Friday, February 3, 2012

Scratching the Surface

Last week, after attending a press conference pertaining to the Maple Leaf Gardens time capsule, I immediately headed uptown from Ryerson University to the Toronto Reference Library. It was my intention to unravel the cloak of mystery surrounding the identity of M.B. Campbell. This name was found embedded on the box lid.

Three hours after arriving at the library, the full name and occupation of Campbell was established. The city directories for 1930 and 1931 identified the individual residing at 124 Lindsay Ave (the address inscribed on the lid) as being Milliard B. Campbell. Subsequent research revealed the proper spelling of his first name - Millard.

The directories also supplied information on Campbell's occupation. They record his working for Ewart Arner and Byam Ltd. (consulting engineers). He held the position of draftsman (1930 & 1931). The 1932 directory upgrades Campbell's job description to architect. The firm was located on 36 Toronto Street in the Excelsior Life Building.

My quest to expand Campbell's profile continued this week. Pouring over material at ancestry.com, I came across a birth record for Millard Bruels Campbell.


Millard Campbell was born February 2, 1909 in York County. His father being Angus Strathearn Campbell and his mother being Florence Rosetta Bruels.

The key to linking information from the city directory and ancestry.com was the address - 124 Lindsay Ave. Exploring the city directory turned up one Angus S. Campbell. As luck would have it, his address was 124 Lindsay Ave. He was employed with Eaton's as an electrician, the same type of work listed on the birth record.

As I didn't have a source to confirm these facts, I was hesitant to proceed. I would have to be happy with being the first to identify the individual whose name appeared on the lid along with his occupation. Although my follow-up information was correct, I couldn't be one-hundred percent sure.

On Wednesday, a local paper published a piece which confirmed the research I developed.

Of interest, they provided theories on Campbell's relationship to Maple Leaf Gardens. Young Campbell, after graduating from Central Tech in Toronto, worked in the Gardens. This job was apparently obtained as a result of a friendship between the Campbell and Smythe families.

City directories offer no information confirming his employment at Maple Leaf Gardens. From 1930 - the year previous to Toronto's new ice palace being constructed on Carlton Street - to 1932 his employer is Ewart Arner & Byam. This isn't to say he couldn't have held a second job at the Gardens.

Campbell's interest in working with metal and making boxes came from his grandfather.

With 80-years having passed since the time capsule was planted, we may never be able to answer all the questions about Campbell and his involvement with Maple Leaf Gardens. What was his job and duties while working for Conn Smythe? The time-line of his employment? Who requested him to build the copper box?

Only the surface has been scratched. Unfortunately, we may not have the tools to dig any further.

The mystery continues.

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