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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Then and now

As a student of (social) history I spend a  lot of time in 'the way things used to be'. I love those Then and Now books featuring photos of locales from earlier times, matched with contemporary views. Lincoln Then and Now, about my husband's home town, is a favourite in our household. This site features a sample.

 I regularly wander into the historic public domain post cards of Trenton Ontario residing in the Quinte West Public Library digital collection. Returning outdoors after a research visit closes the gap in the years - the old days, the Al Purdy days, today telescope together.

Shown above is an interesting downtown intersection, two streets opening on an angle from Dundas, the main street. The historic photo is labelled Ridgeway and Murphy Streets. On today's map the streets show as King and Murphy. On the extreme right in the photo is a tiny part of the two storey oriel window dignifying the corner of the Gilbert House hotel.

The image shot yesterday shows the same peculiar intersection. The shiny government building at the extreme right of the photo replaces the old hotel.

In the poem 'Lament', from Sundance at Dusk (1976) Al tells the story of the once-powerful men like his grandfather Ridley Purdy who worked the ancient log-drives, reduced to sitting in the hotel lobby demonstrating their prowess at the spittoons of the Gilbert House. In the old days where there was still somewhere for old men to be mighty at something.

"The Gilbert House has leather chairs in the lobby
and maybe half a dozen very old men
dozed there taking pot shots at the rubber tree
which died slowly and dust settled on them slowly
until Spang went the spittoon singing you're dead."

(in Beyond Remembering, page 274)

The Gilbert House

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