The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

August 1, 2007

August 1, 2007 – A.J. Mason

Archibald Joseph Mason known to many as A.J. Mason was born February 9, 1889 in Stirchley, Birmingham , England to parents Joseph and Isabel (Laugher) Mason. A.J. left school at the age of 12 years and went to work at the Cadbury’s Chocolate and Cocoa Works where he stayed until 1903 when he, his parents and three brothers immigrated to Canada , settling in Hamilton , Ontario . He went to work at the Canadian Westinghouse Plant.

Archibald had a love of singing and the new moving picture theatres that were opening up all over the country so; in 1906 he became a singer of illustrated songs and a projectionist with the Bennett Theatrical Association of London, Ontario.

At 18 he was sent to Halifax as an Assistant Manager and singer to install the projection machinery.

Ethel Morris, daughter of Thomas and Sarah (Perkins) Morris, who he had known in England , also immigrated to Canada and settled in Hamilton with some of her family. She followed A.J. to Halifax and they were married September, 1908.

In 1910 A.J. accepted a position with Keith Alby Syndicate, New York , who owned and operated a theatre in Saint John , N.B. and St. Johns , Newfoundland . In 1913 he was asked to draft a set of questions and answers for the licensing of Motion Pictures in New Brunswick and also to draft a new cinematograph act for the Province of N.B. by the Attorney General JBM Baxter. The following year he declined the position of theatre inspector and examiner of operators for licensing.

In 1917 he was given a six year lease of the Motion Picture Theatre in Wolfville , N.S. He also continued with his solo and choir singing both in Wolfville and Saint John , N.B.

He was induced by Arthur Hubbard, a well known music teacher from Boston , to try his luck, with his agent in New York , in musical stage shows. His wife and family stayed behind and Ethel ran the theatre while he was gone. While in New York , he joined the Sellwyn Theatrical Company of New York where he did the stage play “Buddies” which played on Broadway for a month and then played the large cities in Central U.S. After the season closed he came back to Nova Scotia .

In 1922 he took over the theatre in Parrsboro and in 1932 he was able to purchase and lease the Grand Theatre in Springhill from Colin Danson and he continued to live here for the rest of his life taking part in the singsongs, minstrel shows, Choral Club and the performance of H.M.C.S. Pinafore.

A.J. Mason was not only interested in the theatre business but had many other achievements. He was elected President to the Board of Trade in the 1930’s, being nominated by H.S. Terris and seconded by Col. Daniel Murray. Then he acted as Secretary to the Board for many years.

He was elected President of the Fencebusters Baseball Club around the time that Lawson Fowler, Midge Brown, Leo MacDonald and Jack Fraser became seniors and could play for the team.

Elected President of the Nova Scotia Baseball Association, in 1935, with George Haystead as secretary, a position he held for many years.

He entered politics in 1937 by running for the Liberal Party but was defeated He was asked by the Fish and Game Association to assist in the drafting of resolutions and to present them at the annual meeting which was held in Halifax and later becoming President of Fish and Game for a year or two.

When the small independent theatre operators in the Maritimes were having trouble securing movies for their use, because of the big chain theatres, they formed the Maritime Motion Picture Exhibitors Protection Association in 1937 with Archibald Mason as President. A position he held for 30 years.

In 1940 he became a Ward 1 Councillor for the Town of Springhill and when the then Mayor A.B. Wilson died in 1942 he became acting Mayor. He was elected Mayor at the next election and continued as Mayor until 1953 when he retired.

Theatre owners of Canada , in 1949, formed the Council of Motion Pictures Theatres Association of Canada and a benevolent society called the Canadian Picture Pioneer Benevolent Society of which he was President. In 1952 he was honored, along with five others, at the Royal York, Toronto . He was presented with a scroll of gold and onyx which read “Canadian Picture Pioneers, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Motion Picture Theatre 1902-1952. You helped to rock the cradle of our industry. Toronto , November 5, 1952 ”

I will have more on A.J. Mason and his family next time.