Memories of the Civic

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

My family moved to Oshawa in 1986, not long after I turned seven years old. We lived in a nice area within walking distance to schools, shops, and the Oshawa Centre, but best of all the Civic Auditorium. I have so many great memories of the Civic that were brought back after commenting on a photo in the Facebook group Vintage Oshawa; it was posted a few weeks ago and I decided to write about those memories.

Civic Auditorium

My brother, sister and I all took swimming lessons at the Civic. This was brought on after my brother fell into the creek at Camp Samac and could not swim. Back then, the levels were divided up by colour and you received a badge if you passed the level. Currently all of mine are sewn onto my campfire blanket that we used for Cub and Scout campfires at Samac. At the time, the Civic also had two diving boards, the ‘high diving board’ and ‘the low one.’ I can clearly remember my sister belly flopping off the high one. I only jumped off once and that was enough for me.

We took swimming lessons because that is what my parents said we had to do. It was ok, but I have awful memories of being made to go grocery shopping (Miracle Mart in the Whitby Mall) afterward with dry skin from the pool and static-y hair from the dryers.

My best friend in elementary school was a synchronized swimmer and their club trained at the Civic. I spend many evenings there watching her train and watching competitions. Until 2005, the only viewing gallery was upstairs. For swimming lessons, parents would get their kids changed in the lower floor change rooms then go up to watch their kids in the upper gallery. Within the gallery there was also tiered seating. The higher up you sat, the hotter it got – but that’s where the cool kids sat to watch the synchro competitions.

Me and another girl helped our synchro friend ‘train’ by running the track in the Dome with her. Mostly we would just mess around, but that changed when the Dome was removed to be replaced in 1990. It seemed like it was down forever! In 1999, the Dome actually did collapse under high winter winds in March. It meant months of seeing a weird gap where it had once stood until it was reopened on November 1, 1999.

We spent an enormous amount of time in the arena as a family too. Almost weekly, we would walk over on Sunday’s for public skating. Low wooden boards, only comfortable enough to sit of a minute or two, partitioned ‘the baby section.’  The grown ups and big kids skated counter clockwise around the rest of the rink. I don’t remember the direction alternating. There were tons of great songs to skate to, but the one that sticks out the most was the instrumental Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire by David Foster and the version with lyrics St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr. Any time I hear the first few bars of that song it instantly takes me back to that time.

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At a Gens game, December 1990. From the Oshawa Times Collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection

In addition to public skating, there were also a number of ‘Skate with the Generals” days. Getting to skate with the ’89 and ‘90s teams was so much fun! The Generals (and all of the OHL players for that matter) always seemed so grown up, but it was not until I grew up that I realized what babies they were – most of them still in high school! I wish I still had all of my OHL hockey cards! We knew the schedule of the games, we knew when practices were and watched them often. My friends and I had a regular section we sat in; one of their cousins played for the Pete’s, so those games were always interesting. Games against the Kitchener Rangers or Sudbury Wolves were always good too. I saw a few bench clearing brawls back in the day. There was always the 50/50 draw at the games. One time my Dad won. I remember him taking home a brown lunch bag of change! At each game, a giant six-foot sub was given away too!

I’ve taken my kids swimming there a few times in the last few years. Some of the ambiance is the same, the blue walls and railing as you walk down to the stairs to the pool area (even though the Sports Hall of Fame photos are no longer on the wall,) but mostly it seems big and impersonal. Sometimes I completely forget that the arena is no longer there. You could always open the doors and see who was in there practicing or what event they were getting ready for. As I’m trying to finish writing this more and more memories keep flooding back – seeing the Barenaked Ladies there on their first ever tour, countless trips to the Circus and even sledding down the giant steps that faced Thornton Road during huge snowstorms. I could go on forever, but I’ll finish by wishing that my kids end up having memories of a place like this to look back on as I do when I think about the Civic.


Sources:
Oshawa Museum archival collection: Civic Auditorium Box 0002, File 0047

Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. II, The Explorers

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Post, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.  In Part I, we looked at Oshawa’s Indigenous People who have called the our country home for thousands of years.

The earliest Europeans to arrive at North America were the Norse who settled for a time at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland; their stay was brief and did not make an overall impact in the settling of Canada.  Their story is an interesting footnote, but it is generally regarded as just that rather than the next chapter of our story. That chapter begins in the late 1400s.  At the turn of the 16th Century, a slew of European explorers began to take to the high seas and ‘discover the new world.’  In 1497, John Cabot arrived at Canada’s Atlantic coast and claimed it for England, and less than 40 years later, the French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed the St. Lawrence and in turn claimed it for France. Several attempts to colonize and settle in this ‘newly discovered country’ were made and generally unsuccessful; the climates were harsh and disease was prevalent. Nevertheless, trading posts and companies were also established, and in 1608, Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain.

Champlain is an interesting figure in our history.  He was an explorer and cartographer who created many early maps of what is today Quebec and Ontario.  He established good relationships with the Huron (Wendat) peoples, relationships that helped the French settlers survive the Canadian winters.  In turn, hostile relationships with the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) were forged as the Wendat and Haudenosaunee were already opponents.  Champlain would travel back and forth across the Atlantic a number of times in his life, and he died in Quebec City in 1635.  New France would grow and thrive over the next century until the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  More on that next month.

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Statue of Samuel de Champlain located on Dufferin Terrace, Quebec City

Cabot Street and Cartier Avenue are found southeast of King and Stevenson; other explorers in that neighbourhood include Frobisher Court (English explorer who sought the northwest passage), Valdez Court (Spanish naval man who first circumnavigated Vancouver Island),  and Vancouver Court and Street (another British explorer who navigated around Canada’s Pacific Coast and namesake for Vancouver Island and the City of Vancouver).  Champlain Avenue is found directly north of Highway 401 between Thickson Road in Whitby and Stevenson Road in Oshawa.


Want to know more about these early explorers? 

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has in-depth looks at Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain.

For a more ‘readers digest’ version, the Canadian Encyclopedia gives an excellent overview of their lives and expeditions (Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain).

Month That Was: June 1927

All news articles have come from The Oshawa Daily Reformer

Seven Nurses Awarded Diplomas
Edition 11 June, 1927
Colourful Scene as Seven Nurses Receive Diplomas and Award at Hospital Graduation Exercises
…Seven young ladies who during the past three years have labored faithfully and devotedly in the training school of the Oshawa General Hospital, receive last night their diplomas as graduate nurses. Held in the assembly hall of the Collegiate Institute, the graduation was marked by a profusion of floral beauty and delightful ceremony. Presentation of the scholarships and prizes won by the graduating and undergraduate members of the training school followed the awarding of the diplomas. The address to the graduating class was delivered by Dr. F. N. G. Starr, of Toronto and he charged them that they uphold the spirit of their profession and make their careers what the great Lister has called “glorious occupations.” Gordon Conant, chairman of the hospital Board of Directors presided and in the absence of J, D, Storie, president of the Board, presented the diplomas.

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Cars Wrecked in Highway Crash
Edition 11 June, 1927
Three Autos Figure in a Collision at Liverpool on Kingston Road
Three cars were smashed in a mix-up in front of the Liverpool Hotel at Liverpool this morning A Dodge car driven by W. R. L. Blackwell, of Toronto, struck a Whippet motor car owned by S. J. Jackson of Toronto, which suddenly pulled out on the highway in front of it.

The Whippet was thrown a considerable distance on to the front of the car of William Anderson, of Dunbarton, smashing the radiator of the Anderson car. The Dodge was badly damaged as well and the Whippet was a complete wreck. Jackson has been charged by the Provincial Highway officer with reckless driving. All of the drivers escaped without any serious injuries though Jackson was badly bruised.

 

Teeth a Menace, Experts Discover.
Edition 29 June, 1927
Carnegie Foundation Asserts Most Risk Comes Through Mouth
New York, June 29 – Teeth are more apt to become defective than any other part of the body, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching reported Tuesday after a six year study of dental education in Canada and the United States.

“Disease germs that enter the body through decayed teeth, or along the side of the disordered teeth are frequent causes of such serious and common maladies as rheumatism, kidney trouble and heart failure,” the report aid.

“In 1924, of the 135,640 officers and men in the United States army – who, as a group are presumable among the healthiest persons – 12,507 were treated for dental disability.”

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Well Known Stars Coming to New Martin Theatre Monday
Edition 11 June, 1927
John Gilbert and Renee Adoree Both in “The Show” Coming To Regent Monday
John Gilbert and Renee Adoree, the combination that scored one of the screen successes of history in “The Big Parade,” are together for the first time since that picture, in “The Show,” Metro-Goldyn-Mayer’s sensational romance of the Budapest underworld, coming Monday to the Regent theatre.

They play the central characters in a strange romance laid in a mysterious sideshow on the outskirts of the “invisible city” – a sideshow of illusions, magician’s tricks and strange grotesques, with a “decapitations” illusion in which Gilbert has his head cut off in a “Salome” travesty as the central feature. Tod Browning, director of “The Unholy Three” and “The Road to Mandalay,” directed the story, from Waldemar Young’s adaptation of the Charles Tenney Jackson novel.

The settings, including the grotesque sideshows, with their floating living heads, mermaids, “spider women” and other startling illusions are realistic to the extreme, whole blocks of reproductions of quaint Budapest streets and other incidentals being used in the gripping mystery story.

Gilbert plays a swashbuckling sideshow “barker” and Miss Adoree a Salome dancer in the production, with Lionel Barrymore as “The Greek,” a sinister gangster leading, and Edward Connelly as the old blind man who eventually brings about an astounding climax.

 

A Lasting Memorial
Edition 11 June, 1927
There is in Oshawa a general agreement with Mayor Preston’s suggestion that the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation should be marked in permanent fashion by the erection of a fountain in front of the way memorial. It is to be hoped that this idea can be carried to a successful conclusion.

Not only will the installation of a fountain do away with the frog pond in front of the memorial, but there is also a peculiar appropriateness in having a fountain beside that beautiful monument. Water running continuously from a fountain suggests that the recollection of those in whose honor the memorial was erected, never ceases, that they are never forgotten, that they are, indeed, in the “Garden of the Unforgotten.”

By all means, let us have the fountain. It is also suggested that benches be plentifully supplied in that park. This too, should be looked after. That beautiful spot should be made more beautiful still and every opportunity should be seized to make it in every respect as attractive as possible. “The Garden of the Unforgotten is a shrine. The whole place should be made as restful, as peaceful, and as appropriate as it can be made.

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Red Cross Cottage To Be Formally Opened Wednesday
Edition 11 June, 1927
Was Completed at a Cost of More Than $3,00 to Rotary Club While General Motors Donated Duco for Painting Cottage and Chas. Bowrs Donated Wiring – Cottage Will Be Available for Outing for Crippled and Under-Privileged Children
The Red Cross Cottage erected in Lakeview Park by the Rotary Club will be opened on Wednesday, June 15. On this occasion the Rotary officials will hand over to the Red Cross officials the documents establishing the right of the Red Cross Society to use the cottage absolutely free of cost so far as the Rotary Club is concerned. It is the intention that the Cottage will be available as an outing for crippled and under-privileged children. It will mean an enlargement of the work that has been carried on in the past by the Red Cross in smaller and less suitable quarters.

The Cottage is a creditable addition to Oshawa’s institutions. While it has been mainly financed by the Rotary Club, General Motors of Canada through Rotarian Gordon LeFebvre have been most generous in painting the whole of the exterior with Duco and Rotarian Charles Bowra, has provided the electric installation. The work was undertaken at an expense of over #,000 to the Rotary Club has been made possible by the street fair conducted by the Rotary Club last summer with such successful results. Some work yet remains to be done in the construction of a stairway to the water’s edge and other structures f a minor nature but after the opening on Wednesday it will be ready and available for the purposes of the Red Cross.

 

The Oshawa Daily Reformer
Roof Caught Fire
Edition 11 June, 1927
Fire started on the roof of the home of John Cameron. King and Charles streets at ll.10 this morning. Sparks from the chimney started the blaze which was quickly extinguished by the fire department without any serious damage being done.

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Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. I, The Indigenous People

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Post, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.

In telling this story, we’ll start at the beginning, before European contact.

The place we know as Canada has been inhabited by people for thousands of years. There is not one narrative to tell the story, as different regions were settled by different diverse and distinct groups, each with their own names, languages, traditions and cultures.  In the 16th and 17th century, Europeans began their exploration and settlement of the ‘New World;’ the fishing banks off the coast of Newfoundland were of great interest to these explorers, and relations were established with the First Nations of the Atlantic.  The British and French not long after established settlements such as New France and the 13 Colonies; alliances and partnerships with the First Nations were critical for survival.  As the years continued, settlements grew, and tensions between the French and English came to a head in the mid 1750s, resulting in the fall of New France, the Treaty of Paris and the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is seen as an important landmark moment for relations between First Nations and Europeans.  As described by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in First Nations in Canada:

The original intent of the Royal Proclamation was to slow the uncontrolled western expansion of the colonies and tightly control the relationship between First Nations and colonists. But crucially, the Proclamation also became the first public recognition of First Nations rights to lands and title.

The Royal Proclamation can also be seen as one of the first of many pieces of legislation that would dictate Indigenous rights, as many treaties and Acts would be passed as the years went on.  What also would follow was a systematic attempt to decimate Aboriginal cultures, languages, and traditions with the creation of Residential Schools, a horribly ugly chapter in our nation’s history; treaties were ignored and rights overlooked.  In the last few decades, an importance has been placed on trying to make amends for what took place; the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report has brought new attention and importance to these issues.

The 2011 census reported that Aboriginal peoples in Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) totaled 1,400,685 people, or 4.3% of the national population.

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Archaeological artefacts recovered from the Grandview excavation, 1992.

Looking locally, we have artefacts in our collection which tells us that ancestral Wendat lived in Oshawa from 1400-1470CE.  Currently undergoing an expansion, we will open our new First Nations Gallery in the summer of 2017, entitled A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story.

Around Taunton and Simcoe, you can find streets named after Indigenous groups or famous individuals, such as Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), Seneca, Brant (after Joseph Brant) and Sarcee (Tsuut’ina [Tsuu T’ina]).

The name Oshawa is also an Aboriginal word, which translates to: “that point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.”

 


I do not claim to be an expert in Canada’s Indigenous History, but I would highly recommend reading further about this topic.  Here are a few resources I consulted when preparing this post

Canadian Museum of History’s First Peoples of Canada virtual exhibit
http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/aborig/fp/fpint01e.shtml

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, First Nations in Canada e-book
https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1307460755710/1307460872523

Truth and Reconsiliation Report
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 

ArteFACTS: Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Coach, 1933

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The artefact featured in today’s blog post is one of the Oshawa Museum’s recent acquisitions.  I was hoping that this artefact could be included in our latest exhibition Celebrating 60: Sixty Years of Collecting unfortunately the coach is very fragile and does require some conservation work before it is placed on display for a period of time.  Although anyone that attends our Exhibition Opening next week will get an opportunity to view the coach as it will be on display, for one week only, along with the original plans and instructions for building the coach.

So what exactly was the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild, and what was its purpose?

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Fisher Body was an automobile coachbuilder founded by the Fisher Brothers in 1908 in Detroit Michigan.  By the 1920s, the Fisher Body Company had become one of the biggest and best known suppliers of automobile bodies in North America.  General Motors acquired the majority of the holdings of the Fisher Body Company in the early 1920s.  By 1926, General Motors turned the company into its main coach-building factory.   One of the obstacles that General Motors faced at the time was the lack of designers available for hire.

Starting in the 1930s, The Fisher Body Company in Detroit, in conjunction with General Motors in Detroit and Oshawa where the Canadian Headquarters was located, ran a series of competitions in design and styling for teenage students.  In the early years of the competition, contestants ordered a set of model plans to build a Napoleonic Carriage which was the signature logo of the company.

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The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild became the major recruiting tool for young artistic talent.  Each year twenty-four scholarships were awarded to boys between the ages of 12 and 16 in Canada and the United States.  These scholarships ranged in value from $500 up to $5000 in 1933.

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The Oshawa Museum has one of the earliest surviving Napoleonic carriages from the Guild competition in Canada.  This particular model was submitted for competition in 1933 by Floyd Hembruff.   When this carriage was submitted for donation to the Oshawa Museum it was accompanied by the original plans, contest rules, model diagrams and cut outs with assembly instructions.  The coach itself is 46 cm long, with the tongue added the total length is 71cm, the height is 28 cm and the width is 23 cm.  The finished model weighs about 7 pounds (3 Kg).

By 1938, with the increasing interest in car styling, the Craftsman’s Guild introduced a new category – designing and building a model car. The interest in the car design competition was so overwhelming that the Napoleonic Coach was dropped. By 1968, when the Craftsman’s Guild was concluded, over 8.7 million youths had enrolled over the life of the competition, millions of dollars in Awards had been given and many lives had been touched – some profoundly. Thru the years, the Craftsman’s Guild represented rock-solid values. Young men learned that perseverance was essential and that hard work paid off. They enjoyed a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from a constructive and positive activity – plus the joy of working with their hands and mind to create their very own design.

Many scholarships are given each year to young people with outstanding athletic ability or outstanding scholastic record.  What made the Craftsman’s Guild unique was recognition and reward for young people with outstanding creative ability.  Many of the winners went on to become designers themselves and others such as Floyd Hembruff became Mayor of his community and founding partner of a respected construction company in Matheson Ontario, Hembruff & Dambrowitz Construction Ltd. which built extensively throughout Northern Ontario.