Before Television: Goose Feather Christmas Tree

What Happens When We Turn off the Remote

Behold an early form of artificial Christmas tree made from goose feathers – that’s right…green-dyed goose feathers!

These trees were popular in North America from about the 1920s to the 1950s.

The little number pictured above belonged to Kay Williams who lived in both Cumberland and Royston. No doubt the tree is a later model as descriptions of early forms mention candle attachments and this one comes with its own electric lights.

With the additional embellishment and personal touch of ornaments and tinsel this tree would have been quite a festive knock out!

Before Television: Seals and Wax

CDM 997.530.2

What Happens When We Turn off the Remote

Before computers, television or even telephones we used to write letters. Lots of letters. And if one of your letters called for an extra decorative flourish you might close the envelope with some wax and a seal like the one pictured above.

This seal dates from approximately 1900 and bears the initials SEM that stand for Sylvia Edith Markle. Sylvia married W.A.W. Hames and the family moved to the Comox Valley in 1914.

Historically, the use of seals goes back to the earliest civilizations of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. And, apparently, the use of seals is making a come back today – at least according to Martha Stewart, modern design guru.

Before Television: Halloween Decorations

CDM 991.74.59

As this image from the mid-1920s shows, people went hog wild with party decorations before television!

The scan is from a glass plate negative in the museum’s collection and it certainly highlights the decorators’ creativity in using items that were probably both store bought and homemade. Exact location of the get-together is unknown – only that it was somewhere on south-central Vancouver Island.

According to the Comox Argus of 1925, the Comox Valley was partying for Halloween around that time, too.

The Union Bay CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training) hosted a party at the school hall whose “costumes and decorations were in keeping with the season. Refreshments were served in the “serviette and toothpick” style”.

Courtenay had several children’s parties and the paper noted that this “would take a good many of the youngsters off the streets. Gates were found on telephone poles and other unaccustomed places and signs were misplaced but otherwise the night was peaceful enough”.

Before Television: Blue Heron

Blue Heron, CDM 998.236.1

“Before Television” is a newsletter feature that shares the Courtenay and District Museum collection with readers and highlights the ingenuity and creativity of people as they added beauty and personal style to items from their home and work life.

This painting of a blue heron is from an instruction booklet created by Rose Baikie (later Rose McKenzie) when she was a teacher in the Comox Valley. Rose carefully painted images of a dozen local birds and gathered facts about their habits to share with her students.

Rose (b. 1906 – d. 1979) spent her first years of teaching at the McGuigan School (Camp 3) in the 1920s. She also taught at Lazo School and Comox Elementary before marrying William Samuel McKenzie in 1927. Rose left teaching until 1957 when she returned and taught again for 13 years before her retirement.