written by Dandan, staff member, Central Library
As a person who loves books, especially print books, it made sense that I ended up working in a library. Everyone knows that working in a library does not mean that we have to read every single book on the shelf, however, I was without words when a coworker showed me two Chinese Directories (Halifax Directories written for a Chinese audience), published by the Chinese Publicity Bureau back in the 1950s. I felt like I was reconnected with two old friends that I hadn't seen in years.
Walk down memory lane
I love everything old: old friends, old clothes, old houses, old books, old music, and old wine. As a new Canadian, I found myself very attached to these two old directories. As I was flipping through the pages, I thought how nice it would have been to visit the coffee shop that used to be at the corner of North Street, spending the whole afternoon watching people walk by. Immersed in a daydream, I was suddenly craving a coffee. I was tempted to grab my coat and run to a coffee shop to fulfill this sweet daydream.
A hidden treasure
The 1952 Chinese Directory not only looks old, but smells old. I love the smell of old books. As it is the second edition of the Chinese Directory of Halifax, it contains a complete listing of Chinese houses and home owners in the city of Halifax, and an alphabetically arranged list of business houses, professionals, and private citizens—all together with a classified business directory. If you're interested in food (like I am), on pages 4-5 of the classified section, you will find the information about the restaurants and cafés that were in Halifax in 1952. The 1962 volume, the 11th edition of the Chinese Directory, broadens the scope to include all the maritime provinces.
My eyes were drawn to the business cards, strewn across the pages. They bear little resemblance to modern business cards which, by comparison, are dull to look at. These eye-catching cards are handwritten in a beautifully old-fashioned way. Business owners took advantage of the directory's popularity and made their cards as attractive and unique as possible. If you are a person who is nostalgic, you must come and have a look at them. This may also appeal to small business owners looking for inspiration from business advertisement from the past. This directory is a resource for many types of research, including genealogy.
It's been years since we moved to Canada, but I feel a deep affection for the country that provided my childhood memories, and the culture in which I learned to make many traditional Chinese dishes. I do love food! With the directory in my hand, I felt like I was traveling back in time. It warmed my heart.
View the directory
You can also view a digitized version of the 1952 Chinese Directory of Halifax here, opens a new window.