By Mia Vujcic, Visitor Host When we are asked to share something about our heritage or ethnic background, food is often the first thing that springs to mind. In a number of previous blog posts, I explored different aspects of the research behind Leaving Home Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration…
By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Preparing for our latest Sunday FUNday event at the Oshawa Museum, our first in person event since February 2020, brought me down the rabbit hole of newspapers. To celebrate Archives Awareness Week, I wanted the Sunday FUNday to be archives related, so newspapers were a good theme. We were able…
By Sara H., Summer Student As my summer at the museum is wrapping up, it has been the perfect time to reflect on my time at the museum and how much I have learned about museums and Oshawa’s history. My last blog post talked about past industries in Oshawa that were featured on the Discover…
By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator In the early years of the twentieth century, a man named Jack O’Leary owned the New Lunch/O’Leary’s Restaurant at 37 King Street West in Oshawa – between the Commercial Hotel and the coal yards at Centre Street. Behind this small restaurant, a semi-permanent, Trabant/wipeout style of carnival ride existed, a…
By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Those who know me know that I’m an avid knitter. In fact, in the past I’ve written a blog post about a WWI Sock knitting pattern, I’ve examined some of Oshawa’s early woolen industries, and I’ve done a deep dive into one of those industries, the Empire Woolen Mills, available…
These were our top 5 posts written in 2022, however, for the FIFTH year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This post was originally written in 2016 and has been the top blog post every year since 2018. The desire to know about foot warmers and window coverings must be strong with our readers!
Thank you all for reading, thank you to the OM staff, students, and guest authors who helped create content for the blog, and we hope to see you again through 2023!
Stepping into Wilson & Lee as a child I remember the awe and excitement that I felt, staring up at walls of beautiful, sparkling guitars in an amazing variety of colours and styles, and walking through rows and rows of CDs and vinyl records of every genre you could think of. The store had everything a music lover could want or need, and, if they didn’t, the Wilsons would go above and beyond to get it for you.
Being at Wilson and Lee was always an experience, even if you were just dropping by for something quick and simple. The friendly, helpful, and fun atmosphere of the store felt like visiting a friend more than a store. However, that friendliness didn’t detract from the professionalism of Wilson and Lee in anyway. It’s likely that the fact that Bill Sr., Bill Jr., and Dave Wilson all dressed in suits and ties every single day of their careers lent itself to their air of trustworthiness and expertise.
I was always so excited to go to the music store with my dad for many reasons, but in no small part because at the end of every visit, Dave would lean across the counter, conspiratorially, and open his hand within which would lay nestled a guitar pick or little music themed eraser. For most of my childhood, I had a mason jar on my dresser that I added to after every visit with a new colourful, shiny, or sparkling music store trinket.
The history of Wilson and Lee goes back long before my tiny feet crossed the threshold, but I am sure it had a similar impact on most of its customers over the nearly ten decades that it was in business. The store was opened in 1922 by William George Wilson and his sister-in-law Mary Lee and went on to be run by three generations of the Wilson family. Wilson and Lee had the distinction of being the longest running music store in all of Canada, having kept its doors open for an impressive 97 years. William came to Oshawa from Toronto to work at the Williams Piano Factory. William was blind and had trained at the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) to be a piano tuner.
William and Mary’s partnership had its very early beginnings when she began to drive him from job to job tuning pianos in people’s homes. Through doing this, William realized a business opportunity, and he began to purchase, recondition, and resell pianos from his own home. However, as one can imagine, he quickly began to run out of room, at which point he and Mary opened the first location of Wilson and Lee. In the new store, William and Mary added player pianos and piano rolls, gramophones, and record players to their inventory.
William’s sons all joined in the family business early on. His eldest son, Bill Sr., started in 1933 before leaving to serve in the Second World War from 1939 to 1946. The next oldest brother, George, came to work in 1938, and youngest brother Ed joined the ranks in 1942 when their father passed away. Mary Lee continued to work alongside her nephews after William passed.
In 1953, the brothers bought the lot at 87 Simcoe St. N. and built the store where Wilson and Lee remained until 2019. The three brothers ran the store together until George’s retirement in 1989; at this time, the torch was passed to the next generation of Wilsons. Bill Sr.’s sons, Bill Jr. and Dave, had worked at Wilson and Lee since they were teenagers. Bill Jr. came to work as a high school student in 1953, while his younger brother Dave joined the family business in 1967 at 14 years old.
In 1995, Ed Wilson retired, and in 2002, Bill Sr. hung up his hat – sort of. He would still come into the shop three times a week, in his suit and tie, to pick up his copy of Oshawa Weekly and maybe, just maybe, to check up on things. Bill Sr. was still calling his sons nine years after he retired to see if they needed his help down at the store. Bill Sr. passed away in July 2011 at the age of 94.
The Wilsons weathered the ebbs and flows of the economy over their ten decades in business, surviving the Great Depression, a World War, and numerous recessions. They showed great adaptability in their business model as the way we experience music changed so drastically throughout the 20th century.
In the ’50s, the store installed six record booths so that customers could sample their records before making a purchase. They also made the shift from pianos as their big seller to accordions, banjos, violins, and of course the electric guitar as rock n’ roll music took off in the ’50s and ’60s. Other shifts they witnessed were 8transitions through the era of gramophones to records players, the brief competition between cassette tapes and 8-tracks, the advent of CDs, and the resurgence of vinyl records.
Bill Sr.’s sons stayed with the family business for eight more years before deciding to retire and close the doors to Wilson and Lee in December 2019. The brothers were honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the Oshawa City Music Hall of Fame in April 2020, a wonderful acknowledgment by the community for the dedication of the Wilson family to modern quality products and service with a personal touch, which will be their lasting legacy in the story of Oshawa.
Canadian Statesman, 4 Nov 1917, p. 5 Local and Otherwise A Grand Masquerade Carnival will be held at the Oshawa Roller Rink next Tuesday night, Nov. 6th, See large bills for list of prizes. Doors Open at 7pm. Admission 25c, skates 10c extra.
Churches The Jubilee services of Simcoe-st Methodist Church, Oshawa, on Sunday Oct. 21 will long be remembered as an event of great importance and interest.
North Ontario Observer, 22 Nov 1917, p. 2 Union Mass Meeting Wm. Smith, Esq., ex-MP Unaniously Nominated Meeting Large and Enthusiastic
Whitby, Nov. 17 – Nomination as Union candidate to represent South Ontario in the Dominion Parliament was offered to an accepted by William Smith, ex-PM (sic) for the riding, at a meeting called to choose a Union candidate, held in Whitby this afternoon. There was a large attendance made up of adherence to both political parties, and on the platform were men who in the past have been lively and even better opponents. F.L. Mason, Warden of the County, was chairman. The names in first nomination comprised almost as many liberals as conservatives, and were: William Smith, ex-MP, Columbus; FL Fowke, ex-MP, Oshawa; Dr TE Kaiser, Oshawa; Dr. Captain James Moore, Brooklin; George McLaughlin, Oshawa; Robert M Holtby, Manchester; Col. JF Grierson, Oshawa; Peter Christie, Manchester. All withdrew except Wm. Smith, and on motion of Dr. TE Kaiser and Col. JE Grierson, the nomination was unanimously offered to Mr. Smith, amid prolonged and enthusiastic applause.
Mr. Smith, in a kindly and amiable address, accepted the nomination and put himself up on record as in hearty accord with the principles the motives of the motives of the Union Government. He sympathized with those who were called upon to give up the sons to this awful struggle for human liberty, but there was no other way to in victory. The Military Service Act was inevitable when voluntary recruitment failed. He pledged his loyalty and hearty support to the union government, if elected.
Canadian Statesman, 29 Nov 1917, p. 2 Oshawa Boy Pays Price Mr. A.A. Crowle, Oshawa, has received the following telegram:
“Deeply regret to inform you 745947 Pte. Delbert Crowle, Infantry, officially reported died of wounds, 44th Clearing Station, November 3, 1917, gunshot wound head.” Pte. Crowle enlisted with the 116th Ontario County Battalion. He went overseas on July 20, and reached France on 20th October, 1916. He was on active service until the 4th of May, 1917, when he was wounded. He was in England until September 1st, when he again returned to the firing line. Delbert was well known in Oshawa being born there 22 years ago, attended school, and was his father’s able assistant in the Luke Burial Company’s office when he enlisted. Capt. Garbutt, of Simcoe Street Methodist Church, held a memorial service Sunday evening to the memory of the deceased soldier.
Page 5 Local and Otherwise Ernest Drinkle, Oshawa, was fined $5 for allowing his son to remain out of school. We see boys of school age too often on streets during school hours.
The Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917, p. 4 The Late JO Henry
There passes away at his home on King St. east, Inst. Thursday afternoon, a member of a well known family in this County, in the person of Mr. James Orrin Henry.
He was one of the first exporters from Canada of apples to the British market, where his brand of fruit remained popular for many years. He was in his 86th year. As one of the pioneers of this locality, he had a large circle of acquaintances and many relatives.
He was the first of the twelve sons of the late Elder Thomas Henry, who was a local preacher of reputation 50 years ago. Elder Henry, along with Barton stone, founded the Christian Connection Church of Canada. Mr. Henry retired from his business 26 years ago. He is survived by two sons, Mr. EN Henry, who is a member of the Oshawa Exemption Tribunal, and Dr. Frank Henry, of Oshawa. He was a life-long Liberal and a Methodist. He was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of Samuel Hill, a pioneer of the district, and his second wife, Miss Carrie Major of Port Perry.
The funeral took place Saturday afternoon at 3:30 and was largely attended, interment taking place in Union Cemetery.
Note: James was the sixth of eleven sons for Thomas Henry, not fifth of twelve as reported.
The Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917, p. 9 Archie Law Killed in Action Word was received Wednesday morning of last week that Lance Corpl. Archie Law, one of Oshawa’s brightest and best known young men was “killed in action” on Oct. 30th. He enlisted in Montreal with the late Will Garrow, Will Bowden, Walter Hobday and Will French, in the Princess Patricias, and they went overseas Sept. 4th, 1915. He had not been wounded before, although he was in the hospital for a short time with a throat disease incurred by drinking bad water. All of these boys have been put out of the fight. Two have paid the supreme sacrifice. Will Bowden is a prisoner in Germany, Will French was wounded, and not being able to go back to the trenches, is being used as a bombing instructor in England. Walter Hobday returned to Canada incapacitated for further service a couple of months ago, bringing with him a bride from England.
Archie Law lived with his sister, Mrs. McAndrews, and father, William St. He also has five young brothers. His mother died when he was three years old, and was working for Luke Bros. when he enlisted. He was a member of Simcoe St. Church and S.S., and a good living boy who made friends wherever he went. He was expecting a six weeks’ leave to visit friends to Ireland at Xmas time.
Page number not specified “Tanks” Pass Through Oshawa
On Tuesday afternoon the armoured tank, three armoured cars and the armoured motor cycle, which are being used in Canada in promoting the sale of Victory Loan Bonds, passed through Oshawa on the C.P.R. The tank, which is in charge of its own crew from the front, is like a huge tractor, and travels by means of two endless chains, on the caterpillar style. It is about 25 ft. long and about 10 ft. high. On account of the short notice given of their arrival but few were at the station to see them go through.
For Sale A Brick House, 36 x 24, 2 ½ stories high, with stable, shed, driving house, &c., connected to the Lot on which they stand, being 58 square perches, the property of John Robinson, Port Oshawa. Terms liberal. Apply to either Ralph Robinson, Oshawa, or John Thompson, Paitley Mills, Whitby.
Page 2 Whitby and East Whitby Fair Every preparation is being made by the directors to make the Fall Fair to be held here on the 26th, better than any that has preceded it. Fifty three dollars have been collected in the town, as special prizes for equestrianship. Two of these are a portrait valued at $15, to be given to the best lady rider, and one valued at $8, to the best lady equestrian under fifteen years of age, both presented by Mr. JE Hoitt. The prizes for equestrianship have been divided into four classes, three prizes being offered to young ladies under 15, and three to boys under 16 years of age. Several new prizes have been offered in the photographic department, for the purpose of inducing a strong competition. Mr. J Porter offers for special prizes of $18, for suckling colts after Sir Walter Scott. The bills have been issued to the several directors and can be had of them.
Died In Oshawa, on the 4th inst., Louisa, wife of JB Warren, Esq., aged 64 years. The funeral will leave the residence of her husband for St. George’s Burial ground, at 3pm to-morrow (Thursday).
Oshawa Vindicator, October 12, 1870, page 2 As the funeral of the late Mrs. Warren was on its way to the St. George’s Burial Ground Thursday, it was met by the waggon of the Dominion Telegraph Company, which frightened some of the horses. In the fright, the carriages were backed upon each other, and one, that of Mr. Burk, of Bowmanville, was forced into the ditch and broken.
Mr. W. Rundle has a bill against the town of $17.50 for damages done to his horse by a broken street crossing. The hole is repaired now.
Wanted A first-class servant girl, two kept in the family. Good wages given. Mrs. JO Guy. Port Oshawa, Oct 10, 1870
Whitby Gazette, October 13, 1870, page 2 The Harvest of 1870 The following is the annual report of the GTR officials of the harvest in this locality: …
Oshawa – hay, very light and not an average crop; Wheat, very light crop, average not over 10 bushels per acre; Barley, average 15 bushels per acre; Peas, average 20 bushels per acre; Oats, an average crop; root crops good; Quality of grain very fine, having been secured in splendid condition.
Oshawa Vindicator, October 19, 1870, page 2 The schooner Kate, of this port, was blown ashore in the gale Monday night, near Cobourg. She was loaded with barley belonging to R & A Smith. The grain was insured. No one was lost.
In the same blow, a schooner loaded in the harbor carried off posts and a portion of the wharf to which she was fastened.
By the New York papers we see that Mr. Carswell is keeping up his old time reputation in that city. He leaves soon on a lecturing tour in the Southern States, under the auspices of the National Division of the Sons.
Stolen or Strayed From Lot 6 2nd Concession East Whitby, on the 2nd Oct., a RED COW, with white spots on left hip and left shoulder, with star in her forehead, three years old. Anyone returing the same will be liberally rewarded. Sarah Terry, East Whitby, Oct. 18, 1870
Whitby Gazette, October 20, 1870, page 2 Masonic Charts – We have received from Dr. Vars, of Oshawa a sett of masonic charts, copies of which should be in the hands of every “brother of the mystic” in the country. The charts are magnificently engraved, and cleanly and neatly printed and, besides illustrating the different grades and forms of Masonry, are beautiful ornaments for the parlor at home. Parties can be supplied with the charts by Dr. Vars, Oshawa, or at this office.
Oshawa Vindicator, October 26, 1870, page 2 Oshawa Fire Brigade – The following offices were duly elected at the regular annual election for 1871:
Brigade Officers – PH Thornton, re-elected Chief Engineer and Treasurer; Jos. Craig, Assistance Chief Engineer; R. Dillon, Brigade Secretary
Fire Co. Rescue No. 1 – Thos. Hall, Captain; R. Burdge, 1st Lieut; T. Kirby, 2nd Lieut; B. Robinson, 1st Branch; E Martin, 2nd Branch; ——- Best, 3rd Branch; W. Trewin, Sec’y; T. Lukes, Treasurerl T Hern, Steward.
Dreadnought Hook & Ladder Co. – Geo. Kelly, Captain; C. French, Lieut; A. Cameron, Treasurer. Sec’y not elected.
All members in connection with the Oshawa Fire Brigade, are requested to meet at the Fire Hall to-day, at one o’clock, sharp. They will muster in the evening at the appointed time to form a torchlight procession, (weather permitting).
Whitby Gazette, October 27, 1870, page 2 DEATH OF DR. ROLPH Dr. Rolph died at Mitchell on Wednesday afternoon of last week, at the advanced age of 78 years. As his name and efforts have been very intimately connected with the history of Canada, it is but right that his death should receive more than a passing notice. He was a man of most excellent parts –in science and the law, as well as in politics. Referring to him, a contemporary, the London Free Press, says: He was a reformer that always had a “policy,” and the downfall of the family compact was due, in a great measure, to his exertions. Being implicated in the rebellion of 1837 intentionally or by mistake…, but after the subsidence of political troubles returned to it, and entered the government in 1851 under Mr. now Sir Frances, Hincks. During his day he aided in the settlement of the Clergy Reserves difficulty; saw Reciprocity gained; was present at the birth of the Railways in Canada; and witnessed Upper Canada rise from the condition of a wilderness to the dignity of a nationality. In later years he established the Medical School, in connection with the Victoria College, and labored assiduously and with much success as it Principal. He was a man of kind heart, and a sound head. His natural abilities were great, but were heightened by a wide culture. As an orator his eloquence was proverbial, and no man of the day was listened to with more pleasure and instruction by the people than the “old ma eloquent.” The flow of his language was steady and uninterrupted, his articulation sweet and distinct, and he always made a deep impression.
His life has been a most useful one ; devoted to his fellow-creatures rather than to himself, and his memory will be dear to all that knew him or were acquainted with his career. Since 1856 he has not taken any active prominent part in political affairs, though his counsel was not neglected. He leaves behind him an honored name an unblemished reputation, which will long live, and with may make the wise prevail, upon recounting his history, that there were more like “good old Dr. Rolph.”
Page 2 THAT EARTHQUAKE – On Thursday morning last, between the hours of ten and eleven o’clock, Canada was visited by a slight shock of earthquake. The “quake” appears to have visited nearly every place in Ontario and Quebec, (if we are to believe the telegraph reports.) and to have shaken several towns in the United States. At Greenwood village, the shock was felt by Mr. Fred Meen, in his store, and by Mr. Samuel Green, while a person a few years distant in a hotel was entirely ignorant that there had been an earthquake. Again, some men working in a barn, a mill or so from Greenwood, were terribly frightened at the shaking of the building, and ran out, fearing it would fall. The shock appears also to have visited Whitby, and – a telegram to the Toronto paper affirms – lasted from three to five minutes. This startling item may be true, but, after diligent inquiry, we have not found the first person that knew a word about the earthquake, until the Toronto papers were received on the following morning. Nevertheless, the report MAY be true ; and of such be the case, the people of Whitby ought to be ashamed of themselves, to have a real live earthquake in their midst and to be ignorant of its whereabouts. It is really too bad. Where, we ask, were the police? We will candidly admits that, at the time mentioned, there was a good deal of shaking in town; but we really thought it was caused by the Court of Assizes, then in session. Most assuredly there was staggering, but, honestly, in our innocence, we believed that rot-gut played a lone hand in it. But we may have been mistaken, and a real earthquake might have been with us. If so, we are really sorry that we didn’t know.
Married On the 19th inst., at the residence of the bride’s brother, in East Whitby, by the Rev. Dr. Jeffers, John S. Larke, Esq., publisher and editor of the Oshawa “Vindicator,” to Miss Elizabeth Baine, of Oshawa.
All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator
2 Sept 1868, Page 2
Runaway – On Wednesday last, a horse belonging to Mr. King, hitched to a light waggon, ran away. Mr. King was engaged in moving some rubbish preparatory to putting up an addition to his store occupied by Messrs. R. and A. Smith, when the horse walked off and became frightened by the load. Turning down Simcoe street, it tipped load and waggon against the horse and carriage of Mr. Morgan, hitched to a post. The latter was seized and quieted before it could make off, and further damage was saved. The damage to Mr. King’s waggon was slight.
Another Horse Shot – As one of the volunteers was practicing quick loading with a Snider riddle, in the rear of the premises of Messrs. Gibbs, Lobb & Co., the cartridge was exploded. The ball passed through the wood shed of Mr. JO Henry, into the stable of TN Gibbs, MP. It then entered the right shoulder of one of his carriage horses, a valuable blood made. Mr. Smith, of the Toronto Veterinary College, was telegraphed for and came down, but he could not find the ball. The mare is doing as well as can be expected, and may possibly recover.
Patents – The list of patents granted for the year past has been published. It is of unusual length, numbering 379. The following are those to persons in this county. They are all for fourteen years
No 2659, Joseph Dick, the younger, of Oshawa, Machinist, ‘A certain new and useful improvement in the rake, in ordinary use, in connections with the Reaping Machine, for removing the Grain, as cut from the table thereof, to be called ‘Joseph Dick’s Junior, Improved Harvester Rake.’ – (Dated 26th June, 1868.)
Advertisements Photographs Mr. JO Henry’s Photograph Gallery Will be opened on Saturday next, with every facility for a first class business. Oshawa, Aug. 26th, 1868.
Page 4 Union Burying Ground Near the residence of Rev. Dr. Thornton, Main Road As these grounds are very desireable for location and beauty, parties wishing to purchase lots are respectfully informed that they may have an opportunity by applying to the undersigned or to the care taker, James Carruthers, on the premises. Alex Burnet Chairman of the Committee Oshawa, March 2nd, 1868
September 9, 1868, Page 2 Assault – On Saturday night about twelve o’clock, a stranger coming from Whitby was struck on the back with a large stone thrown by some person secreted near the bridge, over the creek. He was [seriously] injured and was found by constable Gurley lying upon the sidewalk. He recovered soon after and was enabled to walk off. The miscreant who threw the missle is yet unknown, although one or two are suspected, and a sharp eye is kept upon them, Had the man been struck on the head, his life would have been endangered.
Mammoth Plums – The Vindicator establishment was favored with a basket of mammoth plums, from JO Guy, Esq., Reeve of East Whitby. – Twelve of them weighed nineteen ounces. They are the Duane Purple. We hope Mr. Guy’s trees may never be troubled with worm or robber.
16 Sept 1868, Page 2 Changed the Date – The Fall show of the Whitby and East Whitby Union Agricultural Society, will be held on Thursday the 15th of October, and not the 22nd as announced last week. This change has been made as it has been found that it will not interfere with the fair at Bowmanville, as nothing will be done there other than receiving a few entries, on that day.
23 Sept 1868, Page 2 Whalen – Whalen has behaved himself in a less violent manner since the trial than before. It is reported that the reason for the long delay between the sentence and the date of execution, was to give the Local Government an opportunity to introduce and carry a bill to have all prisoners condemned to death executed in private. American papers, as well as Canadian, agree that the verdict of the jury is a righteous one. The American Fenians have indulged in a little threatening, but upon the whole are comparatively mild. The Doctors have examined Buckley, and report that his insanity is feigned. Eagleson and Enright have not yet been admitted to bail.
Note – this article is discussing the verdict of the Thomas D’Arcy McGee murder trial. McGee was shot and killed in Ottawa in April 1868. He denounced the Fenian Movement, a group dedicated to Irish independence, and was found assassinated outside of his Ottawa home. Patrick James Whelan, a tailor, was arrested. He was found guilty and sentenced to death on September 15, 1868; the public execution took place on 11 Feb 1869. At the time of the initial arrest, 40 others were also arrested, including Buckley, Sir John Alexander Macdonald’s cabman, and Peter Eagleson, a tailor in Ottawa, likely who is being referenced in the article.
House and Lot For Sale The House and Lot now occupied by Mr. Robinson, South Oshawa. For terms, apply to Mr. John Bone, South Oshawa. E Bone, Oshawa, Sept 16, 1868
30 Sept 1868, Page 1 Dr. Clarke begs to announce to his friends that he has resumed the practice of his profession, and may be found, as heretofore, at his own Cottage, corner of Athol and Centre Streets, Oshawa. Nov 25th, 1867.