Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Aurora High School Teachers Photo Journey, Knowles & Humphrys

I wrote a Letter to the Editor called "Journey of the Lost Photo from Aurora"

A while ago (June 2011), I published a post titled “Aurora, A History In Pictures Collectible Book Arrived With A Surprise, An Old Photo” about a photograph that arrived in the mail inside the book “Aurora, A History In Pictures” by W. John McIntyre, which I purchased on Amazon.

Within a few days of posting about the photo, I was contacted by the descendant and grandson of J.H. Knowles, former Aurora Councillor Bob McRoberts.

Book and Photo, Miss Humphrys & Mr. Knowles, Oct 18, 1943

Before making the phone call, I decided to reach out to a couple of people for some info. Instead of just having one descendant per family (Knowles and Humphrys), I ended up with leads for two Knowles in Town. Things were starting to get a bit complicated, but only for a day or so. I always like to take my time with decisions, even if they’re urgent. I mean, what harm can a few days of thinking really do? Especially when it comes to a photo that not many people knew about and was lost for years. To top it off, my scanner was acting up, so I took it as a sign to catch some extra sleeps before making a final decision and getting the photo to the right person.

After hearing Bob McRoberts’ family history and digging through old Aurora Era newspapers from the 1940s, I knew what needed to be done. I personally handed the photo over to Bob McRoberts – mailing it was not an option. The photo had been missing for years, and I wasn’t about to let it happen again. Plus, Canada Post was about to go on strike.

We surprised Mr. McRoberts with a special delivery. While chatting with him, he shared another picture of his grandfather, J.H. Knowles, from his time in the army. I was amazed at how pristine the photo was – no scratches, nicks, or fading. It was even older than the one I had brought him. I guess the excuse for that is the teacher photo had been on the road for years with only a book for protection.

My findings were recently published in The Auroran this week (Week of August 02, 2011 Volume 11 Number 40). I wrote a Letter to the Editor called “Journey of the Lost Photo from Aurora” and Bob McRoberts allowed The Auroran to publish the photo. Kind words were written under the photo, which I greatly appreciate. It was a pleasant surprise! This was my first Letter to the Editor published in The Auroran, so I was thrilled. I want to give a big shutout to Ron Wallace for mentioning my blog.

Finding a new spot for the photo was a team effort in Aurora, with Bob McRoberts leading the way. I had great conversations with David Heard from A Step In Time, exchanged emails with Chris Watts from Temporary Sanity, and Michael Suddard from Michael’s Blog really nailed it with his comment and confirmed my findings. Even though Michael now lives in Richmond Hill, he always refers to Aurora as his home.

“Anna, It just hit me. The person you may have a photo of is J.H. Knowles, the former Principal of Wells Street Public School. He had a house on Catherine Avenue (J.H. Knowles House) and is related to former Deputy Mayor Bob McRoberts somehow (grandfather?).

Miss Humphrys may have been a teacher at that time at Wells Street Public School because of the context of the way the photos are referenced (Mr. Knowles & Miss Humphrys) as students would politely call them. In the Aurora History in Pictures, there is a picture of Wells Street Public School with all the glee club in front with Mr. Knowles, the Principal, included.

Baldwin’s Restaurant has a small copy of the photo near the bottom here: [www.baldwinsrestaurant.com/history] – site no longer exists.

That was a very interesting journey to be part of and I will always ask myself – “why me?

Letter to the Editor: Journey of the lost photo from Aurora

THE AURORAN, Week of August 2, 2011, Page 6

To the editor,

Photography is one of the most powerful ways to preserve the past since its invention in the early 1800s. Over 180 years an infinite number of photographs have been captured – faces and places all around the world. For most of us the photography has preserved valuable family memories of our ancestors, and sometimes the memories we never had of them. We look at photographs every day.

Our conscious mind scans for faces and places or other articles, but have you gone beyond? October 1943. An unknown photographer looks into the viewfinder of his camera and casually snaps a photograph of two high school teachers, Mr. Knowles and Miss Humphrys. One can only assume that it was taken on the Aurora High School grounds here in Aurora. Who was looking into the camera’s viewfinder at that time?

Where was the darkroom at which the photograph was developed? Who scribbled their names with a fountain pen on the back of the photograph? Who owned the photograph then? These are questions that may remain forever unanswered. Presumably for more than 45 years the photograph of the teachers from Aurora had an owner.

At one point in time the photograph was placed inside a book written by W. John McIntyre – Aurora A History in Pictures (Published 1988). More unanswered questions, how it got there, exactly when and why? It is possible that the photograph spent 20 years in the book and it is also possible it was only there for a few years. The photograph may have never been in the possession of the family of Knowles or Humphrys. Maybe it was the photographer who owned this photo and the book, notably since the two teachers were not related.

It is hard to believe that a family would leave such a family treasure behind. On second thought, was it a mishap? The book hit the book stand again but this time with the photographic treasure inside. The book, Aurora, A History in Pictures (also signed by the author Mr. McIntyre) with a photograph of the two teachers bookmarking page 47 was bought by book hunters here in the Aurora library used book sale.

Page 47 in the book has The Aurora High School Glee Club, 1948 photograph; where Principal J.H. Knowles stands at the top far left corner. Someone found the match. Later the book was placed for sale online on Amazon. The seller left the almost 65 year old photograph in the book and later wrote me: ‘We thought maybe, the person who bought the book would know who the people were so we just left it in the book.’

A used collectible copy of the Aurora, A History in Pictures book with a lost photographic treasure travelling North America arrived in Aurora in June, 2011, from Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States. It was back home once again here in Aurora along with the book and in my hands. It was a lost photographic treasure, but it wasn’t mine. I posted the photograph and the background information on my blog

Knowles and Humphrey’s in an Aurora paper from early 1940s. I received leads and suggestions from others for which I am greatly thankful. Later, I received a phone call from a long time resident of Aurora, my blog reader and descendant from the Knowles family – Mr. Bob McRoberts. Mr. McRoberts, now the owner of the photograph, is the grandson of Mr. J.H. Knowles, one of the teachers in the photograph.

My written documentary of the once lost photograph ends here. Maybe one day someone will tell more and fill in the missing blanks of time. However, the journey of the photograph does not end here, it only continues with the McRobert’s family.

Anna Lozyk Romeo

Photo Submission by Bob McRoberts

Description: “By a total fluke, or perhaps kismet, a 1943 photo of his grandfather, J.H. Knowles, above right, is now in the possession of former councillor Bob McRoberts. Not often, maybe once a month he scans the Living in Aurora (www.livinginaurora.ca) blog. There are typically some very nice photos of in and around Aurora. A few weeks ago, a particular photograph caught his eye. As instructed in the blog, he contacted Anna Lozyk Romeo and explained his connection to one of the people in the photo. J.H. Knowles was principal of Aurora High School (the original one) from 1923 to 1958. The lady in the photo, Gladys Humphrys, taught at the school from 1941 to 1945. He would like to thank Anna for giving him the photo, and the story of how it got back to Aurora, may be found on Page 6. And we would like to thank Mr. McRoberts for sending us the photo, which is the one that Anna found in the book.


Michael Suddard said: August 6, 2011 at 15:20

Glad I could help Anna! A big thanks and congratulations for returning the photo to it’s rightful place…in the hands of Bob McRoberts!

Anna Lozyk Romeo said: August 7, 2011 at 14:35

Thanks Michael.


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