Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stamping out History

Canadian (and one British) stamp from the Tighsolas Collection.

I have a lot of pictures of King George V in my house: that's because I have over 1000 letters belonging to the Nicholsons of Richmond Quebec and Montreal - and many of them are from the 10's and 20's and thirties.

They start at 1887, actually and end in 1938.

Most are from Canada; many are from the US. and a few, but not many, are from England.

These letters still have their envelopes so you'd think I'd have a chance at having a rare postage stamp or two.

But no.

Somewhere along the line someone cut out or steamed off most of the interesting stamps. I even know who: a little boy who lived with his family for a period in the fifties and sixties in the Nicholson's house on Dufferin in Richmond. I know because but a few years ago the wife of said little boy contacted me about returning something else belonging to the Nicholsons, Norman's Masonic Sword.

To find me, she had used the Internet and a clue from her husband's stamp collection book; a letter addressed to Mrs. Margaret Nicholson.

So, George the V, portrayed as a typical angry and cold Victorian father in the recent movie, the King's Speech enjoys a definite presence in our house.

His father, Edward VII, though is more important to us as he represents an entire era.

My http://www.tighsolas.ca/ website showcases the letters of Tighsolas between 1908-1913 era, which I call the Tighsolas era.

It's really the end of the Edwardian Era. (We call it the Laurier Era in Canada.)

Edward VII reigned for but 10 years, but he lent his name to an entire ERA. That says something! That speaks to the incredible changes that took place in that particular decade. That's why the 1908-1913 Nicholson letters are important, and not just frivolous family fun.

I have one postage stamp of Edward VIII. It's from England. His reign was so short Canada didn't get around to making him a stamp.

And I have a few pictures of the next guy, Queen Elizabeth's father, George VI, whose image just got a revamp due to a compelling performance from actor Colin Firth, who, as far as I know, has no royal blood, just bloody good genes.

The only stamp I have of Victoria, who reigned a long long time and therefore it's no surprise an entire era was named after her, is not really a stamp. It's on a postcard from the 1880's. Good enough.

I do however possess a likeness of her on a coin, one belonging to my husband. It's a 1 and a half cent copper coin from Upper Canada. Remember that place? It was just above Lower Canada.

I asked him where he got these coins and he replied, "I dunno. They were lying around the house. " More proof that little boys have a vague grasp of the concept of private property. These coins might have once belonged to Flo and Edie, who knows?

He also has a coin from 1779, a bit faded, with the image of another King on it. Don't know which one, although I guess I could Google.

I have decided to carry this 1979 coin around in my purse as good luck, as it is the oldest thing in my house, if I don't count the dust the dogs drag in.

Last Friday, before the ballet, my friend and I went to Chinatown and ate at a restaurant there. The waiter was an older Chinese man (by which I mean a man about 50) with a sunny disposition and very pleasant face. He caught me showing the coin to my friend across the table and he told us a story about a long time ago, in 1971,when he had reluctantly let go of a George VI twenty dollar bill he had in his possession in order to buy a record, perhaps Led Zeppelin, at A and M Records around the corner on St. Catherine Street. (So, some of these bills were still floating around in the 60's. I don't recall ever seeing one.)

That's how I know this man was fifty. A bit younger than me, maybe but definitely in the same ball park. When I got up to pay, I realized he was very very short, about 5 foot, no more. And as I am 5 foot 11, so he seemed to get embarrassed around me. (He wouldn't be the first.)

Such a nice man, I thought, but we're world's apart, even if we had met on the streets of Montreal's Chinatown (or in A and M, where I might have been accompanying my older brother) back in 1971.

...Anyway, I read somewhere, maybe in the NYT, that someone is taking old Civil War letters and tweeting them on Twitter. I had thought about doing this with the Tighsolas letters. I even mentioned it in an earlier post on this blog.

But now it won't be a novel thing. Alas.

I must think of a novel thing to do with these letters. And that precludes putting it in novel form.