The last time I surrounded myself with microfilm I was in University, and a research assistant for a two-volume biography of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, weaving celluloid over the hill and dale of rollers, whirring through images, losing myself in the detritus of lives and ages passed. In a very short period, I’ve become (overly) fond of the Kitchener Public Library’s spiffy new reader. It’s like a favourite cinema seat (which it is, I suppose).
Up next, an update from the Front, followed by a fabulous way to serve strawberry ice cream
I grew up reading newspapers—easily scannable, reasonably well-organised and somewhat proofread. I wish I could say this is the case with these 1916 broadsheets.
They are a higgledy-piggledy maze of tightly packed and oddly random story sequences. Sections are often a suggestion, as any topic appears on pretty much any page—obituaries, current events, household hints, agriculture and local affairs fall on pages like multicoloured sprinkles on a cupcake. Slow news days (and slow advertising days) fill pages with two-line information bites–an equerry is dead, a measles outbreak closes a school, an empty baking powder tin can make an excellent nut-chopper. Articles abruptly end mid-sentence and pick up somewhere else, not always with “continued from” prefaces. After several weeks of ads for “potatoos,” I’ve decided at least one copywriter wrote in Pennsylvania Dutch-accented English.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
It’s hard not to draw parallels with some of today’s goings on. I read accounts of the Belgian relief effort and thought to the Syrian situation. The radials project is part of a long and ongoing conversation about high-speed trains to Toronto (we have trains, but their travel time isn’t much better than by car). There was even a discourse on urban chicken farming, which summed up the pro and con sides as having different standards of cleanliness. The seemingly perennial topic of amalgamating with Waterloo came up, this time with a committee attached. And as to City Council? Well, some things don’t change.
Down the rabbit hole
I try to be disciplined about my summaries–I simply can’t include everything. I’d love to delve into the attempt to restore China’s monarchy after the 1911 revolution, Pancho Villa’s escapades in Texas, and the Ford Peace Party. Locally, the Board of Trade’s pet project of commission government resurfaced, this time by Berlin City Council–I expect there will be updates throughout the year as I believe the committee looking into it was to table a report by year’s end, so I hope to be able to include it in future.
As to articles that didn’t make it into the weekly summaries, I think one of my January favourites is about the divorce of Justus Sheffield from his wife Mrs. Rena Carey Sheffield, author of The Golden Hollow. I looked into it–she exacted author’s justice (no pun intended) by writing her husband as the villain. He was none too pleased and sued for divorce. The trial was a bit of a cracker as it seemed as if Mrs Sheffield was far too enthralled with the idea of the perfect man (she wanted a man with long hair, while poor Justus had hair “like a chestnut burr” (oh, curse you, reality!)). The Berlin News-Record article wasn’t about the divorce proceedings but focussed on her Ten Commandments for married men and women. Apart from a bad marriage, Mrs. Sheffield was also afflicted with bad math skills as she listed 11 commandments for both husbands and wives. Here’s a sample from each Decalogue:
- Thou shalt be a careful kisser.
- Remember that thou keep holy thy marriage vows; six days shalt though vaguely dream of what might have been, but on the seventh, wake.
- Thou shalt choose the brand of tobacco.
- Thou shalt obey him—sometimes.
- Six days shalt though frivol and do all things as though lovest to do, but on the seventh—think. Remember his linen, to see that it is spotless, Provide though the extra stud for the emergency that will come and watch lest the suit that has been pressed is not returned to its accustomed nail, as it will be the one he asketh for.
- Thou shalt be fresh and sweet and dainty as a shower bouquet, for lingerie is more to the desire than rubies, and a good cook above Government bonds.
Government bonds? How romantic.