Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Old Boys' Book Collectors Part Nine

Peard Sutherland (1902-1954)

I first came across the name Peard (rhymes with ‘beard’) Sutherland, journalist, newspaper cartoonist, poet, and collector, when I was researching the Old Boys’ Book Collector’s series of posts back in Feb/Mar 2009. I had come across an article in Herbert Leckenby’s Collectors’ Digest, Vol. 8, No. 92, August, 1954, From the Editor’s Chair, The Death of Peard Sutherland.

The letter reporting the passing of Vancouver, B. C. story paper collector Peard Sutherland was sent by Bill Gander. I had heard of Bill Gander, publisher of The Story Paper Collector in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but Peard Sutherland was an unknown, even to today’s story paper collectors. The article mentioned a wife and two children, and I managed to find and contact Rill and Glinda Sutherland, Peard’s two daughters, who were happy to aid me in adding his biography to this Old Boys’ Book Collector’s series.

Let me quote from a long article from the Vancouver Sun’s Sunday Magazine of 6 May, 1950, titled How to Stay Young, which referred to Sutherland as “Vancouver’s Mr. Hobby.” The article was penned by Peard’s good friend Clyde Gilmour, a newsman, critic, and broadcaster, famous for his long-running, record-breaking, CBC radio show Gilmour’s Albums.

“Peard Sutherland was born 29 Mar 1902, in Durham, Ontario, a second-generation Canadian of Scottish-Irish descent. His mother was a professional pianist, and his father was an all around showman who at one time was a clown in the Ringling Brothers Circus. As a stage trouper, Sutherland Pere also trod the boards in everything from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to Shakespeare.”

Peard’s unusual Christian name was chosen from his fathers Irish friend, William Peard. The family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Peard spent his elementary years. He was passionate about books, especially the Oz books of L. Frank Baum, and had a keen interest in illustration and cartooning. His first cartoon was published 29 Mar 1908 in a Winnipeg newspaper, when he was just six years old, and featured Frederick Burr Opper’s Happy Hooligan. The introduction to the lure of printer’s ink would shape his whole life.

“I did a song and dance act when I was six years old,” said Peard, “It was probably awful but kids have always been able to get away with murder on the stage.”

In 1916 the family moved on to Toronto, where Peard, still a teenager, began drawing political cartoons for the Toronto Star. On Saturday’s he worked in the art department of T. Eaton’s Toronto store. In 1918 he contributed to United Briefs and war cartoons to the Canadian Courier newspaper. When his parents separated Peard and his mother moved to the United States, where he worked as a sports-writer and editorial cartoonist for newspapers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Wheeling, West Virginia; and Chicago, Illinois. His father moved on to Chicago and died there sometime in the twenties.

“I even had a whirl at fiction writing during my newspaper days,” he told Gilmore, “Sold about half a dozen stories, none of which has ever appeared in anthologies of the world’s literature. I figured I’d better drop it unless there was a real chance that I could become a big leaguer -- so I dropped it.”

From Chicago they relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Peard Sutherland lived for the rest of his life. In Vancouver Peard took employment on the Vancouver News Herald as a journalist. In 1928 he became an employee of the British Columbia Telephone Company, where he became assistant public relations manager in the forties. He was also Chairman of the Advertising and Sales Bureau of Vancouver, B.C. He edited the house magazine Telephone Talk and contributed poetry to The (Winnipeg) National Home Monthly magazine, both in the thirties.

Peard met Dorothy Maud Parker, who was born in Vancouver in 1912, at White Rock, B. C., in 1928 or 1929. He first saw her at an outdoor campfire put on by a youth group. She was reading a book. Naturally Peard was atttracted and in 1933 they were married.

He contributed poetry to The Poet, including one titled Cheerio!, in 1930. In 1945 he contributed a sweet rhythmic poem, Prelude, to Tick Tock No. 3, a publication of the National Amateur Press Association from Seattle, Washington. He served on the Vancouver Aquarium Board and in 1950 was Vice President of the Vancouver Tourist Bureau. In 1954 he was on the planning committee for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

The Sutherland library contained a notable collection of English and French literature, philosophy, poetry, nature, mythology and art history. He had a notable collection of juvenile fiction featuring a complete set of the Oz books and Henty’s historical boys fiction. He had a special love of British story papers and annuals that were his passion as a boy. “Some of the best things ever written, when viewed in proper focus, were written for children,” he said. The prize of his collection was the complete volumes of Chums dating back to 1899 (Chums folded about 1940), and priceless copies of the The Scout (Baden-Powell’s story paper) and The Boy’s Own annuals.

In story papers Peard concentrated on The Gem, featuring Tom Merry, junior skipper of St. Jim’s and The Magnet, with the famous Billy Bunter. He kept a running correspondence with story paper collector’s around the world and referred to himself proudly as the only British Columbian member of the London Old Boys’ Book Club. His all-time favorite book was “The Wizard of Oz.” He owned a complete set of the Oz books owned jointly with twelve year old Rill. They knew them by heart. “As a child,” Rill wrote me, “I remember more about Billy Bunter, Tom Merry, The Ten Pirates, and Jack O'Lantern than Andersen or Grimm.”

Peard’s collecting did not stop at literature, boys’ books, cartoons and illustration. He also collected baseball data dating back to 1912. His phonograph collection featured his favorite singer, Al Jolson, and Bing Crosby, John McCormack, Chauncey Olcott, and Harry Lauder. Clyde Gilmour again: “His casual chitchat is sprinkled with brief impromptu mimicries of Al Jolson, the late Harry Lauder and other luminaries, and if you ask him for the words of a song he is likely to sing them instead of just say them.”

Many nights, while the family sat around the dinner table, supper done, Peard would read aloud from a volume of poetry by Burns, Shelley, Keats, or Coleridge. At some point during the recital, to make them laugh, he would make a hat out of a linen napkin and put it on his head, then hide his face with it. Every Sunday he would enter the den, shut the door, and type poetry and correspondence all day long. He loved his own birthday and told everyone for the fun of getting all the birthday greetings.

Peard Sutherland’s favorite holiday was Christmas and he was designing his own Christmas cards before he was married. These cards also served as a family record. Toto, a Scottish Terrier, featured in many of them. Toto passed away in 1949. Toto was part of the Sutherland Clan before I came along,” Rill recalled, “Apparently, he was a great guardian of the wee babe in the buggy. He tolerated ‘strangers in the glen’ but I can remember he was banished to the basement a few times over the years. He was definitely father's dog but I always loved him. When Toto died, father really mourned his loss.”

Rill’s arrival was noted in the Christmas cards. Her unusual name was taken from the river Rill, which ran by St. Jim's Boys' School in the fictional Tom Merry stories in The Gem. Peard also collected books by Scottish authors (Burns, Scott, Stevenson,) and Rill’s name also reflected Sir Walter Scott's poem Lady Of The Lake: “The stag at eve had drunk his fill, where danced the moon on Monan’s rill.”

Rill had a nickname from the Oz books as well: Princess Ozma. Next Glinda’s arrival was heralded in the cards. She was named after the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, which had been Peard’s first beloved childhood book. The cards show mother, father, and the two charming sisters’ love of theatrics and make-believe.

After Peard’s death, from arteriosclerosis, on June 11, 1954, Dorothy, Rill, and Glinda Sutherland moved from Point Grey to Kitsilano, where Dorothy Sutherland built an apartment building, The Sutherland, in 1956. She managed the Sutherland until 1995 and passed away in 2004. Most of the story papers, the Gem’s, and the Magnet’s, were donated to the St. George’s School for boys. Some of the original art went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. The baseball items were given to a fellow named Bert, a delivery driver for Nelson’s Laundry, who had shared Peard’s passion for the sport. Peard never missed a World Series.

It has been a pleasure, I’m sure you will agree, making the acquaintance of the Sutherlands. Peard Sutherland’s remarkable life would have been undeservedly forgotten but for a chance encounter with his name in back numbers of the old Collectors’ Digest and the wholehearted co-operation of his daughters, Rill and Glinda Sutherland. His last Christmas card featured a quote, in his own handwriting, from his own composition, Cheerio!


(last verse)

So, through my parting word, I would make known

That, though the night descends, with me all’s well.

And thus my wish: to frame in that terse speech

A glad soul’s merry hail and fond farewell.

One word expresses it.

Be it my last, ere from this life I go.

World, hear my valedictory -- Cheerio!

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