Student Museum Musings – Kirbi

By Kirbi B., Durham College LIT Student

Hello Everyone!

My name is Kirbi B., I am enrolled in the Library and Information Technician Program at Durham College. This is my final requirement to be eligible for graduation. I am working here at the museum as a placement student in the archives. I am enjoying my time here and this placement provides me with the opportunity to further my knowledge on museums and archives aside from what we learn in class. It provides a “hands on” experience that I would not be able to get without securing a job in the field. This placement will assist me in determining if this is an area I would like pursue after graduation.

I have been working on the creation of finding aids for the archives on General Motors, Oshawa Fire Department and the Oshawa General Hospitals Nursing School. These finding aids contain detailed information about the collection of papers and records within the archive.

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General Motors Plant, part of the North Plant building on Bond Street East. 1983 (A997.18.29)

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The Month That Was – July 1947

All articles originally appeared in The Oshawa Courier

Oshawa Harbour Must be Developed as a Port Without Delay

This season’s prospective development of Oshawa’s harbour as a port-for which most residents have devoutly wished for years- would seem now to have been post-poned indefinitely. The supplementary estimates of the Department of Public Works of the Dominion government recently introduced into the House of Commons contain no such item. This is certain proof that no work such as the dredging required for Oshawa harbor will be undertaken this year. When the Hon. C. D. Howe, Minister of Reconstruction in the King Cabinet addressed the Chamber of Commerce here recently, he had impressed upon him by several local Liberal stalwarts and others the urgent need of something being done by way of Oshawa’s harbor development as a port. Mr. Howe promised to take the matter up with his colleagues in the Cabinet, but temporarily at least his efforts have not been crowned with success. This negative result shows that it is never advisable to build too high hopes upon any imminent harbor development here.

Possibly the King government at Ottawa will pretend to be more deeply interested as the federal election date approaches more closely.

The present delay should occasion no feeling of intense disappointment. Unfortunately, some governments can be impressed, only by pressure political and otherwise. City council and the Chamber of Commerce must strive to press their suit at Ottawa until the government is forced to lend a willing ear.

Even a government must not be permitted to stand in the way of Oshawa’s harbor development as a port which is so linked up with commercial and industrial progress of Oshawa as a city.

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Flying Saucers are Merely Figments of a Vivid Imagination

These are what may be termed “dog-days.” Because of the intense heat, things generally are in doldrums, and people turn to anything and everything with a view to extracting something novel and sensational.

That was the only basis for the so-called “flying saucers”. Many of us are still so ignorant, gullible, and superstitious that we are eager to believe anything and everything, and agree with others with sheep-like acquiescence.

This applies with even greater force to the people of our southern neighbour where any hair-brained theory is seized upon with avidity; the more absurd it is, the more popular it becomes. But the seeing of so-called “flying saucers” was not confirmed to any one country. Some residents of many countries were certain they had witnessed this strange phenomenon.

But it would seem that our senses, which are far from perfect, deceive us occasionally, if not more frequently. Those individuals who are blessed with vivid imaginations can indulge in much wishful thinking and wishful seeing. And there are those who wishing to agree with the adage that “great minds run in the same direction,” always see what somebody else pretends to have seen.

At any rate no vestige of evidence worthy the name has been produced to justify the existence of the so-called flying saucers.

Perhaps those individuals reported to have seen them were “in the cups” or just victims of “tea-cup reading”. The dog-days have arrived in earnest, so do not be unduly perturbed about the many strange things that you may hear or even imagine that you see.

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Will Consider Possibility of New Collegiate

Possibility of erecting a new 20-roomed collegiate on the former Bishop Bethune property will be considered at a special meeting of the board of education next Monday evening.

The school designed to meet the needs of the southern section of the city will provide a full high school education and will comprise 18 classrooms, one home economics room and a general workshop. The building will be a straight collegiate with no effort being made to combine it with vocational institute facilities.

The department of education at Toronto has approved the suggested site of the old Bishop Bethune property on Simcoe Street South as the site for the proposed school. The department pointed out however, that it did not consider the three and a half acre property as large enough for a complete physical training program. With this in mind, the board will meet with officials of the C.R.A. and Rotary Club to determine it a portion of Rotary Park playground cannot be used for this purpose.

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Miniature Car Derby is slated for August 9th

Get ready kids, Oshawa is going to have another miniature car race again this year. The big event is carded for the evening of August 9th and will be run off under the auspices of the Community Recreational Association.

Plans are under way at present to have the winners of each of the events and also those finishing second and third to take part in a much longer competition that will take in Whitby and Bowmanville.

Regulations governing the contest state that each contestant must build his own car. In each class the entry will compose a team of two boys. The boys must also build their own cars and the total cost of each is not to exceed $6.00. The ages of the contestants will be between 11 and 12 years inclusive in one class and between 13 and 15 in a second classification. The ages will be taken as of August 1st this year. All work done on the cars must be done by the contestants themselves.

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Asian History Month

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

May is Asian History Month in Canada. The Government of Canada officially declared the month of May Asian History Month in May 2002.

Early Asian history in Oshawa has become a research focus for myself, as I work with the archival collection to help tell a more inclusive, diverse and accurate history of Oshawa. By shifting the focus away from the traditional local history narrative that focuses on the accomplishments of the wealthy white settlers, we are able to learn about all members of the early Oshawa community and this helps us to better understand how our early roots have contributed to the community that we are today.

Immigration, along with the skills and work ethic each wave of immigrants brought with them, helped Oshawa to become an industrial hub in Canada. The 1911 census for Oshawa shows an influx of people arriving from Poland, Ukraine, Russia and other Eastern European countries. Perhaps sensing the potential for war or wanting different opportunities for their families, Oshawa was a popular spot to begin life in a new country.

Some time between the 1911 and the 1921 census, a small Chinese population of 18 people, arrived in Oshawa. Of those 18, 5 belonged to the family of Mrs. Wong Shee Soo. Mrs. Soo came to our attention as while touring through the large Mausoleum at Union Cemetery. Amongst the familiar names of Conant, McLaughlin and Storie, her name stood out as being very different and we wanted to know more about her.

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Given the date of her death was 1947, what could her story tell us about the experiences of those of Asian descent living in Oshawa during World War II? How did the experiences of Asian settlers differ from those of Eastern European settlers who arrived in the decade before the Soo family?

Looking back it becomes clear that Canada’s treatment of Asian Canadians has been problematic. From the head tax that was placed on only Chinese immigrants, to the Chinese Immigration Act, which actually prohibited entry to Canada, and to laws dictating where Asians could live, work and associate with, the history of Asian Canadians has been dark.

How did the Soo family end up in Oshawa? In 1921, Oshawa had a population of approximately 13 000 people. Of that 13 000 people, 18 are listed in the census as being Chinese. There are no people of Asian descent, including Chinese, listed in any of the previous census records.

The earliest records that show the family in Oshawa are the 1921 Canadian Federal Census for Oshawa and the 1921 City Directory for Oshawa. At this time, the family of 5 lived on Simcoe Street and Min Soo ran a restaurant called the Boston Café. The Soo family owned the Boston Café until sometime between 1934 and 1938 when they then operated the Eden Inn restaurant. The Soos lived in a very ethnically diverse area, with people listed as being Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, and Russian.

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Detail from photo of King Street, Oshawa (Ax995.194.1)  The Boston Cafe sign can be seen in the centre, just to the left of the man holding the ‘Go’ traffic sign.  Its address was 4 King Street East

Research into this family is ongoing. We have actually been in contact with the granddaughter of Wong Shee and she is happy to help us with our research. As with my research into early Black history in Oshawa, this research is difficult as early records concerning the Asian population’s contributions to the community were not archived. This is an important story and an important aspect of our community’s history and so I will continue digging and continue to collect any information I can find.

The Strike of 1937

The year is 1937. The City of Oshawa has grown to 25,000 citizens. Alex C. Hall is the Mayor. An unforgettable strike in the history of Oshawa was about to unfold at the city’s General Motors plant.

On April 8, 1937 3,700 workers walked off the job and did not return to the lines until a settlement was struck weeks later.

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This strike became pivotal to the future of labour relations throughout Canada.  The Toronto Star reported on the strike and described it as an orderly event – “a stand-up strike not a sit-down strike” and even saw 260 women joining the men on the picket line.

The strike began quietly.  Workers arrived at 7 am to begin work.  The day changed when, at 7:05 workers peacefully exited the plant and went on strike.

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Simultaneously, 400 pickets are flung up around the works with pre-arranged precision.

Despite the calm air surrounding the striking workers, the provincial police were mobilized in Toronto in anticipation of potential violence.  At the same time, the Liquor Commissioner, E.G. Odette, chose to indefinitely close the liquor store, brewer’s warehouse and all beverage rooms to prevent any disorder.

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Why strike?  Workers in Oshawa were demanding recognition of the United Auto Workers union.  The UAW was an affiliate of the recently created Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO; later Congress of Industrial Organization), a group that was working to organize industrial workers throughout the US. This group was not seen as a positive step by General Motors management and they, along with Ontario Premier Mitchell Hepburn, worked to keep the CIO out of Ontario. Both the company and the premier wanted a pliant labour force – unorganized, impotent and cheap. To break the strike, Hepburn even created his own police force, known irreverently as “Hepburn’s Hussars” and “Sons-of-Mitches.”

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The GM workers’ requests were simple: an 8-hour day, better wages and working conditions, a seniority system and recognition of their union, the new United Automobile Workers. The strike carried on for over 2 weeks. Fearing a loss in the marketplace to competitors, General Motors eventually capitulated and the strike ended on April 23, 1937.

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This major confrontation between GM and its workers in Oshawa in 1937 effectively brought about industrial unionism to Canada. “In 1937, when several thousand members signed union cards, the hopelessness of the depression gave way to a new hope, a new confidence. UAW 222 was born” (Local 222).

Student Museum Musings – Nicole and Mary

This semester, we are happy to host two students from Durham College’s Library and Information Technician program who are able to get hands-on experience in the workplace while offering valuable assistance where we need the help.  Read on to meet Nicole and Mary!

Nicole

Hello, my name is Nicole Bray and I am a second year student in the Library and Information Program at Durham College.  I chose to have a field placement at the Oshawa Museum & Archives after I saw Jennifer’s presentation for one of my classes.  She made working at the archives sound fun and interesting.  And everyone has certainly lived up to my first impression.  At the moment I am working on the Education in Oshawa e-publication.  It’s really interesting to read up about all the different schools that were once in Oshawa.  I look forward to the rest of the time I’ll spend here at the Archives.

Mary

Hello all! My name is Mary Sherlock and I am a 2nd year Durham College student in the Library and Information Technician program. This is my last year in the program and I am excited for what the future may bring! I am here as a placement student in the archive and am loving every second of it so far! I have a great love for history, especially Canada’s history, which makes me all the more excited for my time here. This placement will  give me a great opportunity to see if working in an archive or museum setting is something I wish to do after I graduate, also to gather as much educational experience as possible to apply towards school, work, and life.

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Durham LIT Students on a Fall visit to the Oshawa Museum