Hollywood, here I come!

By Jenna Leifso, Archivist

Last week we looked at whether James Bond was named after someone buried in Maitland Cemetery, today we are going to determine if Hollywood royalty came to No. 31 Air Navigation School (Port Albert).

Myth #2: According to a story told in the book The Story of Port Albert 175 Years one lucky Wireless Operator, while on leave, managed to fit in a trip to Hollywood. While he was there, he got married to the daughter of Louis B. Mayer “of M.G.M. fame”. As the story goes, “[h]e not only returned with a beautiful wife but a limo to match. Married persons were allowed to live off the base so not a lot more was seen of him.”

The Facts: Louis B. Mayer did have two daughters, Edith and Irene, however, it would have been impossible for the Wireless Operator in question to marry one of them because they were both already hitched! Edith married William Goetz in 1930 and Irene was married to Producer David O. Selznick. Around the time of WWII, William Goetz was the vice president of 20th Century Fox and David O. Selznick was a successful film producer and executive.

It’s possible that the Wireless Operator married another famous studio executive’s daughter but I haven’t come across any mention of the nuptials in the base’s various newsletters.

Can James Bond call Huron County home?

By Jenna Leifso, Archivist

There are a lot of stories shared about the BCATP schools in Huron County, some are true, others are not. Over the next few days we’re going to dispel two myths that involve the rich and famous.

Myth #1: Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond series, trained at either No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School (Sky Harbour) or No. 31 Air Navigation School (Port Albert). While he was wandering around the Maitland Cemetery, located just outside of Goderich, he came across a grave marker with the name “James Bond”. After seeing the grave stone, Mr. Fleming was inspired to name the main character of the successful spy series after Huron County resident.

The Facts: There is actually a James Bond buried in the Maitland Cemetery. His grave marker is near the memorial stone for the unidentified seamen who died in the Great Storm of 1913. James Bond was born in 1859 and died in 1931. However, there is no evidence that Ian Fleming ever attended a WWII training school in Huron County. In the Second World War, Fleming was in the Royal Navy, the personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. He would have no reason to train as a pilot at No. 12 EFTS or to learn navigation at No. 31 ANS. Mr. Fleming would have no reason to be in Huron County, let alone have the time to take a tour of Maitland Cemetery.

James Bond was actually named after an ornithologist from Philadelphia. According to Mr. Bond’s obituary in the New York Times, Fleming thought that the name was, “brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine… just what i needed…”.

Next week: Louis B. Mayer’s connection to No. 31 Air Navigation School (Port Albert).



Collection Connections

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Projects Assistant

In September, I posted a picture on the Museum’s Facebook page as an example of the WWII-era wedding photographs in the Henderson collection. What I didn’t know at the time is that the wedding dress in the picture was donated to the museum in 2007. Thanks to our Registrar, Patti Lamb, we’ve now made a match between the photo and dress.

wedding portrait of a couple

Mr. and Mrs. J Wilson, April 1941. Photo by J. Gordon Henderson. A992.0003.560a. Rights: Public domain.

Miss Phyllis Mary Lawrence of Goderich and Corporal John Wilson (RAF) of Sheffield, England were married Wednesday, 16 April 1941 at St. George’s Anglican Church in Goderich. Corporal Wilson was stationed at No. 31 Air Navigation School, Port Albert. Phyllis was the first Goderich girl to marry a British airman from Port Albert.

bodice of wedding dress

Closeup of Mrs. Phyllis Wilson’s wedding dress, made by the bride’s mother Pearl (Morris) Lawrence. 2007.0023.003a. Image rights: Copyright Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol

So, how did we not know about this connection before? The short answer is that we had no easy way of knowing, short of recognizing the dress and the photo and putting it together.

The picture of the couple came into the museum collection in 1992, as one negative among thousands that make up the collection of J. Gordon Henderson’s professional photography career. The image was marked “Mr. and Mrs. J. Wilson,” but that information wasn’t added to our collections database until we started working on the Henderson Digitization Project (archival collections are often described at the fonds, series, or file level, rather than item-by-item).

The dress came into the collection in 2007, donated by the bride’s daughter Mary. Since then, the dress has been on exhibit at the museum twice and it was from one of these exhibits that Patti recognized the photograph. Although the museum (unknowingly) had the original negative in the archives, Mary brought the family copy of the Henderson wedding photo to accompany the dress while on exhibit, making the connection that Patti remembered.

two image composite

Mrs. Wilson’s veil, photographed by the Huron County Museum (left) and shown in her wedding portrait (right).

bouquet fabric side-by-side

Mrs. Wilson’s wedding bouquet fabric, photographed by the Huron County Museum (left) and shown in her wedding portrait (right).

Usually, we make these kinds of connections through our internal collections database. In this case, pulling up all the records with the last name Wilson would have indeed made the match, but doing that kind of cross-referencing for more than 850 Henderson images among over 50,000 catalogue records is not in our day-to-day time budget. Now that we know about it, though, we’ve linked the two records together in the database so that anyone searching in the future will know the photo and the dress are related.

In short, matchmaking isn’t just for weddings and romance, it works for museum collections, too.

Digitizing Huron County History

Welcome to the blog of the Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol. As we start blogging, you’ll notice we primarily talk about one thing: the Henderson Digitization Project. That’s where our digital focus is these days.

In a nutshell, the Henderson Digitization Project will put more than 850 images from WWII air training bases in Huron County online in early 2014.

Images like this one:

Class photograph showing two rows of uniformed men. RAF No. 7 Specialist N Course, Port Albert, Ontario. 1940-45.

RAF No. 7 Specialist N Course, Port Albert, Ontario, about 1940-45. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

We’ll start featuring more general content from our collections over time. For the next little while, this site is going to be (almost) all Henderson all the time. For general programming at the Museum & Gaol, find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you have an idea for the blog, contact us. We’ll do our best to respond in a timely fashion (just keep in mind that as much as we’d like to, we can’t be blogging all day or we wouldn’t get anything else done!)

Happy Reading.