‘A Giant Leap for Mankind’ – Oshawa Times and the Moon Landing

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With twelve words, Astronaut Neil Armstrong left his mark on 20th century history: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon, followed minutes later by Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.  The crew of the Apollo 11 mission was rounded out by pilot Michael Collins, who remained in lunar orbit during the moon landing.


Oshawa Times, 21 July 1969



The eight day mission of the Apollo crew was many years in the making.  The ‘Space Race’ competition between the United States and the USSR began in the 1950s, ramped up with John F. Kennedy’s promise in 1961 to put an American on the moon by the end of that decade, and was essentially won with the landing of Apollo 11.  The event was watched live by millions, the footage has been played and replayed countless times, and the events of this and other space missions have been dramatized through the years.  The lunar landing captivated those in 1969 and continues to inspire today.

The people of Oshawa were naturally caught up in the events leading up to the launch, and the Oshawa Times from that week show how it was being reported.  On July 14, along with an article about how the astronauts were feeling ahead of the mission, the Times reported how the mission was to be televised and what viewers could expect.  “More people throughout the world are expected to watch the Apollo 11 moon flight on television than any previous single event,” the Times stated.  “Virtually every country – including some Communist nations – has planned television, radio, and newspaper coverage of the event, and Venezuela has declared a public holiday because of the lunar landing’s ‘great importance for the history of mankind.’”  The article further warned viewers not to expect high quality images from when Armstrong first steps on the surface.  Another article which appeared later in that edition talked about the job for the medical doctor who was to monitor the health of the astronauts before, during, and after the mission, which included a 21 day quarantine after returning to earth, in case of ‘space germs.’


Oshawa Times, 15 July 1969

On July 15, the Times reprinted a message to the astronauts sent by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, reading “Man has reached out and touched the tranquil moon.  Puisse ce haut fait permattre a l’homme de redecouvrir la terre et d’y trouver la paix (May this great feat permit man to rediscover the earth and to fine peace there).”

“An aura of Buck Rogers surrounds the big news story of the week – probably the biggest news story of the century,” the Times reported in their editorial on July 15. “Never before have men set out on a more hazardous or complex mission… As we marvel at the courage and skill of the astronauts the wish can only be God speed and a safe return.”


When Apollo 11 launched on the morning of Wednesday, July 16, it dominated the front page of the Oshawa Times including one picture of the rocket taking off and one of Neil Armstrong.  An article also featured on the front page highlights a Canadian connection to the mission, “Apollo Astronauts to Land with Made-In Quebec Legs.”  Heroux Machine Shops of Longueuil, Quebec manufactured the landing gear for the lunar module.  Further in the paper was an amusing addition of tips for the astronauts from Edmonton Grade 4 students.  Anecdotes included: “If I go to the moon I would surely bring my records because there is a lot of dancing on the moon because there is no gravity,” and “I would bring a flag of Canada. And make a flag of the moon. And the designs will be a moon and me sitting on it. The moon would be yellow. I would be a stick lady and the sides would be black.”


Oshawa Times, 16 July 1969

On July 18, a small article ran on the front page under the headline “62 Would Go on Moon Trip,” and the article reads as follows:

Montreal (CP) – Air Canada is accepting reservations for its first flight to the moon.

Sixty-two have been made so far, a spokesman said Thursday.

No price is quoted and no down payment requested but the airline is serious about the matter, the spokesman said.

All you have to do is make a reservation for the flight and let Air Canada know where you can be reached.  If you are high enough on the reservations list, the airline will contact you when the details of the inaugural moon flight are known to find out whether you still want to go at the price you will have to pay.

With 20/20 hindsight, we know that the mission was successful, but on July 18, the outcome of Apollo 11 was still unfolding; “Death Waits if Astronauts Become Marooned,” a headline on page 3, bleakly spelled out the worst case scenario for the mission.  “Death awaits the Apollo astronauts of they become marooned on the moon – and they know it for theses is no rescue vehicle that could save them.”

In that same edition, many notable Oshawa citizens shared their thoughts on the moon landing.  MPP Clifford Pilkey said “The tremendous technical repercussions should reflect a better life for all people; I hope that this much scientific know-how can be generated to attack problems in other areas too.”  A 97-year-old Col R.S. McLaughlin, although “keenly interested in the whole thing” didn’t think he should stay up after 2am to watch the landing happen live. Ald. Ruth Bestwick said, “I’m not against the moon landing, but I think the money could be put to better use,” while fellow Ald. Gordon Attersley said “The walk will prove to man that nothing is impossible.  Many of us place too many limitations on ourselves.”

The landmark event took place in the early hours of Sunday, July 20; the Oshawa Times did not put out a paper on Sundays in 1969, so the following day was filled with coverage of the landing.  In fact, the Times suggested its readers “file this copy of The Oshawa Times for reference in the years to come… Really, what else is in news today?”  They included photos from the surface of the moon, the entire transcript of the landing, reactions of Canadians to the event, local reactions, and more.

Said Mayor Hayward Murdoch: “Fantastic. Thrilling. The human aspect as well as the technological evolution that has gone on to bring this about is almost beyond the average person’s comprehension. The next big thrill is to see them get off there today.”

Finally, Oshawa was one of countless communities who sent congratulations to Washington.  Mayor Murdoch sent a telegram to President Richard Nixon, the text of which was printed in the Times on July 22. “We respectfully ask that you accept our congratulations for the tremendous human and technical accomplishments of Mr. Neil Armstrong, Col. Edwin Aldrin and Col. Michael Collins and their back-up crew.  Their contribution to world history has thrilled many thousands and we request you convey our gratitude for a job well done and a safe and speedy return home.”


Oshawa Times, 25 July 1969



Student Museum Musings – Mia

By Mia V., Summer Student

Hi all! Since I’ve been fortunate enough to spend another summer here, I was able to pick up where I left off in researching post-WWII immigration and the resettlement of displaced people in Oshawa. So far, I’ve been kept busy digging through the archives and collections at the museum, as well as other ones nearby with a similar focus.

It was following a trip up to the Archives of Ontario that I became convinced that in-depth archival research is 1) never dull and 2) always worthwhile. For the first conviction, it was when I was casually sifting through a box of negatives that a very tiny photo of a postcard caught my eye. I took a closer look to see that it involved one party sending the other a very thinly veiled threat (but that’s a tale for another time)!

My second conviction came when I discovered the piles of information that Ontario’s archives had on one of Oshawa’s cultural communities that I had begun researching – the Slovak community. I was sure that they must have been active, given that the location of their heritage museum had once been in Oshawa. Unlike some of the other communities that were still active and that had plenty of historical material, there had not been as much information on them. The most I knew originally was that, given that there is still a Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church on Ritson Road, they must have once been quite present. It turned out that this parish had formed in February of 1952, with the church itself being built in January of 1955. Indeed, these post-war years had been full of renewed immigration to Oshawa, and Slovaks were did not prove to be the exception.

Slovak Church - google images

Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church, 464 Ritson Road South; photo from Google Streetview

However, it still wasn’t quite clear to me just how far back the history extended. In 1968, according to the Oshawa Reformer, the Slovak League in Oshawa (Branch 6) and the First Catholic Slovak Union (Branch 786) celebrated their 40th anniversary at the Slovak National Hall. These were centres of community activity that I had not come across in my research before, and so they helped to fill in some of the gaps. The celebratory event marking the milestone was attended by Slovak communities from across Ontario and also included local guests such as the M.P. Michael Starr and Jo Aldwinckle of the Oshawa Folk Arts Council – two names which have come up frequently in my research. It is for this reason – seeing all these common threads come together – that the search felt so worthwhile.

Mia at the AO

Mia at the Archives of Ontario for her research trip!

Going forward, this information from various archival sources will nicely complement what has been collected through oral history so far. As with before, if anyone has a connection to this period of immigration to the city, we would be glad to hear your stories! I’m looking forward to continuing my work over the following weeks, but, in the meantime, you are welcome to have a look through some of the posts at the Oshawa Immigration Stories website.


Mihal, Ondrej. Slovaks in Canada Through Their Own Eyes. Toronto: Slovak Canadian Cultural Heritage Centre, 2003.

“Slovaks celebrate anniversary,” Oshawa Reformer, May 8 1968, Archives of Ontario.


Student Museum Musings – Christine

By Christine G., Summer Student

Hello! My name is Christine and I am the Archives Assistant at the Oshawa Museum this summer! It is my first summer here at the Oshawa Museum, but I already love it here! My first project was creating and finishing a finding aid for some of our land deed records and inputting the information into our catalogue. There were a total of 49 items to catalogue that ranged from 1859 to 1933 and spanned both Oshawa and the Township of East Whitby. The most interesting part of this project was seeing just how much information these deeds and mortgages provide to researchers! The deeds and mortgages include information on more than just the land transaction as they include occupations, relationships, and town plans. All of this information can be used to understand city growth patterns, genealogical information, occupational titles and actions, land prices, economic trends, and so much more!

My beautiful picture

My current project involves working with recently donated files from the Oshawa Fire Department. We received a large donation of archival material from the Department and are currently trying to sort through all of the files to find out what we have been given. There are thousands of photos, slides, negatives, newspaper clippings, and official documents, and let me tell you, there are so many cool files and photos. For example, the Department provided us with arson files that contain hand written notes, statements from witnesses, official reports, photos, floor plans, and so much more! The photos in this collection are so incredibly awesome. There are photos of the Oshawa Arena fire, house fires, vehicle fires, fires downtown, fire trucks (so many cool photos of fire trucks), construction of fire stations, the firefighters, and that to name a few! If you like photos of trucks and seeing how vehicles change over time, this is definitely a collection you will have to check out!

My beautiful picture

The collection of newspaper clippings range from the 1860s all the way to the end of 1999! In these clippings there are articles on different fires, emergencies, crashes, outreach activities, and fire prevention. The clippings also include articles on relations between the Oshawa Fire Department and the municipal council. These articles include union and wage negotiations, a councillor calling Oshawa Firefighters out of shape, and the debate surrounding Bob Rae’s Social Contract Bill.

My beautiful picture

The Department also provided over 1000 slides that are being digitized and cataloged. In the slides there are fire prevention and safety presentations, as well as instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher. One of my favourite presentations within the slides is a training for the firefighters on how to spot the signs of arson while fighting a fire. It goes through finding the flash point of the fire (where it started), weird smells, odd flame colours, different colours of smoke and so much more. It is really informative in fire safety and in seeing how the fire department has changed over time. Honestly this is such an amazing collection to have in our archival collection, and I can’t wait to see what else turns up as I complete the project!

My beautiful picture

The Month That Was – July 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

July 5

What has Mr. Gibbs done to Entitle Him to Re-election

Last week we left Mr. Gibbs voting steadily with the Government in favor of the long and expensive [date] for the Intercolonial Railway, but which Mr. Macdougall, one of the Ministers who ought to know all about it, says $8,000,000 were thrown into the sea –but which later dates to show to be $12,000,000 loss to the country instead of $8,000,000.

But we proceed. On 21st May Sir J. J. A. Macdonald (sic) moved, seconded by Sir. Geo. E. Cartier, – that the salary of the Governor General be fixed at £10,000 sterling (in round numbers, $50,000), per year. Mr. Oliver moved in amendment to make the sum £7,500 sterling, in round numbers, $37,250. Mr. Jones moved to make the salary $32,000. Vote on Mr. Jones’ amendment 59 to 90; on Oliver’s amendment, 59-90; on Sir John’s original motion, 89-60, – on every occasion Mr. Gibbs voting with Sir John and Sir George in favor of the largest sum, while Mackenzie, Thompson (of North Ontario) and the Reformers, voted steadily for the smallest amount.  Thus, through the united influence of the two Sirs in the Commons, an obsequious majority, aided by Mr. Gibbs, was induced to hand over $250,000 of the hard earnings of the working men of the country to each successive Governor-General sent from across the sea to remain here five years…

Sir John and Mr. Gibbs having just shown their disregard for the people’s purse, now proceed outraging the promptings of our better nature by seeking to re-establish the long since abolished barbarous custom of flogging prisoners with the lash. Sir John, seconded by George – humane brace of knights – moved that the flogging bull be read the third time…

Amendment lost: 40-76. Mackenzie and Thomson… vote against the flogging, while the brace of Knights, the Conservatives, and TN Gibbs join together in putting on the lash! Shame on you gentlemen!…


July 5

Mowing Machines Below Cost of Production

The Joseph Hall Manufacturing Company, of Oshawa, are offering some Ohio Junior Mowers, Ohio Mowers, large size; Cayuga Chief Junior Mower and Wood’s Self Rakers, at a price far below cost of production at the present cost of Iron. Machinery cannot be made at anything like present process, and farmers will do well to purchase this year, as the saving will be more than the interest of the money for many years. Labor must be very scares and dear. All wanting Machines will do well to come to Oshawa before purchases. Iron has risen one hundred per cent, and is still advancing.

July 5 1872 p3

July 5, 1872, page 3

July 12

Seventy Thousand Dollars!

This is the amount generally stated to be at the disposal of TN Gibbs, for the purpose of attempting to secure his re-election as representative of South Ontario in the House of Commons. But even this large sum will, we believe, prove themselves [mea], by spurring his bribes, and voting against Sir John’s most obedient automaton. Electors of South Ontario, redeem this riding from the disgrace under which it has lain for the past five years. Prove yourselves free men, and true men, by voting for Truman P. [White].


July 19

12th of July Celebration

On Friday morning last we were awakened at an early hour by the booming of cannon. It surprised us. We rubbed our eyes and began to think, when we remembered that it was the 12th of July, and that the Orangemen and Young Britons were welcoming the anniversary day of the Battle of the Boyne.

At half-past six am, the OYB’s assembled at their lodge room to make arrangements for the procession; and the Orangemen at half-past seven… The OYB’s lead (sic) the procession, headed by their fine fife and drum band, and presented the finest appearance we have ever seen in any procession of the kind here or elsewhere.  The Orangemen followed, beaded by the Whitby Brass Band, they also presented a very neat appearance… Everything passed off in a most harmonious manner, and with credit to the society.  The most pleasing feature of the demonstration was the sobriety with which it was conducted

July 19 1872 p2

July 19, 1872, page 2.

July 26

South Ontario Election

The writ, authorizing the election of a representative of this riding for the House of Commons, has been received by Mr. JH Perry, Returning Officer; and he has issued a proclamation appointing Thursday next, 1st August, as the day of nomination – to take place at Whitby, on the grounds adjoining the Town Hall.  Should Mr. Gibbs not take warning from the signs of defeat now plainly visible, and withdraw from the contest, voting will take place throughout the riding on Thursday, August 8th, at the following polling places:

East Whitby
No 1 – Cedar Dale Warehouse, opposite GTR station, Cedar Dale
No 2 – Town Hall, Columbus
No 3 – School house, Raglan

Whitby Township
No 1 – Toll gate house, gravel road lot 26th, 4th concession
No 2 – Town hall, Brooklin
No 3 – School house, Ashburn

No 1 – Union school house, lot 1, 2nd concession
No 2 – Orange hall, 8th con.
No 3 – Temperance hall, Duffins Creek
No 4 – Town Hall, Brougham
No 5 – School house, Claremont
No 6 – McCreight’s school house, lot 30 3rd concession
No 7 – Bentley’s school house, lot 32, 8th concession

No 1 – Mr Carswell’s office
No 2 – Town hall
No 3 – Pedlar’s Warehouse
No 4 – Smith & McGaw’s livery office

Town of Whitby
No 1 – Mechanic’s hall
No 2 – Skating rink, Dundas street
No 3 – Town hall


July 26


In Harmony on the 25th inst. Mr. Richard Whit, aged 57 years
The funeral will take place this afternoon, at 3 o’clock.

In Oshawa, on the 24th inst., Mrs. Robt. Fursdon, aged 49 years.
The funeral will take place this afternoon at half-past one.

Note: This year, 1872, was an election year, held from July 20 to October 12, 1872, the second federal election held in Canada.  It was commonplace for elections to last longer than one day; according to Elections Canada: “elections were held on different dates in different ridings. The system allowed the party in power to hold elections in a safe riding first, hoping in this way to influence the vote in constituencies less favourable to them. The system even enabled a candidate who lost in one riding to run again in another.”

The result of the election saw Sir John A. Macdonald and his Conservatives returning to form a minority government, and TN Gibbs was re-elected to represent Ontario South.  The Ontario Reformer newspaper leaned left, strongly supporting the Liberal candidate Truman P. White; unfortunately, there are no known existing copies of the conservative paper, the Oshawa Vindicator, from this time.  It would have been an interesting exercise to compare how the two newspapers were reporting this election.

Student Museum Musings: Thomas Conant’s Century-Old Musings

By Adam A., Summer Student

Hello and long time no see! I’m Adam, you may remember me as the guy from last summer who exclusively blogged about transcriptions. This summer I have a rather different role, that of a researcher. Specifically, I have been tasked with gathering information about the Loyalist and Late Loyalist settlers of Oshawa for a chapter in a future museum publication.

Loyalists were those from the Thirteen Colonies who fought for or otherwise remained loyal to the British during the American Revolutionary War, after which many faced harassment and suspicion from their neighbours. Accordingly, many thousands left the embryonic United States of America to start anew in Britain’s remaining North American possessions. Late Loyalists were a later wave of migrants from the USA who came to Upper Canada and renewed their loyalty to the British Crown in pursuit of the free land on offer. In the book these two sets of early migrants from America will be contextualized as Oshawa’s third group of inhabitants following various First Nations and the French.

Researching this topic has involved a lot of reading. Since the start of this month I have powered through two articles and four books relevant to this period of Oshawa’s history. Oshawa is especially gifted with its wealth of amateur historians from the turn of the century who endeavoured to coalesce various local and oral histories of Oshawa’s pioneer days into a number of books on our early history.


Mr. Thomas Conant’s two publications Upper Canada Sketches (1898) and Life in Canada (1903) have been particularly useful. Mr. Conant trace’s his family history in North America back to 1623 when his ancestor arrived in New England where he and his descendants proved highly successful. The Conant’s history in Canada begins with the settlement of Roger Conant in this area in 1794. Roger had been a Loyalist, in so far as he never took up arms against the crown, and migrated north to Canada as he felt unwelcome in Massachusetts.


img014 Roger Conant's homestead

“Roger Conants First Settlement in Darlington, Co. Durham, Upper Canada, 1778” by ES Shrapnel, as appeared in Upper Canada Sketches

With this as a starting point, Mr. Conant’s writings cover a number of subjects including family history, economic history, political history, and social history. Over the combined 40 chapters of his two books he relates: how land was cleared; the importance of trade and cordial relations with the Mississauga; the danger presented by packs of wolves; the impact of the War of 1812; tensions between those of American descent and more recent arrivals from Britain; the utility of Whitby’s port; the influence of American religious movements such as Millerism and Mormonism; the price and productivity of land; the establishment and growth of local industries; the tyranny and downfall of the Family Compact; the importance of the Grand Trunk Railway; and, much more. His writing strongly conveys the risks faced and rewards received by those would-be Americans who by choice or by circumstance ended up here in Oshawa.


“World to Come to an End.  Stars Falling, 1833” by ES Shrapnel, as appeared in Upper Canada Sketches


Thomas Conant’s writings present a genuine treasure trove of information from Oshawa’s pioneer days, which allow one to really appreciate the legacy of the pioneers’ labours. Those who wish to learn more are encouraged to visit us at the Oshawa Museum. Additionally, prints of the titular illustrations from Upper Canada Sketches are available in our gift shop.