PEI

P.E.I. Then and Now contrasts photos past and present

A new book, Prince Edward Island Then and Now, looks at Island communities in 1947 from the air, including Tignish, Alberton, O'Leary, Kensington, Borden-Carleton and Montague.

'I call it a kinder, gentler time, and I love people to get a sense of history,' says author

Scott MacDonald had some aerial adventures taking photos for his new book, P.E.I. Then and Now. (Angela Walker/CBC)

A new book, Prince Edward Island Then and Now, looks at Island communities in 1947 from the air, including Tignish, Alberton, O'Leary, Kensington, Borden-Carleton and Montague. 

The book builds on the book Charlottetown Then and Now, published in 2014.

"My best friend Everett Runtz was cleaning out his father's house after his passing and found some eight by 10 black and white aerial shots of small communities on the Island, and he wondered if I'd be interested in them," said author Scott MacDonald.

Vic Runtz was the editorial cartoonist with P.E.I.'s Guardian from 1948 to 1958, said MacDonald, and he took and collected many photos. 

Buoyed by enthusiastic backing from his publisher at Nimbus, MacDonald took the photos to experts at P.E.I.'s public archives and UPEI's Robertson Library, who told him no one had seen them before. No one knows who took the photos.

Up, up and away

Then MacDonald had to embark on recording photos for the "now" part of the book.

The book will be officially launched in Charlottetown in two weeks. (Photo courtesy Nimbus Publishing)

"I had to get up in a plane, which I never did before, a private plane," laughed MacDonald, adding he knew he had to take the photos after the snow melted but before the trees came out in leaf, so they could clearly see properties — a task that took two weeks. 

The photos starkly contrast dramatic changes over the last 60 years in several communities.

The 1947 photo of Miscouche, for instance, shows empty fields where now there are neat rows of bungalows in major subdivisions. 

Emerald Junction, on the other hand, was a thriving railway community where now there is no railroad on P.E.I. at all.

'A lot of history'

"I put a lot of history with these to introduce when the roads were paved, when the telephone came, when the electricity came," said MacDonald. 

The book also details the history of banking on P.E.I. and lists movie theatres and drive-ins — research which MacDonald said took him more than a year. 

Fox pens, home-made harness racing tracks, piles of coal and steam engines are prominent in the vintage photos, notes MacDonald. 

"I call it a kinder, gentler time, and I love people to get a sense of history," said MacDonald.

The book will launch July 16 at 1 p.m. at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown and will be available at Island bookstores for $29.95.

MacDonald's next project is a book on 80 years of the Credit Union movement on P.E.I. 

With files from Angela Walker

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