Wednesday 5 June 2019

Journalism from a More Leisurely Time - Joan Lennon

My sister has been writing a biography of our grandmother, based on her letters from China, which my cousin has painstakingly transcribed.*  I've had nothing to do except read and be fascinated.  However, when I take my glasses off, I can read very tiny print.  So, when on a recent visit to my sister, a scanned page from The Perth Courier (a rural/small town Ontario newspaper) for 26 February, 1892 emerged, I de-spectacled myself and got stuck in.  My task was to see if there was any mention of our great-grandfather's musical activities.  I found several, but that wasn't all that was happening at that time, not by a long shot.  Let me share with you two pieces of heart-stopping drama and horticultural/geological interest -

RUNAWAY - A runaway of an unusual nature took place last Thursday.  Mr. John Lally, of North Burgess, called at the house of Mr. Murphy, 3rd Line Bathurst, leaving his team untied while in the house.  A passing train frightened them and off they went towards town.  Upon reaching the 3rd Line tollgate, they took to the railway track as a shortcut to the Wilson Street crossing, but had not proceeded far when they met a freight train going west.  The horses turned out in time to save themselves, but the locomotive caught the cutter and smashed it.  A horse blanket fell out on the rails, which was cut in two by the wheel of the engine as neatly as if done with scissors.  The horses were not injured.

and -

QUEER PEBBLE - Mr William Scott, Manion post office, Bathurst, brought us on Wednesday a stone or pebble, marvellously like a potato, and which looks as if it were one of those vegetables turned into stone.  It is about three inches long and two thick.  It is the best counterfeit potato we ever saw.

Just in case you might be thinking that it was nothing but sturm and drang in Ontario back then, I was also able to decipher and note down the following calmer, poetic advertisement for clothes, which begins -


That the cold stormy winds of winter are about to depart, to make place for the more genial and balmy breezes of spring, and old mother earth is about to lose her white winter robe, and the thousands of lower animals are losing their heavy and shaggy old coats - man, that he may live in harmony with nature, finds it necessary to lay aside his cumbersome winter clothing and don the 


Which is always so acceptable after wearing the heavy robes necessary during our Canadian winter.

In order that everyone in Perth and the surrounding country may make this change conveniently, and at the first appearance of spring, I wish hereby to intimate to them that I have just opened my spring stock of


And, in case the reader had not yet completely caught the writer's drift, he continues -

As Nature in the childhood of the year which is the spring given to the year a complete change of clothing, the beauty of which none will dispute, so Nature, through the agency of fathers and mothers, expects that all the boys, youths and children will also receive a change, thereby imitating as nearly as possible the example of nature, which example few, if any, will lead you astray.

Even if the sentence itself may have wandered off track a little.

Journalism and the art of advertising from a more leisurely time.  Worth taking your glasses off for.

* I blogged on The History Girls about my mum as a small girl in China here, and my grandfather's experiences as a medical missionary here.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
The Slightly Jones Mysteries
(A fiction series for 8-12 year-olds set in the 1890s, 
featuring girl detective, Slightly Jones)


Susan Price said...

Wish adverts were still like that.

Sue Purkiss said...


Anonymous said...

I only just discovered you via a post on the origin of the names of roses. Now I must set aside time to read all your other postings! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I only just discovered you. Now I must set time aside to read many more postings. Thank you!

abigail brieson said...

Wonderful! I shall now justify any urge to purchase Spring Underwear as based not upon acquisitiveness but historical accuracy.

Maureen said...

That’s reporting, and the alluring advertisement through ever-unrolling syntax and analogy!