Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Jay (Fleming) Peterson's Maypole Dancing Artwork, 1940

Updated: Friday, May 11, 2012, 6:30 a.m.  See end of this post for some additional information provided by the University of Rochester Dept. of Rare Books & Special Collections.

As mentioned in my Jay Peterson (1920-1976) post, May 4, 2012, I have a scrapbook that contains my mother's artwork (from about 1936 to 1954).  One of my favourite items in this scrapbook is her drawing of people dancing around a maypole.

The Wiktionary definition for maypole is a "pole, garlanded with streamers held by people who dance around it to celebrate May Day" (April 12, 2012).  May Day is the "first day of May, a spring festival, a celebration of the beginning of spring" (Wiktionary, May 1, 2012).  The Wikipedia "Maypole" article says it "has been a recorded practice in many parts of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, although [it] became less popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Today the tradition is still observed in some parts of Europe and amongst European communities in North America" (May 9, 2012).

The Book of Festivals (1937), by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, says that May Day celebrations, including use of the maypole, were "transplanted to the United States from British soil."  On May 1, 1628, the Puritans at Ma-re Mount held a May Day celebration, replete with dancers romping hand in hand around a pole made from an 80-foot "goodly pine."  Spicer also says that in the Americas, the custom of "merrymaking and gladness" on this day "has persisted through the years."  Perhaps this was true at the time Spicer wrote the book, but I suspect the practice is not as prevalent today.

My mother attended the University of Rochester from 1937 to 1941, culminating in her getting her B.A. in Art History from there (degree conferred June 16, 1941).  Here is a photo of her degree certificate, showing her maiden name: Jessie Royce Fleming (Royce was one of her first names).

And here is a scan of the card that she drew.  As you can see, she included the words "Stephen Foster Hall, Munro Hall, May 18, 1940."  I do not know why the event took place on May 18, instead of the customary May 1.  I did some research on the University of Rochester website; there is a Stephen Foster Hall and a Munro Hall at this institution, so I am almost positive she did the artwork while enrolled there.

Inside the card, as you can see in this scan, are numbers from one to 12, with the names of couples added in to nine of them.  I am wondering if the card was given to the dancers so they would know where they were supposed to be in the circle around the maypole.

The gold-coloured tassel that is wrapped around the spine is still in remarkably good shape.  There is an opening in the part of the tassel that extends above the spine, which is big enough for a hand to get through.  Did the dancers wear the cards around their wrists?

That is my mother on the right in the photo, creating some kind of snow sculpture.  Do not know who the woman on the left is.

This morning I sent an email, with the images in this post attached, to the University of Rochester Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation.  I asked if they could provide any additional information about maypole dancing at their institution in 1940, and am waiting to hear back.  The department receives many inquiries so it may take a while to get a response.  If I learn anything more, I will post it here.

Updated, Friday, May 11, 2012, 6:30 a.m.: Yesterday I got an email from Eileen L. Fay, Archives Assistant, Dept. of Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Rochester.  She sent me a link to a book written by Prof. Arthur J. May (1899-1968), entitled History of the University of Rochester (1968).  Chapter 16 of this book, entitled "Men and Women," provides a history of women's activities, e.g., they were first enrolled in 1900.  May Day Festivals, including a "May pole dance," became part of the women's "extracurriculum" starting in 1908.  Link to Chapter 16 is below:

Thanks to Eileen L. Fay for providing this additional information.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Charles T. Peterson (1913-2007)

[This post originally appeared on my MobileMe site, April 3, 2011.  It has been updated with some new information.]

Dr. Charles T. Peterson: "Ahead of His Time"

My cousin Susan McClocklin's partner, Jim McClocklin, gave my father's eulogy in April 2007.  Jim described my father as "ahead of his time--particularly concerning health food, fluoridation [he was anti-fluoride], the environment, and dentistry."

Bruce Mines Beginnings; Hard Rock Miner

Charles Peterson (right) hugs brother Harold, ca. 1913
This photo of my father was taken around 1913 at the family home in Bruce Mines, Ontario.  Charles (right) is hugging his brother Harold.  My father never let me forget he worked seven and a half years underground as a hard rock miner in Timmins and Elliot Lake, Ontario during the Depression.  It was his hard rock mining pay that helped finance his way through the University of Toronto Dental School.


After he finished dental school, Charles took further training, and became a periodontist (gum specialist).

Charles and Leith Peterson, Duncan, 1995
He served in the Canadian Army Dental Corps during World War Two, spending part of that time in Germany.  Around 1949, he started his periodontal practice in London, Ontario.  He had many articles published regarding his views on periodontia.  His fonds resides at the Archives of Ontario.

Around 1977, he retired and moved to Duncan, B.C., where he remained until he moved back East in 1997.  This photo of my father and me was taken when I visited him at Christmas in Duncan, 1995.  Dad is wearing a genuine Cowichan sweater.  The sweaters are crafted by aboriginals from the Duncan area.

"Tree Man"

"Living memorials" to Jay and Charles Peterson
Charles was known as the "tree man" to many people because of his love for planting trees.  The Peterson family lived at 283 Dufferin Avenue in London, Ontario from about 1950 to 1974.  My father's periodontist office was next door at 281 Dufferin.  In 1970, my father organized a rally against the trees being cut down in front of the family home, which was across from the city hall.  There was considerable media attention.  In the end, the trees were cut down because they were deemed to be too old.  The family home and my father's office were torn down around 1977, and in their place is the Metropolitan United Church parking lot.  Around the same time, two linden trees were planted in a semicircle of grass in front of the parking lot.  Leith Peterson took a photo of these trees on August 26, 2007 (above right).  A family friend considers these trees to be "living memorials" to Jay and Charles Peterson, and gives a boy scout salute whenever he goes by.

Peterson Family Tree

Peterson family tree documents, ca. 1970s

Throughout his life, Charles Peterson always stressed the importance of knowing who you are and where you come from.  In the 1970s, he produced two documents regarding the family tree: a booklet and a chart.  The chart traces the family history from 1756 to 1973.

"You Can't Stop Me Now"

Charles Peterson sitting on grave of great-grandfather, 1993
Eighty-year old Charles smokes a cigar, while he sits on the grave of his great-grandfather, Charles Lewis Peterson (1795-1876).  He did this because his great-grandfather disapproved of smoking.  Photo taken by Leith Peterson at the Primitive Methodist Cemetery, Hawkesville, Ontario, 1993.

Jay Peterson (1920-1976)

[This post was originally published on my MobileMe site, April 3, 2011.  It has been updated with a bit of new information.]

[September 27, 2016: The "Peter Perch" section was updated with the names of the two individuals who donated two different baby seats to Museum London.]

Art Historian, Artist, Teacher, Writer, Occupational Therapist and Cultural Activist

Jay Peterson, ca. 1935-1940

My mother, Jay Peterson, was born and raised in Owen Sound, Ontario.  Around the time she was 12, her family moved to Lewiston, N.Y., and later Niagara Falls, N.Y.  In 1941, she received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Rochester.  She returned to Canada and received her B.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto in 1943.  In 1943, she also married my father, Dr. Charles T. Peterson.  The couple initially lived in Regina and Saskatoon, while my father served with the Canadian Army Dental Corps.  In 1947, the couple moved to London, Ontario where my three younger brothers and I were born and raised.

Jay Peterson, ca. late 1960s

"Peter Perch" 

My brother, Don Peterson, sits in the baby seat, ca. 1958
Jay was active with a number of London Ontario organizations, including the Service League of London.  She invented a baby chair that was used as a fundraiser for the League from about 1958 to 1967.  It was initially called the "Babi-Sitter," then the "Portable Baby Seat," but most people who remember the chair refer to it as the "Peter Perch."  The chair was sent to scores of places in Canada, Switzerland, Italy, France, England, Bermuda and the United States.

An article about Jay and the baby seat appeared in Chatelaine magazine in 1959 and was also featured on CFPL-TV in 1958.

In June 2005, Museum London formally accepted a chair donated by Ed (Ted) Bartram.  This chair was included with the Invention to Innovation exhibition at the Museum that ran from February to August 2007.

In June 2016, Museum London formally accepted a second chair donated by Catherine McEwen.  This additional chair has slightly different features from the one donated in 2005.

Nativity Scene Artwork 

Jay Peterson's nativity scene artwork, ca. 1953
Jay Peterson created this artwork around 1953.  The reason I know this is because it is included in a scrapbook of her artwork that I have.  The scrapbook originally belonged to my maternal grandparents, and my grandfather marked in dates on most of the pages.  I believe this nativity scene was originally to be used for dinner place settings, because the names of my grandfather and two great-uncles were on the bottoms of the three that I have.  I cropped out the name on one of them, added the artwork to a template, and got the resulting work copied and printed as Christmas cards for 2010.  Have had many compliments from the recipients of these cards.

"Moo Cow"

"Moo Cow," August 2008.  Photo by Susan Wallace.
Jay was friends with playwright/poet James Reaney (1926-2008) and his wife poet Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney (1925-2012).  In an article published by Theatrum in 1990, James Reaney referred to my mother as a "cultural pillar of the town."  When Jay was on the board of the Western Fair in 1965, she commissioned marionette plays by Reaney and London artist Greg Curnoe (1936-1992).  In 1965, Jay designed the marionette "Moo Cow" for Reaney's Apple Butter play, which was produced at the Western Fair that same year.  "Moo Cow," along with most of the other marionettes from the production, is now housed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  For more information about Reaney and Jay's Apple Butter collaboration, go to:

Life Celebrated by Poem

Poet Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012) penned the poem that is on my mother's grave at the Leith [Ontario] United Church cemetery.  The inscription is a fluid rendering of Thibaudeau's original version, which was a circle (shape) poem.  The initials "MGB" stand for Marydel (nee Garretson) Balderston who did the calligraphy for the inscription.  In 2005, Balderston passed away in her 91st year.


Jay Peterson's grave.  Photo taken by Leith Peterson, ca. June 2006.
Jessie R. (Jay) Fleming Peterson

We remember mainly her
hands skillful and reaching 
out to us all;
She put our thoughts into
actions into expressions that
go onward, she saw so clearly
the picture that was
intended and painted us all
into it somewhere
stroke by loving stroke.

                               ~ Colleen