Archives for: June 2008


Permalink 04:28:23 pm, by Email , 73 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, European History

A Few Acres Of Snow

Perhaps the most colossal understatement in all of history was made by one François-Marie Arouet, better remembered by his pen name Voltaire.

Voltaire 1694-1778

Voltaire was a famed French writer, and philosopher who on learning that Canada had been taken from France by those pesky British said it was no great loss, after all Canada was only......

"A Few Acres Of Snow"

I wonder what he would say now...... ;)

Happy Canada Day!



Permalink 06:14:38 pm, by Email , 100 words   English (CA)
Categories: Going From Here To There, Travel & Tourism

A Dangerous Occupation

The work of the firemen on the early trains was a dangerous undertaking, and something I personally would never have been able to do no matter how great the pay. The firemen had to frequently crawl along the running boards as the engine thundered onwards. They had to do this in order to place grease in all of the bearings. This work became extremely dangerous in freezing or rainy weather. Yikes! 88|

Early Train Fireman At Work

For a great resource on old railroad jobs, and their descriptions have a look at this page located on the excellent genealogy website RootsWeb.



Permalink 12:16:59 am, by Email , 77 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

Massey Family Mausoleum

The Massey family were very prominent Toronto citizens that contributed greatly to arts, and culture within our fair city. The grand mausoleum you see above is their final resting place, which is fairly close to the Didier family plot. The latter is decidedly far less grand, but far more important, at least to us.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 11:36:11 am, by Email , 180 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Murder & Mayhem, Book Reviews

Life On Homicide

Over this past weekend I started reading former Toronto police chief William McCormack's memoir entitled Life On Homicide. The book gives a chilling series of accounts of Toronto the Good more darker side, specifically through the years 1969 - 1979.

So far it has helped in restoring my faith in Toronto coppers that was severely shaken after reading Derek Finkle's book on the Robert Baltovich case entitled No Claim To Mercy which ended up showing how bad policing amongst other problems within our Canadian criminal justice system can result in innocent people going to prison for crimes that they did not commit.

William McCormack writes of a different era, and a different Toronto that includes a city core that is long gone and pre-Eaton Centre.

He does not glamorise the job of a homicide detective at all, and gives a realistic, and in my opinion thus far a compassionate look at the way crimes such as murder have impacted our city. A great read so far, and a must for those interested in true crime, and the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Permalink 12:40:50 am, by Email , 249 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, British History, Museums And Historic Sites

The Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant

A shortage of sheep has led to a famous landmark known as the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, U.K disappearing under vegetation and moss. How sad would it be to lose this sometimes controversial hill figure of a giant naked man a.k.a "the Rude Giant."

Here is a snippet from the BBC:

The 180ft (54.8m) famous fertility symbol Cerne Abbas Giant was also left struggling under plant life encouraged by a wet start to the summer.

A flock of 100 sheep is usually lent to the National Trust for a few weeks in May to graze on the land.

But a shortage has forced the trust to re-chalk the etching. It is hoped a flock will be on the hillside soon.

Rob Rhodes, National Trust head warden for west Dorset, said: "Every year we have sheep on the hillside eating the grass to keep the giant visible.

"We rely on local farmers and the way agriculture is going at the moment, there's hardly any sheep left in that part of Dorset."

He added that the wet weather had caused a lot of moss and lichen to grow on the giant making the white chalk a greeny colour.

"He is not completely invisible but he is quite overgrown," Mr Rhodes said.

Full BBC Article Here

Hopefully they will be able to do something. How hard could it be to find some sheep to import in, and prevent the loss of this very cool site.



Permalink 01:57:00 pm, by Email , 80 words   English (CA)
Categories: Hollywood Babylon, Arts And Culture, History In The News

The Real Marilyn Monroe

The BBC has posted a short video clip of never before seen footage of Marilyn Monroe.

The footage was taken in 1961 by an extra that was in her last movie entitled The Misfits.

The reels of footage are to be auctioned in Las Vegas this weekend.

They show a very relaxed, and seemingly happy Monroe along with her co-star in the film Clark Gable. He died soon after finishing work on The Misfits.

The video clip can be seen here.



Permalink 01:17:05 pm, by Email , 115 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, British History, Museums And Historic Sites

British Historic Sites That Are At Risk

According to a recent BBC news report six buildings and landscapes have been added to the English Heritage "at risk" register to save them for future generations.

Spray-painting has damaged Birkrigg Stone Circle, in Cumbria.

How sad is that?

Uxbridge Lido is the the second longest open-air swimming pool remaining in London.

Visually the above has to be the worst. :(

Lowther Castle has lain unoccupied for more than 60 years.

The lovely fairy-tale like castle was damaged by a tank regiment during the second world war. It has not had a roof since I believe 1957.

Hopefully the British government will step up, and do something to save these, and the other three sites on the list.



Permalink 12:19:25 am, by Email , 104 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

The Entrance To Petra

Petra is is an archaeological site in Arabah, Aqaba Governorate, Jordan, lying on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains, which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is renowned for its rock-cut architecture.

Petra is also one of the new wonders of the world. And one of the places I would love to travel to one day.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.

Image Credit: Wiki



Permalink 12:18:41 am, by Email , 294 words   English (CA)
Categories: Holidays And Traditions

It is That time Of Year Again.....

That is right! It is Father's Day! And just in case you are wondering I decided to do a replay of last year's ever popular Father's Day history lesson....also to be considered as I have decided to take a day off of rest myself.. ;)


"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."
~Anne Sexton

The creation of a national day for Dads began back in the 1900s when a grateful daughter wanted to express her deep appreciation for her own father. A gentleman by the name of William Smart, a civil war veteran, was widowed when his wife died in childbirth. Mr. Smart raised his six children on a rural farm in eastern Washington State. When Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, one of Mr. Smart's children, was grown she wanted to show her appreciation for her father. He had shown her a great love and strength in raising her and her siblings as a single parent. So, in 1909, she proposed a day to honor her father in June (the month of her father's birth).

The very first Fathers' Day followed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge showed support of this becoming a national holiday. However, it wasn't until 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson officially proclaimed Fathers' Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June.

Harry C. Meek, president of the Lions Club in Chicago, was also a component in establishing Fathers' Day. He gave several speeches around the United States expressing the need for a day to honor our fathers. In 1920 the Lions Clubs of America presented him with a gold watch, with the inscription "Originator of Fathers' Day".

Source: Father's Day History

Have a Safe & Happy Father's Day!



Permalink 06:40:00 am, by Email , 136 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Going From Here To There

Timber Rafting In Canada

The Lumber Raft - watercolour and gouache over graphite on laid paper.

One of our countries first, and very important commercial industries was logging. Back in the old days huge rafts of squared logs were set up by the loggers. These would make the journey downstream along these vast rivers in the Springtime.

The loggers set up their living quarters right on the giant rafts, and many of them slept, and ate on the deck while travelling to their ports of call. Once there the rafts of timber were disassembled, and the logs shipped to England.

As early as the year 1790 a timber raft travelled all the way from Kingston, Ontario to Quebec City. Quite a feat in my opinion even today!

Image Credit: Hopkins, Frances Anne (1838-1919) Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-278



Permalink 06:24:22 am, by Email , 138 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Natural Disasters Past & Present

The Flying Bathtub

Regina, 1912 After the great tornado hit

For those of us living in tornado country the thought of these super storms that can create these monsters of swirling wind are quite frightening indeed! However, these are certainly not new, and I believe I may have found out why we were originally told that the bathtub was a good place to hide in.

When the city of Regina was struck by a giant twister in 1912, one man was taking his daily bath at the time. The tub was ripped from his disintegrating house, and went flying for a full half a kilometre.

The tub eventually landed on the rooftop of the historic Wascana Hotel, and the man thankfully was reported to have suffered no serious injury.

For a great online resource check out A Window into the Regina Tornado of 1912.



Permalink 04:16:52 pm, by Email , 115 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, European History, Religion and Spirituality

The Loss Of A Historic Church

The photo below is very dramatic, and heart-breaking in my opinion.

Romanian Church

What you are looking at is the steeple of Evangelist church being consumed by flames. The church is located in the city of Bistrita in Romania's Transylvania region, and it is over 700 years old. The steeple began to burn after a fire broke out in this historic place of worship.

I have no idea the condition of the church at this point nor if any of the building can be saved. Any time we lose a building such as this one my heart gives a little lurch...I guess that is true for anyone that loves, and appreciates history.

Image Credit: BBC

Permalink 09:48:38 am, by Email , 310 words   English (CA)
Categories: Holidays And Traditions

The Lost Art Of Thank You

A Distinguished Thank You Card

When we were growing up our Mother taught us the value, and importance of sending out thank you cards for different occasions. These occasions included the most obvious ones like appreciation for a birthday gift or a Christmas present, but also for perhaps not as obvious such as an act of kindness, or a thank you at the end of the school year to the teacher or our school bus driver. Those days seem rather far off now, but the giving of thank you cards is something that my siblings, and myself have passed on to the next generation.

It can be fun, and rewarding to teach children the value of sending out thank you cards. In our house we used to play a little game when the children were small like at Christmas time where you would devise your thank you card check list like Santa's elves preparing their great lists, and checking them twice. Then off on a mission to the post office we would go to have all of our cards stamped, and sent off to destinations sometimes faraway. The kids thought it was such great fun!

Today with electronic mail I worry that the giving, and receiving of thank you cards may one day become a lost art in the future.

To keep this wonderful tradition alive we can look to an online source such as Cards Direct that offer these wonderful cards at a fraction of the cost of buying individually at the store. What is great for the kids is that you can order these cards personalized, and include your return addresses on the envelopes giving them their very own unique cards to send to relatives, and friends right from their own desks at home.

Thank you cards are a lovely, and thoughtful tradition that will brighten anyone's day.



Permalink 05:07:06 pm, by Email , 240 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, History In The News

Canada Apologises To Aboriginal People

It was a historic moment today in Canada as our Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an official apology to former students of the government's native residential school program, and our First Nations people.

Here is a snippet from the CBC coverage:

In the first formal apology ever delivered by a Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons on Wednesday to say sorry to former students of the government's native residential school program.

"Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools," Harper said in Ottawa, surrounded by a small group of aboriginal leaders and former students, some of whom wept as he spoke.

"The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.

"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country," he said to applause.

"The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language," Harper said.

Full CBC Article Here

What was done to our Native people is akin to genocide, and no less in my mind. To read about the mass graves of children recently discovered please click on Genocide In Canada.

Let us hope this is a first step towards openness, and healing.



Permalink 01:36:57 am, by Email , 81 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

The Mirror of Death, detail of the funerary monument of Philippe de Guèldre, duchess of Lorraine and queen of Sicily (1547). I have always had a special fondness for funerary art such as the wonderful example depicted above. I guess they bring back fond childhood memories of tending to the family plot with my Dad while growing up. :)

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.

Image Credit: Wiki



Machu Picchu Hit By Grave Robbers Much Earlier

I hate coming across articles like the one I will share with you in part below simply because over time I have developed a real dislike (not so much for the grave robbers who are usually very poor to begin with) for collectors of these types of antiquities.

Locals knew about Machu Picchu before Western explorers found it

Here is a snippet from a BBC report that puts the discovery of this magnificent place more than 40 years earlier than previously thought. And yes robbed far earlier as well.

Machu Picchu, now Peru's biggest tourist attraction, was famously believed to have been discovered in 1911 by US explorer Hiram Bingham.

The ruins are the crown jewel of Peru's archaeological sites in Peru and draw thousands of tourists every day.

Machu Pichu carries symbolic value for Peru's indigenous people.

It was built by one of the last Inca emperors, Pachacutec, in around 1450 and kept secret from the Spanish conquerors who invaded about 100 years later.

Now the story about its discovery by the western world has been shaken up by a team of historians who say a German businessman looted its treasures more than 40 years before.

They say the adventurer, Augusto Berns, who traded in Peru's wood and gold, raided the citadel's tombs in 1867 apparently with the blessing of the Peruvian government.

He had set up a sawmill at the foot of the forested mountain on which Machu Picchu stands and systematically robbed precious artefacts which he sold to European galleries and museums.

Only when one of the historians found a map in Peru's national museum were his activities traced.

Full BBC Article Here

How much of Machu Picchu's secrets, and treasures were lost not only to Peru, but to the world I think we will probably never know. And perhaps if we did it would only make it that much harder to have to accept.

If this subject interests you at all please have a look at my review of Stealing History, which helped to really open my eyes to this growing problem, particularly in countries such as Iraq.



Permalink 09:49:48 am, by Email , 221 words   English (CA)
Categories: Asian History

The Ainu People Finally Recognized

Can you imagine what it might be like if it was claimed your ancestors did not exist, and therefore you do not either? At least not officially.

That is exactly what happened to the Ainu people of Japan. Here is a snippet from a BBc article detailing their struggle for recognition.

In the 19th Century, Japanese people called the northern island of Hokkaido "Ezochi".

It meant "Land of the Ainu", a reference to the fair-skinned, long-haired people who had lived there for hundreds of years.

The Ainu were hunters and fishermen with animist beliefs.

But their communities and traditions were eroded by waves of Japanese settlement and subsequent assimilation policies.

Today only small numbers of Ainu remain, and they constitute one of Japan's most marginalised groups.

(This past) Friday they will have something to celebrate.

Japan's parliament is to adopt a resolution that, for the first time, formally recognises the Ainu as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture".

Full BBC Article Here

I am almost ashamed to admit that as a Westerner I had never even heard of the Ainu before that in some ways remind me of the Inuit people here in Canada. I am very happy for them, and all I can add is that it by far about time.

Image: Ainu Museum - BBC



Permalink 09:19:49 am, by Email , 396 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Book Reviews

Mount Pleasant Cemetery - Toronto Ontario Canada

Last weekend we attended some of the Yard Sale For The Cure garage sales that were happening around Toronto as eager shoppers. Not only do proceeds from this annual event go to a very good cause, but you never know what little gem you may find. This year we were in luck to find a copy of Mike Filey's book Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide that we had foolishly loaned out to someone 6 years prior, and had never been returned.

Here is a snippet about the book:

"In Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide, Mike Filey brings us closer to the lives of those who are at rest in Ontario's most beautiful burial ground. Established in 1876 as a cemetery for all, irrespective of race or religion, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, (now stretching from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue, north of Bloor between Merton Street and Moore Avenue) was immediately perceived as a city attraction, featured in the daily papers, and recommended by city guide books. As well the magnificent grounds (designed by German landscape architect Henry Englehardt) which attracted visitors at the end of the nineteenth century, the cemetery now has an exceptionally rich and textured history and tells the story of Toronto's growth and change.

Collected in this guide, and arranged according to the cemetery layout, are nearly three hundred short life stories, intended to round out the biographies the head stone inscriptions can only hint at. As well as such important Canadian figures as Glenn Gould and Timothy Eaton, the biographies of less well-known Canadians, whose mostly ordinary lives were ended in unusual ways, are also included. Explanations of the funereal stones, descriptions of the shrubs and trees, and detailed maps of the grounds, showing the approximate location of all markers, help the visitor to appreciate some of the cemetery's physical features.

With book in hand, the Mount Pleasant tourist can enjoy Mt. Pleasant's calm and beauty and discover the personal histories that make up Toronto's social past."

Aside from the rich, and the famous Mount Pleasant Cemetery is also the final resting place of the Didier family so it is close to our hearts.

Finding a copy of the guide book has inspired us to visit this magnificent cemetery perhaps over this very weekend, and photograph some of the more famous, and the more interesting, and unique monuments to share here on Pastymes.



Permalink 12:41:27 am, by Email , 76 words   English (CA)
Categories: War And Conflict, History In The News, European History

WWII Tank Discovered

A bizarre discovery was made recently in Chartres, France. And here is a pic:

Seen above is a World War II US tank that was discovered buried under a street. The M5 light tank was from the 31st Tank Battalion, and was a part of the 1944 D-Day invasion force. I wonder how it got buried where it did, and why it was left undisturbed, and undetected for so long?

Very cool find though.

Image Credit: BBC



Permalink 10:00:52 am, by Email , 96 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Prehistoric

How Canadian Prehistoric Wealth Was Found

In the pre-Confederation days prospectors crossing Northern Ontario were puzzled by the fact that their compasses spun crazily in the area of present day Sudbury.

The mystery of the spinning compasses was eventually solved during the 1880s when construction gangs were blasting with dynamite through the pre-Cambrian rock in order to lay down a road bed for the Canadian Pacific Railway or C.P.R.

What they found was was nickel deposits so vast in scope that it staggered the imagination of the entire world!

Mystery solved.


It Happened In Canada
By: Gordon Johnston



Permalink 12:16:16 am, by Email , 66 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - "Tuesday Edition"

Something about this photo showing traditional attire from around the world being worn at the 28th International Congress of Midwives in Scotland is appealing to me. What can I say, but I love to dress up particularly if it is in period costume.

Happy Wordless Wednesday! And Thank You For Stopping By!

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.

Image Credit: BBC



Permalink 06:05:30 am, by Email , 225 words   English (CA)
Categories: Kings And Queens, History In The News, British History

A Rare Princess Elizabeth Portrait Has Been Found

A very rare portrait of Princess Elizabeth who later become Queen Elizabeth I has been discovered within a historic British home.

Elizabeth with siblings Edward VI and Mary I, father Henry VIII and his jester, Will Somers.

I have enlarged, and cropped the above image so that you can have a better view of Princess Elizabeth who is on the right.

Here is a snippet from the BBC write-up on this amazing discovery!

The portrait, dating from 1650 to 1680, was found in the Duke of Buccleuch's collection at Boughton House.

It shows Elizabeth with siblings Edward VI and Mary I, father Henry VIII and his jester, Will Somers.

It is a copy of an original panel painting, which is thought to date back to the early 1550s.

The portrait was examined by historians Alison Weir and Tracy Borman after they were told of its existence by the director of Boughton House.

It will now be put on display at the stately home, and historians hope to trace the original through publicising the discovery.

Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I before her accession to the throne are extremely rare, with only two other proven portraits known - one at Hampton Court and the other at Windsor Castle.

Full BBC Article Here

This terrific piece of art depicting the Tudor era is to go on public display this August 2008.


Pastime with Good Company

Pastyme With Good Companye

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

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