regarding the requirements for Bonding and manifesting Chinese, in direct transit through Canada are cancelled. Chinese persons may travel through Canada in the same manner as all other persons ... 

My mother will want me to add that similar unreasonable restrictions were also placed on women of this era regarding education and career choices. Housewife, secretary, nurse, teacher circumscribed the usual expectations for women. 

To present a final contrast to my father ... My father arranged his trip photos, as much as was possible, in exact chronological order. My mother has arranged hers geographically - east to west, local to most interesting.

Note below: Near Hudson, Quebec, Como was the location of my grandparents' summer cottage on the Ottawa River.
The Lanes were their next door neighbours.
5:30 train time - Then, railways did not alter their (esp. public) timetables for Daylight Saving Time.

Porter in the drug store: Eastern sleeping car staff were 'on duty' without relief Montreal to Winnipeg.
Generally, western staff took over at Winnipeg.

Kitchen: The layout of their car may have corresponded to the 1962 diagram for the 'G' Series Tourist cars.
This was the era of the stainless steel Canadian cars - but notice that the boattail 'View' series are not of that series.
from: CPR Circular 62-18, Assignment of Space; April 29, 1962.

Accidentally, the Countess of Dufferin is photographed.

Summerlea - Elementary school in Lachine - named after the local golf course.

Below: At Calgary ... 'ice that sweaty men were loading on train' ... for air conditioning.
Diner in front of the tailend observation car. 
Below: Ten years earlier, you can see a similar arrangement being made during the war.

from: CPR Special Circular A623, 1770, 979 Assignment of Space; June 27, 1943. Showing Supplement 1, January 1, 1944.

Below: At Banff pointing out Mounties - present in dress uniform to promote tourism.
Above: Field. 
A wheelbarrow and coal pail are being used to dress gravel ground cover.
A large round bell can be seen just under the station eves.
... Big Hill runaways and rock slides might be things worth 'alarming'?

'Victory anthems': The national anthem for most Commonwealth/Empire countries was God Save the Queen (King before June 1953).
Well into the 1960s, in Montreal, we sang both God Save the Queen and O Canada (finally official in 1980) each morning.

from: Railroad Map of Western Canada; Canadian Freight Association; no date, circa late 1950s?