Oshawa Museum: Home To Our History

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

Next year not only is Canada celebrating an anniversary, so is the Oshawa Historical Society: 60 years of promoting awareness and appreciation of Oshawa’s history. Looking to the future, the Board of Directors thought an anniversary was a good time to refresh our image.  That’s why the Board decided to shortened our name to  Oshawa Museum, from Oshawa Community Museum, the name we have been using for about 20 years.  The new name doesn’t erode our identity in any way, instead better reflects the scope of work we do at the museum. Oshawa Museum represents the future direction of the site, the focus on professionalism, excellence in our field and providing Oshawa and its residents with an engaging and informative  look at our history.


Along with the new name, we have chosen a new tagline, “Home to our History.” Again, we feel this pays homage to the idea that the three museum buildings were at one time  family homes while the word “our” connects us to the community.

To complement our new name and tagline is our new logo designed by the very talented Chris Abbott. Chris is from Oshawa and was able to bring a fresh perspective to our brand.  Chris used words such as “contemporary,” “interactive,” and “inclusive” as inspiration and came up with a design that we feel is fresh and current and positions us well  to embark on our next phase of growth.  We love our new look and  am excited for what the future holds.


Oshawa Schoolbooks

By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Recently I was organizing the museum’s education collection and putting items from the schoolroom exhibit into storage. I went on to check the dates of all of our schoolbooks to ensure they dated back to the time period we were depicting. To my surprise I found eight books that contained names of Oshawa students, teachers, schools and even some amusing graffiti.

The dates of the books range from 1868 – 1929. “By this time the school readers had been made containing more imaginative prose and poetry Literature had been added to the elementary curriculum. The teacher read stories to the classes from any book or periodical he or she might have had on hand, or, a story from a book that some of the pupils had brought to school.”[1]  Surprisingly most of the schoolbooks that were found are Ontario and Canadian based. In the early days of education many children in Upper Canada studied from European, UK and American books because that was all that was available. The books this blog post are based on are: Canadian Series Fourth Reader (1868), Canadian Series Spelling  Book (1868), The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), High School Physical Science (1895), The Ontario Public School Speller (1909), The Ontario Readers Primer (1909), A Junior History of England (1929) and My Spelling Grade 5 (1943).

Five out of the eight books were used at different schools: Mary Street School, Westmount School, Simcoe Street School, and Centre Street School/Central School, with Mary Street and Centre Street Schools bring two of the oldest in Oshawa. The Junior History of England book belonged to Janet Oke who lived at 268 Ritson Road South in Oshawa and had Mr. Davidson as her Grade 8 teacher in Room 15. Unfortunately we don’t know what school she went to. It is possible that she may have attended Centre Street School as it would have been large enough by then to have at least 15 rooms.

Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection
Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection

This book also contains graffiti that seems to have been written by Janet.

“This book is full of words,

As full as it can be.

It killed the jerk who wrote it,

And now it’s killing me.”


“History is an awful thing,

And awful it may be.

It killed the early Romans,

And now it’s killing me.”

Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)
Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)

Another of the books also contains graffiti. The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), was owned by Miss Maude H. Clarke in 1907.  She attended Centre Street School at the time.

“If my name you wish to see, turn to page 107.

If my name you wish to find,

Shut the book and nevermind.”


“If this book begins to roam,

Shut the book and nevermind.”


“Steal not this book my honest friend,

For fear the gallows will be thy end,

And when you die the Lord will say,

Where is the book you stole away?

And if you say I do not know,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come in my dear.”


“Steal not this book for fear of strife,

For the owner carries a big jackknife.”


“Steal not this book, for when you die,

The Lord will say ‘Where is the book you stole away?’

And if you say ‘I do not know’,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come right…’

In 1996, the book was donated in memory of Nathan “Ned” Smith, who was caretaker of Lakeview Park from the 1930s to 1942, by his grandchildren: Jean Landale, Georgina Bryant, Francis Shirlock, Gail Richard, Kenneth Munro, Linda Munro. At this time it is unclear if Maude Clarke and the Smith family are related.

The High School Physical Science (1895) book was owned by sister and brother, Margaret and Donald Hawkes. They went to Oshawa High School, now O’Neill CVI, and one of their teachers was Mr. Louis Stevenson as noted in the text book. According to Olive French “He was an excellent teacher and tolerated no nonsense in his classes.”[2]

Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection
Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection

It is interesting how much information we can glean from these textbooks beyond what is printed on its pages – who was teaching at the time, how long the books were used past their publishing date, what kind of language and slang the kids were using at the time. This blog post has inspired me to do some more research into the children’s families and teachers mentioned. They will be part of my ongoing research project into various aspects of the early education system in Oshawa.


For more information on Oshawa’s early education history, please visit our website, featuring Olive French’s unpublished manuscript.

[1] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript. 1871-1920. P.7

[2] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript 1921-1967. P. 75

Volunteering at the Museum!

Hi there, my name is Emily and I have been a volunteer in the archives at The Oshawa Community Museum for about a year now. I first began volunteering here to gain experience in my field as I had hoped to apply to graduate studies in Library and Information Science, after completing my undergrad at Trent University Oshawa. I thought I would take this opportunity to share a bit about my experience here, and how volunteering has helped me plan for my future career!

Emily working in the Archives!
Emily working in the Archives!

The majority of my volunteering here has been in the archives. When I began volunteering in the archives I mainly worked with the photograph collection by entering numerous photographs into the digital database. These photographs all capture a moment of Oshawa’s past and this has been very interesting for me to look through because I have been able to learn so much about the history of Oshawa.

Between school and school work, I am able to come into volunteer about once a week and have tried to keep this schedule for most of time I have been here. During the summer however, I took a short break from volunteering and put on a Victorian Dress and took on the role of summer student. While still helping in the archives, I was also able to help with other Museum functions. When September rolled around, I once again began volunteering. When I started up again I moved away from the photographs collection that I had been working on and began entering some of the larger archival items into the database. This has allowed me to become more familiar with different aspects of the archival collection at The Oshawa Community Museum.

Jen, Emily and Caitlan, summer 2013
Jen, Emily and Caitlan, summer 2013

The experience I have gained here at The Oshawa Community Museum has been extremely valuable to me for two main reasons. First, having the opportunity to work hands on in the archives, I have gained a better understanding of my field and the career I am pursuing. This experience has allowed me to determine whether the field of Information is something I could see myself doing and I think it is safe to say now that this is career path I want to take. Secondly, the time I have spent volunteering at the Museum has helped me apply to graduate studies. From being able to say I have worked with an Archivist to being able to demonstrate my passion for this field it has been great to develop skills and show this to grad schools. I am also happy to say I have now (thankfully), finished my applications to grad school and am eagerly waiting to see where I will end up next year!

Overall, I believe I have had a unique and valuable experience volunteering here at the Oshawa Community Museum. It has been a positive stop on my career path and one I know has helped shape my future in Information. I am very happy I made the decision to volunteer early and encourage students thinking about archival research, library or information studies to consider a volunteer placement somewhere like the Oshawa Community Museum!

A Narrow Escape

The Oshawa Vindicator, December 12, 1866

James O. Guy
James O. Guy

On Thursday last, Mr. J.O. Guy, Reeve of East Whitby, had a narrow escape with his life.  He went over to the barn of Mr. Thomas Henry who was there engaged in threshing.  Whilst standing near the tumbling shaft talking to Mr. Henry a pin in the shaft caught [Mr. Guy’s coat] and winding it around and around, drawing him closer to the shaft.  Mr. Henry seized Mr. Guy and by their united exertions the coat was torn off.  When the machine was stopped there was but a piece of one sleeve left.