Sunday, June 23, 2024

Postcards of Olde Aurora, Story How It All Came About

By Bob McRoberts, Author of Postcards of Olde Aurora, Aurora ONMy earliest memory of collecting cards is from grade 3. On my way home from school (Wells Street Public School) at lunchtime, I would stop at a variety store on Wellington Street, across from Larmont Street, and buy a package of baseball or hockey cards, or occasionally some variety of non-sports card. My allowance was 30ȼ a week (it went up 10ȼ/week each grade). I’d be lunching at Mrs. Bunt’s (Lil & Gord Bunt) house because my grandparents (Iva & John Knowles) were on a trip to Europe. Mrs. Bunt also gave me stacks of Red Rose Tea cards. The year was 1960-61. I believe that’s when my collecting bug began. I’ve collected many different items over the years.

As a “life-long” Aurora resident and a third generation Auroran, I have a keen interest in the town’s history. I’m a member of the Board of Directors for the Aurora Historical Society and a member of the town’s Heritage Advisory Committee. My family and I live in my grandfather’s house, built in 1923, in Aurora’s first heritage conservation district. It was not until 2005 that it hit me to combine my long-standing card collecting interest, with that of Aurora’s history, through the collection of postcards of Aurora. Given the scarcity of these cards, I wish I had started years earlier.

Postcards of Olde Aurora

Over the years, I have created spreadsheets for most of the things I collect, including my postcards. In the summer of 2011, I was asked to do a presentation of my postcard collection at the Aurora Cultural Centre. That got me to organize my postcards even more, adjusting the order and adding titles and dates where possible. The presentation was well-attended. The feedback was quite positive. Several folks asked me if I’d ever considered putting a book together.

I recall writing on a list to myself, in approximately 2008, to do something special with my postcards someday (I have a habit of making lists). Having seen a couple of other postcard books, and with this recent expression of interest, I thought maybe I could create a book. I started in late May of 2012.

“Right or wrong, I decided to self-publish and have the book printed in Aurora.”

I knew nothing about how to start writing a book (I now know more, but certainly not all). One of my first thoughts was that I did not want to be sued for breaking any copyrights. The internet provided me with some information, but not all was decipherable by me. It took 3 months of legwork to find a copyright lawyer who dealt with individuals and who was able to help me. Along the way, I learned how to use Publisher, how to get an ISBN, and the requirements of Library and Archives Canada. It took time deciding what the page layout would be for Postcards of Olde Aurora, which parts of a book I would include, and what I might be able to afford. I learned that printers, publishers, and distributors could be separate entities. Right or wrong, I decided to self-publish and have the book printed in Aurora.

I very much enjoyed putting the book together. It became my personal Aurora Sesquicentennial Project. I learned about some of Aurora’s history – a little who was who and a little what was where. It made me think about how Aurora grew from a small village, especially once the railroad arrived. It made me think about how the development took place – hotels around the railroad and elsewhere, modes of transportation, the significance of churches and schools, the types and locations of industries, etc.

I have about 200 postcards of Aurora in my collection, 122 of which are in the book. As you flip through the pages of the book, keep in mind the pictures are all from postcards (the pictures labelled “Today” are photographs, not postcards). If I could determine the year, it was included. It is usually the year of the postmark, not necessarily the year the picture was taken. On the pages with a single postcard, the image is the actual size of the card. Given that feature, I was limited to 3 lines of text in which to include some meaningful tidbit of history about what was pictured on the postcard. Sometimes, this was quite challenging.

In the title Postcards of Olde Aurora, I added an “e” to the word “Old”. The Oxford dictionary defines “olde” as “in or relating to an old-fashioned style that is intended to be quaint and attractive”. That’s how I feel about the Aurora in my postcards. I hope this book will provide some insight for you into life in Aurora almost a century ago.

Bob McRoberts
Postcards of Olde Aurora
Aurora ON

[1] Postcard from McRoberts’ Collection, Queen’s Hotel in 1914, (Postcards of Olde Aurora, page 73). It was demolished in 1971 and replaced by the Toronto-Dominion Bank.


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