Saturday, 14 December 2013

"Cards of the Season - the Art of Jay Peterson" at the Ivey Family London Room, London [Ontario] Public Library

For the past four years (2010-2013), I have incorporated my late mother, Jay Peterson's, Christmas artwork into greeting cards, and have then mailed or hand delivered them before Christmas.  I plan to carry on this practice, because I have quite a few more examples of her artwork to choose from.  Am grateful to Jessica at Staples Copy and Print who has been able to fit the non-standard images into the templates for the last four years.

I got the original idea for using my mother's artwork in my cards from family friends James Reaney (1926-2008) and his wife Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney (1925-2012).  This dynamic couple included Jamie's artwork, and either one or the other's poetry, in their Christmas cards for many years.  Other family members also participated in this creative endeavour.  Son James Stewart Reaney and his wife Susan Wallace have carried this tradition forward to the next generation.

One of my main motivations for starting this project in the first place was because my four nieces and one nephew were all born after my mother passed away.  I hoped my initiative would help them connect with their maternal grandmother.  The cards have proven to be very popular, not only with my nieces and nephew, but also with many other family members.  In addition, they have been well-received by a lot of friends and associates.

The source of the artwork for my Christmas cards is a binder that my mother assembled, which includes her projects from about 1935 to 1955.  As I understand it, she sent material to my late maternal grandparents as she produced it, and they added it to the binder (the scrapbook pages often include date notations).  I am very glad my mother's sister, my Aunt Kay (1922-1997), gave me this binder about 22 years ago.

Ivey Family London Room, London Public Library

One of the recipients of my four cards has been the Ivey Family London Room at the London Public Library, here in London, Ontario, Canada.

Ivey Family London Room entrance, December 10, 2013

The nucleus for what was to become the London Room commenced around 1917, when the London Public Library implemented a local history preservation policy.  The concept of a separate room for this material, which was first proposed around 1965, came to fruition in 1967, when the London Room officially opened.  This dedicated space has moved a couple of times since then, and is now located on the third floor of the London Public Library Central Branch on Dundas Street.

As explained in a September 2012 brochure, the "London Room is a research facility for genealogy and local history, housing a wealth of original and secondary source materials about the City of London and Middlesex County."  Material in this collection "does not circulate and must be used within the London Room."

About a year ago, the London Room Librarian, Arthur McClelland, asked me if I could provide additional copies of my cards, so they could be used in Christmas card displays.  I was referred to Jill, the Information Services Assistant at the London Room, who looks after these displays.

Jill said it is believed that Elizabeth Spicer, who was the first London Room Librarian, started collecting the Christmas cards around the time the London Room opened in 1967.  She said the cards either feature London scenes, or are made by London artists and/or poets.  Christmas cards that are sent directly to the London Room are also included.

I provided Jill with two of each of my four cards, so she could show both the front and the back, along with some contextual information about each card, and a printout of a May 4, 2012 post about my mother, entitled "Jay Peterson (1920-1976)," that can be found here.

London Room Display of Jay Peterson Artwork

On December 10, 2013, I went down to the London Room to see the fine tribute that Jill had assembled.  Coincidentally, my mother passed away 37 years ago, December 15, 1976.

Here is the sign that can found outside the London Room entrance.  There is an identical sign above the display inside the London Room:

Sign designed by Jill of London Room staff

Below is a photo of McClelland and I standing on each side of the display:

Leith Peterson, left, and Arthur McClelland

The photo below is of the left side of the display case:

Left side of London Room display case

The image and explanation for the nativity scene artwork in the first column can be found in the previously mentioned May 4, 2012 post, located here.

The trumpeting angel artwork is featured in the second column.  It is the same image used in the display sign.  This angel is part of a Christmas card my mother presumably did for my maternal grandparents around 1955.  "Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Fleming" appeared at the bottom right (I removed their names from the image I used).  My mother's original creation included another graphic and was quite complex, but I will leave you in suspense about the particulars.  This is because I may want to use the other image for a future Christmas card.

The middle section of the display case features the printout of my previously mentioned May 4, 2012 post:

Middle section of display case

The first column on the right side of the display case:

Right side of display case

includes a puppy my mother drew, ca. 1935-1936:

Jay Peterson puppy artwork, ca. 1935-1936

The original version of this puppy artwork had the words "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - Jessie Fleming."  (Fleming was my mother's maiden name.)

The artwork in the second column is of a pensive-looking fellow:

Jay Peterson Noel artwork draft, ca. 1939

It appears to be the draft for the relief print (linocut?) that is pictured below:

Jay Peterson Noel linocut, ca. 1939

At the bottom of the page where the Noel drawing appears in the binder, "Xmas 1939 Jay" is pencilled in, so presumably the relief print was used to make Christmas cards for that year.  I scanned the drawing and then duplicated it so I could retouch it, but decided in the end to leave it in its authentic state.  For some reason, I think my mother would prefer it this way.

I am pleased that the London Room is featuring these four cards, and hope the display is of interest to the people who view it.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Charles T. Peterson (1913-2007) - His (Rejected) Submission to the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, 1978

On July 13, 1977, the Ontario Cabinet established the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment (RCNE) to examine environmentally related matters north of the 50th parallel in the province.  At the time, there were a lot of concerns being expressed by aboriginal people and others regarding development projects that were going on in the region.  The commission submitted its final report in June 1985.

As the commission got underway, my father, Dr. Charles T. Peterson (1913-2007), was in the process of retiring and moving from London, Ontario to Duncan, British Columbia.  In fact, I believe he had already settled in Duncan when I got a telephone call from him, asking me to type out his 16-page submission, dated November 12, 1978.  I was living in Timmins, Ontario at the time, so he mailed me the handwritten document, and I mailed a typed version back.  He then submitted the typed one to the commission.

First page of Charles T. Peterson's RCNE submission, 1978

[For further information about my father, please click on the "Charles T. Peterson" label in the right sidebar.]

Although dad presented some very important views in his piece, he made, in my opinion, a number of sweeping generalizations and inflammatory accusations about various matters.  This may explain why he said the commission rejected it.

Nevertheless, I think it is worth revisiting some of the content of his work because of the controversies that continue to swirl around environmental issues, not only in Northern Ontario, but throughout Canada.  I say some of the content because I have edited out a number of particularly contentious sections from the original manuscript.  I do not know if all his assertions, as presented below, are accurate.  In addition, I suspect some of his contentions are gross generalizations or exaggerations.  Please read with these caveats in mind.

Charles T. Peterson holding fish, ca. 1960s, location unknown
November 12, 1978

Submission to Hearing re Northern Ontario

Dear Sirs:

I am now 65 years of age, but I feel I must submit to you some observations about my experiences in the North Country and suggest how I think certain matters should be solved or corrected.

I grew up in Bruce Mines, Ontario, which was the oldest copper-mining town in Canada, and for which the maternal side of my family had come out from Cornwall and Ireland to work the mines in the 1840s.

I can't remember the good days of mining in Bruce Mines, as already the mines were closed, and so I saw the results of a company town that had been left in the lurch after the main resource had been [taken] from the area.  My father, a progressive-thinking lawyer, had tried to encourage other industries when the resources were there, but was met with frustration.  The waste products of the stamp mill, called "skimpings," were piled high in the middle of the town until they were eventually sold as a "flux" to [a mine in another city].

The greatest export from this town were the young men and women who left because there was no work in Bruce Mines.

The mines were always going to reopen, but outside of a short flurry during the First War, nothing else happened.

My experiences during the early years [were] working at the Bruce Mines quarry (one of the last hard-rock quarries at that time), working on a survey gang for road construction and wiring houses.  But, in 1929, I graduated from high school and there was no work at all.  So I went to Howey Gold Mines in Red Lake, Ontario.  For two years, I worked there in order to earn money to go to university.  I spent two years at Red Lake firing boilers, decking the shaft head and working the crusher house.

In 1932, I attended the University of Toronto Medical School, and obtained my first year of medicine, but then had to get out because of lack of money.

In Timmins, I was fortunate enough to finally land a job underground in 1934 [at the McIntyre Mines], and spent four to five years earning money to further my education.  In that area I had to switch to dentistry because it required less years than medicine.

At the McIntyre Mines when I started, there was no recognition of silicosis as an industrial disease for compensation, and the first study about this was done at the McIntyre Mines. . .

. . .In all of these situations, I never saw an effort by educators, medical people, lawyers or executives to . . .teach biological principles to provide for a more healthy community with full employment.

All of it was centred on production, that, as soon as the immediate resources of an area were dried up, the mining company just moved out and left behind the people who had given their lives to the company. . .

. . .In talking with the ordinary person in the North, I have been told that every second car belongs to a government agency.  If you try to do something, you have to have 50 studies done, so that all the money is used up before any work is done.  This cannot go on. . .

If they put half the PhDs to work cleaning up the Great Lakes instead of doing studies, we may accomplish some real solutions to our problems.

Our Judeo-Christian heritage has made us believe that we have jurisdiction over the universe, and history has shown that we have only destroyed it.  They have even told me there is a fresh water lake under the Sahara Desert, and people have starved for years because they do not look at the world in many directions.

The Indians [aboriginal people] believe in the Great Spirit and look at the world in seven different directions.  They believe they only borrow what they have to live on from nature, and the most important aspect of life is continual renewal.

"I don't need new oven mitts," Duncan, December 23, 1995

More Indians lived in the 16th century around Barrie and Orillia and lived off the land than the number of people living there now. . .

. . .If two trees had been planted for every one taken down in Northern Ontario, Northern Ontario would not be in its present situation.

My suggestions for the corrections of the problems in Northern Ontario are as follows:

1.     The principles of life should be taught to our children in our schools--to make use of the resources that they have on hand and to develop them to the fullest.

2.     That all "experts" be sent [out of the country] and that the common sense of values be reinstated in our policies and creative natures.

3.     That mineral and forestry resources should be used for the benefit of all Canadians.  And particularly for the people in the immediate environment of the community that contains these resources.

4.     That instead of big teaching establishments unrelated to the community, that a certain portion of the school teaching should be devoted to the development of local resources so that people can be relieved of excess taxes.

Wearing genuine Cowichan sweater, Fergus, ON, 2006

5.     That large holdings cannot be held by multinationals. . .and if a lumber company cuts timber, it must either restore the land, or the land should be held cooperatively for the other citizens that wish to develop it.

6.     That forests cannot be devastated by large machinery and then left.  There must be a recycling of these resources to assure a continuous supply for our children.

Unless we become aware that we must enjoy our resources and make use of them to the fullest, and provide for continuous resources for our children and our children's children, we will fail.  This should not be, or some other country will invade us.

Wearing WW2 medals, Duncan, December 27, 1997

We must listen to what the Indians are saying to us.  From my late wife, Jay Peterson, I learned some of the sensitivity to a very noble and fine people.  Our thinking about Indians has been too much guided by Hollywood--mostly played by non-Indians.  Some of the most interesting people I have met have been Indian people I have picked up hitchhiking, while I was driving my car across the country.  They are trying to tell us something and we should listen.  Our survival could depend on it.

Northern Ontario is a vast place.  It has many resources to develop and it could give our children income and a happy life.  Let us value our resources as a trust to be handed down to our children.  Let's not abuse it as we are today.

Yours truly,

Charles T. Peterson

I want to stress that I am only conveying some of my father's views as he expressed them almost 35 years ago.  His views do not necessarily represent my own, or those of my/our family, friends or associates.

Charles and Leith Peterson, near Fergus, ON, 2006
Although I agree with him that many aboriginal people have tremendous knowledge of the environment and need to be listened to, I do not agree with his sweeping generalization that all Indians are "very noble and fine."  Yes, lots of them fit this description, but I think some of them have contributed to their own and their people's misfortune.  Fortunately, there are a growing number of aboriginals who deserve my father's "very noble and fine" praise.

I also want to emphasize that my father was expressing his opinions about Northern Ontario up to 1978.  Please do not assume that the situation is the same as it was when he wrote this.  The best people to address the question of what Northern Ontario is like now are the people who currently live there.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Jay Peterson (1920-1976) - Examples of Her Art, ca. 1939-1961

My mother, Jay Peterson, nee Fleming (1920-1976), possessed many talents, including being an artist.  In fact, she is listed as an artist in the "Index of Names of Artists and Art Supporters, 1830-1980" at the back of Nancy Geddes Poole's book The Art of London (1984).

One of the unusual things she did was to interweave her artwork into her scrapbooks, e.g., she pasted photos and ephemera onto a scrapbook page, and then added her drawings to the same page.

Jay Peterson saw a goat near Lake Louise, AB, 1939

In 1939, before she got married, she took a trip with her family (the Flemings) out West.  Here is her depiction of a goat she saw on the way to Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.  This drawing is featured on the corner of one page of the scrapbook she kept for this trip.

Although she was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, she later moved with her family to Lewiston, New York, and then Niagara Falls, New York.  But a lot of her schooling took place in Canada.  For instance, she attended Bishop Strachan School in Toronto from about 1932 to 1937.  It is therefore not surprising that she decided to get married in the Bishop Strachan School Chapel on December 22, 1943.

Flemings at Niagara Falls border, 1943
A drawing in another one of her scrapbooks indicates that her family had quite a time at the Niagara Falls border getting her wedding dress across.

In case you are having trouble reading the captions in this image to the right, I have typed the words out for you.  The caption on the left is for the Canadian border guard, who says "Sorry, mam, I'm afraid these articles cannot be brought into this country."  The caption on the right is for my Grandfather Fleming, who replies "But you can't do this to us--My daughter is going to be married this afternoon!'  On the bottom left of this image, there is a box with the words "wedding dress" written on the outside.

Jay Peterson in Saskatoon, SK,1944

After my parents got married, they initially lived in Regina and Saskatoon, while my father served with the Canadian Army Dental Corps.  My mother had an encounter with a gopher hole while in Saskatoon.

Charles T. Peterson in Dundurn, SK, 1944

The passenger in the army jeep is my father, Charles T. Peterson (his initials, "CTP," are on the bottom right of the vehicle).  He is reading an article on "How to attract gophers."  This image recalls the time when he was stationed at the Dundurn Camp in Dundurn, Saskatchewan.  I am assuming my mother drew this as a joke.

In 1947, my parents moved to London, Ontario, Canada, where my three younger brothers and I were born and raised.  Around 1961, my mother painted pictures of each of her four children on a wall in a back room of my dad's periodontal office at 281 Dufferin Avenue, in London. 

Chris, Don, Stu and Leith Peterson, ca. 1961

Here is a photo of the four of us from around that time.  Stu thinks this was very likely taken in the field in front of the family cottage at Leith, Ontario.  We are not sure who the photographer was.

Jay Peterson's depiction of son Don, ca. 1961

My father retired, ca. 1977, and his office was torn down shortly afterwards.  But before it was dismantled, he cut my mother's four pictures out of the wall.  Stu remembers my father getting each picture individually framed.  The whereabouts of the two for Stu and Chris are unknown (Chris passed away in 2009).  However, I have the one for Don.

Jay Peterson's rendering of daughter Leith, ca. 1961

And the one for me.  It is ironical that my mother portrayed me as an artist because I did not inherit her abilities in this area.  But I think she would be pleased that I am channelling my artistic energies through my writing.  I am very glad that I have examples of her art and can share the images with my family, friends and associates.