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The way things work


Ebay continues to be a source of many objects and images for Agincourt. This postcard, for example, was easy pikkens since it is unidentified, bearing neither address nor postmark. But I valued its evocation of small town life a hundred years ago: when the scale was pedestrian in the better sense of the word (walking to school, to church, to the grocer and butcher) and prior to the very social networking that I’m using here to tell the story of Agincourt, when the only tweets were heard from the branch outside your bedroom window. Yes, the Agincourt Project has tread a not-so-fine line between awareness of the past and nostalgia for it, and I have often strayed to the latter side. For those who do not see this project as respectful of history, however, mea culpa.


I often forget that Agincourt has topography; that its land sloping toward the Muskrat River and Crispin Creek was apt to flood each spring. This photo struck me as a way to understand and interpret those contours and to populate them. But the photo itself is instructive.

What, for example, is going on between the two board fences? There’s also a wire fence along the street, and the sidewalk, if there is one beneath that snow, is interrupted. It doesn’t seem the proper season for construction, so I’m betting on livestock: both horses and milk cows were kept in town and needed pasture. They also added sounds and smells to a world we all too often interpret in only visual terms.

These are, it seems to me, humbler homes, probably on the northwest side of town. Don’t I see the bell tower of Darwin School through the trees on the right? We might be looking north on Third Street NW. I’m also guessing the streets in this part of town were unpaved and that they would be difficult to drive until late April or even May. When were Agincourt’s streets paved? With what and in what pecking order?

This card lacks an address, but it does have a name: “Master Samuel Allison” in fine penmanship. Someone began to send this card but was diverted or distracted. Perhaps the writer was an amateur photographer, proud of a novice effort: a photograph from his or her front porch looking toward Sam’s house two lots away. But the one cent stamp may have been an extravagance, or perhaps it just seemed more sociable to put on galoshes and slog the hundred feet to Sam’s front door.

I suspect young Master Allison will show up elsewhere in the story.

1 Comment

  1. R.H.L.M. Ramsay says:

    What perversity wants Samuel Allison to be engaged to Allison Samuels?

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