Wednesday 27 December 2017

Xmas at Summerhill, 1904

At Christmas time, it is fun to pick out a postcard with a seasonal message to investigate. This year's card conveys a scene from the campus of the Ontario Agricultural College, ca 1900. Specifically, it shows what is today known as Winegard's walk after William Winegard, the University of Guelph's second president.

(Courtesy of the John W. Keleher collection.)

In the right foreground is Day Hall (then the "Experimental building"), then, to the left of the tree, is the Gymnasium, the Chemistry Building, and the Main Building (all now demolished).

The postcard is of an early type in which the message goes on the front with the picture while the address alone goes on the back (called an "undivided back" card for that reason). The message on the front reads:

Many thanks for Xmas greetings. Wishing you a very happy new year. L.A.Y.
The addressee is Master Hyde Auld, “Summerhill”, Guelph. The card was printed by Warwick Bros. & Rutter and was postmarked on 29 Dec. 1904.

Summerhill was one of Guelph's houses grand enough to merit a special name. Summerhill was becoming quite well-known—even notorious—in the Royal City, so it could readily be used as an address, all by itself.

The history of Summerhill is well summarized in the booklet "Brooklyn and College Hill" (Guelph Arts Council, p. 11–12). It was built in 1840 by James Thompson at the centre of what was then a large estate. In 1865, it was rented to Colonel Thomas Saunders, Wellington County's first magistrate and an important local figure. He was soon to sell his large farm, "Woodlands," which later became Vimy Ridge Farm. He also figures in the Christmas post from 2015 as one of the founders of St. James church in Guelph.

Summerhill became notorious because of two of the Colonel's granddaughters who grew up there: Lucy and Elinor Sutherland. In 1860, their mother Elinor had married Douglas Sutherland, a British engineer who took her to India, South America, and then London, where the girls were born. In 1865, Douglas died of typhoid fever, prompting the widow to journey to Summerhill with her young family (Mercury, 20 July 1927).

Although shorn of its estate, Summerhill still stands at 25 Harcourt Drive and can be seen looking resplendent in the Google Street View picture below.

Even though the old laneway leading to Summerhill from Dundas Road (now Gordon Street) is now gone, the gates can still be seen halfway up College hill, on the west side of the street:

The family remained at Summerhill until 1871, when Elinor married Mr. David Kennedy and removed to his residence on Woolwich Street, next to the new St. George's Church and opposite the Court House (where the Wellington Catholic District School Board building now stands). The Mercury relates a scene from their childhood on the side of the Speed River (perhaps a recollection shared by the ladies during a later visit to town):

Here the children watched with great interest the building of the new St. George's Church, the old one being in St. George's Square, and here with one or two of their young cousins, the Saunders boys, they slid on boards through the basement [of the church], and climbed as far as possible the scaffolding about the tower, then in the process of erection.
In 1874, Mr. Kennedy took his family back to the Old Country.

A brief sketch can hardly do justice to the careers of these two woman, so let the following sketch suffice. Lucy became a dressmaker and then a noted fashion designer. In 1900, she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and, in 1903, opened "Lucile Limited" in London. Her's was the place the English glitterati got their best clothes for the next 20 years.

(Lucy Christiania, Lady Duff-Gordon (1919)/Wikimedia commons.)

Lucile was later known for surviving the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. She and her husband survived in a life boat that carried only 12 people although it had a capacity of 40. Rumors spread that Duff-Gordon had bribed the crew to leave the ship prematurely. A subsequent inquiry exonerated him.

Anyway, as the website of Lucile and Co. states today, Lucile Duff-Gordon was the "It girl" of the Belle Epoque.

Lucy's sister Elinor married Clayton Louis Glyn in 1892 but the marriage proved unworkable. As a result, Elinor Glyn began a series of affairs with various high-flying British aristocrats. If that were not scandalous enough, she began to publish risqué novels based on her experiences. The best-known is "Three weeks," about a young English nobleman who has a three-week fling with an older woman in Switzerland, and published in 1907 (and based on a true story!).

The book inspired the following bit of popular verse:

Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err with her
On some other fur?
The book was panned by critics as vulgar, silly, and disreputable and, naturally, sold very well.

(Elinor Glyn/Courtesy of Wikimedia commons.)

Elinor went on to write and produce screenplays for early Hollywood films. Perhaps the most famous of these was "It" (1927), about a spunky young redhead who sets her cap at her wealthy employer. The movie popularized the concept of the "It girl", a woman who possesses "It," defined by Elinor as follows:

With It, you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. It can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.
Clara Bow, who played the heroine in the movie, was thus the first official It girl.

(Poster for "It"/Courtesy Wikimedia commons.)

So, when our postcard arrived at the Guelph post office in 1904, "Summerhill" was already known as the former residence of the Sutherland girls, each making a name for herself in the Old Country.

As luck would have it, the postcard's recipient, Master Hyde Auld, was also destined to make a name for himself and the Royal City but in his own way.

James Hyde Auld was born in Guelph on 27 June 1891. He was the third child of Charles and Jessie Auld. Charles Auld was in the carriage goods business, having worked as a traveling salesman for the Guelph Carriage Goods Co. (Mercury, 20 July 1927). In 1887, Auld and his partner Augustus Woodyatt took over the Guelph Sewing Machine and Novelty Works on Nelson Crescent (now the site of a parking lot at 8 Paisley Street) and began to manufacture lawn mowers there. The business expanded quickly and was moved to the former McCrae Woolen Co. mill lands (now on Arthur Street South, below the railway bridge). By 1902, the business became part of the Taylor-Forbes Co. Besides lawnmowers, it produced steam boilers, general hardware, metal castings and, later, auto parts.

Jessie Auld, née Forbes, was a daughter of Robert Forbes, who was half of Taylor-Forbes Co. and who had bought Summerhill in 1874. Although her husband Charles is usually listed as living in the downtown area, it seems that Jessie remained at Summerhill, at least much of the time. So it was that her son James Hyde could be found there in 1904 when our postcard was dropped in the mail.

James Hyde, who went by "Hyde," signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Woodstock in November, 1915. The fact that he did so in Woodstock instead of Guelph suggests that he might not have had his mother's approval.

His profession is given as "salesman," suggesting that he had followed his father, probably at Taylor-Forbes. For reasons unknown, he was not assigned to overseas duty and signed up a second time in Toronto in June, 1916. His record notes that he suffered and attack of diphtheria in March, 1917 and so was not sent overseas until October of that year. He then seems to have suffered at attack of chicken pox in Britain, which further delayed his deployment to France until May, 1918.

There, he joined the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) as a Lieutenant. On 2 Sep 1918, he was shot through the right leg just above the knee. The location near Dury and the date suggests that he was taking part in the Battle of the Hindenberg line, the Allied offensive that eventually brought about the defeat of the German army.

He was evacuated to London for treatment and rehabilitation. The wound was quite profound, and he was returned to Canada only in September, 1919. There, he was fitted with a knee brace but continued to have significant difficulty walking, which, I imagine, persisted for the rest of his life.

By the time that Hyde returned to Canada, his mother and sister had relocated to 123 Glasgow Street (north), where he and other family members remained for the rest of his life. The house remains there today, a classic Royal City residence made from local stone (dormers are a recent addition):

Hyde evidently decided on a change of career. Instead of resuming his job in sales, which may have been difficult, given his injury, he pursued a career in music. Specifically, Hyde joined the Presto music club of Guelph and began training and performing as a baritone. A short survey of his ambitious training is given in the Toronto Globe (15 Sep 1927):

His many friends will be interested to learn that Hyde Auld, Canadian baritone, is now studying in Paris with Jean Perier of the Opera Comique. During the past season Mr. Auld has been much in demand in and around New York for private musicales and soirees, and in November will make his European debut in Paris. Arriving home in December, Mr. Auld will be available for engagements in January, February and March. He then returns to Paris, going later to Italy.
His first performance that I have found is in Toronto under the tutelage of James Campbell-McInnes of that city in December, 1921. It seems that he wasted little time upon his return to Canada.

Hyde performed both classical works and folk songs. For example, he sang "Duna" and "The old road" at the grand re-opening of the Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute (Mercury, 8 Nov 1923). A notion of what this performance sounded like may be gained from the singing of "Duna" by the baritone Thomas L. Thomas in 1956:

(Courtesy of Youtube.)

On 8 May 1929, Hyde performed on a broadcast of the Imperial Oil hour on CKGW Toronto, a radio station based at the King Edward Hotel (Globe). While the Imperial Oil Symphony Orchestra played, Hyde sang "Ich liebe dich" by Grieg. (How many oil companies have symphony orchestras today?) Hyde was one of several performers on the program.

That he sang in German suggests that Hyde did not hold a grudge. This attitude seems to be confirmed by the fact that Hyde later visited Munich, Germany for advanced study in his field (Globe, 6 July 1935). One wonders what he thought of the Nazis then in power there.

Besides being a well-known Canadian baritone, Hyde took an interest in teaching. He had become a member of the Ontario Educational Association by 1939, when he is listed as a sponsor of the seventh annual concert of music students of Ontario, given in Massey Hall in Toronto (Globe, 12 April 1939). Later records give his profession variously as musician, vocalist, and music teacher. By 1957, he is listed as "retired."

James Hyde Auld died on 6 November 1981 at the age of 90 years. Although not as well-known as the Royal City's most famous tenor, Edward Johnson, Auld deserves to be remembered for his achievements in the national and international music scenes, all accomplished in the face of significant adversity.

Of course, the Xmas tableau would not be complete without mention of some significant events of the season in 1904.

On Dec 5, Mr. John Gordon of Nassagaweya lost his left leg below the knee after being run over by a train at the C.P.R. station (that is, the Priory). The Mercury explains that the event occurred on the passenger platform as Mr. Gordon jumped on and off the train as it pulled in (5 Dec). He slipped and his leg went under a wheel. The loss of his services, the article notes, would be a "serious drawback" to his wife and six children and their work on the farm.

The Street Railway (that is, the streetcar) provided free trips on Dec 13 to celebrate the installation of its battery system. The purpose of the system was to provide for more efficient use of power in driving the streetcars, as explained by Mr. Rufus N. Chamberlain, of the Gould Storage Battery Co. of Depew N.Y.:

The surplus power produced by the steam driven generator when the cars are in operation or at a standstill, as they all are at the ends of the line, or on St. George's Square, is stored, and when extra power is required for pulling cars, freight and passengers from the C.P.R. station or up the Brock Road (now Gordon Street) hill to the Agricultural College, it is drawn from the storage battery.
The principle is much the same as in hybrid engines today. Curious passengers could tour the giant battery jars in the power house behind the streetcar barns at the end of the Waterloo Avenue.

My favourite Xmas gift advertisement is for a new-fangled, Bissell carpet sweeper as available from G.B. Morris's hardware store, located at 22 Lower Wyndham Street (now the site of Lutherwood Employment Centre). Morris had opened the store in 1889 and sold it in 1906 when he became manager of the Royal Bank.

What wife wouldn't appreciate the gift of a modern carpet sweeper?

As usual, pupils in each school were allowed to show off their accomplishments. For example, pupils in Miss Rose's drawing and woodworking class in Alexandra School (next to Central School) displayed their handicrafts (Mercury, 22 Dec):

On the blackboard was the suggestive quotation from Michael Angels: "Trifles make perfection but perfection is no trifle." The motto for the term was: "Not good enough but as good as you can do." This was suggested to Miss Rose by the pupils asking frequently in connection with their work, "Is that good enough?"
The pupils in the senior fourth classes were restricted to key racks, match scratchers and calendar backs, and marvelous as well as beautiful were the results, some combining all three purposes in one model.
Good enough!

The usual winter recreational opportunities were open, including skating at the Street Railway rink (behind the car barns on Waterloo Avenue) and on the Speed Open Air Rink, that is, the Goldie Mill pond, with the entrance off Perth Street (now Arthur Street North).

On Dec 31, the Elliott Home was officially opened by the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, Mr. William Mortimer Clark. The institution was funded by the estate of Mr. George Elliott as shelter for the poor, old and infirm. The original plan was to call it by the customary name, "The Home for the Friendless." However, as the Mercury noted, such a dreary name seemed out of keeping with the times. It suggested "Fairview," a sunnier name that reflected the building's high perch in the middle of Delhi Street, which then overlooked an array of bucolic farms to the north. In the end, "The Elliott Home" stuck.

Unfortunately, the old Elliott Home was demolished in 1965 to make way for an expansion of the General Hospital, but that is a tale for another time.

Guelphites in general, and young Master Auld in particular, looked forward to a happy new year, as desired for him by his nice, new postcard.