A Prince Edward Island Album: Glimpses of the Way We Were


ISBN 0-88882-095-X





Reviewed by Richard Wilbur

Randall White is the author of Voice of Region: On the Long Journey to
Senate Reform in Canada, Too Good to Be True: Toronto in the 1920s, and
Global Spin: Probing the Globalization Debate.


Nostalgia is a marketable commodity these days, and what better approach than a provincial photo album? Julie Watson’s Glimpses of the Way We Were in Prince Edward Island is much more than a collection of well-produced photographs, some of them dating back to the first of this century. She has done her homework. Almost every photograph is supported either by a short biographical or historical essay. Furthermore, she has identified the majority of the people in these photographs, which should delight present-day Islanders and those who were raised there and went across the Strait and “down the road.”

For example, a skilful early photographer has captured the final years of the Island’s wooden ship-building era and author Watson has identified one of the last of the great builders, J.A. MacDonald, standing in the nibs of the Victory Chimes as it took shape in 1918.

Thousands of Maritimers and Island visitors will remember the ice-breaking ferry Prince Edward Island which plied faithfully between Borden and Cape Tormentine from 1917 until the 1960s. Others will recognize Carl F. Burke, founder of Maritime Central Airways, whose rescue missions made him a living legend.

Some are bound to complain about the inevitable gaps in this collection. Why no pictures, nor even a mention, of two Island trademarks — the potato and the Malpeque Bay oyster? Why so many shots of the Charlottetown area and almost none from Summerside and Georgetown? The most probable explanation is the availability of photos.

Clearly the two most important sources were the Charlottetown Camera Club and a collection from Alberton. It should be noted as well that both back in 1900 and today urbanites were more likely to have cameras than their rural neighbours. This emphasis is apparent in this well-organized and crisply-produced collection.

Prince Edward Island is a tiny community and readers will almost certainly agree with the foreword comments of Dr. J.A. Doiron, current Lieutenant-Governor: “This is not simply a picture book, but rather a source of early Island history with a sprinkling of nostalgia…. We can truly look back with pride on the way we were and applaud Julie Watson for her excellent contribution to our Island heritage.”



Watson, Julie V., “A Prince Edward Island Album: Glimpses of the Way We Were,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34429.