Harold Monks’ photography collection

Harold Monks (1892-1974), my grandfather, sailed from industrial England in Spring 1914 to join cousins “ranching” on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. After a few years clearing land building a shack, Harold went to War. Harold returned to the Coast, where he spent the next 50 years of his life on or near the waters of Clayoquot Sound. Harold took photos of all his experiences since 1914 and kept these in carefully organized negative envelopes and photo albums (He also kept his two early 1900s portable Kodak cameras!) This feature will look explore Harold’s collection and illustrate different aspects of his early life.

The Autographic Kodak Jr.

Harold used a portable Kodak camera, made by the Canadian Kodak Co. Ltd. The Autographic Kodak is first mentioned in the Victoria Daily Colonist in December 1914. The No. 1 A, which took pictures 2 ½ x 4 ¼ inches, cost $17.50.

The Autographic Kodak had a stylus to write dates and names directly onto the negative. Harold occasionally used this feature, as in this example below of “Harry and Jerry”.

West Coast Photos 1914-1916

In late Spring 1914, Harold joined his “Canadian cousins”, the Hilton/Hopkins families, on Vargas Island near Tofino BC. At this point, Vargas Island was home to many self-styled “ranchers”, hoping to clear land and become self-sufficient. Harold arrived in time for a summer of picnics at the beach and boating in the coastal waters.

He took out a “pre-emption of land” and built a shack, but like most young guys on Vargas, had to find work off the Island. Harold went to fish for the Clayoquot Sound Canning Company at Kennfalls, Tofino Inlet. “Brewster’s Cannery” was owned by businessman Harlan Carey Brewster, whose family and friend came to spend summers at the manager’s cottage. Harold spent August 1916 with the Brewsters, including Ray, a dental student in Victoria.

War Photos

In April 1917 Harold enlisted with an artillery draft from Victoria that included Ray Brewster from the cannery. Ray was an active (and talented) photographer, and many of his snapshots appear in Harold’s album. The boys seemed to have had lots of fun while they trained at Camp Petawawa.

Harold took a Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic camera with him to war. The Vest Pocket Kodak was produced 1915 onwards and was called the “Soldiers Camera” (very popular with Amercian doughboys in WWI). The size when folded was much like a modern day compact digital camera. (In fact, it was kept in this film box)

On October 23 1917 (Harold’s 25th birthday), he was sailing from Halifax to Liverpool. Harold continued his training (as a signaller) at the Canadian School of Gunnery, Witley Camp, Surrey. There are several snapshots in Harold’s album of the “Victoria gents” (as he wrote on the back of one picture).

Harold went on active service to France in April 1918. He was with the Canadians in the Battle of Amiens pushing onward through the final 100 days. On November 6 1918, just outside Rombies-et-Marchipont, Harold’s friend Signaller Ross McCannel was repairing a break in a signal line when a 4.1 shell exploded directly behind him. He died of wounds. On November 7 1918, the 3rd Brigade went into Canadian Corps reserve and prepared to move back into the Valenciennes area. They were out of danger now. Ross McCannel would have been buried in a makeshift grave, and Harold would have attended the burial. Here’s a snapshot of Ross McCannel’s grave marker at the Valenciennes Cemetery.

Another of Harold’s friends is buried at Valenciennes (St Roch) Cemetery. On November 1 1918, Gunner Ray Brewster of the Kennfalls Cannery’s gun battery received a direct hit. On November 10 1918, the square of Valenciennes was the scene of a celebration on the entry of President Poincare. The next day, at 0900 hours the order came in to “cease firing” at 1100 hours, at which time the armistice went into effect. The War Diary reported: “There was very little outward celebration in Valenciennes but there was much quiet thankfulness.”

From November 1918 to March 1919, Harold was stationed in Wavre, Belgium, where he stayed in billets with local families. This is a faded snapshot, printed on a thin quality of paper, with the caption “Last Billet, Limal”

Last Billet, Limal, 1919. Harold Monks snapshot

West Coast Photos 1919 onwards

Harold was demobbed and returned to Vancouver Island by July 1919, Harold returned from war to Vancouver Island in July 1919 and re-united with his cousins, the Hilton/Hopkins family of Vargas Island, now living in Saanich BC.

Harold returned to the West Coast for the fall fishing season at the cannery, then spent the winter months in Saanich with his cousins, and former Vargas neighbours, Jerry Lane and Harry Harris, also returned from overseas.

In February 1920, Harold was hired as winter crew on the Tofino Lifeboat (Clayoquot Lifesaving Service) and left for the West Coast. Harold’s photographs now focus on his life in Tofino, where he remained, working as lifeboat crew in winters, fishing for the cannery in the summers, and attending “picnics etc” at “Long Beach etc”.

The negative book above has a subject “Annie H. etc” referring to the seine boat “Annie H” (skipper John Eik) that fished for the Clayoquot Sound Canning Company. Harold was crew on “Annie H” through the 1920s. See a gallery of Harold’s fishing photos in “Harold Monks’ Kennfalls Cannery Snapshots”

Harold kept his snapshots in a photo album with black pages and black “photo corners” and wrote often cryptic captions in white pencil (his use of initials has proved somewhat exasperating for researchers!). Harold was precise with an attention to detail, as seen in these page layouts.

This panoramic view of Clayoquot Sound shows Tofino’s new power lifeboat on which Harold was crew from 1920-1956.

Artistic layout of snaps from 1921 – Harold Monks and Kal Oberg play “quoits” on the Princess Maquinna, sailing from Tofino to Victoria. Note the very stylish outfits — a far cry from their regular fishermen gear!

Getting film developed in Victoria

Unlike some amateur photographers (see my story on Prairie Photographer Raye Thompson), Harold did not do his own film developing and printing. Instead, he sent film via the coastal steamship (“Tees” and “Maquinna”) which sailed Tofino to Victoria every week to ten days.

Harold’s snapshot of the Princess Maquinna in Tofino circa 1920

Harold kept a film envelope showing that he had some film rolls developed in the photographic department of The Victoria Book and Stationery Co. in Victoria. The cost was 94 cents! Roll films had 6 exposures, so it looks like he may have had 3 rolls developed and printed for 90 cents plus 4 cents tax or postage.

Negatives developed, printed, digitized

Harold kept most of his original negatives, and many were re-digitized in 2008-09. Other negatives were discovered in 2021. Some could be linked to captioned photos in Harold’s album.

Here is an example of a picnic at the Kennedy Lake Cannery in 1921, a sepia print and a digitized image from the original negative.

Here is an example of a negative and one of the digitized images

Here is a “ghostly” unprinted or digitized negative of a family in a canoe. There are many more mysterious images waiting to be “developed” by digital means.

Canoe at Ladysmith, original negative from early 1920s. Photo by Harold Monks

Travel Snapshots

Finally —- After ten years of working and saving money, Harold returned to England in December 1928 for his cousin’s 21st birthday. He spent a few months in “the Old Country” and returned in spring 1929 via the Panama Canal. Harold’s snapshots have neatly written detailed descriptions.

After he returned to Tofino, Harold continued fishing for the cannery for a couple more years until the Depression intervened and saw the price of canned salmon go so low the cannery could not afford to stay open. Harold continued to have regular winter work with the Canadian Life Saving Service, leading to more permanent year-round work until retirement in 1956.

In 1934, Harold bought the Tofino Imperial Oil Marine Gas Station and attached property on Grice Point, including a fully furnished house. Now Harold was a “man of property” with more secure employment, he got married and raised a family. There are several more photo albums containing snapshots of the family from the 1930s through the 1950s. Harold’s son, Harold Frank Monks (1937-2008) took up the photo bug, and created his own photo albums. Here’s a selection of young Harold’s snapshots: including “A picture taken of me by me” and “our livestock” (bunnies) taken with “my homemade enlarger.”

Here is the link to the gallery of Harold Monks’ Kennfalls Cannery snapshots.