Cyril Blakeney #hashtag

Cyril Blakeney died in 1973, 1 1/2 years before I was born and 25 years before his oldest grandchild got an email account.

He was a family man, a business owner and a collector of treasures.  His dad died in the Halifax explosion and he worked hard from an early age to help support his mom while she raised three kids.  He was my grandfather and we never got to meet but he often enters my mind.  He lived his whole life in the same city I do.  I have lived in his home. My kids walk around his neighbourhood everyday.  I know people who go to his church.   I know the streets he walked like the back of my hand. I just don't have any memories of him directly.

Up until recently, the house that he and my grandmother had raised my mom in from babyhood to university graduate was still in our family and I could get little glimpses of evidence even 36 years later that he had lived there, done the books at the kitchen table, stashed treasures in the basement, and sat with Olive watching the news.  I also recently got acquainted with the Barnstead's drug store building which he used to own and,  upon looking through the nooks and crannies, discovered some hint of the business and, in my imagination, the man.  Mostly, I just have my mom's fond memories.

(Photo courtesy of G. Ramsey)

One would think that social media would have little to do with my grandfather.  It did not exist when he was living, he can't participate in it, but somehow, lately, I 've felt called to bring his name and others into circulation.  Social media is so much a part of how we express ourselves and make sense of ourselves that leaving out ancestors seems like a huge oversight.

The NS archives called for people to share memories from the Halifax Explosion on twitter.  Of course, not only do not I not have any memories of him, but I obviously do not have memories of the explosion.  Mind you, not many people do.  I felt compelled to tweet his name next to #hfxex1917. I got the facts a bit wrong but the naming of him and his father felt right.

Back in the summer, I spent a fair amount of time acquainting myself with the old Barnstead's building and its neighbourhood.  It had been there all along but somehow I hadn't realized that. I finally got to go inside and amble through it. One afternoon, when I was in the neighbourhood, I took a detour so I could walk in front of this building that will soon be transformed into the facade of a bank.  On impulse, I took a picture of me standing at the front door and plopped a pin into my iphone, locating me at "Barnstead's Drug Store".  I reported it on Facebook. I acknowledged, via social media, that once this spot, this exact location, was the site of Barnstead's Drug Store.  It existed, even if GPS never had any role in locating it before, it can be now. Before social media, where would I have "dropped a pin"?  Would I, or my kids, have been able to find it again years later on purpose?

Dropping a pin made second hand memories, coordinates on a map.





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