Turnbull photos enrich Museum’s collection
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Aug 08, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Turnbull photos enrich Museum’s collection

St. Marys Journal Argus

Mary Smith, Historic St. Marys

This week’s photograph and the one last week come from the Turnbull collection at the St. Marys Museum. Douglas Turnbull and Elsie Willard were both born in 1903, grew up in St. Marys and both left to attend university. They were married in 1928 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and lived in British Columbia where Douglas worked in the mining industry. They retired to Victoria.

Elsie was a dedicated researcher and a good writer, responsible for local histories, recording the development of communities in the BC interior. She also wrote detailed and reliable genealogical accounts of her family and of the various branches of Douglas’ family in Ontario. Copies are on file at the St. Marys Museum.

Although they established their own family life in BC, the Turnbulls made regular visits back to St. Marys, especially while their parents were alive. (Elsie’s mother, Florence Heriot Willard, died in 1968; her father, Frank, in 1955. Douglas’ mother, Elizabeth Moore Turnbull, died in 1953; his father, John, in 1961).

During their visits, they enjoyed driving around the area, taking photographs of familiar landmarks, including downtown St. Marys. Some were colour transparencies — or slides — very popular with photographers from the 1950s into the 1970s. This week’s photograph of the Queen Street Bridge, dated 1954, is reproduced from a scan of one of the Turnbull slides donated to the Museum.

Compared to the similar view in last week’s column that was taken with regular black and white film about 35 years earlier, the bridge looks the same but there are some interesting differences. The most obvious change is Graham Service Station on the left in this week’s picture, replacing the house on this site in 1920.

The 1954 photo was taken in early spring. The Thames was fairly high —lots of water cascades over the dam. In the foreground, the river flows between two solid limestone floodwalls. The wall on the east bank was there in the earlier photograph; the one on the west was constructed as a “make-work” project during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The milling complex, partly visible on the right, operated in 1954 as the Great Star Flour Mills Limited. As in 1920, there are Canadian Pacific Railway cars standing on the tracks beside the loading area.

Douglas Turnbull died in 1993 and Elsie in 1996 and are both buried in the St. Marys Cemetery. The Eedy Archives at the St. Marys Museum is greatly enriched by the records they left behind.

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