I come from a family of keen amateur photographers. At any Tolson gathering, the camera was always present, someone capturing moments or at least threatening to. Then as a kid, I spent a lot of time perusing our stacks of photo albums and wondering about the lives of my immediate family and ancestors. My grandfather, Charlie Tolson, was born in Edinburgh in 1899. His father died of TB two weeks before he was born. He enlisted in WWI just a few months before the war ended, which I’m sure at the time was a disappointment to him. As a young man, he spent time in both England and on Salt Spring Island, BC before moving permanently to Canada. I sometimes wonder what he thought of our sprawling young country as he first stepped off the boat. And I can’t help but think that looking through all those photo albums developed later into a passion for photography….
Above: Grandpa (right) with his Uncle Will in England, presumably before or after a game of tennis. The tennis court, I’m guessing, was a great place to meet girls, because quite a few photos show my grandfather with racquet in hand and sporting a rakish grin.
Above: Picnic on Saltspring Island, BC in the early 1920s. Charlie is second from the right in the front row, creating a fine Tolson tradition of mugging for the camera – no doubt where I got it from because I could never keep a straight face, especially in the dreaded school photos. My grandmother is standing in the back wearing the white hat. Her father is below, wearing the skipper’s hat. Is he laughing at his son-in-law or wondering why his daughter ever married the guy.
Above: Grandpa in 1927 with a dead bear, probably on Vancouver Island. I have no doubt that he shot the bear himself, as he was an avid hunter, which was passed onto my father and brother, but stopped firmly at me. As a boy, I was not opposed to hunting from an ethical standpoint, but getting up at the crack of dawn and trudging through a dark and wet forest seemed about as unappealing as you could get.
Above: Grandpa enjoying the retired life visiting the in-laws in Santa Barbara, California. His brother-in-law was a famous Art Director in Hollywood, which Grandpa never seemed impressed with, but us kids found pretty glamorous. Below: Clowning around with the grand kids. This is the Grandpa Charlie that I remember, a man who possessed a fair amount of British reserve, but could still produce the correct facial expression when a kid tweaked his nose.