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!

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/

Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern

Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).

After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.

Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.

My Experience to Date

So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program.  I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.

The Month That Was – October 1873

All posts originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

October 3, 1873
Page 2
Gone from our Gaze – One Paul Horn, a tenant on Mr. Charles Farewell’s property, disappeared from this locality a few nights ago.  It seems that he was in debt to Mr. Farewell some three hundred dollars, and having sold his grains and surreptitiously disposed of his farming implements he slung his gentle hook for the land of Uncle Sam.  He leaves us a sorrowing creditor to the extent of two years subscription. “May jackasses sit on his uncle’s grace.”

Fire – an alarm of fire was sounded about midnight on Wednesday evening, and it appeared that a house situated on the north side of the town, was in flames.  It burned to the ground before anything could be done.  The loss will be about $600, Mr. Jas. Horn, of Whitby, being the owner of the building.  As it was unoccupied, it is supposed to be the work of an incendiary.

Scandal in Whitby – The county town is just now highly excited over what is known as the “Campbell difficulty.”  It seems that Mr. Robert Campbell, of the firm R & J Campbell, claims to have good grounds for accusing his wife of infidelity; alleging, it is said, to have found the partner of his happiness flagranti delicto.  Be that as it may he has a suit of crin. con. against her to come off at the Fall Assizes in Toronto. The lady (a daughter of the Rev. Peter Byne) on her part repudiates the charge, and has sued her spouse for $10,000 damages for defamation, the party of the third part also entering a similar action for a like amount.  On Wednesday 26th, Mr. Campbell forcibly ejected his wife from the home which he thinks she has disgraced, and on Tuesday last he was ‘np’ before the magistrates for that he did “assault, beat, ill-treat and drag her down stairs the said Eliza Maria” his wife.  The case is still pending.

October 3, 1873, page 2

October 17, 1873
Page 2
Runaway – a lively runaway occurred on Simcoe Street, on Wednesday morning. A horse belonging to Mr Western, cooper, started for some unknown locality in a southerly direction from Fowke’s Corner.  Luckily for the driver, who had lost control of the brute, he was stopped by Mr. T. Lawless before any damage was done.

Thanksgiving Day – The Ontario Government have issued a proclamation ordering Thursday, 6th November prox. To be observed throughout this Province as a day of Thanksgiving.  We believe all religious denominations in this Village will hold their annual thanksgiving services on that day, and so afford a public opportunity of returning thanks to the Author of all our Bounties in a manner befitting a Christian community.

October 17, 1873, page 2

October 24, 1873
Page 2
Hard on the cow – Rumor saith that an Oshawa butcher killed a cow the other day, belonging to another man,  It was a case of mistaken identity, of course, but a sad mistake for the cow.

Education in Ontario – The High Schools of this County take high rank among the schools of this Province, as judged from the results the recent Examination this speaks highlight for the efficiency of the teachers.

Accident – On Monday last a little boy, a son of Mr. John Barnard, merchant, met with a painful accident while playing on the verandah of his father’s house.  By some mischance he fell, breaking the outer bone of the small part of the right leg. Under care of Dr. Coburn he is progressing favorably.

The Agnes Wallace Troupe – This troupe played to full houses here on Friday and Saturday evenings last, notwithstanding adverse weather on the latter night.  They created a most favourable impression, and proved themselves worthy of the reputation they have earned as one of the best troupes travelling.  They will receive a cordial welcome if they should return again.

October 24, 1873, page 2

October 31, 1873
Page 3
Hallowe’en – This evening will be the anniversary of All Halloween, and great will be the strife between cabbage and cabbageheads.  We trust the bhoys won’t perpetuate any tricks of a serious nature, but we would not interfere with innocent sport; they are welcome to all the vegetables in our neighbours’ cabbage gardens.

Reflections on “Ask a Curator Day”

By Melissa Cole, Curator

You might be asking, what exactly is “Ask a Curator” day?  It started a decade ago with the intention of giving the public access to experts who work in museums, galleries, and heritage sites through the use of social media.  Initially the event started on Twitter; since then it has extended to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.

From the first year this online event started, it has proven to be popular, attracting cultural, heritage, and science institutions from across the world! 

Here are a few questions that were asked and my responses!  If you wish to view the Facebook Live event you can view it on the Oshawa Museum’s Facebook Page.

What COVID-19 artefact do you think will fascinate people 100 years from now? And why?

The inspiring move when local breweries stopped beer production and turned over to making hand sanitizer to help fight COVID-19.  Initially, All or Nothing Brewhouse in Oshawa started producing exclusively for local hospitals, front-line emergency workers, and major utility companies.  A can of All or Nothing Brewhouse’s Hand Sanitizer was the first COVID-19 related object to be acquired for the Oshawa Museum’s collection.

What’s the weirdest thing in your collection?

I can’t focus on just one artefact in particular, but rather a collection of artefacts.  I have two collections which many may find weird, but they are also fascinating!  Our Farewell Cemetery Collection which contains coffin jewellery, the decorative hardware used on coffins. 

The other collection is our extensive medical collection, which was used a few different doctors in the Oshawa community prior to the opening of the hospital; when surgeries took place in the home, a kitchen table would have made a great make-shift operating table.  Many of the instruments resemble the tools that are still used today but there are a few which have thankfully…changed with the times. 

Do you have a particular Henry Family member that you like best?

The youngest child of Thomas and Lurenda is Jennie (Lorinda Jane) Henry.  I have been fortunate to meet her granddaughter, who spent time in Jennie Henry’s home when she resided on Agnes Street (I said Elgin Street during our Facebook live).  She shared stories with me about the home and has donated various items related to Jennie and her husband, John Luke McGill. 

Have you ever broken an artefact?

Yes I have, and of course it was an artefact that once belonged to Thomas Henry, of Henry House.  I broke his tea cup accidently because it had been left in a hutch that was being moved.  Many of the large furniture pieces in Henry House are used to store smaller items such as china cups and saucers, other chinaware, stoneware, vases, glassware, and many other artefacts related to the household.  Fortunately, I was able to repair the china cup because of my collection care training that was provided the Museum Management and Curatorship program offered through Fleming College.     

Curator advice: MAKE SURE ALL ARTEFACTS ARE REMOVED EBFORE MOVING A HUTCH!

What is your favourite tool?

I have three tools….beside my computer that assist me greatly with my work on exhibitions and with collections.  My squeegee tool, measuring tape (make sure to measure three times), and 3M Command Strips that have saved so many wall repairs.  The walls of Robinson House thank us each time we use them because the walls in this house are made from lath and plaster.