While I still have a few blogs to catch up on, I wanted to take a break and wrestle through a concept I dealt with on the way home from an incredible week of connections. In the past week, I have been able to spend time with a group of amazing Lilly fellows (those who got the same grant that prompted me to begin this blog). This time, I got to be a part of a group of writers. Through a few short days of sharing our stories, I made incredible new friends that I hope to maintain connections with for a long time. At the end of the same week, I attended a youth group reunion where I was able to re-connect with some amazing people who were a vital part of my journey–some of whom I haven’t seen in at least 20 years. With both of these experiences in the same week, I was driving home just thinking about the connections we make in life.

Youth in the 80's--I'm on the left

Youth in the 80’s–I’m on the left

One of the things that bothered me about the reunion was the pictures of myself where I couldn’t remember what we were doing in the picture. And it bugged me–relentlessly. I have wanted to freeze frame so many moments in my life–to hold on to those connections so they will never be lost. And yet here were moments of deep significance in my journey, and they were gone. As I continued thinking, I started wrestling with why I have this urge to remember–or more importantly, why it bugged me so much to forget. I teach history, I have kept a journal for 25 years, and I blog, I love antiques, I care about people’s stories. Why? Because I don’t want to forget.

As I delved further, I came to another connection–It’s not just that I don’t want to forget. It’s that I don’t want to be forgotten. By remembering others, there comes the hope that someone will be remembering us.

Antiques of Lucy Maude Montgomery

Antiques of Lucy Maude Montgomery

None of us wants to be forgotten. As I traverse graves and look at antique stores, I don’t see what’s there–I see the people behind them. I know they have a story. They loved and lost. They had hard times–some they overcame and some overcame them. But, the bottom line is they lived. And because they lived, they should be remembered. And yet, these grave stones, bits of linens, jewelry and hats, are forgotten pieces of their stories, things that no longer meant anything, so they were cast aside. I think that’s why I hold on to so many things–a note, a picture, a piece of furniture–they help me remember. And I WANT to remember.

Why do I feel that way? I think a friend at lunch today explained that better than I could. “I want my life to count. I don’t want to just be ordinary. I want to make my mark. I want to leave a legacy.” I smiled–In short, she wants to be remembered. She longs that something she does in that dash between birth and death will “count”–that it will be worth remembering. I think we all want that.

Items found on the grounds of Robert Bolling's Chellowe

Items found on the grounds of Robert Bolling’s Chellowe

But, I also smiled for another reason. The title of my blog is legacy hunting. It started out as trying to find out what made poets from 100 to 300 years ago who they were. What influenced their stories? I traveled to the places they lived, went to their houses, viewed their stuff–tried to get inside their head. I was in search of their legacy–the things they’ve left behind for us. But, through the years since I received the grant, it has become so much more than that. It is a collection of experiences, of people and the places they inhabited. It is the story of my life and the people and places who have contributed to it. It helps me remember. And sometime, when I have “shuffled off this mortal coil,” it will leave behind my legacy–my thoughts and feelings so future generations will understand what I experienced, should anyone try to discover “who I really was.”

Me 2014

Me 2014

I’m reminded of the line in Dead Poet’s Society–“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will that verse be?” This world we were born in was already in motion, and unless Jesus returns, will continue after we’re gone. All we have is life in the dash–in that space between the bookends of birth and death. I think that’s why I love history. George Washington didn’t know he would be George Washington–he didn’t know what he’d mean to history. Yet, through his consistent life, he changed history forever. None of us knows how history will view us, or if we’ll be one of those unnamed masses in the “unknown” category. But, if we will love well, fight for truth and right, and stand for those who cannot, we will have a legacy–whether for one or for millions.

Street view of Westfield. Gilbert drove Anne along these roads

Days before I even visited Westfield, I was already impressed by their site. Due to a scheduling conflict, we were not able to go during normal business hours, and had Emailed them accordingly. Rondalyn immediately Emailed me back offering us the chance to poke around, despite the fact that they already had school groups and a film crew there. Beyond just allowing us to come during a non-scheduled day, she even went so far as to leave at the office a guide to which buildings were used in the Anne of Green Gables movie.

Interior of “The Hammond House”

When we arrived, we stopped in at the office, and were once again treated with a smile and helpfulness. We picked up the packet Rondalyn left and set out on our trek. First, I must say, if the village is this cool when NOT in full swing, I’m sure it is an amazing site. (I’m especially jealous as a Civil War reenactor, that I won’t be there for the Civil War Days June 24)

Hammond Sawmill

We started our sight-seeing tour with the D’Aubigney Inn which served as the interior to the Hammond House. While the buildings were closed up since it wasn’t a regular day, I took a picture through the window so you could see where the Hammonds sat discussion Anne’s fate. If I remember correctly, Anne comes down these stairs.

Then, we moved onto the Hammond Sawmill, which in the Village actually still has the Hammond Sawmill sign (or perhaps that’s why the name in the movie is what it is–a case of the proverbial chicken and the egg.)

The corner Matthew looks around to see Anne

From there, we wandered around to the train station where Matthew picks up Anne when she first arrives at Avonlea. It is also the train station used in The Road to Avonlea where Sarah Stanley, Nanny Louisa, and Andrew King arrived. As a historical note, the station was first built in Jerseyville and was the first building moved to Westfield, which was established by a pair of teachers who purchased the land as a place to make history come alive. What a legacy they have left!

“Matthew’s Cemetery”

After the station, we wandered down one of the main roads, which sported the General Store, which served as Lawsons in Anne of Green Gables, The Dry Goods Store, which boasts the window Anne looked out of when in the orphanage, and the road Gilbert drives down while picking Anne up from the General Store.

We ended our trek down at the Church, which itself served as the Avonlea Town Hall in “Strictly Melodrama” (The Road to Avonlea). Beside the church is a small cemetery which served in the scene where Matthew was buried and again in the scene where Felicity and Felix eat the magic seed in Road to Avonlea.

The Gazebo possibility…dashed

Finally, we discussed whether or not this was the gazebo used in the film. It looked WAY more like it than the one in Edwards Gardens, which was said to have been the one used. After speaking with a wonderful lady in the office, who said she thought their gazebo had been built after the movie, and checking online, I discovered the scroll work is a bit different, so it is not, in fact, the same one, but a nice idea anyway…

While we were only at Westfield for about an hour this trip, I am looking forward to visiting when it is up and running. I believe it will be well worth the price of admission. For more information on this amazing site, check out

The Windermere House

Today (6/14/12), we set off for “The White Sands” of the first movie. We made the hour trek up to Muskoka again to see the Windermere House and cottage listed on the Tripod site. When we got there, we went to the front desk to check what they used for the set. The desk workers knew nothing of the sort, and informed us that the only movie they were aware that had filmed there was The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1996. Apparently, the film had caught the hotel on fire and it had burned to the ground. Needless to say, they haven’t allowed movies to be made there since.

View from Windermere House

When we said that the Anne series was done in 1985, they got the book on the history of the hotel to check. In the meantime, one desk worker pulled up the Tripod site, while another googled Anne filming locations. While the Tripod site listed Windermere House on Lake Rosseau, IMDB for Anne filming Locations listed Windermere House in Windermere, British Columbia, Canada. We couldn’t imagine Sullivan traveling to the complete other end of Canada for one scene, but also didn’t think the site here resembled the White Sands.

Beautiful view from Windermere

So, for those who stop by this site, I am posting pictures of the Windermere House in Muskoka on Lake Rosseau (Listed as Bracebridge on the Tripod site). Is it the White Sands or not–you decide. I will say, whether or not it has a connection with Anne, The Windermere House offers great beauty for all who visit.

“Journey’s End” Montgomery’s last home

We started today (7/13/12) finishing off our excursions with Lucy Maud Montgomery by visiting the home she last lived in and suitable named “Journey’s End.” After the drive into Toronto, we found (and passed) Montgomery’s house. It is a private residence on a very crowded street, so we only stayed long enough to snap a few pictures. Not the time of reflection on her life which would be suitable, but alas, such is life in the city (and mom and I quickly decided we cannot stand cities–or at least city driving–Toronto did offer a selection of stores from just about every nation of the world…The traffic, however, was maddening.)

Spadina Museum–Aunt Jo’s

Leaving “Journey’s End,” we set off on our own journey to discover more of the sites of Avonlea. Eventually, I may make a map with all of the sites on it, as many are extremely difficult to find. Thankfully, as I learned from Katrina at Pickering Museum Village, Directors have a certain radius in which they can film, outside of which, they have to pay the actors more. So, many of the sites are within a reasonably short distance from Toronto (Short, not quick or easy). All addresses are in Toronto unless otherwise specified.)

Back of Spadina (Sanitarium)

We started our adventures with the Spadina Museum (285 Spadina Road) which served as Aunt Josephine’s house (inside and out). It also served as Captain Ames’ house and the Sanitarium in the Road to Avonlea series. Due to time constraints, we decided to skip the inside, but the house and gardens are truly beautiful. From the proprietress of this museum, we learned the address of Sullivan Entertainment, so we added that location to our plans as well.

After checking out De LaSalle College, (once again driving past and having to turn around), we got some pictures of the college (131 Farnham Avenue), which looked like Captain Harris’s Boston home, but later discovered, we missed the home which represented Maplehurst in the movie–I had seen the iron fence, but had assumed we had found the right spot. Alas…

Sullivan Entertainment

After that, we decided to swing through Sullivan Entertainment (110 Davenport Road) and see what we could see. We had little hope of a reception of any kind, but decided to go for it anyway. The Sullivan Entertainment building is secreted away, and we continued our experience of driving past a site and U-turning (as well as parking semi-illegally). We made it to the second floor, and the receptionist contacted someone else to come give us information about Sullivan’s projects.

Queens (Victoria College)

He informed us that they couldn’t let us see the studios as they were currently being rented to someone else, but gave us a map of the Avonlea Village layout, as well as two books of pictures from The Road to Avonlea series.

From there, we set off to Victoria College (110 Charles Street West) which serves as the Queens College in Anne of Green Gables. Victoria College is just one of the buildings on the campus of the University of Toronto. It was currently under construction, but I was able to get as few pictures anyway.

Distillery District

When we left, we went to the Distillery District (Mill and Cherry). It was a huge pain to get to due to construction around the District, but it had been recommended to us by Mandy, and we decided to check it out. It is the spot where “When she was bad, she was horrid” was filmed. The District was a neat place with a number of historic buildings. Once again, we were illegally parked, though, so we just took a few pictures and headed off.

Bridge where Anne and Gilbert meet in Kingsport

After that, we headed up to Edward’s Gardens (777 Lawrence Avenue East)–and drove past it again–but it was a beautiful site, which offered an unexpected surprise: They were filming an episode of “Covert Affairs” there. So, in addition to seeing the bridge where Anne and Gilbert meet when she’s teaching at Kingsport, we also got to see a scene of a TV show being shot. Fun times. An article I read said the gazebo they ran to is in the Gardens as well, but the ones we saw didn’t look like the one in the movie.

“Green Gables”

We were finally able to head out of the city and to Cedar Grove (Just past the intersection of Steeles and Reesor). This is the site of the house used as Green Gables. This too is private property with no pull off. The owners have allowed trees to grow between the house and the road, probably to obstruct the view. The orchard and field next to the property were also used in the production. We weren’t able to really enjoy the property.

The Bridge for the big kiss 🙂 and the Lily Maid

Finally, we went to Stouffville, to see the bridge used in the movie where Anne plays the Lily Maid, and later where she and Gilbert kiss. We had been told it was at Century Mills, but couldn’t find it previously. Jack Hutton told us it was at the Baptist church in town. In reality, it’s between the two (3885 Stouffville Road). We pulled into the Baptist church, ran into a kind man who helped direct us to the bridge, and set off. While horribly crooked, the bridge offered a lovely glimpse back in time. It was a lovely conclusion to our sight-seeing day.

Montgomery’s picture of her birthplace

Note: Photographs of L.M. Montgomery’s photos, journals, and scrapbooks are displayed courtesy of the L.M. Montgomery Collection, Archival Collection, University of Guelph.

Today (6/12/12), we got an early start and headed to the University of Guelph Library. After about a two hour drive, we arrived on the campus, paid the $10 flat rate parking ($2.00/hour or $10.00 for a day), and found our way to the McLaughlin Library.

Ewan and the boys

The collection offers ten L.M. Montgomery’s journals, four scrapbooks, newspaper reviews, short stories, the manuscript of RIlla of Ingleside, 1,273 of Montgomery’s own photographs, and several other artifacts.

Montgomery as a young girl

I began my research with Montgomery’s own photographs. Having seen a number of reproductions in Prince Edward Island, it was a rare treasure to be able to see so many of her own pictures. What a person chooses to capture on film says something about his or her priorities. To look through the friends and family, places and landscapes that had shaped Montgomery’s life and stories gave a bit of a window into her soul. It showed the high points–Ewan playing with the boys instead of dealing with the depression that made him withdraw in later life. It showed places that no longer exist, like her grandparent’s home. And, it showed her in happy moments: as a small child, sunbathing on the beach, and in her wedding clothes. It was truly a slice of her life.

Page of Montgomery’s journal

Next, I looked through Volume One of her journals. While her writing is difficult to decipher, selections of her journals have been included in The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterson. The neat thing about seeing the journals is that they are in Montgomery’s own writing, complete with photographs illustrating the work. While they do not put them within the pages like Montgomery does, many of these photographs appear in The Selected Journals.

Scrapbook page with Montgomery’s wedding clothes swatches

As our time was running out (The library closes at 4:30), we asked to see one of Montgomery’s scrapbooks. I was surprised that they let us handle them when they are so fragile and falling apart, but it was an incredible experience. Unlike the journals which only contained pictures, the scrapbooks include newspaper clippings, swatches of material, pressed flowers (including Montgomery’s own wedding bouquet), cards, and letters. Again, they were just another window into her world, which I am excited to have experienced.

If we have time to go back, I still want to see the Manuscript to Rilla of Ingleside, Gog and Magog, Montgomery’s needlework, and a few other things. All in all, it was an exciting day, despite the fact that I dislike being cooped inside at one task for so long.

Norval church and Manse

On our way home, we swung through Norval, which was another place Ewan ministered in his later years. Apparently, this was a difficult time in Ewan’s life and strained his relationship with the people of Norval. In Norval, Crawford’s Village Bakery houses the L.M. Montgomery Museum, which also has pictures, early book editions, and memorabilia. Norval also offers the manse the Montgomery’s lived in (private property behind the church), the church where Ewan ministered, and a garden dedicated to L.M. Montgomery’s Norval years. It was only a short visit, but still neat to see.

For those interested in seeing what else the University of Guelph Collection has to offer, check out:

The Bala Museum Garden view

Yesterday, the bee keeper at Pickering Museum Village told us we had to visit the Bala Museum, so today we set off to check it out. What we found was not only a treasure trove of L.M. Montgomery information, but an amazing treasure in its proprietors as well.

First, one needs a bit of background on why the Museum at Bala is significant. Montgomery and her husband used to vacation in PEI until the summer of 1922 when Ewan was in the middle of a lawsuit over a driving accident. Because of the legal hassles, they were discouraged from leaving the area. The situation was eventually resolved, but not before it was too late for a trip to PEI. So, the couple made the 80 kilometer trek from Leaskdale to Bala. They didn’t actually stay at the Bala Museum, then called Treelawn Lodge, but the Roselawn Lodge across the street. The Roselawn Lodge, however, didn’t serve meals, so they took their meals at Treelawn. It was actually the summer she spent at Bala which inspired Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, the only Montgomery novel set outside of PEI.

Jack Hutton with some early Anne Memorabilia

The way the Huttons got the house is nothing short of a miracle of Providential timing. They had just gotten married and decided to take a trip to PEI because of Linda’s love of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Jack, a writer himself, went along with the idea because of his love for Linda, but remarked that he had, at the time, never read Anne because it was considered “sissy” by young boys in school. When his new wife read it to him on their honeymoon, however, he was hooked. He then purchased The Alpine Path, a collection of Montgomery’s poetry and fell in love with her work.

Meanwhile, Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterson, both Montgomery scholars, took a cruise on a steamboat in the area, trying to find the Island that is mentioned The Blue Castle. Mary and Elizabeth tried to find where Maud had stayed in Bala, and weren’t able to, so they left a note at the public library explaining she knew that Montgomery had stayed at Roselawn, but had mentioned in her journals taking her meals at a tourist home. “Does anyone know where that is?”

A portion of the collection of “Annes through the Ages”

When Jack and Linda returned, they were out taking a walk and saw the house for sale. They were fascinated by it, since it reminded them of the style they had seen in PEI. They toured it as a possible museum site, but dismissed it due to the long list of repairs needed. Then, the librarian showed them the letter from Mary Rubio. From a phone call to the owner of Roselawn, they were able to discover that Montgomery had stayed at Roselawn, but taken her meals at the very house they had toured. It had been owned by “Crazy Fanny,” who was described by Montgomery as “a lady cumbered by much serving.” When Linda discovered that the house where Montgomery had taken her meals was still around, and that, with the loss of the original lodge at Roselawn in the 1940’s, this would be the last tie to The Blue Castle and Montgomery’s experience in this area, she was appalled, especially when she learned there were plans to tear the house down due to its poor condition. She pleaded with Jack to buy the house, and he relented when he saw how important the project was to his new wife.

Silver tea service Maud received as a wedding present

The Huttons purchased the home, and Linda began a year of renovating the home. In addition to a stove they found in the shed from the 1920’s when Montgomery was staying there, the Hutton’s were able to find a number of antiques from the time period in order to decorate. David Montgomery, L.M. Montgomery’s grandson, first loaned several artifacts to the museum, then eventually decided they belonged with the house. The Huttons also have acquired one of the most complete sets of Montgomery’s books, including many first editions. They also have quite a bit of early Anne memorabilia, including the story of and actual first translation of the book into Japanese, translations into a number of languages, the only complete set of Green Gables imprinted dishes, the silver tea service given to Montgomery as a wedding present, and many Anne dolls and movies.

The boat Megan Follows rides in as the Lily Maid

Additionally, for the Anne of Green Gables fans, the Museum contains many items from both the Anne movies and The Road to Avonlea series, including costumes and even the Lily Maid boat in which Megan Follows, (who incidentally spent a summer with her family at Bala), played the Lady of Shalott.

But, in addition to the incredible collection of Anne items, we were entranced by the knowledge and stories of Jack Hutton, who shared so much of Maud’s life, even quoting extensively from her journals and works. As an added bonus, Jack is an incredible pianist, who performs on many of the steamboats nearby. He consented to play for us before we left. Jack and Linda co-authored a book entitled Lucy Maud Montgomery and Bala which shares, not only their story, but additional little known information about Montgomery. They have also recreated the Anne of Green Gables 1919 silent movie. This Museum is truly a jewel to visit.

The Collin’s House

After attending Catch the Fire Toronto (formerly the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship of revival fame), we set off for Pickering Museum Village. The village had come up on our search for Anne sites, and we were excited to see what we could find. It was a tad difficult to find, since we didn’t have an address, so for anyone else trying to find it, the address is: 2365 6th Concession Road in Greenwood, Ontario, Canada.

Cole House (Where Anne walked the Ridgepole)

Being a Civil War reenactor myself, I am quite at home in living history and love history done well. Pickering Village, from beginning to end, was just such a place. We had lucked out on the day to come to Pickering Village, since it was also The Duffins Creek Spring Fair. So in addition to the normal fun of the village, there were a number of activities and food to enhance the day. We were able to see metal rims fitted to a wheel; sample beans, bread, and rhubarb cake; and learn about local beekeeping and honey. Additionally, each reenactor was extremely knowledgeable.

When we first walked in and explained that we were from the states and interested in the Anne sites, we were directed to Mandy Smiles, who seems to wear a variety of hats

Spot where Josie walks the fence

in addition to her role as event programmer. Mandy had just finished judging the Beard and Moustache Competition, and, being an Anne fan herself, was quite willing to take us to all the filming locations around the Village.

First, we went to The Cole House, which served as Moody Spurgeon’s House in Anne of Green Gables, Angus McCorkadale’s house in Road to Avonlea and farmhouse in An Avonlea Christmas. It is the notorious spot where Anne both walked and fell off the ridge pole. It also sports the fence Josie Pye walked before jumping into Gilbert’s arms.

Oddfellows Hall, or the Carmody Town Hall

After that, we headed to the Oddfellows Hall, which today hosted the Quilt show, but was previously used as the site of Anne’s Christmas ball (Carmody Town Hall) and the staircase she and Diana walked down before the big dance. It was also used as the Avonlea Town Hall in a number of episodes of Road to Avonlea (My favorite being “The Materializing of Duncan McTavish.”) The Bible Christian Church was also used as the town hall in a number of episodes.

Additionally, we saw the Collin’s House, the Log House, and the Blacksmith’s Shop, all of which were used as various farmhouses in different Avonlea episodes. The General Store was also used in An Avonlea Christmas and as the Police Station in “Aunt Janet Rebels.”

Mandy told us that Pickering Museum Village will be hosting its own Anne of Green Gables Day, to celebrate their part in the Avonlea Series. The Anne of Green Gables Day will be held June 30, 2012, so anyone in the Toronto Area (or loyal fans from abroad), be sure to check it out.

Garden view of Parkwood Estate

Mandy also shared with us some of the other local sites, including The Parkwood Estate (270 Simcoe Street North in Oshawa), which was used in Anne the Continuing story, as Jack’s mother’s house and garden where they have tea at the end of the movie. (When we left, we were able to stop by there, though we didn’t get to tour the house, since we arrived about the time the gates were closed.) She also directed us to Katrina, who was able to help us find Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Toronto house, which we will visit another day.

All in all, our trip to Pickering Museum Village was an amazing time, and I was incredibly impressed with how helpful each staff member was, how knowledgeable and friendly each reenactor was, and in short, what a well run historical site this is!

King farm and barns (Road to Avonlea)

After spending some time at L.M.Montgomery’s Leaskdale home, we went on a quest for all things Anne. I had found a wonderful resource in , which listed a number of sites and exactly what buildings were used in which scenes. So, armed with minimal mapping and the GPS, we set out. Here are our findings:

The Avonlea Church (Pine Grove)

First, we went to the town of Uxbridge, which is the filming location for the Road to Avonlea series. Unfortunately for fans, all of the sets have long since been removed, except for the house and barn, which were used for the King house and barn. These are private property, but both can be viewed from the road (6th Concession Road near Goodwood). If you go around the corner (Goodwood and 7th Concession Road), you can find the Pine Grove church, which was used as the Avonlea church in both the Anne series and the Road to Avonlea.

Diana Barry’s and the Manse

From there, we headed to Gormley. The house used for Diana Barry’s house (also for the Minister’s House in Road to Avonlea) is located just outside the gate to Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area. Supposedly, the bridge on which Anne and Gilbert kiss is there as well, but I think that’s back in the park–you have to pay to get in on weekends, so we decided to explore that further on a weekday. The directions on the website were unclear, so I found a site I thought might be it, but I don’t think so.

Avonlea school house and lane

Finally, we tried to find the Simcoe County Museum, which had the building used for the Avonlea school house and the lane on which Anne and Diana walked when the boys threw berries at them. It is not on the street indicated by the website, but we got directions at a local store and found it with minimal problems. By getting there right at closing (4:30), we were able to skip the cost of admission and just take a few pictures, but as there are a number of historic buildings around, I’m sure it would be worth the time spent.

Stay tuned for more Anne sites to come.

The Historic Leaskdale church

Today (6/9/12), we headed into Leaskdale to the Leaskdale Manse. This was the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1911 (Ewen took over the church in 1910) until the moved to Norval in 1926. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario has taken over caretaking both the Manse and the Historic Leaskdale Church where Ewan ministered. It was in the manse that Montgomery’s three sons (Stuart, Hugh (born stillborn), and Chester were born, and where she penned eleven of her novels.

The Corner where Montgomery would write

We met with Kathy from the Society who arranged to give us a tour of both the church and manse properties. Both have been renovated by the society. In the church, we got to see the original stain glass windows, and the pew where Montgomery sat to hear her new husband’s sermons. In the manse, we were able to see the extensive renovations the Society was able to undertake, making use of Montgomery’s journals and her own photographs for details. We were also able to see the corner where she sat to write her novels.

After leaving the museum, we went to the Heritage Railway station which is the station where both Lucy and later her cat, which she had shipped from Prince Edward Island, arrived. We then set out to explore the Anne of Green Gables filming locations.

The Historic Railway Station in Uxbridge

Cynthia’s Advice to Beginners
“Around the Table,” Halifax Daily Echo,
Monday, May 12, 1902.
Lucy Maud Montgomery

Amateur photographers have to suffer a good deal of equally amateur joking, but when all is said and done there is really no “hobby” which has such a fascination or out of which more pleasure can be extracted. Of course one must be in earnest about it and not be a mere dabbler.

Montgomery's "Weird Friend" picture

There is nothing beautiful about a weird snapshot of your friends or a slap-dash exposure where the houses come out slanted at an angle that surpasses the leaning tower of Pisa. But a really pretty bit of scenery, nicely furnished and properly mounted, reminiscent of a pleasant summer day’s walk or outing is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Several friends of mine have recently invested in cameras and have asked me for some advice regarding the use and abuse of them. So I will give a few pointers from experience.

In amateur photography, even more than anything else, the golden rule is “carefulness.” You simply can’t be careless if you would succeed in producing photos worth having. The most trifling oversight will sometimes spoil a good picture. If you make your exposures in a slap-dash style, if your darkroom leaks light, if your hypo solution is not kept religiously apart from your developer, if you do or leave undone a hundred other things you will fail to obtain good results.

Collection of Montgomery's landscape shots

In starting out, don’t attempt too much at first and recklessly expose half a dozen plates before developing one. Make haste slowly. A 4 by 5 camera is large enough for a beginner. Get all the supplies necessary, for, of course, you will not be content to be a “button pusher,” but will do your own developing and finishing. Above all, get a good darkroom lantern. Misplaced economy here will result in worry and disappointment. In spite of some opinions to the contrary, I think a beginner would do well to commence with a slow brand of plates. Indeed I like the slow plates best at any time. I consider that they yield more artistic results.

In your darkroom have a place for everything and keep everything rigidly in its place. Dust your plates before putting them in the holders. A camel’s hair brush is used for this, but, if some time you can’t find it, draw the palm of your hand softly over the plate, taking care that it-your hand-is quite dry. If you are ever where you cannot gain access to a darkroom and yet want to change plates, here is a plan I have followed with success. Get into a windowless closet, sit on the floor and get somebody to put right over your head a heavy quilt-a red one if possible. Then have the door shut tightly and change your plate. In summer this is a fearfully warm job, but it is better than getting your plates light-struck.
Choose your view carefully with an eye to light and shade effects. You will always get better results by using a tripod and taking time exposures, although of course this requires more skill. In regard to exposures no cut-and-dried formulas are of any use. The time is regulated by the strength of light and the kind of plates used. In this you must simply learn by making mistakes. Do not take pictures between eleven and three o’clock. The results are never so good.

In developing don’t under-develop. A beginner is fatally apt to, getting alarmed when the picture begins to fade and whisking it out of the solution. Leave it until very dim and indistinct. Wash well before putting in hypo. The use of an alum solution will prevent “frilling”-which means that the film curls up around the edges of the plate. In cold weather you will have no trouble with this. After your plate is taken out of the hypo, soak it in water for half an hour. If not in running water, change the water six times. This is very important as the least bit of hypo left on the film will eventually spoil it. Above all things, be thorough. Don’t be content with “good enough.” Aim at the best.
A pretty effect may sometimes be obtained in a landscape picture by cutting out of white paper a tiny new moon and pasting it properly on the glass side of the negative. The result is a “summer moonlight scene”. You can take pictures by moonlight, by the way. The exposure calls for hours instead of seconds. Generally the result looks more or less like a foggy plate exposed in the usual way, but very beautiful effects have been obtained in this way. However, I do not advise beginners to attempt it.

If you want to take a “winter moonlight scene,” here is how you go about it. Take an ordinary negative of some landscape. Don’t have leaf trees in it. Evergreen trees and an old farm house or so make the best picture for this. Place it in the printing frame, film upward. On top of this place a fresh plate, the two film sides together and back them with a bit of black cloth for greater security. Then hold frame about 18 or 20 inches from gas jet and turn up gas quickly. Time of exposure will vary from 2 to 20 seconds, according to character of light, plate, and negative used. After exposure develop the plate as usual. It is called a positive. Paste a full moon in proper position on its back and print off. The sky will come out black while the ground and trees will be white with-apparently-snow. The effect will be very pretty. I may add that your “positive” is also a magic lantern slide.

Montgomery self-portrait

Sometimes your camera will play you very odd tricks. I have had some curious pictures result from accidentally exposing the same plate twice. This is how “ghost” pictures are made. Once I took a picture of two girlfriends of mine standing side by side. Later on I happened to re-expose the same plate on a landscape view. The latter came out very well. The girls were also there, wan, transparent figures with all the background clearly visible through them. It was apparently a perfect picture, which, of course, does not often result by chance.

Well, I hope you will get a great deal of pleasure out of your cameras this summer. It will be your own fault if you don’t, be sure of that.