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Historian safeguards memories of family

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Stories are powerful, but also fragile.

They survive through a fortunate chain of memory, conversation and physical evidence, including pictures that tell a thousand words.

For Theodore Howard, who lived at 870 Palmerston Ave. from 1936 until his death at 80 in 1960, photographs from around 1903 to 1916 speak to that time in his life.

Mostly, they’re of his wife, Edith and their daughters, Elva and Dorothy (born in 1905 and 1907), often with extended family at the beach or picnicking. Some photos are of Theodore himself, ever-dashing, likely kibitzing.

Historian Giles Bugailiskis, a resident of Lipton Street, is guardian of the eight family albums. He has minded them for 12 years.

Before that, Winnipegger Lillian Page recognized their historical significance when, in the 1960s, they were donated as household items to the Salvation Army, where she volunteered. She safeguarded them until moving from her house in 2002, when she conveyed them to an antiques dealer. He contacted Giles, a known collector of early Winnipeg images.

First, though, there was Theodore’s drive to take the pictures, and his meticulous perseverance assembling them into albums.

"It took me several years to determine the photographer," Bugailiskis said.

The context and intimacy of the pictures and a name on one album, led him to suspect it was Theodore. Preliminary archival research has confirmed places, relationships,  Theodore’s interests and personality.

Around the time the photos were taken, Theodore was already collecting stamps and currency — what would become a valuable assemblage of national and international renown. In time, he’d have collections of natural items such as insects, birds and eggs to fill his private museum. He’d become a seven-term president of the Manitoba Museum (1947-54), lobbying for the facilities and programming we enjoy today.

In fine handwriting, Theodore annotates a vacation album, "Picking peaches at St. Catherine’s Ontario" and "A view along drive in Horticultural Gardens, Toronto." In his second career (after 33 years with Gault’s Ltd., rising from clerk to department manager), he’d be owner of Antenbring’s greenhouses and florist and president of the Winnipeg Horticultural Society and Manitoba Horticultural Association.

Theodore documents the aftermath of fires that destroyed the Ashdown Store (in 1904) and Kelly Block (1911). He captures the metal frame of the Union Bank under construction (1903) and the newly completed St. Andrews lock (1910). In his albums, the prairie-style Assiniboine Park Pavilion, that would burn in 1929, still exudes life.

As do Theodore and family.

If you have information to share about Theodore Edward Howard, phone Giles Bugailiskis at 204-786-2043.

Gail Perry is a community correspondent for Wolseley.

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