“Mystery” Photo Albums Tell the Story of former Victoria Alderman E.B. Andros, his beloved Brentwood Bay, and the devoted niece that captured it all.
In the world of archives, photographs without context have little value. But the images in two non-descript albums at the Saanich Pioneer Society came with just enough information to tell us that we had something special on our hands.
The two albums, dating from 1927 to 1935, had been at the Archives for some time but with no documentation or provenance. According to volunteers, someone had just dropped them off one day and they had been safely kept there ever since. But archives are not simply a storage facility for interesting, old “stuff”; in addition to preservation, archives staff and volunteers describe all kinds of unique records and make them available to researchers. A photograph may be worth a thousand words, but you need the story behind it before you can realize its full power. In these “mystery” albums filled with travel and recreation images from both near and far, we knew that there was a tale to tell.
After documenting all of the clues, following their trail to various sources, and undertaking much diligent, detailed research, we were able to start putting the pieces together. While this was exciting enough, we then tracked down the daughter of the person who created the albums, who hadn’t known they existed!
They were compiled by Elsie Elizabeth (“Dolly”) Goodman, which matches the inscription on the inside of the front cover of the first album: “Elsie E. Goodman, November 1928, La Jolla, California”. So, what does someone in La Jolla have to do with Central Saanich? Turns out, quite a lot – but it took a good amount of sleuthing to figure out how.
Elsie was born on February 4, 1901 in New Jersey, the daughter of Jessie S. Munro and Edward C. Goodman. She had two older brothers, Edwin Munro (“Mun”) and Arthur C. ("Art" or "Harth"). Their parents were born in Upper Canada (now Ontario): Edward in 1864 and Jessie in 1866. Edwin, their first child, was also born in Ontario, but by the time Elsie arrived in 1901, the family lived in New Jersey. Sometime before the First World War they moved again, this time to Vancouver, which was booming as the terminus of the CPR and a key trans-Pacific shipping port. For Elsie's father Edward, it offered many opportunities for the growing profession of certified professional accountants. By 1916, he rose to become Secretary-Treasurer of the Vancouver Merchants’ Exchange, and the family stayed in the city until Elsie finished high school and Edwin returned from two years as a soldier in the Middle East.
When the teen children were ready to begin college, Edward took them to the Chicago area; Northwestern (founded 1851) in nearby Evanston had begun offering specialized tax accounting courses, which was likely a draw for Mr. Goodman. The family moved to a large house near the campus and Elsie enrolled in 1918, graduating with an M.A. in 1923. She was 5’9” tall and played basketball, baseball, and field hockey in university. (Photographs in the album of Elsie standing next to friends confirm her height and athleticism!). When she graduated and was looking for full time work, her “Uncle Eddy” in Victoria made her an offer that would make use of her many skills and abilities. His wife, Elsie Lindsay Munro (Jessie Goodman’s younger sister) was in failing health. She now needed home support while Eddy concentrated on business. Elsie accepted and made the move to Vancouver Island, (though she never officially obtained her Canadian citizenship).
Edwyn Brenton Andros (born in 1861) and his younger brothers, Dick and Ralph, were from Ontario. Their father came from an old Guernsey family and was a career British soldier in India before retiring to Canada. “E.B.” began as a Bank of Toronto Manager in his home town of Port Hope, but then went into land speculation on the prairies and eventually settled in Victoria around 1913 to 1915 because he and his wife enjoyed the climate. Andros – ever the real estate investor – also saw an opportunity here to buy, improve, and resell property. He would also become involved in city politics, serving as an Alderman on Victoria City Council from 1917 to 1924 and making unsuccessful runs for the Mayor’s office in 1925 and 1932.
Before hiring his niece, Andros and his wife lived at 644 Linden Avenue in Victoria, a Samuel Maclure-designed heritage house. It didn’t take him long to insert himself into the local real estate scene, purchasing the Harrogate Apartments next to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. He rented out the suites save one, which he stayed in between the fall and late spring. But his investing didn’t end there. In 1919, Andros purchased a five and half acre property in Brentwood known as Christmas Point, (the Daily Colonist reported that he bought it from a Mrs. M. Christmas of Duncan). At the time, the land was described as having
“an unobstructed view up and down the [Saanich] Arm and is a short distance from Brentwood Hotel. This is one of the few desirable points left unsold and it is the intention of Ald. Andros to build a Summer home there. There is at present a small cottage on the property. Ald. Andros, who is an enthusiast on the beauties of the Saanich Arm, intends spending the Summer months yachting, fishing and cruising. He is firmly convinced that if Brentwood and the adjacent waters were properly advertised it would become the Mecca for tourists from all parts of Canada and the United States.”
In fact, Andros built a number of cottages on the Brentwood Bay waterfront, moving himself and his wife into one of them (734 Sea Drive) and renting out the rest to vacation-goers. With the help of his niece Elsie, who assisted with accounts and general housekeeping, he operated this venture from about 1925 until 1941. According to Elsie’s daughter, at least one of E.B. Andros's original Brentwood cottages may still survive as a rental getaway on the waterfront below 752 Sea Drive. Half of it was built out over the water on concrete pillars so that residents could fish for rock cod, perch and Dungeness crabs directly from the living room deck.
After his wife succumbed to her frail health and died on May 8, 1927, E.B.’s life shifted. With nothing requiring him to stay close to home, Andros, who was no fan of Vancouver Island’s wet winter weather, began to take annual holidays with Elsie Goodman to somewhere warm. La Jolla, California, north of San Diego, was a favourite destination but travels included Jamaica, Hawaii, and even Illinois during warmer months (including Elsie’s hometown of Evanston, and a trip to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – The “Century of Progress Exposition”). It was during these trips that Uncle Eddy taught Elsie to drive; she became an excellent driver and would share duties on the annual journey south. His love of Brentwood ensured that he didn’t stay away too long, however.
Photographs in Elsie’s albums of the years immediately following his wife’s death portray a more relaxed “Uncle Eddy” than the one who had arrived in Victoria, representing perhaps a far cry from his demeanor when he had sat on City Council; his obituary in the Daily Colonist described him as expressing himself “in a forthright and vigorous manner. He was, in fact, often the stormy petrel of the council meetings”. Elsie captured him at what was arguably his best: hamming it up for the camera when they were on the road, building his waterfront cottages, boating, spending time with his terriers (first Sam and then Sally), hosting friends, and generally enjoying the easier pace of life in Brentwood. No longer “stormy”, E.B. embraced his summer season until the end of his life.
E.B. “Eddy” Andros died of pneumonia on September 23, 1942 at age 81 and is buried at Royal Oak Burial Park beside his younger brother Dick. He was survived by the third brother, Victoria's well-known WWI figure Colonel Ralph Craven Andros, DSO. At 41, Elsie had now spent roughly 15 years as Eddy's surrogate daughter, Girl Friday, travelling companion and, at the end, caregiver.
Uncle Eddy had made a point of introducing Elsie to people her age in Victoria. Sometime in the 1930s she struck up a friendship with Nancy and Catherine Wollaston. Their English grandfather, Percy, had moved his large family to Victoria years ago, and one of his six sons, an amateur prospector, had struck it rich in 1898. The claim became one of B.C.’s legendary gold mines: the Nickel Plate near Princeton. The prospector, 42 year old Francis Henry Wollaston, sold it for what was then a fortune, returned to Victoria, married his fiancée Alice Harrison, and their son was named after him.
In the 1930s, Frank Wollaston Jr. was in Chicago, now a university-trained electrical engineer. As it happened, Elsie's two brothers were in Chicago too, where "Mun" was also an engineer and had recently married Elsie’s best friend from Northwestern. Frank’s sisters and Elsie arranged for their brothers to meet, and “Mun” and his wife took to him immediately. Ironically, Elsie was the last member of her family to meet her future husband! By the time that Uncle Eddy’s health required her full-time help, she and Frank were engaged, though it meant a long wait. In December 1942 they were finally married at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Saanichton. By then Frank was 39 and Elsie nearly 42. She had inherited her uncle’s waterfront cottage at 734 Sea Drive, and she and Frank spent their honeymoon there. Frank had meanwhile been recruited for a senior position at B.C. Electric in Vancouver, where they bought a house in time to welcome baby Elsie Catherine on New Year’s Eve, 1943.
For many years the Sea Drive cottage served as a vacation home, then was upgraded to a year-round residence when the family moved to Brentwood in 1961. Elsie died after a short illness on April 12, 1987, and Frank followed almost exactly six years later on April 4, 1993. The house, which Uncle Eddy had built on two lots, was later torn down and replaced by two separate ones, but one still carries the 734 address along with the stunning view. Elsie and Frank’s ashes were scattered together in April 1994 off their favourite swimming beach in Tod Inlet, the scene of so many photos in the albums. Uncle Eddy would certainly have approved.