The dictionary states that an autograph is something written with one’s own hand. A person’s handwritten signature written in or on something is unique and can be very valuable. Just watch the Antiques Road Show to see how important an original signature can be. That little, almost invisible squiggle on the corner of a painting for instance, can equate into thousands of dollars. And who knows when an autograph can morph from a simple signature into something priceless. Many a treasure hunter has spent years and fortunes searching for an authentic and rare signature. There seems to be an innate need for people to personalize or identify themselves by their signature. With the stroke of a pen one can be rocketed into the annals of history. Our Fathers Of Confederation make a good example. Or The Declaration of Independence. Treaties and laws. The cementing or dissolution of a marriage. The naming of a child. The signing of a Will or Bequest. Vital stuff all made possible by the signing of a name.
It doesn’t even matter what gets “autographed”. My grandson had a visit from Ronald MacDonald in his hospital room one time and he wrote his name on the window glass with marker! A doodle on a paper napkin, a note on a matchbook cover. Graffiti on rocks and buildings; crazy messages on bathroom stalls. Anything to make the statement— I was here. Many people are the proud possessors of signed sports memorabilia. Posters, hats, balls, bats and jerseys. A signed program from a play or ballet or political event adds enjoyment and fond memories.
I feel privileged to own a signed copy of “Shanghai Scarlet”, the fascinating book written by Margaret Blair, our neighbour. And how many casts on arms and legs have sported names and messages from sympathetic supporters? Some people make it a mission to collect autographs from a certain era or genre. The more important the person or bizarre the event, the more valuable the signature. No matter the reason, or medium used, autographs leave a lasting legacy.
A while ago I came across my mother’s old Autograph Book. It was given to her as an 11th birthday gift in 1928. Her teacher and many of her schoolmates at Ealing Public School in London, Ontario, wrote in this little book. Although every single person represented within is long gone, their autographs linger on for us to enjoy. I would like to share a few.
April 14th 1928:
-Beware of eyes of Brown. They’ll take a kiss and turn you down. Beware of eyes of Grey. They’ll take a kiss and turn away. Beware of eyes of Blue. They’ll take a kiss and ask for two.
-When the golden sun is setting and your mind to roam is free, and of other boys you’re thinking, won’t you sometimes think of ME.
-When you are old and cannot see, put on your specks and think of me.
-Love none, trust few , but always paddle your own canoe.
-My love for you shall always flow, like water down a potato row.
-It’s hard to lose a lover when your heart is full of hope, but it’s harder still to find the towel when your eyes are full of soap.
-When you’re standing by the garden gate, remember love is blind, but the neighbours ain’t.
– Down by the river, carved in a rock, are these three words, forget-me-not.
-When you are married and live in a shanty, teach your kids to call me “Aunty”.
-I thought and thought and thought in vain, until I thought I’d write my name.
-Little bits of moonlight, little hugs and kisses, makes little girls change their name to Mrs.
-When you stand before the tub, think of me before you scrub.
-The snowflakes fell so softly at our feet, covering the ground with a mantle of white. The moon was up, the forest was bathed in radiant shine, O wond’rous clime!
-Silence is the soil in which thought grows.
-When you are married and have twins, don’t come to me for safety pins.
-I wish you love, I wish you joy, I wish you first a baby boy. When his hair begins to curl, then I wish for you a baby girl.
-Remember me on the ocean, remember me on the lake, remember me on your wedding day and send me a piece of cake.
-Eskimos sleep in their bear skins, and sleep very well I am told. Last night I slept in my bare skin, and caught one heck of a cold.
-Y’s U R Y’s U B, I C U R 2 Y’s 4 me.
-In your chain of friendship consider me a link.
-Beefsteak when you’re hungry, whiskey when you’re dry, banknotes when you’re hard-up, heaven when you die.
-A boy stood on the burning deck, his head was in a whirl, his face was full of hair, his arms were full of girl.
-When the golden sun is setting, and your mind from care is free, when of others you are thinking, won’t you sometimes think of me.
-The lightning flashes, the thunder roars, and all the world was shaken. Two little pigs curled their tails, and ran to save their bacon.
-Twas moonlight on the back porch, their lips were tightly pressed, the old man gave the signal, and the bulldog did the rest.
-When twilight pulls the curtain back and pins it with a star, remember I am your friend, though I may roam afar.
-Flowers may wither, flowers may die, friends may forget you, but never will I.
My favorite autograph is from August 20, 1933, signed by Stanley Howard. He later became known as ‘The Blue Ridge Mountaineer’ and composed “Little Sweetheart of Kentucky” for radio station CFPL. His autograph reads:
-Though hills and dales may divide us, and your face I cannot see, remember Stanley Howard. Who wrote these lines for thee.