Earlier this year the Archives was thrilled to accept a significant accrual of photographs to our Al Betts fonds. Betts was a prolific and skilled photographer based out of the Town of Streetsville (now an area of Mississauga), active from ca. 1963 to ca. 1982. His fonds consists of ca. 11,500 black and white and colour photographs that he took during his time as a professional photographer, including wedding and passport portraits, photographs of various industrial and commercial properties, and perhaps most interestingly of all, many photographs taken for the local Streetsville Review newspaper.
The photographs in the fonds offer significant and invaluable documentation of events, citizens, properties, locales, and organizations/businesses within the Town of Streetsville, the Township of Toronto, the Town of Mississauga, and the City of Mississauga. The local news photographs in particular are among good company here in the Archives, as we already hold a great deal of complementary photographic material taken throughout Peel, including:
- Russell Cooper fonds: Cooper was a photojournalist who took photographs for various newspapers in the area, including the Toronto Telegram; he covered all of Peel from the late-1940s up to the early-1960s (when the main Betts coverage begins!)
- Brampton Guardian fonds (photo morgue): Prints: 1966-1975; Negatives: 1964-1975, April 7, 1976 to Nov. 30, 1976, Aug 1, 1977 to Dec. 27, 1996
- Brampton Conservator/Brampton Times/The Daily Times (photo morgues): Charters Publishing fonds negatives: 1938, 1946-1954; Brampton Times and Conservator fonds negatives: 1967-1975, 1979-1988
- Bolton Enterprise fonds (photo morgue): Negatives: 1963-1988, incomplete range
Here are some of the gems one can find in the Betts fonds:
Interestingly, the geographic coverage of the material is not limited to the Mississauga area. This is the case because one of Betts’ major commercial clients was the Toronto-based foundry and engineering company John T. Hepburn Ltd., and they sent him to document their projects throughout Ontario, including some in Burlington, Milton, Georgetown, Etobicoke, and Toronto, amongst others.
The acquisition of this fonds means that we have greatly increased our photographic documentation of the Mississauga area in the mid-to-late 20th century, and I suspect that these photographs will be of much use and interest to our researchers as well as the general public! Here are some more gems:
Alfred William “Al” Betts, February 3rd, 1924 – January 20th, 2017
Betts was born in the City of Toronto on February 3rd, 1924 to Fred and Violet Betts. He was named Alfred like his dad; however, to avoid confusion he was called Al. He spent his formative years growing up in the north part of the city.
Betts enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. He trained in Medicine Hat, AB, Chatham, NB, and Charlottetown, PEI as a Navigation-Bombardier on the Lancaster bombers. During the Second World War he was stationed in Bournemouth in the south of England.
Betts’ passion was photography. Family legend has it he became interested in photography when he scooped up an old Kodak “Brownie” camera that had been tossed away. Always the curious individual he took it apart, repaired it, and started experimenting with photography.
After the Second World War he began working at Toronto Western Hospital where he met the love of his life, Helen Colville. They wed in 1950 and lived in Toronto before leaving the city in 1956 for the Town of Streetsville, then in the Township of Toronto (now Mississauga).
In 1958 Betts was working at A.V. Roe in Malton. Here he had the privilege of working on the Avro Arrow project in the Photography Department. He took several of the iconic pictures of the Avro Arrow in production and in flight. This job was short-lived, however, with the cancellation of the Avro project in 1959. And unfortunately none of those pictures are found in the fonds.
Betts started A. Betts Photography in Streetsville around 1963. He gave back to the town by initiating the Bread and Honey Festival, helping with the Boy Scouts, and being the official photographer for the local Streetsville newspaper. He was active as a professional photographer until ca. 1982.
Betts passed away peacefully, with family by his side, on Friday, January 20th, 2017, at the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. In the following years his family were kind enough to donate his records to the Region of Peel Archives at PAMA, an act that we (and posterity) are most grateful for.
Kyle Neill, Senior Archivist