Forty-five years ago, the Houston Public Library Association was incorporated as a public library under the Public Libraries Act. To make that incorporation official, a certificate of incorporation was issued by the Registrar of Companies in Victoria on January 28, 1965 and was dispatched via post along with a letter from R.L. Davison, Superintendent on February 4th.
There is no clear indication of what R.L. super-intended , though it is probably safe to assume it was the Public Library Commission, since it is on Public Library Commission letter head that the letter is neatly and perfectly typed on behalf of R.L. by mbs, whose initials follow R.L.’s in lower case – as illustrated - at the bottom of the page. (Remember when people actually had secretaries who typed their letters for them and added their lower-case initials at the end of the letters? Does that still happen?)
The certificate is printed on legal sized paper in black ink. It is numbered 79 and sports the large red seal of the office of the Registrar of Companies in the lower left-hand corner. Between the I Hereby Certify at the top and the Given at the bottom, a vast expanse of nothingness dominates the certificate. The certificate is obviously a generic form used by many departments of the government where master-typists fill in the blanks with awe-inspiring accuracy.
The letter is addressed to Mr. C.R. Matthews, Municipal Clerk, Houston, B.C. That is the actual address typed – again so amazingly perfectly – on both the letter and the envelope that it arrived in. Neither street nor box number appears anywhere, let alone a postal code. It cost the tax-payers forty-six cents to have the certificate delivered. And that was as Registered mail! There is a stamp with a large R above the mailing label with the number 7952 stamped within its borders – presumably to indicate that the letter was registered. But in case the average layman wasn’t certain about that, the word registered is also typed in red ink on the mailing label itself – presumably by the master-typist, mbs.
It took two days to get from Victoria to Houston. Two days! Imagine that. And with no box number, street address or postal code to guide it. Stamps on the back of the envelope track its progress from Victoria on February 4th to Prince George on February 5th and finally Houston on February 6th. Two days! That’s amazing. I am deeply impressed.
The reason I know so much about this certificate and the letter that accompanied it on it’s long journey from the provincial capital is because it is sitting on my desk next to my computer (with precious backspace and delete keys) in all of its original glory... Well, except for a few crinkles along the edges and a smidgeon of yellowing that is a natural result of aging in paper. I dare say that forty-five years is a fairly advanced age for these sorts of documents.
So why, you may ask, am I dithering on about this certificate and its accompanying letter? Well, because it probably hasn’t been seen since it was filed in the municipal office way back in 1965 when it was first received and duly acknowledged. The library has a faded mimeographed copy of the both of these documents and keeps them filed with the minutes from that time. But no one knew where the originals were or what had become of them.
Until last Tuesday, that is.
E, an employee of the District of Houston, stumbled across them while cleaning out some old files. L, also an employee of the District of Houston, called to see if I wanted them back. The rest, as they say, is history. Albeit, recent history.
Anyway, these long lost treasures have been found and are now in my charge. I will see to it the certificate is framed and prominently displayed. I will file the letter and the envelope safely away again – not because they are necessary or even important, but because they are interesting examples of clerical and postal efficiency from days gone by. (Two days!?)