The Life and Times of Harry L. Waddle


The life of Harry Waddle started out inauspiciously on the 28th of February, 1915. Born in the small southern Ontario town of Port Dover, Harry was always eager to learn from others. His mother Daisy (nee Kindree) was very talented not only at home with baking and quiltmaking, (often selling her quilts at the Summer Festival) but also took art lessons from the famous W. Edgar Cantelon. Some of these paintings now reside at the Eva Brook Donly Museum in Simcoe, Ontario. His father Edmon was a professional photographer, credited with many of the postcard pictures of Port Dover and all the family portraits in the area. In 1912, Daisy and Edmon started a five and dime store in Port Dover. It was this little store that Harry would later purchase from them, expand to "Waddle's Variety Department Store", and run successfully for many years.

Harry, an only child, grew up close to his grandparents as well- his paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother both living with him at some point. It was from his grandfather that Harry learned to make small wooden toys. Harry contemplated a career in making these toys, since although he was very bright and enjoyed school, there was not much point in furthering his education at the time. The country was in a depression, and while he thought about being a doctor, he was advised, "nobody pays the doctor". Thus he decided against continuing his education and began to run the family store.

During the Second World War, Harry was stationed with the RCAF at the #1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. (He "flew a desk" as he likes to say) It was here that his photographic skills started to show themselves. Several of his most famous pictures were taken at this time.

Having been married in 1940 to the former Margaret Cameron, it was also during this time that they welcomed their first child, Mary, followed four years later by their second daughter, Jane.

Harry's Photographic Career

Harry Waddle's career had very humble beginnings. As a young child he won a camera, the prestigious no. 0- little Brownie box camera, by saving lettered cards from chocolate bar wrappers. He had a scrapbook of photos before he reached his teens; and looked forward to the annual family trip to the Canadian National Exhibition, where he would gaze at prints in the Graphic Arts and Photography Building, and hope to someday be that good a photographer.

In 1937, with a postcard-sized camera borrowed from his father, he and his invalid friend the late Bob Simpson (who was using a box brownie) vacationed in Florida. When they returned Harry sought advice from his dad on how to make enlargements. Mr. Waddle Sr. donated some of his equipment, and Harry manufactured a homemade enlarger which he used in his tiny clothes closet. His knowledge increased as he studied photographic magazines and joined the Hamilton Camera Club. The latter to prove to himself that pictures he had made, while pleasing to his friends, also pleased judges that did not know the maker.

Around the world

Following his return from the R.C.A.F. after World War II, Harry picked up his association with the Hamilton Camera Club, and worked his way "through the chairs" to become president. His camera had progressed to a German-made miniature, with a newly developed lens capable of taking pictures in the natural light of the Port Dover arena; a new idea at the time. He later purchased a second hand Kodak "Medalist"; still a far cry from the present day single lens reflex cameras. His work began to win acclaim at the Hamilton Camera Club's monthly judging, and he was awarded the Bronze medal for best all-around group for the year 1946. His portrait of daughter Mary (my mother) entitled "Mischief" won Print-of-the-Year in 1947; followed by success with Homeward, a scene featuring Andy Lowe Sr. trudging up the fog encased Chapman St. hill. His well-trained photographer's eye caught the reflection of the sailing vessel Orenda moored in Port Dover harbour, to capture Picture-of-the-Year honours for 1948 at the 15th annual Canadian Salon of Photography.

Having achieved success in Canada, he decided to try his hand at International Exhibitions. The prints were enlarged to 16" X 20", and packed four to a carton, in homemade cardboard cartons. Inexpensive postage rates at that time allowed a parcel to be sent for around 50 cents, and had the extra benefit of incredible access to stamps of the world. International rules prohibited a print, once accepted, to be sent again to the same exhibition. He financed his hobby by taking pictures of local people. His idea of "going to the baby", rather than subjecting the infant to the strange atmosphere of a studio produced the popular baby portraits still hanging in many Port Dover homes.

Took much care

He took meticulous care in "washing" his enlargements, doubling the recommended one hour wash (which now can be accomplished in minutes). He can proudly state that he "never had a picture fade"! The secret of his success was in making the print from the negative. "I was making a picture, rather than taking a picture" admitted the master. In the developing he could lighten or darken areas, eliminate things he didn't want, and add blue or brown tones. With a tiny etching knife he could remove any spots. His famous print Lily Nectar which features a tiny bee on a lily pad, is an example of "making a picture". He recalls the day the picture was taken and the timing involved. While a fellow cameraman set up his equipment on his necessary tripod, Harry was able to snap the picture with his quick camera. Even then, the bee had flown away, leaving only a blur in the film. Harry painstakingly drew in the tiny wings and body where the bee had been, to produce another "Picture- of-the-Year". He successfully invented the idea of "burning the corners" of the print, to attract the eye to the centre of the picture.

Award of Merit

His Prints were accepted worldwide. He became an Associate of the Photographic Society of America (A.P.S.A.) in 1951, and an associate of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (A.R.P.S.) in 1952 (he is now a life member). He reached the pinnacle in December 1954 when the Photographic Society of America presented him the Award of Merit as a 5-Star Exhibitor, for his 1316 total acceptances of 129 different prints in recognised exhibitions. The prize was one of only seven in the world at that time. Mr. Waddle was asked to judge many exhibitions, including Toronto, Edmonton, and the world's largest exhibition the 17th Kodak International Salon in Rochester. He was asked to exhibit a "one man show" at Glenhyrst by the Brantford Camera Club, and was honoured with a "one man exhibit" at the prestigious Massassachusetts Institute of Technology. Ironically, his work was better known behind the Iron Curtain than in the local area. After reaching the top, and finding costs constantly increasing, Mr. Waddle decided to call it quits. He devoted his spare time instead to family boating, taking extensive cruises in the Trent/Severn and around the Great Lakes. He later became interested in Genealogy, and in the quest to find his roots produced a 136-foot-long scroll, going back many generations.

Back to the present

Today Harry Waddle, aged 91, is a resident of Cedarwood Village in Simcoe, ON. Unfortunately his wife, Margaret, passed away in 1992. His daughter, Mary, still lives in Port Dover and visits him daily. Daughter Jane lives in Mississauga and visits him as often as she can.

After all this time, the Harry Waddle photos look as good as the day he made them, and thanks to this webpage will be available for the world to admire.

(excerpted from an article written by Mary Morrison for the Port Dover Maple Leaf, January 29th, 1986)


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