Malvern Collegiate’s Red and Black Society repairing books honouring students who fought in the Second World War

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Beach Mirror

By Joanna Lavoie

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Malvern alumni veterans look over the Big Book at the 2013 Remembrance Day reception.

Malvern Collegiate, an 111-year-old high school in the Upper Beach, is doing its part to honour those from the school who served in the Second World War, which Canada officially entered 75 years ago on Sept. 10, 1939, declaring war on Germany.

In honour of this historically significant occasion, the Malvern Red and Black Society (MRBS), the east-end secondary school’s alumni association, has recently launched a new project to restore two aging books filled with information and photographs of those from the school who served in the Second World War.

“It’s all about honouring the men and women. … It’s got to be done because it’s going to the lost forever if we don’t repair it,” said David Fuller, the MRBS’ 1903-to-1939 decade representative.

The books, one smaller red one and a large black one, were created in the late 1940s as a way to honour the contributions of those from the school to the war effort.

“The generation during the Second World War wanted to commemorate all students who served,” Fuller said.

“Once the war ended in 1945, they created two books to honour all who served in World War Two from the school. They sent out an appeal to families and students for photos.”

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Close up detail of a page in the Big Book of WW2 Malvern Student alumni, showing damage and yellowing tape.

The 504 portraits submitted were assembled into a nine-page, one-of-a-kind, black, leather-bound book embossed with gold titled Malvern Students, Members of the Armed Forces, World War II.

“It was all painstakingly taped into a big album and kept in the school’s archives,” he said of the “big book”, which is now more than 60 years old and has seen better days.

“The tape is falling apart, the pages are splitting open, the bindings are failing and the residue from the tape will, of course, damage the photos if it’s not cleaned off.”

A smaller red book, similar to the honour roll-style one at Parliament Hill, was also put together for Malvern’s Second World War vets. Assembled and illustrated by the famous late artist Doris McCarthy, the red book was hand bound in the French-binding style by Madeline Bennett.

“It’s not in bad shape, but the binding needs to be repaired,” Fuller said of the tome, which he said is an important part of the history of book binding in Toronto.

In July, the MRBS brought in Beatrice Stock, a professional archival conservator, to evaluate the condition and the repairs needed to both books.

Repairs to the black book have been pegged as $14,500, while those to the smaller red book are at $1,500.

The restoration work is expected to take several months.

The MRBS is aiming to complete the project by May, the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Aside from repairing the two books, the MRBS will also scan all of the photographs and put them onto an online archive. The alumni group is exploring the possibility of obtaining a grant for this endeavour.

“We’re hoping this information online will be a real boon for everyone in the community to research their family history online,” said Fuller, a history buff who has compiled the family tree of hundreds of Malvern students.

“It’ll also be a great resource for the students.”

For more information or to contribute to this project, email david_fuller@live.ca .

Donations can also be mailed in to the Malvern Archives Committee, 55 Malvern Ave., Toronto, ON, M4E 3E4. Cheques should be made out to the Onward Malvern Foundation and marked with “WWII Big Book” on the memo line.

The alumni group is also interested in hearing from or about any ‘Malvernites’ who took part in the Second World War.

Author: David Fuller

MRBS Webmaster and parent of two MCI graduates (2011 & 2015) and another very bright son. Decade representative for 1903-1939 and Service Personnel.

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