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Found: A Schoolgirl’s Autograph Book From the 1930s

After finding the book at a yard sale, Keith Maynard tracked down the original owner’s family.

The cover of the book
The cover of the book All photos courtesy Keith Maynard

Keith Maynard is drawn to artifacts of the past. A mechanic by trade, he buys and sell antiques on the side. While living in a small town in Alberta, Canada, a few years back, he went to a large yard sale, hosted by a group of families, and spied a small, old book.

“It just appealed to me as soon as I saw it,” he says. “When I saw the date, even before I read it, I knew I would buy it.”

Inside, the book contains messages, poems, and sketches—it was an old autograph book, a popular keepsake in the past. The earliest message was dated October 18, 1929, a birthday message. The entries ran to 1936.

A note from mother.
A note from mother.

The book seemed to belong to a girl named Hilda, who went to Regina’s Connaught elementary school. An aunt had given her the book as a gift, and it was filled with mementos from her friends and family.

Maynard always intended to find the original owner of the book, but, as he says, “Life takes over.” In the past few months, he started to search in earnest for Hilda, whose last name was not in the book. The elementary school had no record of her, as students’ records are routinely destroyed after a few decades. He tried posting the item on Facebook, with no luck. Finally, he went to CBC Radio with the story.

A poem from a friend.
A poem from a friend.
Classic.
Classic.

Within 24 hours, he had a potential match. A man named George Beckett got in touch and told Maynard about his sister Hilda, who had gone to the same school, at the same time. They’re planning to meet soon to compare a note from the book, written by Hilda’s mother, with a handwriting sample of Beckett’s mother. “It’s pretty neat that I have found him and found him so fast,” says Maynard.

A sketch—perhaps a portrait of Hilda?
A sketch—perhaps a portrait of Hilda?