Second-generation London photographer Victor Aziz Jr, brings his father’s London views into focus this month.
In a Westminster Historical Society talk titled “History Through Postcards,” the younger Aziz shares the stories behind iconic London images his father — the late Victor Aziz — shot for postcards.
Victor Jr. is also looking over his collection of London postcard images going back to the 19th-century. The talk happens Wednesday, Jan. 17, following a potluck supper beginning in the evening at 6:30 p.m.
“The favourite is the ‘60s’ Dundas streetscene — [I] still sell copies of it today,” Victor Jr. says of the postcard pix.
That image and a companion shot from a decade earlier can be dated by the movies whose titles are visible on the marquee of the then-bustling downtown cinemas.
“[The 1960s’] streetscape was 1967 ‘cause of the movies, Heat Of The Night, Accident and Fantastic Flying Fools,” Victor Jr. says.
The earlier image shows Dundas Street in 1956 — based on the Charlton Heston-as-Moses vehicle The Ten Commandments playing downtown.
It is not just the marquees that repay attention in those Dundas Street shots.
“You know that it’s me and my (late) mother in the phone booth of the ‘67 shot?” says Victor Jr.
“Just trying to keep dry,” he explains of seeking refuge from a London storm in Clark Kent’s changing room.
Among the other famous Londoners turning up on the postcard is Slippery The Seal — or a Slippery lookalike — who is captured in repose at Storybook Gardens in the 1960s.
Victor Aziz opened his photography business in 1947. He died in 2008. Victor Jr. maintains the business at its Waterloo-and-Central locale.
Among the first employees at Victor Aziz’s studio (then in the basement at the family home at 801 Waterloo St.) was London Central secondary student, Barry Montgomery. He worked for Aziz from 1952 until about 1960. Now Montgomery is the Westminster Historical Society secretary.
“He was a great fellow … he taught us a lot,” Montgomery says of the iconic photographer.
Montgomery will introduce Victor Jr. at the talk.
Victor Aziz was a master of interiors and streetscapes. A website helmed by Victor Jr. showcases his postwar images of downtown London vistas and such long-vanished eateries and night spots as the Friar’s Cellar and the Iroquois Casino.
“[It] was a tough little bar/hotel that was made over and attracted the likes of (singer and actor) Rudy Vallee and such,” Victor Jr. says of the Iroquois. Once a fixture at King and Clarence, the Iroquois gave way to the old London Mews Mall. The site is now a parking lot.
Other long-vanished London landmarks captured by the elder Aziz include the Hotel London, the old Y on Wellington Street and Wellington Square Mall.
Victor Jr. knows some unusual angles to their stories. His father took photos of Dundas Street in its glory days. But how many of us knew that activity was under surveillance by eyes just as sharp as the photographer’s?
Says Victor Junior: “[A] policeman I was photographing for his retirement told me that when ‘cruising Dundas’ it was the in thing, the police used to get up on the flat roofs that line Dundas with binoculars and a radio. They would spot kids with liquor between their legs and radio in to have them stopped down the street. The drivers were dumbfounded about how they were caught.”
Maybe some of that action is on the Victor Aziz views — if you look up, way up.
What: History Through Postcards, a talk about London historical images by Victor Aziz Jr. Jan. 17, potluck supper (6:30 p.m.), with talk to follow. AGM (8 p.m.) Lambeth United Church, 4268 Colonel Talbot Rd., London. Visit www.westminstertwphs.ca for details.
Web hit: For vintage images and more about London photographer Victor Aziz Jr., visit azizphoto.com.
In the Archives: A remarkable collection of Victor Aziz images and other material is held by Western Archives. Included is material donated by his children Florine Morrison and Victor Aziz Jr. in 2002. Visit lib.uwo.ca.
James Stewart Reaney keeps James’s Brander Newer Blogger at LondonFuse.ca as part of his volunteerism and reverence for London A&E. He retired from The London Free Press in early 2017 after more than 30 years covering everything from A — The Alcohollys — to B: baseball’s 1986 World Series. Follow his Twitter #ldnont thoughts via @JamesSReaney