Category Archives: Marion

Bears of WWI and Winnie-the-Pooh

Margaret and Bear

For over a year now Alexa and I have been sorting and ‘cataloguing’ the photographs, slides, glass negatives and lantern slides in this collection (we have 100’s) and one of the pictures that intrigued us was this one. The caption is ‘Margaret and Baloo, the bear.’  Margaret was a friend of Marion and Alexine’s  who went to France with them and served as a first aid worker with the Red Cross. I thought perhaps bear cubs during WWI were plentiful as there were many forests in France and perhaps the cub’s mothers were being killed. My research, however, did not support my theory.

However, I did come across something very interesting (at least to me; I have a great affection for children’s literature). In August, 1914, a train carrying Canadian troops was making it’s way from Manitoba to Ontario. Stopping at one of the stations, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn photo-2paid $20 to a hunter for a female bear cub that the Lieutenant named Winnie (for his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba). When Colebourn was being sent over to France to fight in December 1914, he left the bear at the London Zoo for safe-keeping. A.A. Milne took his young son, Christopher Robin, to the zoo and the bear and Christopher became good friends. There is a picture of the young boy actually in the enclosure feeding the bear. In 1924, A.A. Milne decided to put his son’s childhood ‘friends’ and stuffed animals into print with his first book and the Bear of Very Little Brain was introduced. His son had named the bear Winnie-the-Pooh after his friend at the zoo and a swan that he knew named Pooh. The real bear, Winnie, stayed at the London Zoo until she died in 1934. Lieutenant Colebourn did come back for her, but when he saw how popular she was with everyone, he decided to leave her there. We only have this one picture of Baloo, the bear, and the bear is not mentioned in Marion’s journal, so who knows the story behind this. What we do know is that Marion admired Rudyard Kipling so she was probably the one to name the bear and take the picture.  Posted by Vicki Rondeau

Three + Two = Lantern slides

It took nearly fifty years, the invention of the Internet and social media plus three Alex’s and two librarians for the most surprising event to occur.

As a result, I am in the possession of hundreds of lantern slides along with the projector that belonged to my great grandmother Lily Von Schmidt Mitchell Tilden.

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It is a complicated story and we are just now filling in the blanks. It started shortly after we rebooted this blog. I got a note through the contact form that said:

I believe my boyfriend and I have a journal written by your grandmother, Alexine Michell, during World War I with a set of glass lantern slides from the same time. There are also glass slides from a trip around the world that Alexine took, perhaps in the early 1920’s. We’d love to share these items with you.

This is the kind of serendipity genealogists and social historians dream of.

Jackie, who wrote this note, is a librarian. Vicki, my partner in crime, is a retired librarian. Thus the two librarians.

Jackie’s boyfriend is named Alex. I am Alexa and my grandmother was Alexine. Thus the three Alex’s.

Norma, Alex’s mother, bought these slides at auction in the sixties. Alex enjoyed looking at them growing up. Fifteen or twenty years ago they showed them to Jackie. She kept them in mind, determined to help the collection find their way back to the family of origin. Then on Sunday, two weeks ago, Jackie searches again for Alexine Mitchell and finds this site.

Norma writes:

Alex told you about my finding the slides/journal at an auction preview. I was struck with the conviction that I had to have the lot. We bid on it and since there were very few [none?] other bids, we won the lot. I did not know anything about the contents or the names or why this happened to me. This must have been @50 years ago. I have never understood what this matter was about.

Over the years my husband and I talked about donating everything to a local museum or historical society but I could never decide to actually do it. Just had to keep all. This has never happened to me before and has never happened since.

Now the mystery is resolved and I have closure and a peace about it. Alexine and Marion and the family are going home. I am sooo happy that you want them.

When my great-aunt Marion died in 1966, she left me the family photo albums and diaries. Apparently, some of the household items were auctioned off when the Tilden family home was sold.

It has taken nearly 50 years but the lantern slides, some from the Great War, and others from round the world trips taken by the family in the 1920s are back with the rest of the family archive.

The projector works. The slides need to be catalogued and digitized. It will take some time. As we make discoveries we will share them here.

Next year, as we build interest in Marion’s book, we hope to do slide shows using the old projector and the original lantern slides.

As I told Alex when he gave me the slides, I feel like I have found lost family. We will be forever grateful to Norma, her husband Leonard Gilbert, MD, Anthony, Alex and Jackie for their tenacity, perseverance, and generosity. Thank you!

Happy Veteran’s Day

11-11-18-WWI-039“Paris was alive! The entire city seemed to be fluttering with millions of flags.  Every vehicle of every sort was bedecked with the Allied colors.  As far down side streets as one could see was a billowing sea of flags flung to the breeze from every housetop, pole, and window.  Bunting was festooned from every lamppost.  Everyone had red, white and blue ribbons or flowers.  In front of the Gare de Lyon two French officers bumped into each other.  They turned to apologize, there was a shout of recognition and they fell into each other’s arms and embraced on either cheek, French fashion, no less than six times! ”

(Chapter 31, November 11, 1918, Marion Mitchell)