The Lowry Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 1996, Marjorie Lowry donated a photograph album filled with amazing images of Lakeview Park in the late 1930s. The photographs are a glimpse into the lives of a group of friends who spent the summer of 1938 at the lake. They can be seen playing on the beach, joking around with one another and just enjoying Lakeview Park.

Lloyd and Bill White (A996.20.97)

What was Mrs. Lowry’s connection to the photograph album? The connection is the White family, specifically Lloyd White, who can be seen in numerous photographs throughout the album. Lloyd was Mrs. Lowry’s paternal uncle. There is a further connection to the Jubilee Pavilion , as Lloyd’s sister Ruth was once married to Owen McCrohan, proprietor of the pavilion during the time of the photographs.

Throughout the album, friends and members of the White family can be seen enjoying Lakeview Park and all the amenities the park offered. The album features photographs of bands who played at the Jubilee Pavilion, large picnics, and carnival rides. The majority of the photographs appear to be from the summer of 1938, just after Owen McCrohan and Tom Bouckley took over as proprietors of the Jube. It is a unique glimpse into the summer fun before the world faced war in 1939.

Ruth White with Owen McCrohan(A996.20.98a)

The album is not only a snapshot of Lakeview Park in the late 1930s but also a photographic snapshot of the White family. The photographs show Lloyd, his sister Ruth (not yet married to McCrohan), and his brothers Bruce and Bill (Mrs. Lowry’s father). The captions hint at some hard times in the family and also indicate that the Second World War would impact the family as we know for certain that Lloyd served overseas.

Personally, this photograph album is one of my favourites in the archives. I love the light-heartedness in the images. I thoroughly enjoy that this is one of the few photographic examples of the ethnic and racial diversity that has been a part of Oshawa for much of its history. Friendship, love, and fun are documented throughout the album, and that is why it is such a wonderful part of our archival collection.

Oak Crawford with The Tramp Band (A996.20.125)

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.

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.  In the early 2010s, Visitor Experience Coordinator Jill Passmore set out to transcribe the manuscript, which was made available to researchers through the blog olivefrench.wordpress.com.  During her transcription process, Jill shared some of her favourite ‘tidbits’ on the Museum’s Facebook page, which bear repeating here on our blog.  Be sure to check out the Olive French site and discover a little more about education and early life in Oshawa.


An anecdote about Beaton’s store: For some reason best known to them, Beaton’s had a display of chamber pots in the window of their china shop. A lady went by with two small children, around the age of four or five years old. When they saw what was in the window, they let it be known in good clear voices – “Oh, look at the jims,” “see all the jim’s”! Their mother decided that she would take the children by, on the other side of the street until Beaton’s changed their window decorations!
Jim’s is possibly a derivative of “Jimmy” and “Jimmy Riddle”, which is British slang for “urinating”


The birch rod, so popular in the early days was gradually ruled out of the schools. Some of the older scholars, on a few occasions had received broken fingers through its injudicious use. The strap became a popular way to emphasize obedience and to stimulate the lazy ones. As a rule the parents did not come to the school and complain about Johnny’s or Mary’s punishment. If a child deserved it he got no sympathy from “ma or pa.” Most children were told, “if you get a lickin’ in school you’re git another when you git home.”


One could scarcely imagine the health authorities of today tolerating a smelly place like Dick Hobb’s fish store (Simcoe Street South).


For the most part the common schoolteachers had only a common school education and no professional training. They were usually discharged soldiers or new comers who were ill equipped to take a more lucrative position. The teacher’s qualifications were his ability to keep order while his pupils memorized their lessons that he assigned to them from their textbooks and recited them to him.


Scholars [at DeMill Ladies’ College] were requested to bring with them, to the college, their own towels, table napkins and ring, one pillow and pillow cases, one pair of sheets and bed covers suitable for the season. They also had to bring a knife, a fork and a spoon, all these articles was to be marked with the owner’s name. They must provide themselves with clothing suitable for the season and were requested to wear inexpensive, neat and plain clothing. More thought was to be given to schoolwork than to dress.


Another escapade took place in Centre Street Public School in 1888 or 1889; this one was not serious but it emptied one of the rooms for a half of a day. One of the pupils, Maisie, aged ten years, whose father kept bees, thought she would see what could be done about a half holiday on a one nice day in the spring. She had no fear of bees whatever and could go out among the bee hives at her home and pick out the drones and the other bees did not attack her. It is believed that those insects are aware of it, when anyone is afraid of them. Drones are male bees and do not sting. At lunch time that day, she put a few drones in her pocket before she left to go back to school. After the bell rang and things got settled down in her room, she let the bees go. There was a near panic of course; no one else knew that the bees were drones. There was no need to dismiss the room; the room dismissed itself, teacher and all. How she ever dared to do a thing like that when Mr. Smith was principal was a question. She must have been brave. No doubt she was punished at school; the teachers wouldn’t have seen any joke about it like her father did. She happened to be my cousin, he was C.S. French.

Centre Street School in the 1920s; A004.14.3

In the earliest years when the High School was in the new building, report cards were not given to the pupils. Marks obtained on the exams were posted on the bulletin boards and the papers were handed back to the pupils. A record was kept in the office of each student’s marks, during the year. Before the final exams in the higher grades, the scholars were called individually to the office for an interview with the principal. He gave his opinion on the advisability of trying or not. A fee was charged for the departmental exams.


An amusing report was printed in the Vindicator April 7th 1876. It was the day of the trustee meeting and not one of them was present. “A number of the members had joined an elocution class and it had met on the same evening. Some very brilliant oration at the meetings was to be expected now. A new pump was needed at the school and it would be an excellent chance for brilliant elocutionary effect for the property committee.”

Also the following; at one time when there was no quorum and no meeting of the school board all of the trustees were attending an oyster supper. Someone suggested that it might be a good idea, on the night of the trustee meetings to give oyster suppers and invite the members of the board to attend. Perhaps they might be induced to transact the school business afterwards.

Volunteering in the Times of COVID

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

The COVID crisis hit Ontario in early March, and by March 13, the Oshawa Museum made the decision to close our doors to the public. Staff continued to work from home remotely, but essentially all volunteering came to a halt at that time. Museums benefit from volunteers in so many ways, from the volunteers who help at events, being wonderful ambassadors for the site, helping behind the scenes, and being just a wonderful complement to the staff.  To say we miss our volunteers is an understatement; their presence is missed every day.

Not all volunteering stopped, for as restrictions began to lift, we were able to safely accommodate and welcome back our garden volunteers, who have worked throughout the summer to keep the gardens around the museum looking their very best.

But, due to space constraints currently at the Museum, we cannot safely have volunteers on site because social distancing would not be achievable.  So, we started thinking about ways that we can have volunteer engagement and participation, but in a remote capacity. Enter the Audio Transcription Project.

Our archival collection is vast and varied: legal documents, photographs, diaries, newspapers, and a large collection of audio cassettes. Yes, that’s right. Audio Cassettes. In case this technology is a little before your time, we’re talking about these:

This collection features historical talks, oral interviews, and the like.  We saw this collection as a great starting point for creating at-home volunteer opportunities.

Staff began the project, digitizing the cassettes using a handy devise that turns the audio into an MP3. However, what is of great benefit is having a written transcript of the audio file.  This transcript not only is makes searching the content of the audio file simple and quick, it also makes an audio file accessible to those who are hearing impaired, thereby increasing accessibility to the collection.

The project is being facilitated over our Google Drive – volunteers can sign up for which audio file they want to work on, and the MP3s are accessible from that same online folder. In the month of August, when we launched the project, volunteers contributed over fifty hours to this project, and we are so very thankful for the work they are doing!

If you are interested in helping with this project, please email Lisa at membership@oshawamuseum.org


What we’ve learned!

In the 1980s, there was an interview with a Mrs. Mechin, and one of our volunteers has transcribed the audio. Within the interview, Mrs. Mechin, a Robinson descendant, talked about her history of employment:

MRS MECHIN: And, when Burt and I were sleigh riding, I was six and he was seven. And I was fitted the night before, and it was across the fields, there was a hill, a pastor field. And, halfway down the hill, there was a, a wooden fence. A rail fence. And, so we took a notion, we would take our sleigh and go to the top of this hill down. And, of course it went pretty fast, it’s just, just like ice, right? I see, I can see the sun shining on it now, just like diamonds you know. And, I-I sat down, I had long coat on, at the back, and he sat down at the front, he was gonna steer. Of course he sat on my coat, I guess my feet were around him, I don’t know, I can’t remember that but, I ran into the fence, and hurt my hand. So, then I was operated on, had the bone removed and diseased in 1917. That’s why I left Fittings, because my health wasn’t good… So, then I was home three months, or at least I was away three months. And, then I went to Hallett’s store and George [Hazelwood] interviewed me, and I got in the [General] Motors’ office. But, that was before the carriage business was settled up… And, I worked for the manager there… Ms.Keddy, was sick at the time, so I took over her, she used to write letters about the liens on the cars around the carriages… So, I took that job over as well. I did, that was in 1914, and I worked there for three years.

INTERVIEWER: You worked there during the war years?

MRS MECHIN: Well, I worked their four, four years, yeah. Mhmm. 1918

Percy Ibbotson, another Robinson descendant, shares his memories of Robinson House:

INTERVIEWER: We are now in the large north room on the main floor. Percy is going to tell us how he remembers this room.

PERCY: I remember, readily, that when this room was a barber shop, the poles were out in the front, we used to sit in the front steps, and I suppose catering to the traffic down to the beach, people coming and going, especially on the weekend. But, this room was used for some time, for some years, as a barber shop.

INTERVIEWER: And the entrance to the barber shop would be the door on the north side, which we are not using today.

PERCY: Double doors

In 1983, Rev. E. Frazer Lacey gave a presentation about the 150 year history of the congregation of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, where he shared a story about Rev. Thornton during the 1837 Rebellion:

1837 was the year of the Mackenzie rebel, and Thornton was sympathetic to the cause, to the issue, he was for representative democracy, as he was also for free and open education, he was certainly against the family compact. And so here he was torn, loyalist in terms of British connection, but reformist in his social concern. The rebellion was put down, but Thornton received a real setback, troops of the loyalist cause, took a shot at him one night as he came home from a meeting.

Student Museum Musings – The Oshawa Centre

By Mia V., Summer Student

Hi all! I’m very glad to be back for my third summer here at the Oshawa Museum. Over the past two months or so, I have been continuing to research and work on the upcoming exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration. If you or someone you know have any connection to this period of post-World War II immigration, we would love to hear from you! Additionally, as you might know, we have an online exhibit where you can see some of the stories, documents, and photographs that have been shared with us so far: https://oshawaimmigrationstories.weebly.com/

Stefan Malish’s ID during his time working at Brompton and Paper. This is the back of the ID which features “useful information” such as conversion rates and tips on applying for Canadian citizenship.

The uncertainty of the past several months has made familiar places very strange! While running some errands at “the” mall – that is Oshawa Centre (or the OC) – for the first time in a while, I found myself wondering about its history, as one does…

The original 1956 logo for the Oshawa Shopping Centre as it appeared in the Toronto Daily Star on October 31st of that year. The mall was advertised as “Canada’s most beautiful shopping centre.”

Construction of the Oshawa Shopping Centre began on July 22, 1955, when the mayor “turned the first sod.” Doors opened on November 1, 1956, and eager anticipation was in the brisk morning air. The crowds waiting, apparently numbering 10,000 in all, were in for a day filled with fun prizes and gaining a glimpse of what this new construction – a “mall” – was all about.

Ax997.26.1: The Oshawa Shopping Centre ca. 1967. We can see an early phase of construction prior to the enclosing of the mall and addition of a Sears store.

While we have very much gotten used to waiting in lines for stores to open as of late, malls have seemingly always been the primary institution of North American consumer life. At this time however, in the early 1950s, they were a very recent innovation by Austrian Jewish architect Victor Gruen. Inspired by the quintessential European experience, where one strolled casually from shop to shop, Gruen invented the outdoor shopping mall with the intent of encouraging a more slow-paced and social experience.[1]

1968 Ad, as appeared in the Oshawa Journal, March 13, 1968 (A999.19.282).

One of the developers of the Oshawa Shopping Centre, John P. van Haastrecht, made similar connections between the necessity of the mall and a post-war society which had seen rapid changes – especially noting the impact of the suburbs and widespread ownership of cars. Oshawa was considered to be the perfect place for a mall – car ownership and average household income were both reportedly quite high in the city with a population just nearing 50,000. For that reason, the mall often boasted of being “one of the five outstanding Shopping Centres on the North American continent” when it first opened.

Over the years, we’ve all gotten quite used to the Oshawa Centre changing its face! If you’re like me, spending a lot of time at the mall growing up, you probably have quite a few memories attached to certain iterations of it.

In 1968, the mall was enclosed – a roof added over the existing stores – and Sears joined Eaton’s, Hudson’s Bay, and Loblaws as anchor stores. Three years later, in 1971, an office tower was added, along with Famous Players cinemas (both of which you can see in the above photos). Seven more years after that, the south end of the mall was added and a second level as well. In 1989, there were 125 new stores added and the theatre was renovated. Four years later, in 1993, the food court was transformed with a 1950s theme – its signature black and white checkered tiles and overall design calling back to the decade when the mall was built. Finally, most recently, there was the 2016 renovation. A whole wing was added with several dozen new stores and the overall look of the mall was redesigned as well.

Ax995.308.1b / East side of the Oshawa Centre, 1990s.

Of course, in very recent weeks, the social aspect imagined by the Oshawa Centre’s original developers is lacking, with all seating areas being closed off to encourage social distancing. Moreover, the impact of technology – or, more specifically, of online shopping – has also changed the reality of the mall as a social space. In any case, what becomes clear is that a building is never just a building – but rather more like a reflection of the society that built (and repeatedly changed!) it.


[1] Ian Bogost, “When Malls Saved the Suburbs from Despair,” The Atlantic (February 17, 2018), https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/02/when-malls-saved-cities-from-capitalism/553610/.