By Jesse Robitaille
In a story for record books of Canadian philately, exhibitor Hazel Elmslie will make history this June, when her Spanish postal history exhibit comes to Toronto as part of CAPEX 22.
A long-time resident of London, Ont., Elmslie immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom in 1956 and began collecting stamps four years later. A simple gift from her mother – some British stamps – eventually blossomed into a full-on collection, which later grew thanks to her grandmother and her Spanish aunt, who often sent her other material from that country. With her interests piqued and qualification earned just months before the show, she competed at CAPEX 78 with an exhibit entitled “Spain: Markings and Issues of Isabel II.”
“I was in stamp collector heaven – so many wonderful exhibits and such a range of interests,” Elmslie said of attending CAPEX 78, which was Canada’s second international stamp show. “I spent some hours with a younger collector, whose interest was plate flaws in the Canadian ‘Pence’ issues. He spent a lot of time with a magnifying glass going over those exhibits. I realized I was not in the monetary league of many of these collectors but could still show my stuff and it would be appreciated. This is my greatest pleasure in exhibiting: making a good display of your stuff and others enjoying it.”
This June, she will be the sole exhibitor who also competed at CAPEX 78, and once again, her focus is Spanish philately with a single-frame postal history exhibit entitled “The Rueda de Carreta (Cartwheel) Cancellation of Spain.”
“It’s wonderful to have Hazel as an exhibitor at CAPEX 22,” said David McLaughlin, the chair of both CAPEX 22 and the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) international liaison committee. “Stamp collecting is a lifelong hobby, and exhibiting is an integral part of the hobby. It’s great to see Hazel’s excitement about exhibiting in CAPEX 22. I hope everyone takes the time to review her exhibit.”
A BUDDING INTEREST IN EXHIBITING
After her grandmother and aunt, Elmslie drew inspiration – and stamps – from dealer Norman Hendershot, of St. Thomas, Ont., who carried a small stock of Spanish material. Her interests were also boosted after seeing For Whom the Bell Tolls, a 1943 film about the Spanish Civil War based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name.
Elmslie began working on her Isabel II exhibit in 1971 and earned a gold medal at a qualifying exhibition in 1978. With the door open for her to compete at CAPEX 78, she brought her hand-printed exhibit to Toronto, where it received a bronze medal.
Although she recalls she was “almost embarrassed” by what she described as her “little display,” Elmslie said the medal still stands as the highlight of her collecting career.
That year’s show ran from June 9-18, 1978, and Canada Post – then known as the Post Office Department – issued four stamps (Scott #753-56), which formed the country’s first souvenir sheet. The exhibition spanned 3,500 frames and 155 literature entries, and more than 17,000 people, including 3,000 Beaver Club members – of which Elmslie was one – attended the show’s opening day. At the time, it was “the most important and exciting philatelic event ever to take place in Canada,” according to Dick Malott, the show’s co-ordinator, writing in the November 1977 issue of the Canadian Philatelist, the RPSC’s official journal.
Elmslie attended CAPEX 78 each of the 10 days and spent much of that time exploring the exhibits. She was especially drawn to an exhibit on Scouting, another one of her collecting interests at that time and something she exhibited at the 2015 RPSC Convention in her hometown, where her five-frame exhibit, “The First Boy Scout,” earned a vermeil.