Technology helps unlock photo album mystery

Victoria woman key to solving hotel’s 30-year conundrum

As Scott Hoadley

As Scott Hoadley

A photo album that has remained shrouded in mystery in Victoria for 30 years might be just an e-mail away from being returned to its rightful owner.

The well-thumbed book, full of black-and-white and sepia pictures of smiling families and friends, has sat in a locked office at the Inn at Laurel Point, left behind by a guest.

Initially, it was lack of technology that prevented staff from tracking down the album’s owner. Today, technology has allowed Melanie Arscott and Diana Gaiger of the Victoria Genealogical Society to identify a woman who appears in some of the photos.

“It was a guessing game,” said Arscott, society president, who was thrilled to match one of the names in the photo album to a woman living in Fairfield.

“She is a sleuth,” Molly Whitelaw Reid, 84, said of Arscott’s ability to track her down, a crucial step in identifying the book’s owner, whom she believes is a friend of her father.

“I think the family would be very pleased,” she said. “When you get old enough, you want to know what your roots are.”

When Arscott telephoned Whitelaw Reid three weeks ago to confirm her identity, the mystery of the book began to unravel. More details unfolded Friday when Whitelaw Reid arrived for tea at the Inn, where she poured over the keepsake album.

In one of the album’s pictures, Whitelaw Reid stands smiling as a teenager wearing a skirt she remembers vividly.

“It’s a significant picture of what the puzzle looks like,” said Scott Hoadley, hotel manager. “The mystery is getting closer to being solved.”

Once word spread publicly earlier this year about the album’s existence, Arscott contacted the Inn to volunteer her expertise.

Now, thanks to Whitelaw Reid, they know the photos depict the Starks. Her father and Jimmy Stark were both Scottish immigrants who worked in eastern Canada as civil engineers for the former Grand Trunk Railway.

It’s believed the album, featuring snapshots from the 1910s to 1940s, belongs to Jimmy’s older brother, David. Arscott has already been hard at work attempting to contact the grandchildren of Thomas Stark, Jimmy and David’s brother, whom she believes are the surviving heirs.

“I’m waiting for e-mails back,” Arscott said smiling. “I wish my family was that easy to track down.”

emcracken@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read