Drop Me a Card
This material was previously published in QFHS Connections, Volume 39, Issue 1, Autumn 2016, in an abbreviated form. Click on image at right.
‘Drop Me A Card’ is dedicated to the memory of Agnes Parkinson Morgan, my mother’s aunt and guardian, who was much loved and who saved the postcards that we are enjoying here a century later.
Postcards were extremely collectible in 1905-1915 and were stored in books with decorative covers and black paper pages similar to photo albums.
postcard album cover
On Parliament buildings from the river posted 13 December 1905, J. W. Holtby wrote to Ed. Parkinson.
Coming up at Xmas? I am saving Post Cards so take the hint.
J. W. Holtby, an Ottawa cousin, typed his message on a card to Ed Parkinson, my grandfather, posted on 13 December 1905. A typed card was unusual; most people scribbled on the back, or even the front, hastily in pen or with a lead or indelible pencil and the words could be upside down or sideways in the message area. Sometimes the front of the card was used.
Alfred Edwin Parkinson as a jaunty young man before his marriage in 1909.
Occasionally only a name was signed to indicate the writer was visiting at the place on the card or perhaps the recipient was just being remembered. Fancy embossed cards provided a bumpy surface, not really intended for messages and would have been better placed in an envelope. Addresses were often minimal and if incorrect they were forwarded by the postmaster or postmistress even when from the USA to Canada and this service was included in the original price of one cent. At a time before telephones were generally available, and when there was excellent mail delivery daily or twice daily, they were a quick, efficient way to communicate. The cryptic notes that people message today, on cell phones and in email, are not as ‘cutting edge’ as some might think – writers have always looked for the shortest and quickest way to make their point.
I dismantled the long ago post card collections that belonged to family members because the black paper pages were disintegrating. I began to read the messages. Some were to my father, Elton Smith Parkinson, who would have been ten or eleven in 1911 and 1912 and many were from his older siblings. Others were to his mother Jane Smith Parkinson whose husband Daniel died March 1, 1910; the family expressed concern about their baby brother. Some cards were addressed to his sisters and to his brother Harold. The cards addressed to others given to Elton or to his mother to fill out the collection. Cards were from St. Johnsbury, Vermont where older sister Mary trained as a nurse at Bright Look Hospital; some from California where Grace, the eldest of the family, was living with her husband, George Drew, with an eye to emigrating. Siblings Ethel, Harold and Bertha worked in Montreal and Annie had just moved to Winnipeg with her husband, Reginald Young, and children.
Agnes Parkinson Morgan (1874-1975). She saved these post cards.
I also had albums of cards collected by Agnes Parkinson Morgan who was a first cousin to my Dad but was my mother’s aunt. My parents were cousins.
Aggie loved getting and saving cards. I remember that the stairway from the back shed to the kitchen of her Rawdon house was papered with post cards. I was guilty of trying to peel the postage stamps off for my collection. She was the much loved eldest daughter of James Parkinson and Mary Holtby.
Her siblings were Fred (married to Dora Copping); Hattie, Mrs. Jim Kirkwood; Mabel Mrs. Dick Blagrave; George (married to Maggie Burns) and Edwin (married to Mary Hamilton Kinsey).
As a young woman Aggie is seated, Hattie on left and Mabel on the right
Aggie married Jim Morgan on 24 May 1900. He was a Rawdon boy with a cartage business with stables and a house at 13 Balmoral Street in Montreal, which is now the site of a new National Film Board of Canada building, Place des Festivals, announced last year; it is near Bleury and de Maisonneuve Streets. Aggie looked after the books for Jim’s business. It seems that they commuted back and forth between their Montreal and Rawdon homes. The Morgans built a house in Rawdon in 1913; it burned and was replaced by the red brick house that may be seen at 3393 Lake Morgan Road as you ascend out of the village.
Aggie provided hospitality to nephews and nieces from the Parkinson and Morgan families when they were in Montreal. She was very kind to my paternal grandmother and children when they paused between trains on their way to a new home at Waterville in September 1901. My father was only a few weeks old. My father’s sisters later wrote to Aggie and reported to her on post cards about their father’s illness. I suspect they were recipients of her hospitality when they went to work in the city. Grace wrote to ask Aggie to help her brother-in-law Reg Young when he was sent from Winnipeg on business. Aggie was a central depot of information for all her relatives and a courier of goods for her sisters on farms at Rawdon.
The post cards sent were often seasonal – Christmas, New Year’s and Easter but also for St. Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s even Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving to my surprise. Birthday cards, sentimental and other special greetings, humorous cards often surprisingly naughty, flowers and scenic cards. Selection of a card from Ottawa or Salt Lake City did not necessarily imply the sender had been there. Random scenic cards seemed to be available for purchase in Montreal. Cards could be quickly printed; my Winnipeg aunt sent her sister a card on January 23, 1911 of a large city building covered in ice after a fire on the 14th of the same month. Cards permitted quick updates on travel plans, health and other family news as in this selection associated with Aggie Morgan and her family.
A picture of Family Life from Postcards
On an undated card of S.S. Canada, Mabel wrote:
Dear Sister If you receive this in time I wish you would bring me a game of Flips & a Post Card Album when you come if you have time to get them. Mabel
Mabel Florence Parkinson, Mrs. Richard Blagrave
On an undated Easter card, Maggie wrote:
Dear Aggie – Just a few lines to ask if you would mind getting me a lb butter print (oblong shape) bring it with you when you come as I can not get one here. This has been a good sap day. Your Father is up boiling all day. Good-bye hoping to see you soon Your loving sister Maggie
James Parkinson, Aggie’s father, delivering cream
On an undated card many volumes of wishes, to Aggie from Dora
I do not know if you will get this before Ed comes or not but if you do & did not send the butter papers with Jim let him bring them I just have about enough for one churning. We are all fairly well. The babe is fussy enough at times but not too bad. D & M came up last Sunday Fred is all done with his seeding now but it was hot and dry. Ena has just 6 more days at school. Are you coming for the fifth? Send me some pc as I am clean out. Dora
Dora repeated the request for butter papers (made on her Easter card) and confirms that postal cards were kept at the ready for messages.
Photo of Dora whose parents were Charles Copping and Elizabeth Ann Blair. Fred’s and Dora’s daughter Ena (Rowena) was born in 1901 and would have been ten in 1911
Mabel wrote on undated card Gatineau Point Ottawa:
Dear Aggie We arrived home safe at 12 o’clock & it poured rain on us all the way and we were nearly wet through & Vera was cross as could be.
Vera, Mabel’s eldest child was born in September 1906.
Mabel wrote Favourite Driveway dated SP 10 09
We arrived home OK came up with J Hanna and Thay [sic] was at the mail waiting on us. Dick went for Allie this morning. I did not go down We got an invitation to Maggie Mason’s wedding but guess we won’t go. Write soon. Mabel
Allie (Alwyn) Mabel’s second child was born August 1907. She was expecting Orland who was born October 1908. Marguerite Mason married Gerald Lehane at Rawdon 29 September 1909.
Dora wrote on October 19, 1910 on a card wishing Health and Happiness:
Dear Aggie, Fred was to Rawdon Sunday. So sorry to hear of Jim being sick again. Hope it will not be so serious as you think. What happened that he got sick. Had he not been as well as usual, I was down [to the village] one day while he was in Rawdon but did not see him. We are all well at present but I was laid up all day Sunday. The babes are all going to school now [Leslie her youngest was 5] but had a holiday last week on account of convention. Drop me a card and let me know how J is. Affec. Dora
In 1910, the swastika was an ancient symbol of auspiciousness and well-being; it augments the message. It sits squarely and is not the Nazi symbol that was often tilted at a 45 degree angle. Figure skating legend Toller Cranston grew up in Swastika, Ontario, which has refused to change its name.
Ena, Leslie and Edna Parkinson: Ena 23 and Leslie 19 were at home on the farm and Edna, 21, was probably teaching in Montreal, when this was taken in 1924.
Dora wrote: December 15, 1910 on Pansy & fountain pen card:
You will think I am stupid I suppose but I do not understand about the blouse. Is it for me to keep & wear or did you mean it to be my present to your mother? Drop me a line as soon as possible. We had quite a trip up to the shanty yesterday but we all wished you could have been with us. Please write right away. Affec. Dora
Dora wrote July 1911: Humorous card:
Dear Aggie, I got the little folks letters all right I guess they are having the time of their lives If Jim wants to go for his fishing trip up to the dam. Fred is ready to go now & it will be a chance for them [the children] to get home. I think they have had a good visit. It is raining today. We’re going down home [to the village] tomorrow if it is fine. The baby is well I think but needs lots of attention. Write Dora
The children had been with Aggie in Montreal. On 6 May 1911, six years after the birth of son Leslie, Dora had a daughter, Irene. ?
Cecil Parkinson, son of Dora and Fred, wrote this Ivy card to Aggie in October (year not legible)
Dora addressed the card but Cecil wrote the message neatly, in his own excellent hand.
Dear Auntie Things are not dull here but there are some stupid boys. There are fifteen going here now. We have 14 pigs here. Papa is away threshing and does not come [all week, added in Dora’s hand] Good bye from Cecil.
The Protestant and English speaking families were quite scattered and it was not unusual for children to walk a mile and more to attend school. The one which Cecil writes of was close to the Jones homestead. Mount Loyal #7 was built and opened in September 1939 on property (Lot 9, Ninth Range) purchased from Tom Neville and closed in June 1947 due to consolidation; attendance had been 15 or fewer students in the 1940s. Mount Loyal had a post office and in 1920 an Anglican church (Saint George’s Wexford); it had been brought down from Chertsey but originally had been in Wexford Township where it was named Church of the Advent.
The Mount Loyal community, where Fred and Dora had their farm, was about six miles from the village. There had been schools, in various locations in this area dating back to 1881 if not before.
I am indebted to Verna Asbil Ngem for history and photo.
Hattie wrote to Cecil who was visiting with Aggie and Jim at 23 Balmoral on Floral basket card in June 1911 at the time of his eleventh birthday:
Wishing you a happy birthday:
I’m a Temperance man
See my ribbon blue
Don’t you think it pretty
Why don’t you wear one too,
Wedding photo: Hattie Maud Parkinson and James Addison Kirkwood, 25 June 1902
Aggie wrote to Jim, Kitchen Chateau de Ramsay, Montreal card posted at Rawdon Monday, July 12, 1909:
Hope this may find you all O.K. It has been a rainy day and a long one. Uncle Geo arrived at one o’clock Saturday. Was out to church this morning and am going down tonight [to church]. I am going now to Hattie to help her tomorrow they are raising the barn so I will be expecting to hear from you soon. AM
Uncle George Holtby was a younger brother of Mary Holtby Parkinson. A railway man, he had been located in Ottawa and c.1907 had moved to Charlevoix Street, Verdun. They later built a house on Rozel Street, Pointe-St-Charles.
Jim Morgan in a moment of fun with his brother-in-law Fred Parkinson. Jim was a carter in Montreal and not usually between the shafts of the cart
Mabel to Aggie Christmas card: Dec 21 1911
Dear Sister Wishing you many happy Xmas with love Mabel
Family gathering c. 1917: Dora’s mother Elizabeth Blair Copping (identity not confirmed), Richard and Mabel Blagrave, Dora and Fred Parkinson. In front: Irene, Edna and Rowena (with dog) Parkinson in front. The boy at the back is probably Cecil Parkinson. The boy partly hidden is James Blagrave.