When I was little I liked nothing better than to look through a nature book and draw the animals I saw within its pages. My Mom even gave me her Mammals: A Guide to Familiar American Species book so I could use it as reference for my drawings. That was my very first Golden Guide book and it would be years until I added several more to my bookshelf.
The Golden Guides were a series of pocket books focusing on different aspects of nature (mammals, insects, birds, etc). First published under the “Golden Press” line of Western Publishing Company in 1949, many more books were added to the series over the years. Written by experts in their field and edited by Herbert S. Zim, the books were accompanied by realistic illustrations, filling each page with visual aids and colour.
James Gordon Irving illustrated the first books, which were intended for readers of the primary and secondary school levels. The series, however, expanded from identification guides to address various other subjects of the natural world such as fossils and even a pet care book.
While reorganizing her books one day, my Mom took down several small paperbacks from the shelf and placed them in a pile. I took a look at them and noticed the similarity of the layout, illustrations and general age of the yellowed pages. I flipped through them and made the connection to the Mammals book she had given to me years before. I asked her more about them and she told me that she got them from her days of working at The Royal Ontario Museum. Apparently the offices were upgrading their book collections and she wound up with this pile of Golden Guides. My Mom used those books as reference for her own drawings, something she taught me to do from my earliest days of showing an interest in art and animals.
After looking through the books for a while my Mom told me I could keep them if I wanted. They are now reunited with Mammals on my book shelf and whenever I find a vintage Golden Guide at a used book store I add it to my collection. I only have eight books so far but one day I would like to collect the entire series. For now, I put these guides to good use for my own natural history collection, as well as a classification reference for my nature and wildlife photography.
The other day I bought this vintage brass lamp from Treasure Tails, a thrift shop where all proceeds go towards the Georgian Triangle Humane Society. The lily pad base of this goose-neck lamp was what really drew me to it. I’ve seen lamps of a similar style floating around the internet and in magazines and I always liked them. Like claw-foot furniture, this leaf based lamp reminds me of something out of a fairy tale. The price was good so I bought it and cleaned it up when I got home.
While unscrewing the frosted glass shade, I noticed stamped letters and numbers under the base, “L&L WMC”. I did a bit of research and found out that my lamp was made by Loevsky & Loevsky White Metal Castings in New Jersey. L&L focused on 20th century electric lighting, making many different patterns and styles of lamps back in the day. The lamp making came to an end, however, in the late 1970’s when the company closed.
Music boxes are never scarce at thrift stores; particularly the retro boxy ones with the wind up musical tune and twirling ballerina. Whether it was sitting on your bedroom dresser or your friend had one, you have seen one at some point in your childhood. Those simplistic, metal latched cardboard boxes wrapped in patterned paper were our treasure chests. It’s where we held our jewellery, secret notes or maybe even tucked away the key to our diary. This style of music box was so popular that over the years countless designs and illustrations have adorned them, yet this one in particular caught my eye.
Dark blue and framed with a contrast of tiny white flowers, this music box was much different from the white or pink boxes I’ve often seen. I picked it up off of the shelf and inspected the outer design; a whimsical night scene of a ballerina dancing by moonlight with pixies watching her from their toadstools. It looked like something out of a fairy tale.
I opened the box and was a little disappointed to see that the ballerina was missing, but my disappointment changed when I saw the 3D forest display inside the lid! Never before had I seen such detail gracing the inside of a music box intended for children. I could look right into the mirror and imagine I was peering into an enchanted forest. When I wound up the back, Tchaikovsky‘s Swan Lake slowly played within the velvet lined interior.
Despite the missing ballerina, I couldn’t return this vintage box to the shelf. It is now sitting in the company of my own childhood music box and I have plans to sculpt a new centerpiece to twirl inside.
Another call to my childhood is Strawberry Shortcake. I was nuts about her when I was a kid, so I was super happy to find this 1980 Designer’s Collection “Spread some happiness around” sugar bowl at The Mission Thrift Store!
My final thrifted treasure is this little framed Village Green Country Crafts painting by Sharon Jervis. It is part of the Wildlife Miniatures series, the subject of this one is the Rabbit with Fly agaric Mushroom, Moss, Bramble and Ivy. This is the cutest painting and it’s made even more perfect because it features mushrooms! With all of the Sears stores being closed across Canada, I thought it was neat to see that the box still had the old Simpsons price sticker on it too.
During my absence from this blog I visited a number of thrift shops and antique stores. I’ve mentioned in past posts that thrifting or antiquing is always hit and miss. Sometimes your basket is full and other times you can’t seem to find anything that appeals to you. Over the past few months I picked up some treasures that I’d like to share with you now. Let me start with one particularly unique find…
While browsing the wall of jewellery at Value Village I spotted an old brass locket. I’ve always had a thing for lockets; before the days when everyone carried phones filled with thousands of photos, people wore lockets. Lockets, of course, usually only allow a person to carry one or two photos of their loved ones. This limitation meant that the wearer needed to choose their photos wisely; often times they may have only had the one photograph. The person the photo captured would have meant a great deal to them; be it a spouse, a child or a departed loved one. A locket was something to be cherished because it held memories and it was symbolic of the love geared towards the person inside.
As I picked up the old locket I was surprised when it popped open in my hand! The once dainty piece of jewellery now looked like some sort of steampunk contraption. I inspected it further, looking closely at the four brass disks and how they all folded together with a tiny spring mechanism until clasped inside the locket once more. I came to the conclusion that it was made to hold multiple photographs. I had never seen anything like it before and I’m a sucker for unique pieces so I added it to my basket.
When I got home I did some more research and it turned out that it was indeed, a four photo or “family” locket. Such lockets were popular during the Victorian era up until the 1940’s. As you can imagine, countless designs popped up in Google Images but after scrolling for a bit I found the same brass design as the locket I bought. The one I found online was a Gold Coro locket with the company’s logo stamped inside. My locket is bare of any numbers or company markings so I’m guessing that it is a knock off from the Coro line. Either way, I thought it was something special and found a place to hang it in my room until I decide which photos to put inside.
This little sparrow tea cup caught my attention at the Thornbury Summer Antiques Show. I don’t often see tea cups this old with painted birds (there is even a moth fluttering on the plate). The bottom is stamped with a William A Adderley and Co trademark; W.A.A. & Co., “& Co” added from January 1886 and on (http://www.thepotteries.org/allpotters/8.htm).
After hearing news that the school used for Degrassi Junior High was to be partially demolished to make way for condos, I knew time was running out. I grew up watching DJH so the show is very near and dear to my heart (my Mom even named me after the character of Caitlin!). I wanted to see it in person, so the other day my family, who have gotten used to driving to filming locations to fulfill my geeky passion, drove to the filming location in Etobicoke.
By the time we got around to visiting the school, the gymnasium was already gone (sorry boys, The Zit Remedy will need to find somewhere else to practice). Thankfully, the front of the property was not fenced off and we were able to explore a bit and take photos. With the exception of the demolished gym, a few missing trees and bike racks, we were pleased to find the school still looked as it did in the show.
The school opened in 1929 but back then it was called Daisy Avenue Public School, and was later renamed after the former Governor of Canada. In 1983 the school was closed but reopened as Vincent Massey Daycare in 1985. The school was later used as the prime filming location for the Canadian teen television series, Degrassi Junior High, which ran from 1987-1991 (Visit Save Vincent Massey for more details). The show followed the everyday lives of the Degrassi students and looked into the ups and downs of teen-aged life; exploring crushes and friendships to harder topics such as teen pregnancy, drugs, death and abuse.
Vincent Massey Public School wasn’t just a building. Fans of the series will tell you the school itself played an important role. Everyone wanted to go to Degrassi and hang out on the iconic front steps while they chummed with Arthur and Yick or laughed along to Joey’s wisecrack remarks. Degrassi was the place that brought everyone’s beloved characters together. It’s sad to know that this landmark, which is both historic and a part of Canadian pop culture, will soon be gone…
As I craned my neck back to look up at the ceiling, I could see the cracked paint. It was peeling and flaked up like dead skin over a sunburn. The blades of a lone ceiling fan, seeming more like an alien claw from War of The Worlds, ceased to turn. There was no need for it though. Despite the beating sun on the hot asphalt outside, the place was much cooler within. The smell of oil, rubber and damp cement lingered in the air. Crickets chirped in the tall grass out back and passing trucks rumbled in the distance. The glass from the windows were shattered on the floor, along with empty beer bottles, rusted cans and other debris.
Then there was the graffiti. Nearly every inch of wall space was plastered with coloured lettering, scribbles and drawings; a lot of it layered over top of graffit from years before. Some of the artists I recognized as Deadboy, Venise and Matthew Del Degan’s Lovebot, while others were the work of passing travelers. Even though the bricks were crumbling and the place seemed dead, the writings on the wall showed the traffic of all the explorers who wandered in over the years. Some to pass the time with a drink at hand, others to leave their mark with a spray can, and a few people who just took it all in through the lens of their camera.
The graffiti scrawled ruins I described above are all that’s left of the Agawa Bay Gas Station (Northern Auto Service Center). It is located along Trans Canada Highway 17 near Agawa Bay, on the border of Lake Superior Provincial Park. The property not only held the gas station, but a restaurant and store as well. Unfortunately, in April of 2009, a fire destroyed the building and it has since become a pit of rubble (literally); just a spot of urban decay in the wilderness of Northern Ontario.