One of the most interesting parts of my summer co-op was having the opportunity to visit a Mr. Emery at his Colwood home to view his collection of wartime memorabilia from his father’s time overseas. Mr. Emery, now in his 80’s and a retired electrician proud of how his family has continued his very successful electrical company, has spent many hours painstakingly sorting and storing his father’s letters, photos, and newspaper clippings.
Emery Sr. had served for just over a year in France with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, getting injured at one point and spending time at the Canadian military hospital in Shorncliffe, England. Some of the more interesting items in Mr. Emery’s collection included some letters, four telegrams to his parents providing details on his injury, and two photos taken at the popular soldier photo stalls in England. These soldier stands were important for soldiers who could have their photos taken in uniform to send home to sweethearts and family, and often these novelties were funded (photography was still rather expensive at the time) by charities so regular foot soldiers could have a fun and prideful souvenir of their time in the military. Mr. Emery’s collection included two of these, one of which features a mystery woman (Emery Sr. was 19 at the time) who is not named. Romance? Or studio assistant?
The document I focused particularly on was the Canadian Serviceman’s Paybook, a small book for recording pay and leave allowances, laundry chits, and medical visits. Emery’s book really drew the project to a reality for me, these were pages representing a life directly connected to the man who owned them. His father had held the book on the battlefields of France, and had saved it upon his return to Canada, and now it was on a kitchen table so I could take pictures of it. That was quite different than the feelings I had looking at items in the archives. I hope to be exposed to more personal collections in my thesis work this year, perhaps even returning to view Mr. Emery’s collection.