The Importance of a Little Wicker Doll Set

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 1981, a collection of wicker doll toys were donated to the Oshawa Museum. The donation of a tiny rocking chair, a toy washstand, and a set of doll furniture certainly fit the collecting mandate of the Museum given that the Pankhurst family had been long time residents of Oshawa.  These toys also had deep connection to an important part of Oshawa’s history as the donor, Greta Pankhurst, was the great-granddaughter of Wealthy Andrews, the matriarch of one of Oshawa’s earliest Black families.

Early collecting practices tended to focus on collecting items that had connections to prominent early white settlers. This donation has that connection as the donor forms indicate that the items had belonged to the Conant family before coming into the ownership of Greta. This connection would have made the donation very important under these early collecting practices. While it is unclear if Greta’s connection to Wealthy was known or understood when the items were added to the Museum collection, this donation is important because of its connection to Greta and her family.

Today we are grateful for the existence of this donation as it is one of the few artefacts that we have connected to early Black setters.  Museums use artefacts or objects to help us to understand the past and to tell the story of our community. There is very little artefact or object based evidence to help us tell the history of early Black settlers in our community, and this creates a challenge when it comes to exhibiting these stories.

We are fortunate to have documentary evidence. In fact, beyond resources like census records and land records, we are incredibly fortunate to have the original marriage certificate of Greta’s grandparents, Mary Andrews and George Dunbar. We also have family photographs and an audio recording of Greta’s brother, Ward, reminiscing about growing up in Cedar Dale. Research through documentary evidence has helped us to better understand the history of early Black settlers in the area and has helped us to share this important aspect of our history.

A013.4.519: Marriage licence between Mary Andrews and George Dunbar

While we work to fill in the gaps left by earlier collecting practices, we are also working to tell the histories that were lost in that gap.  Items like the little wicker doll set are a part of work.

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.

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/

Implicit Bias and the OM’s Archival Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

What is implicit bias? 

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State  University defines it as such: also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. 

I have previously written about implicit bias in the development of the Oshawa Museum’s archival collection.  At that time, I was looking at how absences in the collection due to the implicit bias of those collecting has created an incomplete history of our community. The collection contains a great deal related to early industrialists, politicians, and the wealthy, with little related to the everyday person, women, or people of colour. This is true of archival collections across Canada and the Western world. It has been recognized, and archivists are working to address the issue and find ways to develop collections that better represent the entirety of our communities.

It wasn’t until this past summer that I became aware of a bias of my own.  I was working through the Lowry Collection, an amazing series of photographs of Lakeview Park during the 1930s that also happens to be one of our most racially and ethnically diverse photograph collections, that I finally noticed an issue with our database descriptions.

The photograph I was looking at was one of my favourites.  It shows a young couple, hand-in-hand, posing for the camera.  In the shadows you can see the outline of the photographer holding their brownie camera, and the popularity of the park is seen all around the subjects.  The photograph is unusual, particularly for the time period, in that it is a young Black man and a young white woman holding hands. This is where I finally took note of something I should have noted long before. 

A996.20.194

The description is as follows: “B&W photo removed from a damaged photo album. Image is of a young African-Canadian and a young woman standing beside one another. The man is wearing a white hat and shirt and dark trousers and sweater. The young woman is wearing a long white coat. The shadow of the photographer is visible. Lakeview Park. Circa 1930s”.

Do you see the implicit bias?  The assumption made that, unless otherwise noted, the people in the images are white. This is an example of implicit bias by the author of the database notation, and it is throughout the accession record for this collection and the entire archival collection.

As part of our work in the archival field, archivists are working to examine archival descriptions for implicit bias, or in some cases outright racism, and begin the work to remove the bias and make the descriptions inclusive. In fact, as part of the programme committee for the 2021 Archives Association of Ontario Conference, I had the privilege of reading several paper proposals examining this issue within different institutions and how they are working to address it.

As for me, I began addressing this starting with the Lowry Collection. Archival descriptions will be edited to remove the implicit bias, and a notation that the description has been changed and the reasoning behind the editing process added to the record.