Retro cards in archives remind us of holiday seasons past

By Costa Maragos Posted: December 21, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Robert Thomas with some of the vintage greeting cards from the private correspondence of Dr. John Archer, the U of R’s first president.
Robert Thomas with some of the vintage greeting cards from the private correspondence of Dr. John Archer, the U of R’s first president. Photo by Trevor Hopkin - U of R Photography.

Call this a holiday season surprise.

Robert Thomas was doing research at the U of R archives when he came across some file folders filled with vintage greeting cards.

The cards are included in the personal correspondence of Dr. John Archer, the first president of the University of Regina, appointed in 1974.
The cards in Archer’s collection are more than 45 years old. One glance at the cards and you’re taken back to a time when people habitually sent and received a lot of Christmas cards.  

“I was doing historical research in the university archives on Dr. Archer’s connection to the Saskatchewan Library Association. He was president of the organization from 1957 to 1958 and I came across these Christmas cards among his correspondence,” says Thomas who is Liason Librarian for social sciences at the Dr. John Archer Library.

“Many of the themes on the cards are timeless. Trees, bells, angels, winter scenes and so forth and yet the way that these themes were presented is very specific to the 1960’s-70’s period especially in terms of colouring and presentation of characters,” says Thomas. “Some of my favourites are the ones of the colourful golden bells, Santa skiing and the Australian Christmas Koala Bear.”

Other themes include candy canes, snow creatures, an outdoor hockey scene, and of course religious themes.

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The collection also features:

  • A card with a Canada geese illustration from Flora MacDonald, a long time and popular Conservative MP from Ontario.
  • A simple winter scene courtesy of Jean Oser, an Oscar winning film editor who taught at the U of R.
  • A card commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Wascana Centre Authority, sent by Joe Moran who was the Centre director at the time.

Some of the cards simply wish Archer and his family a Merry Christmas. However, many of the greeting cards include two and three page hand-written letters. It was a different era.

“Ever since I was a child my parents placed Christmas cards around our fireplace so there was definitely a feeling of nostalgia,” says Thomas. “Although it is still common to send and receive Christmas cards they are not as numerous as they were years ago. For instance, at my parents' house back in the 1990s we would have a hundred or more Christmas cards covering the fireplace, television, and around the kitchen. Now we are lucky to get a dozen.”

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About Dr. John Archer

Dr. John Archer was appointed as the first president of the University of Regina in 1974. In 1970, Dr. Archer was appointed Principal of the Regina Campus, then part of the University of Saskatchewan. Previously, Dr. Archer held positions with the Saskatchewan Provincial Library and served as Saskatchewan Legislative Librarian, Assistant Clerk of the Saskatchewan Legislature and Saskatchewan Provincial Archivist. He was director of libraries at McGill University, and associate professor of history at Queen’s University. The Dr. John Archer Library at the U of R is named in his honour.