The Oshawa Harbour – Part II

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Through the Great Depression and the Second World War, the harbour was a focal point of shipping for Oshawa, including huge supplies of coal, which was the primary means of heating homes in Oshawa during that time. 

In the 1930s the harbour continued to expand and with the opening of the Welland Ship Canal with eight locks; this opened up Lake Ontario to larger ships, increasing business for the harbour in Oshawa.  Due to a serious flood in 1937, the coal piles and roads around the harbour were significantly damaged.  A new west pier was constructed by the firm William Bermingham and Sons of Kingston, Ontario.  The new pier was 1,082 feet and was constructed 42 feet west of the old structure.  In 1939, the outer harbour was dredged to a depth of 24 feet and the inner harbour and turning basin to 22 feet. 

The harbour in the 1930s

Unfortunately, the improvements that were being made to the harbour had a negative impact on the shoreline along Oshawa’s waterfront.  The shoreline was receding and the original breakwater was extended inward.  Portions of this cement wall can still be seen along the shoreline. 

The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

In 1959 the St. Lawrence Seaway opened with excitement from the shipping community.  Unfortunately, it would soon be discovered that the lock system and sections of the seaway were not large enough to handle the anticipated ocean-going vessels.  These issues were not a concern for Oshawa; as the harbour continued to expand, due to municipal growth, Oshawa officials lobbied for a commissioned port.  Michael Starr, MP for the Ontario County riding, was instrumental in getting the Oshawa Port commissioned under an act in Parliament.  Federal money would continue to flow if they became a federal port. 

The new Harbour Commissioners Act, 1960, was proclaimed in 1962 and erected an autonomous body of commissioners – two federal appointees and one City appointee.  The Oshawa Harbour Commission was one of seven commissioned deep-sea ports in Canada.  At the time, Hamilton and Toronto were governed by their own acts, which were passed through Parliament much earlier. 

The first meeting of the commissioners took place at the Genosha Hotel on December 12, 1960.  Their first order of business was staff and land holdings.   Staff of the harbour at the time included a wharfinger, who managed the wharf, and a harbourmaster, who booked ships.  The first Harbour Commission also set out to create a yacht basin, a project that would become very controversial over time.

The port area was bordered by a line 600 feet east on the north of Harbour Road, 3000 feet south into Lake Ontario, west to Simcoe Street South, and 600 feet east on Farewell Street. (See image from 1960) 

Large tracts of land in the port area were either purchased or acquired and included the Second Marsh and surrounding land, such as the Beaton Properties and the former Gifford Farm, where the original Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery was located.  In the 1990s the City of Oshawa obtained ownership of the Second Marsh Lands and continue to work in collaboration with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Friends of Second Marsh.

Two decades later, a major recession hit Canada, and the Oshawa Harbour suffered along with the rest of the country.  Competition was increasing from other modes of transportation. Through good years and bad, ships continued to call in at the Oshawa Harbour for goods of all types bound for destinations all over the world.  According to an article from the Oshawa This Week, in 1992 the Oshawa Harbour handled over 52 ships; one shipment included 22,000 tons of steel products from Lasco Steel (Gerdau).  That year, the first ship arrived on April 17, 1992 and its captain was welcomed with the traditional top hat ceremony.

In 2012, it was announced that the Oshawa Harbour Commission would become a Canada Port Authority.  The Port of Oshawa was the last port in Canada to be overseen by a harbour commission.  Between 1999 and 2001, 17 other ports in Canada became Canada Port Authorities. Oshawa couldn’t make the transformation because of an ongoing land dispute that was finally dealt with in a 2010 settlement agreement between the City of Oshawa and the federal government. 

In 2014, the City of Oshawa acquired the land located on the southeast corner of Simcoe Street South and Harbour Road, land that was returnted to the City as part of Oshawa’s settlement agreement with the federal government and the Port of Oshawa.  The Larry Ladd Harbour Trail on the City harbour lands opened to the public on July 1, 2018.  Designed with accessibility in mind, the Larry Ladd Harbour Trail comprises a pedestrian bridge and walkway and is an important link to the Waterfront Trail, Second Marsh and Oshawa Museum, as well as to Lakeview Park. 

On June 18, 2019, the Oshawa Port Authority became amalgamated with the Hamilton Port Authority, known today as the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA Ports).  Over the past decade, the Port of Oshawa has handled more than 500 vessels carrying over 3 million metric tonnes of cargo.  The Port handles an average of $23 million worth of cargo annually from salt and steel products to sugar, asphalt and grain. In 2020, HOPA, completed a Land Use plan for the harbour lands in Oshawa.  You can learn more through this link:

In 2021, the Oshawa Museum is excited to partner with the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority to share the story of the Oshawa Habour in a new exhibit, From Ship to Shore: Looking at Oshawa’s Relationship with Lake Ontario. 


Missed the first part of the Harbour History? Read it here:

https://lakeviewparkoshawa.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/the-oshawa-harbour-part-1/

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Blog Look Back – Top 5 Posts of 2020

Happy New Year! Throughout 2020, we shared 64 articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing many different stories from our city’s past.  Many of our posts reflected current history with the COVID-19 pandemic – how the pandemic was affecting the Museum and how to archive a pandemic’s impacts.

We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2021, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2020

Family Tales and (In)Famous Taverns
Our summer student Mia shared her own family history with this blog post, looking at the history of the hotel located at 394 Simcoe St. S.

Spanish Flu in 1918 and COVID-19 in 2020
Our Curator, Melissa, examined how the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic impacted our community and contrasted it to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tales from Olive French
In the 1960s, a woman named Olive French began researching and writing a history of Oshawa’s early education, educators, and schools.  This manuscript was never published but was later donated to the archives. This post shares some interesting tidbids discovered while transcribting the manuscript

Do you Remember The Horse Drawn Wagon?
Before the explosion of large grocery stores that sell a wide variety of foods, the people of Oshawa enjoyed home delivery of local-made milk from local dairies.

You Asked, We Answered: Where are the Henrys Buried?
While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. One such tour was ‘where are the Henrys buried,’ and we shared the answer in this blog post.

These were our top 5 posts written in 2020, however, for the third year, our top viewed post was actually written a few years ago. Perhaps our readers have an interest in vintage bedwarmers or are looking for inspiration for keeping warm during the cold Canadian winter months, which is why Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! is once again our top viewed post!

Thank you all for reading, and we hope to see you again in 2021!

The Month That Was – January 1946

Toronto Daily Star, 02 Jan 1946: 25.
Domestic Help Wanted
Oshawa
A girl or woman for house work, modern 6 room house, residential section. General Motors official. 1 child 7; liberal time off; live in or out. State age, experience, references. Box A504 Star

Toronto Daily Star, 03 Jan 1946: 8.
Greater Toronto and Nearby Centres
Brother is Toronto Victor, M’Callum Runs in Oshawa

Oshawa, Jan. 3 – Three candidates for mayor, including the present office-holder, WH Gifford, and 17 candidates for 10 seats on council, remained on the lists for election, Jan 7, as qualifications closed here yesterday.

Contesting the three-year tenure of Mayor Wilfred Hyland Gifford will be two former councilmen, Harry O. Perry and Frank N, McCallum. The latter is a brother of HE McCallum, elected head of the poll in Toronto’s elections, Tuesday.

Property owners also will vote on approval of a $250,000 debenture issue toward a proposed community centre costing $750,000. The community centre proposal is expected to figure largely in the campaigning for council posts.

The Times-Gazette, 17 Jan 1946: 1.
Two Fires Yesterday
Two fire alarms were registered in Oshawa during the last 24 hours. The city fire department extinguished both blazes without trouble and there was little loss of property. At 2:15 yesterday afternoon the department was called to extinguish a chimney fire at the home of Mrs. E. Sayers, 253 Nassau Street and Frank Barager, 603 Cromwell Avenue summoned firemen to extinguish a blaze under the hood of his automobile, believed to have been caused by defective wiring. The latter call came at 5:30pm

More Mail From Stolen Bag Found
Further debris from the mail bag alleged to have been stolen by a group of Oshawa youths last Dec 13th, was discovered in the rear of the factory opened by the Skinner Company Ltd. On Simcoe St. S.

“This part of the mail was also torn in pieces,” said Norman Moran, local postmaster. “It is of no value.”

The Times-Gazette, 17 Jan 1946: 2.

The Times-Gazette, 17 Jan 1946: 7.
Amazing Display of Electric Science
Bell Telephone Representative Transmits Music on Beam of Light

Bordering almost on witchcraft and supernatural, modern miracles of electric science were displayed to the members of the Oshawa Kiwanis Club on Tuesday noon, at their weekly luncheon meeting, when Robt. H. Spencer, of Toronto, Public Information Representative for the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, delivered an amazing exhibition of tricks, during his extremely interesting address, “Your Voice as Others Hear It.”…

“You could talk to the moon by telephone if it were possible to have space repeater stations along the voice highway,” declared Mr. Spencer. “There is no limit to the distance over which one can talk by telephone, providing repeaters can be used.”

Speaking on “Giving Wings to Words,” Mr. Spencer sent music along a beam of light, amplified a heartbeat, a hundred million times and enabled his audience to hear the noise that muscles make when they contract, in order to illustrate the complexity of the communications equipment which was required by the armed forces of the United Nations. The use of the photo or electric [eyt], now so vitally important in motion pictures, was vividly demonstrated by use of the various pieces of elaborate electrical equipment on hand, weighing 600 pounds. …

The Times-Gazette, 17 Jan 1946: 15.
Will “Crack Down”
Chief of Police Owen D. Friend has served notice on residents of the Oshawa area that local police will do their share in helping to stamp out the illegal carrying of automatic pistols and revolvers. In an interview with the Times-Gazette he said his department would “crack down” on all owners of unregistered guns.

The law regarding registration of firearms was in force during the war but since the last registration in March of last year a large number of revolvers and pistols have been brought home as souvenirs by members of the Armed Forces. In some instances these weapons have not been registered with the authorities and through theft have fallen into the hands of lawless persons.

Canadian law enforcement agencies are making every effort to stamp out the wave of violent crime which is sweeping the country. For that reason everyone who has in their possession an automatic pistol or revolver is asked to see to it that they are registered. There is no cost involved, the only requirement being that the weapon be brought to the police station where it permit will be issued.

The Times-Gazette, 17 Jan 1946: 3.

Toronto Daily Star, 19 Jan 1946: 5.
Coal Truck Helper Killed in Accident
Oshawa, Jan 19. – Eslia Berry, 16, was instantly killed yesterday when he slipped from the running board of a coal truck driven by William Davidson, Oshawa police reported.

Constable McCammond, who investigated, said Berry had been standing on the running board as the truck moved on to the weigh scales to check the load. When he jumped down, he apparently slipped beneath the rear wheels of the vehicle, the constable said.

The Times-Gazette, 26 Jan 1946: 1.
Alex Hall Crown Attorney
Gets Full-Time Appointment Succeeding AF Annis, KC, Who Resigned on Request
New Appointee Formerly Held Position – Was Mayor of Oshawa in 1937 – Recently Returned From Active Service Overseas

It has been officially announced that Major Alexander C Hall, well-known Oshawa barrister and former incumbent of the position, has been appointed Crown attorney and Clerk of the Peace for Ontario County, succeeding Allin F Annis, KC, who has held the position for the past eight years. The appointment was confirmed by Order-in-Council this week. The appointment will be effective from February 1 and Major Hall will devote his entire time to the position, discontinuing his private practice as a barrister. The Order-in-Council sets Mr. Hall salary at $4500.

Is Former Mayor

Major Hall, who conducted a law practice here from his graduation in 1929 until he enlisted in the fall of 1940, has served a previous term is Crown attorney. He received the appointment in September, 1933, when JA McGibbon, KC, resigned to take his place on the bench as county judge for Victoria and Halliburton counties and held the position until October of the following year when he was succeeded by GD Conant, KC. Serving on the city Council in 1935, he was elected mayor of the city for the 1937 term and was also conservative candidate for this riding in the 1935 federal election.

The Times-Gazette, 26 Jan 1946: 8.

The Times-Gazette, 26 Jan 1946: 8.
Girl Guide Council Holds First Meeting
The first meeting of the new Oshawa Girl Guide Council was held on Thursday at the home of the chairman, Mrs. T. E. McMullen, Simcoe St., North. Mrs. E. A. Collins read the minutes of the last meeting at the association and moved that the book of the old Oshawa Association be closed. Three local associations are to be formed in the near future for the North, Central and South districts.

On Thinking Day February 22, the council hopes that all Guides and Brownies will wear their uniform the whole day. Thinking Day, it will be recalled, is the birthday of the late Lord Baden-Powell and Lady Baden-Powell, both of whom asked that their common birthday be recognized not with gifts, but with every Brownie thinking on that day of Guides and Brownies in other countries.

The Times-Gazette, 26 Jan 1946: 1.12
What Council Did
The matter of straightening out the lot situation at the north end of Oshawa Boulevard where certain of the owners, each of whom had more than one lot, had accidentally built on the lot next to their own, was referred to the chairman and vice-chairman of City Property for a further report and recommendation. One of the owners, Robert Hales, who had had the property surveyed recently, appeared before council.

Merry Christmas from the Oshawa Museum

From us at the Oshawa Museum, we wish those who celebrate a very Merry Christmas.

Please enjoy this passage from the classic Victorian story, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A Glimpse into the Holiday Celebrations of a Post-WWII Diaspora in Oshawa

By Mia V., Visitor Host

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, Oshawa’s post-WWII religious landscape had pre-war roots and was quite vast. The significance of this, of having cultural institutions built by and for one’s community, cannot be overstated, especially for the holidays. For many immigrants and their descendants – such as those in Oshawa at this time – intentionally connecting to one’s heritage was and is central to the celebration of Christmas. 

Christmas in the diaspora – many thousands of kilometres away from home and extended family – could not have been easy at first. However, a sense of community could still prevail, as newcomers were often embraced by members of their own community and adjacent communities. For example, for “Ukrainian” Easter, newer immigrants were incorporated into holiday celebrations of more established individuals. This point was shared for the museum’s oral history project, and it is also documented in the article “DP Girls Entertained by Oshawa Polish Groups” (March 23, 1948). This article, as you can read below, describes how newly arrived Polish and Latvian women from a German camp to Whitby were welcomed to an event at the Olive Avenue Polish Hall.

Left image: This Times-Gazette newspaper clipping describes how the women were welcomed, their reactions, and also that they will likely be welcomed at “festivities in connection with the approaching Easter season.”
Right image: Polish Alliance of Canada Hall on Olive Avenue, 2020

Despite this, the lead-up to the holidays would have been entirely different, marked with unfamiliar holiday habits and missing most of the familiar ones. For those that may celebrate different holidays or the same holidays on different dates, the resulting feeling might be that of disconnection from the cheerful hustle and bustle of the season. For instance, with Advent and the Nativity Fast in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the official start of the Christmas season might actually be earlier than one would expect and lasts well into January, until Epiphany is celebrated on either the 6th or 19th. (You can read more about the difference in calendars here!) Whether or not individuals strictly participate in the entire fast, this period certainly drives up anticipation for Christmas – with all the delicious foods and treats that are associated with it.

Here is bandura player George Metulynsky, dressed in Ukrainian folk clothing which is customary for special occasions. Music, such as carolling, was another Oshawa Ukrainian diaspora tradition, as the article describes the church’s youth group partaking in. / Oshawa Times, “Ancient music heralds holiday for Ukrainians” (January 6 1981)

The Ukrainian custom is to have twelve dishes on Christmas Eve – or Sviatyi Vechir (“Holy Evening”) – representing the twelve apostles, as the Oshawa Times reported on January 7th, 1984. Kutia (wheat cooked with barley and race and other flavourful ingredients such as nuts, poppy seeds, and honey) is eaten at the beginning of the meal – and is not to be confused with the more savoury buckwheat that is also served. Other sweets include uzvar (a fruit drink) and baked apples. The side dishes and main courses include a kind of vinaigrette (from beets, carrots, beans, and boiled potatoes), vareniki (dumplings similar to pierogies), cabbage soup, pickles, borscht, pastries (which can also be sweet or savoury), stuffed cabbage rolls (or golubtsy), and vegetable stew.

Christmas Eve dinner with the Nabreznyj family. Seated at the far end of the table is Fr. Roman Nabereznyj, of St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. It is interesting to note, that at least until very recently, both Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic believers (especially in the diaspora) celebrated Christmas on January 7th.

Some other key Ukrainian customs include kolach, special braided bread – which is also similarly essential to many other traditions across Europe – along with a didukh, or carefully gathered sheaf of wheat. Kutia (or wheat cooked with barley and race and other flavourful ingredients such as nuts, poppy seeds, and honey) is also an important part of Christmas Eve dinner in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Christmas table set up for a display at the Oshawa Museum in the 1990s. The didukh is visible in the left corner, while the special bread and wheat are on the table (centre and right respectively). A018.6.282.

In Canada today, many of the holiday practices with which we might be familiar came from diverse origins around the world. One of the main ways in which these traditions came to be incorporated is by immigrants who brought them over from the old country. This post covers one small portion of those traditions, but hopefully you’ll have learned something new about the way the holidays were marked here in Oshawa!


Many thanks to Mia for researching and writing about many holiday traditions from Eastern Europe for the Oshawa Museum’s Holiday Blog! You can read about them by clicking through the links in the post, or by visiting:

https://oshawamuseumholiday.wordpress.com/