Some Early Memories
by Don Barnett
(Originally published in the CSMMI 40th Anniversary Convention Program, July 2005)
In this year of 2005, we celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of the CSMMI. On March 21st, 1965 the inaugural meeting was held with eighteen interested collectors getting together at a small restaurant known as Barney’s in Milton, Ontario.
The aim of this new society was to promote and foster a general interest in the collecting and study of decorations, medals, badges and other military insignia, and to publish and share such information, which objectives have been met successfully over the years since then.
Mainly due to very cramped quarters at Barney’s, we decided to locate elsewhere, so during the following year larger premises at the ORANGE HALL in Carlisle became available and this building became our ‘home base’ for the next six years. Here, we arranged meetings each month, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with an average attendance of thirty members being present.
Each meeting produced displays of medals, badges and helmet plates, along with other militaria, and prizes were awarded for the best displays. Several Mail and Floor bid auctions were held and guest speakers were asked to give talks on various periods of military history. Medals at these auctions sold from $1.00 each for WW1 British War Medals, a silver regimental medal of the 13th Foot went for $2.00, a Queens South Africa with five bars to a Pte. of the Welsh Regt. brought $10.00 and an Egypt Medal (1882-89) with bar SUAKIN 1885) reached $13.50. Various badges sold from $1.00 to $6.00 each.
We started a two-sided Newsletter which was sent out to all our members. Postage costs in those days amounted to $.05 for a first class letter and our mailing cost totalled $2.50 per issue. Yearly membership fees were set at $3.00 and going into 1966 we had forty six members and a credit bank balance of just over $53.00.
Many members travelled overseas in order to locate and purchase military memorabilia, but all reported the available supply in England to be scarce and very expensive. In 1967 (Canada’s Centennial Year), one member returned from shopping in the ‘old country’ with a handful of George Medals and informed us that these were the only items he could obtain. he offered them at $65.00 each, but had no takers as members considered them too expensive and in addition not one medal was named to a military person, all being to civilians. Another of our older members journeyed out West during the summer and came back with two superb Indian Peace Medals which he had found in a pawnshop located somewhere out Saskatchewan way. He was a badge and helmet plate collector, although he did acquire the odd medal every now and then, but he wouldn’t tell us the location of his recent find in case we all charged out there to ick up more treasures. (We just never knew what treasures would show up at the show).
This little item had nothing to do with our collecting hobbies, but an article by columnist Bob Ward entitled “SLIPS THAT PASS IN THE TYPE” and published in a copy of U.E. News illustrated a facet of our regular Sunday meeting in 1979 that we had never thought possible.:
“Try as we might, read and reread as we do, proof and over proof as we will, typographical errors keep rearing their ugly little heads in editions of the paper. These gremlins are known in print shop circles as slips that pass in the type, the law of the bungle, or typographical terrors.
Possibly the only saving grace at all is that the capacity to err is a by-product of the written word. The juxtaposition of a couple of letters drives readers into stitches and editors up a wall. That wrong letter in the wrong place and your team that “Thirty–tight members attended the meeting that was hell at the Orange Halt last Sinday.”
At the beginning of 1973, we moved our monthly meetings to the Burlington Mall Auditorium and this venue proved quite successful, although on two occasions lighting difficulties were experienced in the windowless location. One happened to be in August 1974 when all lighting completely malfunctioned, so with the aid of matches we were able to see and move the bourse tables and members on to a nearby roof top and thus had our one and only outdoor meeting.
Monthly Newsletters, latter reduced to eight yearly, were produced up until 1982, in addition to four Journals per year. In 1989, both Newsletters and Journals were incorporated into one publication and issued on a quarterly basis.
Towards the end of 1989, membership in the Society totaled just under 600, with up to 400 active members in Southern Ontario, others scattered across Canada, the United States and Overseas. Joint Meetings with various Canadian Military Historical Societies were arranged, also with the Chicago Chapter of the Midwestern Orders & Medal Society (MIDOMS). Several of our members travelled to Chicago on at least two occasions, to Windsor three times and one meeting was held in Burlington with the group from MIDOMS. We greatly enjoyed those get togethers with fellow collectors whom we did not see too often, and we could admire the magnificent displays that were shown on those occasions. Our first two day show (Collectors Exhibition and Bourse) was held on May 26th-27th, 1973 at the Scottish Rite Club in Hamilton. It was such a success that we did a repeat at he same location (larger quarters) the following year.
The tradition of a 2 or 3 day show has been carried on at various locations since then (Toronto, Niagara Falls, Burlington, Waterloo, St. Catharines). This Convention Show and Sale provides an Annual General Meeting, a banquet, seminars, auction, a large bourse and affords the membership the opportunity to display and provides a venue for the membership to meet and/or renew friendships with the members that can only attend the annual shows.
In 1979, we moved the monthly meetings to a section of the Halton Hall at the Burlington Holiday Inn and eight years later moved again, this time to the Polish Community National Hall on Fairview Street in Burlington, where we still meet on the second Sunday of each month. The meetings are active and one just never knows what gem will show up for sale/trade or identification.
Over the years, the publishing of all aspects of militaria information by means of our Newsletters and Journals has been outstanding and credit must be due to those members who have supplied this information to our various hardworking editors. Please keep up the good work.
Mr. Donald Barnett (1921-2013) was the co-founder of the Canadian Society of Military Medals and Insignia along with the late Harvey Mitchell. Over the years Don has served the society as President, Secretary/Treasurer, and Editor. The membership thanks Don for sharing his memories of the early days of the club and hopes the delegates will enjoy this article.
Editor’s Note: Since this article was written in 2005, the CSMMI has once again relocated its monthly meetings and shows to the Burlington Seniors Centre in Burlington, Ontario where it continues to this day. For more information on the monthly shows and schedule of dates, please see the Shows page.