Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mystery Photo Album and the EK Music Festival

and Miss Barbara H. Fraser

A while back, the museum received an email from Mr. B. Peabody, of Minsterly, Shropshire, United Kingdom requesting information on a Miss Fraser, whom he believed was a teacher in Kimberley in the early 1930s.

Mr. Peabody had purchased a trunk at an auction near his home in the U.K., and in this trunk he had found a woman's photo album documenting two years of her life spent in Kimberley, BC and then the remainder in the Victoria, BC area.

A search through our Museum's archived local newspaper from that era DID, in fact, turn up references to teacher Miss Barbara Fraser.  The first mention of her is found on page 3 of the 5 February 1931 edition of the Kimberley Press announcing that Miss Fraser was training 3 school choirs "with a view to having them compete in the musical festival" to be held in Cranbrook.

This May (2012), Mr. Peabody kindly mailed the album to us here at the Kimberley Heritage Museum, having not been able to find any others to give the album.  How Barbara Fraser's photo album came to be in a trunk in the United Kingdom is still a mystery.

All we know of her is from a few references in the Kimberley Press, some articles in the Kimberley School's Grade 8 Annual, called "The Miner", and the photos in this album, ... the photo album of Miss Barbara H. Fraser.

Oh yes. I also found her listed as a "Normal Graduate" in the membership list from September 1930 issue of the newsletter of the British Columbia Teacher's Federation.

From the outside, the album is unremarkable except that it is in very good shape - aside from the usual mouldy smell.  This album style is typical of many made in the early 30s - brown leather with string binding so you could add more pages - but inside are snippets from an unknown life.

The photo album of Miss Barbara H. Fraser has arrived at the Museum.
Her photo album begins with a few postcards of her new community, Kimberley, BC where, we assume, she came to teach elementary school, and possibly boarded with Mrs. Parsons and her son, Joe.

West end of Platzl parking lot ca early 1930s

In the early 1930s, the Platzl parking lot was the site of a few houses.  The three houses in the foreground, one dark and two lighter-coloured, are near where the Visitor Info Centre is now.  Perhaps these houses were washed away in the Mark Creek flood of 1948!?  Across from these then across the railroad tracks - which used to run through the centre of town - are the 3 little houses on Spokane Street which are still there, the middle one being the current Snowdrift Cafe.

Miss Fraser liked to explore the local wilderness areas with friends.  Here they are at a cabin at the Kootenay King gold mine up the Wildhorse.


Here is Miss Fraser with her Grade 1 and 2 pupils in their class photo in front of Kimberley Public School, aka Central School, in the 1931-32 school year.

The next school year, it appears she taught the Grade 5s.  She also taught music and choir and entered her students in the second annual East Kootenay Musical Festival, in Cranbrook.

The Music Festival

From the "The Miner",
the 1931-1932 Kimberley Central School Grade VIII Annual

The second annual East Kootenay Musical Festival was held in the Cranbrook Auditorium, April 2, 22, and 23. The contestants of Grades VII and VIII who competed in  the piano solos and duets were: Velma Coulter, Dorothy Lloyd, Geva Bennet, Jennie Pearson and Elvira Norlund.

Archie Tait, Patricia Nesbitt, Billy Richardson and Peter Gallpen sang. Peter and Billy were successful in bringing home prizes.

Vivien Norton was the only one who tried in the violin solo.


Our only representatives in the Kimberley band are George Foster and Earnest Walker and Joe Parsons.

There were three choirs entered under the leadership of Miss Fraser, Grades I, II, and III, and VII and VIII, lost against Cranbrook. ...

Choir members from Grade VII were Irene Paquette, Ida Beauregard, Barbara MacKay, Bessie McLaren, Annie Johnson, Isabel Crowe, Evelyn Blayney, Helen Plant, Anna Williams, Jennie Pearson, Irene Boardman, Christina Orr, Betty Davis, Christina Miller, Eileen Thomson, and Jean Meadows. ...

In Kimberley we have a great pianist, Miss Fraser, who won the championship at Cranbrook, and received 93, the highest marks in the whole festival. She could not be criticized.  The school is fortunate to have such an artist in its midst.

She must have loved music herself, being an accomplished pianist. In fact, she won the Instrumental Soloist Cup.

Miss Fraser felt strongly about music education in schools and its benefits as she wrote in this article in the School Annual:

Music in School

also from "The Miner "

The Musical Festival has come and gone for another year and I am sure all those who took part in it are glad that they did so. This is the second year that our school has taken part in the festival. Judging by the enthusiasm that was shown by the pupils participating, there should be little difficulty next year in bringing home more honors to our school. The choirs are to be congratulated on doing as well, both this year and last.

While Kimberley seems to be a city chiefly of athletes, there are also those who can enjoy sportsmanship along an artistic line, and the school choirs and orchestra are for the pleasure of these people. It is to be hoped that with continued training and practice the Kimberley Schools will be known for efficiency in both art and sport.

Music is often considered an unnecessary part of children's education. Since the invention of the radio and "talkies", however, music is becoming more a part of our daily activities, just as much as reading and writing. It is only natural then that music should be taking its place in the studies of the child.  Many seem to think that music is being introduced at the expense of other subjects but it has been found that training in music has in many cases aided a pupil at his other studies. It is with this in mind that I hope the pupils of Kimberley Public School will have an opportunity to continue their work in music as they have done in the past two years.

By Barbara Fraser

The next chapter of her photo album begins after the photo of the Cup trophy.  It appears she moved to the Victoria, BC area.  The next few photos are of her with fellow choristers of 'The Cecilian Singers' in 1936 and 1937, and in the Victoria Ladies Choir.  Perhaps her love of music was part of her decision to move to a larger centre, or perhaps she wanted to be close to her parents; most of the remaining photos are of her and likely her parents and their friends on various junkets to Prince Rupert, Vancouver, and the Gulf Islands.

The last few photos may indicate she taught at the George Jay School in Victoria from the mid 1930s to some time in the 1940s.

George Jay School, Princess Ave., Victoria - from Miss Fraser's Album.

That school is still there, still used as a school, and the exterior looks much the same as it did in Miss Fraser's photos.

The last photo in her album shows people posing at the entrance to George Jay - the staff that she worked with from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s, perhaps?


If you have any information on teacher Miss Barbara H. Fraser, we would love to hear about it.

 Dianne Cooper, volunteer

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