‘A slice of time’: McKee highlighting local history as celebration nears

ARTHUR – To step into Jeff McKee’s basement is to step into Arthur’s past.

Old photos of sports teams, faces since passed, and memorabilia of all types – from antique lawn bowling balls to a 1920s Arthur movie theatre bill – transform the space into what McKee calls an “Arthur museum.”

McKee arrived in Arthur in 1972 when he was eight years old. He witnessed Arthur’s centennial celebration, and he’ll soon be participating in the village’s sesquicentennial events during the Canada Day weekend.

Now 57, McKee’s passion for local history slowly developed from his time at the now defunct Arthur Enterprise News, where he worked in sales, penned stories and produced a gallery’s worth of sports team photos.

He later joined the Arthur and Area Historical Society and started the Arthur and Area Historical Society Facebook group, where he posts histories, taken from the shelves of books written by former residents long since passed, such as H. Gordon Green, an Arthur farm kid who went on to become a well-known journalist and radio commentator in the 1930s.

“Anything Arthur, I’m interested in,” McKee said while showing off his wares. 

Many of the items, suspended on walls, lining shelves and hung from hangers, are Arthur-centric and donated.

Nary a week passes without someone dropping off an old treasure to be newly rediscovered by McKee.

“It gets some love and attention that it doesn’t get otherwise,” he said.

In addition to the sports memorabilia, photos, trinkets and other items (such as a “Vote Perrin Beatty” pin), McKee also keeps binder upon binder of old game sheets and team rosters; having coached local hockey and softball since 1985.


And in more binders still, are collections of old Arthur postcards, purchased at postcard shows and from eBay, slipped into protective plastic covers.

Monotone and yellowed photos of old landmarks and landscapes since changed are preserved within the postcard frames.

“A lot of this stuff is just a slice of time,” McKee said of his collection. 

Slices of moments, memories and milestones all but lost to time, save for McKee’s efforts.

With the approach of another momentous occasion in Arthur’s history, McKee thought it time to add another slice to the archive in the form of an Arthur 150 booklet.

Being sold for $20 a copy at various locations during Arthur’s 150 celebrations, the booklet explores the events and people of the village over the past 50 years through contributed articles and stories, replete with advertisements and archival photographs.

“It’s our history,” McKee said. “We need to keep making sure that the slices go in the archive so that we can continue to know who we are, and where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, and help us, maybe a little bit, to know where we’re going.”

‘Canada’s most patriotic village’ 

Along with his father Harold, McKee is also responsible for the white crosses assembled at the Arthur cenotaph, serving as a sobering reminder of Arthur’s dead from the First and Second World War.

“If we’re the most patriotic community in Canada, we need to raise our bar a little bit,” McKee remarked, referencing the fact Arthur was dubbed “Canada’s most patriotic village” in 1942 – a reference that has become its claim to fame.

The crosses, McKee said, are a way of “starting to raise the bar a touch.” 

Through his research, 76 local names were discovered and they appear on the back of the crosses.

The cost of making the memorial is covered by the McKees, with the crosses being donated and intended for display each year on Remembrance Day.