Guiding and Scouting

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Some of the earliest and most fond memories of growing up in Oshawa stem from my family’s involvement in Guiding and Scouting. Everything happened at Glen Stewart Club House on Cartier Avenue, just west of the Oshawa Centre, though I’m fairly certain Waverly PS and St. Michael CS were temporary or later locations for some units.

I started as a Brownie, with a brown dress uniform, white tie with orange maple leafs printed on it, and sash and small leather pouch for dues. Today my daughter wears pants and a t-shirt with brown trim. The tie is the same, but the maple leafs are brown. The sash is still there but online payments ahead of time or post dated cheques have replaced the dues pouches! An online program has even replaced the Brownie workbook, but that just happened this year. Later I flew up to Guides, wearing my sister’s hand me down uniform, which I donated to the Museum within the last few years.

Guiding taught me so many important life lessons and I am proud to tell people how I learned them. The responsibility of taking care of a pet, learning to do laundry and why it’s important to keep a clean home. How to sew on a button and be a good hostess. These may seem dated and useless to many kids today, but I challenge you to find an eleven year old who can properly introduce themselves to adults or sew a hole in their clothing.


My parents were supportive when we no longer wanted to be involved in Guiding or Scouting, but until then, they were just as involved as we were. Dad was Hawkeye and Mom was Rainbow as Beaver and Cub leaders. After I was finished with Guiding, I still spent a lot of time attending Cub meetings when my Mom was working. My Dad tired hard to lobby for me to join the organization at a time when the policy was staunchly ‘no girls allowed.’ My son wondered why I was able to tell him what the Beaver Motto was (complete with bent beaver teeth hand gesture); I bet he’ll wonder when I can recite the Cub Grand Howl to him too!

Recently, we all had the opportunity to visit the Scout Shop at Camp Samac. Did you know that it still smells the same thirty years later? Growing up the whole family had grey wool campfire blankets. We would sew on patches and badges we’d earned and later of other places we’d visited. When I went as a kid, we’d always get to pick out a new patch that we would sew on ourselves. We all took great pride in our campfire blankets. Returning as an adult is just as fun. Everything has a slightly different meaning. My new ‘I survived camp’ patch means I got through the weekend by sleeping in a trailer with a clean bathroom and kids that haven’t maimed each other and a bottle of wine, and not my daughter’s version of ‘I survived one night of Sparks camp without my brother.’


I’m hoping that my kids will begin to understand how meaningful these experiences will be to them in the future. The games I played, the songs I’ve sung are all things that I share with them now as a parent and product of Guiding and Scouting.


The Lem Family

By Alexandra Petrie, Research & Publication Co-ordinator

Hello readers! My name is Alexandra Petrie and I have been hired at the OM to research and coordinate their next publication on the history of Oshawa. The purpose of this publication is to tell a more inclusive history of Oshawa and to showcase its diverse past and present that has previously not been written.

These past three weeks my focus has been on researching early Chinese immigration to the area, with a focus on the Lem family. I first came across the name Lem when I saw an artwork titled A Clear Flame by Brenda Joy Lem at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, whose father, William Lem, grew up in Oshawa. He with his five siblings worked in the family laundry on Celina and Athol streets. The artwork references this by showing a picture of Lem’s grandmother standing in front of the laundry, with a story layered on top telling how the Lem’s would distill their own whiskey. After seeing this image, I wanted to know more about this family, what brought them to Oshawa, and what it was like living through the depression, the Second World War and post-war years.

Yun Lem, Brenda’s grandfather first appears in the 1930 Directory as the proprietor of Ontario Laundry. After speaking with Brenda, she was told her grandparents moved to Oshawa sometime in 1921 to open the first hand-laundry in the city. We do know there were a number of laundries in the area prior to 1921; an advertisement in the Ontario Reformer, states that there was a new Chinese Laundry opening in Oshawa on May 7, 1901.

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While it does not state if it was a hand-laundry, Chinese laundries often were, due to a lack of capital or access to the steam laundry machinery available to Chinese immigrants at the time.

Yun Lem’s name first appears in the 1930 directory as the proprietor of Ontario Laundry on Celina Street, near Athol. The Lem family was one of two Chinese-Canadian families in the area. Census records show the majority of Chinese who lived in Oshawa were single men. Those who were married had spouses and children still in China, due to exclusion laws that required Chinese immigrants to pay a Head Tax to come to Canada. Initially set at $50, the Head Tax was raised to $100 in 1900, then $500 in 1903. This was twice the average labourer’s yearly wage; in many cases companies or an individual’s family would cover the cost, which would then be paid back once the individual was settled in Canada.

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Yun Lem’s wife standing in front of Ontario Laundry. Courtesy The RMG.

This research is on-going. I plan on speaking to Brenda and her father William in the coming weeks, to talk about his experiences growing up in Oshawa and working in a laundry. I am also trying to connect with other Chinese-Canadians who immigrated or grew up in Oshawa.


Jansma, Linda, Curator, Philip, M. Nourbese Adamu. Brenda Joy Lem: Homage to the Heart. Oshawa: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2009.

The Month That Was – October 1929

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Daily Times

October 5th 1929

If Women Candidates Are Successful It Will Be First Time Any Woman Has Been Elected to the Ontario Legislature

Toronto, Ont., Oct. 5. – With provincial elections day, Oct. 30, more than three weeks distant, 150 candidates are already in the lists. Three-cornered fights are already in progress in eight out of the 112 constituencies.

The conservatives under Premier G. Howard Ferguson have the greatest number of candidates, but the Liberal supporters of W. E. N. Sinclair are not far behind.

The candidates nominated by today included the following:

Conservatives ……………………………. 79
Liberals …………………………………….. 55
Progressives ……………………………….. 8
United Farmers …………………………… 2
Prohibitionists……………………………… 2
Independents……………………………… 2
Labor…………………………………………. 1
Communist…………………………………. 1

The endorsement made so far include two women, Mrs. Grant Needham, Liberal candidate in Toronto St. George’s, and Dr. Minerva Reid, who has announced her candidacy as an Independent Prohibitionist in Toronto High Park. There have been woman candidates in previous general elections, but so far no woman has been elected to the Ontario Legislature.

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October 5th 1929


Miss E. McGregor, Toronto nurse, suffered serious injuries in an unusual accident which occurred on the highway east of here, near Valcoes’ Tourist Camp, late yesterday afternoon.

Miss McGregor was traveling west in an ambulance which was conveying a patient from Madoc to Toronto. She was seated in the front seat with the driver when the door suddenly swung open causing her to be thrown to the side of the road. The driver brought the ambulance to a quick stop and Dr. B. A. Brown of Oshawa was called to attend to the injured nurse.

Miss McGregor was rushed to the General Hospital here and is now under the care of Dr. Brown. Her condition was reported as favorable this morning.

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October 5th 1929


Seven Days to be served in the county jail was the sentence imposed upon Stanley Peebles by Magistrate Hind this morning. Peebles was arrested yesterday on a charge of being intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle. This is the fourth conviction on a charge of this nature within the past two weeks.

October 22nd 1929


“Those must be valuable cows,” commented Ald. Preston at the city council meeting last night when a communication was received from G. D. Conant on behalf of J. T. Sleeman, intimating that although Mr. Sleeman had used a cheque of $400 forwarded to him by the council he refused to accept this amount as full payment for the loss of four cows which had died as a result of drinking polluted water in Oshawa creek. The communication was placed on file.

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October 5th 1929


A great deal is said about the value of the tourist trade to Canada, and to the money which they leave behind them when they visit this country. It is conceded that tourist traffic is a splendid thing for trade in Canada, and that it brings benefits to those communities through which the main highways pass. The Farmers’ Advocate, however, sees another angle of the question, and discusses it in a sarcastic vein, as follows: –

“It is idle to say that the tourist trade does not bring anything to the farmer. We cleaned up the lane recently at Weldwood farm, and found eggshells, paper napkins, newspapers, Dixie cups, dry bread, whiskey bottles, spare tires and other remains too numerous to mention.”

But there is more than mere humor in it. It touches upon habits of carelessness and disrespect for the property of others which are by no means common to tourists from the United States. One would imagine that people who find quiet resting places for their meals on the property of farmers along the highways would at least have the courtesy to remove their debris when they leave, but there are too many of them who never think of that little act of thoughtfulness.

October 5th 1929


In promulgating your esoteric cogitations or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational communications posses a clarified conciseness a compact comprehensiveness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all communications posses a clarified jejune babblement, and asinine affections. Let your extemporaneous descanting and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and voracious vivacity without rodomontade or pharsmical bombast.  Sedulously avoid all polysyllable profundity, pompous prolixity, psittaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity, and ventriloquent vapidity. Shun double entendres, prient jocosity, and pestiferous profanity, observant or otherwise.

In other words talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly. Say what you mean, mean what you say and “don’t use big words”.

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October 22nd 1929


Paris, October 22 – Whether country girls make the best wives or not is being publically debated by two French intellectual leaders, Pierre Mille, novelist and editorial writer, thinks they do because he believes they recognize man as a superior being and take better care of him.

Madame Maria Verone, one of the first women lawyers and president of the French League for the Rights of Women, says there isn’t any real difference between farm and city girls, but her chief attention was given to whacks at the old fashioned man who thinks a woman’s place is in the home and that “obey” is the most important part of a marriage ceremony.

Mille has been having quite a bit of correspondence with men of the old school who think modern girls altogether too “uppity”. He agrees with some of them that the provinces still afford a man some chance of finding a good housekeeper who knows how to play second fiddle. Madame Verone however, retorts that the country girl, like the town girl, regards herself as fully man’s equal and that while she allows him to imagine he is of much importance, she never for a minute consents to recognize her husband as “master” of the house unless she, at his side, is the “mistress”.

All this is still a live topic in France, where the “woman’s rights” movement moves slowly, with little chance of gaining the vote until several old senators retire or die.

Note: October 1929 may be a familiar month for history buffs, as it was on October 24, 1929 that the stock market crashed, continuing to October 29.  October 24 has gained the nickname ‘Black Thursday,’ and this crash marks the start of the Great Depression.  The newspaper collection of the Oshawa Museum includes October 5 and 22, 1929; a front page headline on November 4, 1929 talks about the NY Stock Market crash.

The History of Oshawa

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

The Oshawa Museum is the only museum in Oshawa whose mandate is to tell the history of the Oshawa community, from early Indigenous inhabitation to today.  We tell these stories through a variety of means such as blog posts, onsite and online exhibits, podcasts and publications focused on original research.

This fall we are beginning the process of a new publication that will focus on telling a history of Oshawa unlike previous local history books.  A book on Oshawa’s history isn’t a new idea; there are have been several publications over the years.  One of the earliest books looking into the history of the area is Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches, which looks at early history of the Province as a whole, while giving readers glimpses into Oshawa’s early history. Books by Dr. Kaiser and Dr. Hoig continue to be used as starting places for citizens researching the early history of our community.  The most recent look at Oshawa’s history as a whole was not all that recent.  In 1967, the Oshawa Public Library published a book called Oshawa: The Crossing Between The Waters, authored by McIntyre Hood.

Each of these books are helpful for gaining general knowledge of Oshawa’s early history, but they are outdated and narrow in their focus. The goal of this new publication is to widen the focus, and tell the history that was not included in these earlier books. The new publication will look further into topics such as labour history in Oshawa, women’s history and include a more ethnically and racially diverse history, one that more closely resembled Oshawa’s population. This new book on Oshawa’s history is another step in our work to challenge the traditional narrative and present a more inclusive history of our community.


1937 GM Strike, demonstration at Memorial Park

Funding for a Research and Project Coordinator to take the lead on the project was secured through a Young Canada Works Internship Grant.  This grant allows recent graduates the opportunity to gain experience in their field of work, while also providing the resources for sites such as the Oshawa Museum to hire. This is our second internship grant through Young Canada Works.  Last fall, the grant program provided funding to hire another Research and Project Coordinator; the result of that internship was our newest publication To Cast A Reflection, published in the spring of 2018.

I look forward to working on this project and to further challenge what we thought was our history.

It’s All Fun and Games

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

A number of years back, a popular board games manufacturer encouraged families to have ‘Family Game Night,’ and their commercials showed people around a table, playing games, rolling dice and having fun. Clearly they weren’t basing it on Monopoly nights at my family’s home; savage would be the best way to describe those experiences, but looked back on fondly.  When we’re all back at home, or if we’re visiting each other, games of different varieties often get brought out: Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, cards, and Munchkins, as introduced by cousins and my brother.

This desire for recreation, and perhaps a streak of competition, is something we’ve sought out for centuries, and evidence of board games can be found as far back as c. 3500 BCE.  While our collection here at the Oshawa Museum may not stretch as far back as that, there is a wide variety of games that have been donated through the years, and here are just a few of my favourites.

On display in the Henry Parlour is a Fox and Geese board, although it’s often confused with Chinese Checkers.  Variations of this game can be traced as far back as the 14th century, and the object of the game is for one player, the fox, to try and ‘eat’ the geese, and the opposing player in turn tries to trap the fox, or reach a destination on the board.  Reportedly, this game was a favourite of Queen Victoria, which would justify its place in a Victorian era parlour.  This game often gets comments from visitors while on tour, either curious as to how the game is played, or making connections, remembering playing something similar.



An interesting example in our collection reflects the desire for recreation and normalcy even in the worst of times.  During World War II, the Canadian YMCA made Pocket Chess and Checker Sets available for military personnel.  The example in our collection is ©1942 by Unique Items Co., New York.  Stored in a portable paper sleeve was a checkered board and cardboard sheets, perforated so the playing pieces could be removed.


The Young Christian Men’s Association, YMCA, is one of “Canada’s longest standing and largest charities, with a presence in Canada since 1851 and now serving more than 2.25 million people annually across 1,700 program locations.”  With values of caring, respect, honesty, responsibility, and inclusiveness, it is understandable this group would become involved during wartime. The YMCA stated:

From 1866 – 1946, YMCA War Services provided support in the form of recreation, religious, educational, and entertainment services to troops serving abroad. YMCA staff were a welcome sight and became known for offering moral support and comfort by delivering hot tea, equipment, biscuits and more to Canadian soldiers.


A simple game like chess or checkers, which could be easily carried, could be a welcome form of entertainment during the hardships of war.

Finally, a donation from 2015 brought a HUGE wave of nostalgia for me with the game Touring: The Great Automobile Card Game!  Touring was originally designed by William Janson Roche,  patented by the Wallie Dorr Company in 1906, and picked up by Parker Brothers in 1925.  It’s interesting to note that this card game was created and became popular at a time when the automobile was in its early stages.


From the rules:
The object of the game is to score 110 miles by completing a set of Mileage cards. To accomplish this, one not only builds up Mileage as quickly as he may, but also adds to the excitement by obstructing his opponents by the play of DELAY cards upon their GO cards.


I cannot think back to summer times at a cottage, camping, or nights spent with family without thinking of Mille Bornes, a card game of French origin from the mid 1950s, based off Touring. The game is a road race, where you try to accumulate 1000 miles;  you need a green light card to add miles, and your opponents can throw you obstacles along the way, like a flat time or running out of gas.  Edmond Dujardin, the Mille Bornes creator, adapted Touring and added the Coup Fourré, a strategic safety card that can make you immune from different driving disasters.

It’s such a simple game, as it only requires the deck of cards, but my goodness the memories that this game can bring back is amazing.  A few years ago, I got the game as a stocking stuffer, and I’m pretty sure we cracked it open before Christmas brunch.

Games are a source of entertainment and have been for centuries. Our collection is reflective of popular trends and societal influences.


Fox and Geese:

YMCA Canada: