Thursday, July 12, 2012

The King's Trip: George VI visits Oba, Ontario

My family is rich in photo albums.  This wealth is the result of generations of avid, amateur photographers eagerly capturing the moments, preserving them and passing them down through various branches of the family.  Though we've begun the process of digitizing our treasures, the backlog is more than a bit daunting especially when it comes to identifying some of those smiling faces from times gone by.

A recent family gathering saw us clustered around one such family album dedicated to Oba, Ontario.  I've heard Oba described as being "in the heart of Canada’s vast wilderness" and these pictures from the 1930's & 40's certainly highlight this aspect with beautiful lakes, endless forests, little boys holding large fish and ... on the very last page ... a posh-looking couple posing in front of a train?

As it was late in the day and the photo rather small, I had to squint to make out the image.  Yes, it turns out it's a picture of George VI and Queen Elizabeth snapped by one of my grandparents during the 1939 royal tour of Canada.  The royal couple looks relaxed & happy and I can just imagine my grandmother asking them to please hold still while she adjusts her camera and takes the picture!

My father can remember the train stopping for water that day in Oba.  Of course almost the whole town, just over 100 people at that time, turned out to see it.  That the royal couple actually got out and wandered amongst the "crowd" seems astonishing to me but I guess it was a very different time.  The 1939 royal tour marked the first visit of a reigning monarch to Canada and these pictures show some of the first "walkabouts" ever performed by the royal family.

The very sight of the Queen gave pleasure, as did her manner. ... During the long journeys across the continent, she and the King took full advantage of halts, even short ones.  Day after day they would leave the royal train and, to the consternation of the security men, plunge into the crowds and talk. ... Queen Elizabeth gave instructions that the King and she must be told whenever the engineer observed a collection of people by the side of the line ahead, so that they could be seen waving back from a window. 'Slow down, so that we all get a good look', she said.
 Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother by  Godfrey Talbot

It seems more than fitting that these photos came back into our lives just as Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee and I'm delighted to have discovered this little connection between the royals and our family.

I think that I will celebrate with a night spent watching The King's Speech.

Photos: Tatiana Dokuchic Family Album (1939)
Update: Find out more about Wallis & Elizabeth

Have you ever unearthed unexpected treasures in your family photo albums or scrapbooks?  I would love to hear the stories of your discoveries.

Find Tatiana Dokuchic on Google+


  1. I found an old locket in an envelope of my mom's jewellry. I managed to pry it open and inside was a photo of a man - possible Uncle Nickie. I carefully lifted it out to see if there was a name on the back, no, but there was another photo underneath, one of Gedo - smiling, hair askew. I don't know how we got the locket. Tat, I would like to send it to you if you would like it. It is made of brass I think, not valuable, but is part of our family history. Someone lovingly put those photos in there.

  2. What a wonderful discovery, Carole! There are not that many photos of Gedo, especially smiling. In his early pictures he followed the tradition of the time of keeping a rather serious look on his face for photos.

    I would love to have the locket whenever you feel you would like to part with it. We can chat via email.

    Many thanks!