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"Canadian Lumberman" and the Gramophone Purchase

When I see an old portable gramophone, it generally brings to mind visions of endless summer days by the beach, and carefree young people cavorting barefoot in the sand to the saxophonic sounds of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra.

So I was somewhat taken aback when I was thumbing through the Nov. 15, 1923 issue of Canadian Lumberman magazine (Gosh, how the mail does pile up!) and I came across an advertisement which made me realize that all my associations about portable gramophones had been programmed in my mind by American ad-writers! It appears that the Canadian version of this fun-in-the-sun scene evokes a bit more of the grim reality of life in a nation of hewers of wood and drawers of water.

This full-page advertisement for the Victrola No. 50 touts the virtues of the portable gramophone as a means of enriching the dreary life of the logging-camps in the wilds of our northern forests in winter. The ad is, of course, aimed at the camp operators, promising that they'll "See discontent replaced with content, get a better day's work, [and] have a better morale all through the camp". (You'd almost think that present-day Muzac ad-writers had gotten their ideas about soothing the savage breast with music from reading Canadian Lumberman.)

Certainly there was not much hope of the individual logger being able to afford one at $62.50 at the then standard wage of $1.00 for a 12 to 14 hour day, although elsewhere in the issue it is stated that some camps in northern Quebec were having to pay wages as high as $45 to $50 per month. But even at that rate, a woodsman would soon use up two months pay to acquire a Victrola and a few Harry Lauder records to play on it.

It would be interesting to know how many Victrola 50's ever found their way by this route into northern lumber camps & if any survived the rough-and-tumble of camp life. I would venture to guess that most of the mainsprings would have broken the first winter due to the intense cold in those primitive camps. The advertisement was placed in the magazine by His Master's Voice Ltd. a subsidiary of the Berliner Gram-0-Phone Co. Ltd. of Montreal. This company, at 196-198 Adelaide St. W. in Toronto, was the sole Ontario distributor of H.M.V. products. As wholesalers to various retailers throughout the province, His Master's Voice Ltd. could not sell directly to the public. This is why there is no address given at the bottom of the ad. In this case, the wholesaler was simply drumming up business that would ultimately be done through retail dealers.

I have personally explored the remains of several of these old logging camps over the past few years but never have I come across any trace of gramophonic items. But who knows? I hear that there used to be one 172 miles west of Fort William on the Grand Trunk line somewhere near Sioux Lookout and...