Vintage Posters, Illustrations and Artwork

16 January 2021

If you have been following our Instagram account you will have noticed quite a number of framed vintage posters recently coming across our site. My brother Tommy is a big fan of traditional Adirondack furniture and decor and of course with this in mind, vintage posters are very much aligned with that taste. Over the years, Tommy has acquired quite a formidable collection of this artwork mostly originating in the Art Deco period and he has recently passed some of his collection on to me for preserving in a classic style frame and adding to our Basswood Lake Outfitters store inventory.

During the Art Deco period which roughly covered the period around the First and Second World War, architects and artists in those days were highly influenced by the simple and literal interpretation of images and shapes. Norman Rockwell's illustrations and paintings became largely representative of the art form of the day prior to Modern Art taking on more abstract forms in the 60's and beyond. Vintage posters along with old buildings still preserved in towns and cities across North America, both invoke feelings of nostalgia for many people of simpler times before the impacts of advanced electronics and speedy travel.

My own love of vintage posters goes back to the days when I was a kid taking the long walk through the bush in Wharncliffe to the McEachern homestead up from the shores of what had become Tunnel Lake (formerly the Mississauga River before construction of the dam in the 1940/50's). As we have noted in other blogs, the McEachern homestead in Gould Township dates back to the very early 1900's when my Grandfather Jack McEachern and some of his siblings settled both north and south of the Mississauga River below War Eagle Rapids and commenced farming and prospecting in the area.
Trails End in Front of the Apple Tree - 1967

My Family at "Trails End" in Front of one of the Apple Trees - 1967

Trails End Standing on Back Porch - 1967

My Family at "Trails End" Standing on Back Porch - 1967

There is an impressive house in the forest that my Mother's Uncle Dave built in 1910 south of the River and about 400 metres up from the river's shore - really in the middle of nowhere. As a kid I recall the apple trees around the perimeter of the clearing, the hand operated well, the berry bushes and the homey feeling of the house which was then occupied by my Mom's Uncle Allan McEachern who had moved from Chicago with his wife Tracey in 1942 after Dave McEachern passed away.

Trails End 2010 (1)

"Trails End" 2010

Mom and Uncle Dave - Trails End

Margaret (Center), Dave McEachern (Left) at "Trails End" 1937

I remember the huge "stump" chopping clock in the kitchen selected from a tree which must have been close to a metre in diameter, the great wood cook stove and the fireplace in the living room. It really was a grand dwelling and it was hard for a kid to comprehend how it got there so far from any other houses in the dense forest. The story goes that Dave had met a beau and built the house to accommodate her civilized needs. He dragged all of the materials by horse sled over snow in the winter from the government road in Wharncliffe. It turns out that in the end, Uncle Dave got jilted and was left to forge a subsistence on his own by prospecting and trapping throughout Gould Township and beyond.

Wood Cook Stove (Left), Original Chopping Block(Center), Stone Fireplace (Right) Photos taken 2010

When she wasn't at Basswood Lake, my Mother, Margaret McEachern was a frequent visitor to "Trails End" (they called it) through the late 1930's and 40's when she was teaching school first at Dean Lake and then at Central Public School in Sudbury. She made great friends with "Aunt Tracey" and enjoyed outings to fish and hunt and of course later to sit down to Tracey's excellent cooking from that beautiful big stove.

Aunt Tracey and Mom at Trails end

Margaret McEarchern & Aunt Tracey enjoying lunch near Franklin Lake - 1940's

Mom and Aunt Tracey making maple syrup at Trails End April 5, 1945

Margaret McEachern & Uncle Alan boiling maple sugar - 1940's

Moggies Trails End - Copy

Margaret McEachern at "Trails End" 1940's

Swain Heritage - Mom and Uncle Dave at War Eagle Rapids

Margaret McEarchern & Uncle Dave at War Eagle Rapids, Mississauga River 1937

After my Dad met my Mom in 1947 (my Dad hung out with Mom's brother Ronny a WW2 Royal Canadian Navy buddy and they came home with the munchies one night after consuming some significant volume of libations) enjoying a 2 AM fried egg sandwich with a touch of Worchestershire Sauce (the secret ingredient) he was bound to be smitten. My Mom headed out the next day to "Trails End" and my Dad Bill Swain ended up a day later soliciting his buddy to jump on his motorcycle and head up to Wharncliffe to track her down. My Dad confided to me many years later that they found "Trails End" after many enquiries to locals and were informed by Aunt Tracey when they arrived that "Moggie" had taken a hike over to Franklin Lake a half mile away. My Dad told me that when he came up to the clearing at the remote lake and he saw my Mom sitting on the edge of a rowboat on the shore by herself with her feet dabbling in the water, he fell in love right there - "it was like a Norman Rockwell painting".

William James Swain after enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy - 1943

William Swain (my Dad) Photo taken after enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy - 1943

Margaret McEarchern hunting with her Uncle Alan in Gould Township - 1943

Margaret McEachern Hunting with her Uncle Alan in Gould Township - 1943

Well, getting back to vintage posters, again back when I was a kid in the late 50's and early 60's, the outhouse at "Trail's End" was a classic two-seater surrounded by well appointed 1940's posters tacked to the walls - must have been 7 or 8 of them. Some of them were a tad risque but more profoundly it was the feeling of awe you got when you visited the shrine, it was a truly memorable experience despite the nature of the destination. I remembered those posters and admired vintage illustrations ever since. Several years ago we made the trek into "Trails End" to search for memories and despite no markings along the way we followed overgrown trails back into the woods and instictively found the relic dwelling as we expected - in the middle of nowhere and standing in all its majesty.

Trails End 2010 (5)

"Trails End Outhouse - Photo Taken 2010

Trails End 2010 (7)

"Trails End Outhouse - Photo Taken 2010

The original 1910 building was still in surprisingly good shape although the newer summer kitchen addition was having some trouble staying aligned on its less reliable foundation. We noted the cookstove , apple trees, the chopping block , the hand operated well downhill on the edge of the clearing - virtually just as I had remembered them 50 years previously.

We trekked over to the outhouse and there they were - almost all of the vintage posters still were still intact on the walls and there was a healthy vine growing out of the well fertilized two-seater! We took some photos to capture the legacy and thought to ourselves that we hoped that no one would desecrate this memorable structure. Unfortunately, when we visited again several years later, the shrine had been vandalized and all of those precious heritage posters had been removed and stolen - so sad that they are probably now rolled up in someone's garage and put away never to be seen again.

Regardless, we did not lose our interest in vintage materials and the importance of saving them for their historic cultural values. As such we are happy now to have the opportunity to mount some of Tommy's prints in a barnwood style frame to offer to fellow residents and cottagers in Algoma.

The unique aspects of framing this artwork at Basswood Lake Outfitters is our use of recycled wood and glass as much as possible. We've used old local sawmill planks, barnwood boards, pallet wood, and discarded boards we've retrieved from landfill sites. We often use recycled wavy glass which is at least 100 years old extricated from old window sashes and storm windows which have also been retrieved from landfills - often in pieces.

Thanks for letting us share this story with you - we hope you enjoyed!