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Soldier Stan (1916)

By Andrew Cunningham

Borrowing an idea from the Kitchener Waterloo Cambridge Regional Post Card Club‘s informative newsletter, we are going to feature postcards dating from exactly 100 years ago (we’ll make it 110 years, or some other round number, if there’s a good candidate from an even earlier era).

Given that we’re the Toronto Postcard Club, let’s start with a card with a great local postcard from a relatively rare publisher. The chief interest of this card is its message about a recent First World War enlistee whom the writer regarded as just about as unlikely a warrior as there could ever be.

Postcard published by H. H. Tammen Co. Ltd., Toronto (No. 5141)

Early Morning on the Water Front, TorontoPublished by H. H. Tammen Co. Ltd., Toronto (No. 5141)

On July 18, 1916, a young lady named Florence, resident at 506 Dundas Street in Toronto, posted this card to Miss Lizzie Kinmond of Tiverton, Ont., with the following message:

Dear Lizzie, I know you will feel very sorry to hear my news. Stan our old friend has enlisted. I saw him in Kahki [sic] last night + it was a great shock. Perhaps you knew all about it though. But you can imagine him sailing off in one of these boats. Do you suppose he will take his opera glasses? He may sing The Gold Fish when he gets to the trenches to entertain the Germans on a cold night.

“The Gold Fish” may refer to the romantic song of that name by the Russian composer Mily Balakirev (1837-1910); perhaps the unfortunate Stan was known to be partial to it. However that may be, it is certainly interesting that at this stage of the War, when many Canadians had already been killed in action, Stan’s forthcoming departure for the front would be treated with the insouciance exhibited in Florence’s message.

The card, by the rarely encountered publisher H. H. Tammen Co. Ltd., presents an evocative image of steamboats on the Lake Ontario waterfront, preparing for their first customers of the day. The Toronto skyline is reduced to a silhouette, effectively focusing the eye’s attention on the ships.