Research is well underway for the 2024 publication on Oshawa’s unwritten history. This book will examine aspects of Oshawa’s history that have not been written about in other history books, including stories of diverse community groups. Recently, the Oshawa Public Library digitized newspapers from the 1920s to 1940s, and this has helped with researching the early Jewish community, who were a vibrant and thriving community group in Oshawa by the 1920s.
While looking for information to share about Passover, which started on Wednesday, April 5 at sundown, I came across an article from 1926 about this holiday, saying, “Services in the synagogue and a family service, called the seder, mark its opening. The service in this city will take place in Engel’s Hall.” Engel’s Hall was an important community gathering place for the Jewish community, but it also was a gathering place for the local community as a whole.
Hyman Engel came to Oshawa around 1905 where he started his successful clothing business. Born in Austria, Engel immigrated in the late 1890s and settled in Toronto before moving east to Oshawa. It was fairly common for many early Jewish immigrants to settle in cities where larger Jewish communities were already established upon first arriving in Canada.
Engel was married to a woman named Annie, and together, they had seven children and an adopted daughter. The family became very important to the foundation of the Oshawa Hebrew Congregation. Engel was not only the first President of the Oshawa Hebrew Congregation but was a member of many organizations, such as the Independent Order of the B’nai B’rith, the Maccabees, and the Phoenix Lodge No. 22 of the IOOF. As well, they were extremely generous with their wealth, and often gave money to different causes affecting the Jewish community, including funding Jewish immigrants’ entry into the country.
The building at 16 Simcoe Street North features a date stone reading ‘H. Engel 1921.’ This is where Engel had his storefront and hall. Before the Jewish community were able to purchase a property on Albert Street to serve as their synagogue, services were held in Engel’s Hall. In 1928, the community was able to acquire the house at 45 Albert Street which they used as their synagogue until 1948 when they acquired 138 King Street East, Llewellyn Hall.
Engel’s Hall not only served as a gathering place for the local Jewish community, but it appears to have been available for other groups to rent and use, as newspapers from the 1920s frequently advertized dances, lectures, and Pentecostal services being held in the hall. Samuel Collis, another prominent member of the early Jewish community, offered violin lessons from the Hall. Fundraising initiatives supporting Jewish immigrants also met at Engel’s Hall, and on June 28, 1926, a meeting was held here which saw the formation of the Oshawa Hebrew Congregation.
After having a stroke, Hyman Engel died on July 30, 1930. He is buried at the Jones Avenue Cemetery, the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Toronto.
All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer
April 4, 1922, page 1 Albert St. Butcher Robbed of $100 John Hrcio, butcher who conducts a business at Albert and Jackson Streets, was the victim of a daring hold up last night about nine o’clock when a masked bandit calmly walked into his store and looted the cash drawer at the same time levelling a revolver at him.
Mr. Hrcio was preparing parcels to be delivered this morning when the stranger appeared on the scene and ordered him to throw up his hands. The bandit took all the cash, amounting to $100, from the drawer, and 26 cheques, which Mr. Hrcio had cashed for employees of the Ontario Malleable Iron Company, were also missing. The cheques were found this morning by a police officer lying on the floor, but the money had been stolen…
Page 4 Strict Rules to Govern Peddling Ice Cream Here If the decision of the Health Board Thursday night with regard to regulation of ice cream peddlers on the streets of Oshawa is carried out, those open air dispensers of ice cream cones will be few and far between in the town this summer. A communication was received from Mr. A.J. Holland asking for the renewal of his license to peddle ice cream this summer, promising that all sanitary regulations could be strictly lived up to. The inspector spoke very favourably of this application, but put his foot down on a number of foreigners who were in the business last year under conditions far from being conducive to the public health.
Health Reports Show Isolation Hospital Need The splendid work being done by the Public Health nurses was very favourably commented on by the members of the Board of Health at the regular meeting Thursday evening when the following report was presented by Miss B.E. Harris for the month of March:
Communicable diseases reported for March are as follows: Chicken Pox, 26; scarlet fever, 4; diphtheria, 1; erysipelas, 1; whooping cough, 1, making a total of 33…
It is of the scarlet fever cases one feels more concern. We have had 12 cases reported during February and March. This though not approaching an epidemic, has necessitated much concentrated work and strict quarantine to prevent the disease from spreading. We have had repeat cases in two homes, which brings home to us, so closely connected with diseases, the great important of an Isolation Hospital.
April 6, 1922, page 1 Music Assists in School Work In the Assembly Hall of the Oshawa High School Tuesday evening, public school teachers and parents assembled to hear what was perhaps one of the most unique and interesting demonstrations as to the true value of music in schools ever presented in Oshawa. The speakers were Mrs. May Shilling and Ethel McKee, representative of the Columbia graphophone Company, who illustrated their talks with the use of the graphonola.
Bell Telephone Co. Will Spend $31,000 Locally This Year on Extensions The Bell Telephone Company will this spring and summer expend the sum of $31,000 in Oshawa in the construction of new underground and aerial cables, with a view to meeting the telephone needs of the town for the next five years at least. The appropriation for Oshawa was passed recently.
The Bell Telephone Company has always regarded this town as one of promise and has expended much more money here in equipment and service than in many other places of like size and in many cases double the population…
April 8, 1922, page 1 Thornton Co. Send Firemen $789 to Show Appreciation To know that your work is thoroughly appreciated is probably one of the most encouraging experiences which one could have. The members of the Oshawa Fire Department yesterday found themselves in this position when Fire Chief Cameron received a letter from Mr. W.R. Morson, owner of the Thornton Rubber Company factory, at the time the large building was almost totally destroyed by fire, expressing his appreciation of their splendid service in trying to save the structure.
The letter contained three cheques, one for $174 to cover the expenses of Fireman E. Jones, who was severely injured and confined to his home for some weeks through blood poisoning, and a second for $65 covering loss of time through injury to Lieut. W.C. Culling, who was also injured at the fire and had blood poisoning. The third cheque was for the sum of $550, made payable to Fire Chief Cameron with the request that the money be distributed according to his wishes.
April 11, 1922, page 1 Oshawa Creek is Rising Rapidly Oshawa Creek this morning is a raging torrent on account of the heavy rain of last night and today. The water in the creek, it is said, has risen over a foot since eight o’clock this morning, and if it continues to rise will cover the flats before the day is out.
The filling in the new bridge is also giving way in several places…
Storm sewers today are working overtime and several cellars in the business section are already flooded. Of course the rain storm is a particularly heavy one, and would tax the capacity of any storm sewer system.
Page 4 Car Hits a Hole Glass Cuts Driver The sight of high smoke stacks, big buildings and the sign “Welcome to Oshawa” giving travellers along the Provincial Highway approaching Oshawa the impression of a modern metropolis, are deceiving in so far as good roads are concerns. This fact was vividly brought home to a well known official of the General Motors from London, England, who is in town this week. Motoring from Toronto this official as he approached Oshawa expected great things, but, alas, as he gazed up on the sign “Welcome to Oshawa” his car was thrown into a hole of terrible mud just at the end of the pavement. His hat was thrown in the air, his forehead cut, and it was with difficulty that the car was resurrected from the mire. This spot surely requires the attention of the Council forthwith.
April 13, 1922, page 1 Hebrews Locally Observe Feast of Unleavened Bread Began at Sunset Last Night and Continues Until Friday Services in Oshawa Are Being Held at Home of Rev. Rabbi Halpern Oshawa followers of the Jewish faith, in common with those throughout the world, began yesterday to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, known as the Passover, during which time they abstain from eating leaven in any form and in its stead use the Matzoth. Special services are being held at the home of Rev. Rabbi Halpern, 182 Simcoe Street South. The first were held yesterday, and today, and tomorrow morning and evening services are being held…
Candy Easter Eggs in Great Demand Chocolate Soldiers Introduced This Year – Use of Dyes Falling Off Stores in Oshawa, confectionery emporiums in particular, are looking unusually attractive for the Easter season. Easter eggs are to be found in large quantities, chocolate eggs being the most popular.
Some years ago, it was a custom for citizens of this country to boil eggs and paint them various colors for use at Easter by during the past 10 years, the candy egg has become more and more popular until the old custom has almost entirely disappeared.
April 18, 1922, page 4 Many People See Selves in Movies Local Factories, Schools, Workmen, Etc., Are Shown on the Screen Oshawa, its varied industries, business thoroughfares, public officials and prominent buildings, fire department, schools and many other activities, were shown in the movies at the New Martin Theatre Thursday, Friday and Saturday last in a film prepared by a moving picture company from Sydney, Nova Scotia. Hundreds saw the film and were delighted with it.
Every department of civic, industrial and educational life was shown as well. The factories included the General Motors, Pedlars, Fittings Limited, Williams Piano Company. All the schools with hundreds of children leaving them were thrown on the screen… The film showed the fire department in action, the religious side of the community in the people coming from Simcoe Street Methodist Church, the Rotary Club, lined up in front of Welsh’s parlors, the Mayor and members of the Council in front of the Town Hall, the news boys leaving the Reformer office with their papers, and many other scenes. The film can be utilized for advertising the town and will no doubt serve this purpose well.
The bad condition of the streets was the only regrettable feature of the whole film.
April 20, 1922, page 6 News of Nearby Places Columbus Reeve Ellins and Deputy Reeve Nesbitt and PG Purvis, clerk, attended the annexation meeting at Cedar Dale on Tuesday evening. The Reeve says if the terms laid down by East Whitby and Cedar Dale will be accepted by Oshawa, annexation will be possible in the near future.
Council Had Laugh On Mayor Stacey When members of the Town Council assembled for a meeting last night they found a rehearsal of the show “Jack’s Wife” in full progress in the legislative chamber. Someone pulled a good pun on the mayor. It was intimated to His Worship that the Council meeting was held up by Jack’s wife who was holding forth in the Town Hall. “What in the mischief is she doing up there?” he asked, thinking it to be his partner in life, and not knowing of the rehearsal of the show that is being put on for the Hospital benefit. His Worship’s colleagues had a good laugh on him.
April 25, 1922, page 3 Oshawa and District Big Garage Under Way TB Mothersill has under way the large garage being erected by Phillip Smith, of the Oshawa Iron and Metal Company. The excavation work is almost competed and brick and cement are on the ground. The garage will be used for the hosing of trucks used by the nompany (sic) on the road.
April 27, 1922, page 1 Only Ten Per Cent of Trees Failed to Survive the Winter Only ten per cent of the 2,500 trees planted last spring by Mr. GD Conant on his lakeside property, “Bonniebrae Point,” as part of a reforestation scheme, did not survive the summer and winter. This percentage is very low and demonstrates fully that reforestation in this county can be successfully carried out, as strongly advocated before the County Council by Reeve Owen Davies, of Uxbridge Township. Mr. Conant is planting another 1,000 trees this spring, and will continue the scheme. Water, light and telephone are also being constructed at Bonniebrae this spring and road improvement are being made.
Page 6 Those Income Tax Returns All those who are required to make out income tax papers are reminded that the returns must be filled out and filed not later than the end of the present month. A large number have called at the Post Office for the forms and many have been already sent in but it is expected that there will be a heavy last minute demand as there was last year.
There is a saying that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. According to CNN1, its origins may be related to the movement of the constellations of Leo and Aries through the sky, but it is most often associated with the weather patterns, cold, biting winter giving way to warmer, more docile spring.
In honour of this saying and the end of March, here are items in our collection that feature lions and lambs!
I am interested in learning more about Smith Potteries and to discover more about the “specialized pottery” made here in Oshawa. When I started at the Oshawa Museum in 2000, there were two pieces in the collection. This collection has grown to 37 pieces. Some of the acquired pieces have travelled back to Oshawa from as far away as the United Kingdom, purchased by visitors to the area as a memento of their time in Oshawa.
Smith Potteries’s production of a specialized semi-porcelain pottery, also known as white ware, made this company competitively successful with other countries, such as the United States, China, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Czechoslovakia. The white ware pottery was resilient and of fine quality.
Recently, the newspaper collection at the Oshawa Public Libraries was digitized and made available online. In the August 15, 1929 edition of The Oshawa Daily Times, there was an article titled, Substantial Industry Being Developed Just Outside City by H. Smith Potteries, which discussed a new two-storey addition and expansion of the business. The addition included a modern office, shipping and receiving room, and the second floor was used solely as the finishing room. The market term for wares created by Smith were known as “Velta Art Pottery.”
The article continues to describe the raw material used to produce these fine pieces. They are made with china clay [Kaolin], feldspar, and flint. These ingredients were carefully combined, strained through a screen to remove any impurities and stirred in a large mixer. The moulds were constructed of plaster, into which the liquid china was poured, and any remaining liquid was poured off. The moulds were placed in a warm oven where the heat shrank the pottery, allowing it to be separated from the mould. The pieces were then removed from the oven and mould and left to air dry. Once dry, the piece was placed in a kiln and subjected to a temperature of 2250 degrees for 24 hours, in a process called firing.
The article continues
Probably the most interesting phase is the finishing or painting of the article. In the H. Smith Potteries this is accomplished in a large bright room by five expert artists. Various designs are employed but each piece is hand painted. The colour schemes and designs are first planned by a talented designer… The articles are delicately shaped and tinted in exquisite colours. All the pieces including the lamp shades are designed right in Oshawa.
It is through this process that makes each piece held in the Oshawa Museum collection unique because they were all individually hand painted. Smith Potteries produced a range of products such as vases, bowls, candlesticks, lamp bases, ashtrays, and other souvenir novelties with hand painted designs.
The article also mentioned that the firm was in the process of manufacturing bases for the desk fountain pen sets for the Parker Duofold Co. This company is still around today under the name, The Parker Pen.
The Oshawa Museum is always looking to add more pieces made by Smith Potteries to the collection. If you have a piece of Smith Potteries that you are interested in donating, reach out to me through email firstname.lastname@example.org
With the start of the Second World War, women from all over Canada joined various volunteer groups. The best known is the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) which was formed in 1941 and aimed at replacing men in non-combat duties, freeing up men to serve at the front. However, many other volunteer women’s groups existed before the official formation of the CWAC. Reading through the handwritten account of the history of the Oshawa Fire Department, I came across some these women’s volunteer organizations.
With the war clouds ever darkening and the possibility of aerial bombing of our own land becoming more acute, organization of the Civilian Defense Committee A.R.P. began in Oshawa in April of this year , however during April and May only the organization and selecting of a proper Executive was accomplished, but during which time speakers were present each week to assist in the ground work. In June of this year with an enrolment of 25 Members the auxiliary fire Services came into being under the direction of the newly named Controller of Fire Services, Chief Elliot. Classes were held once weekly and included lectures, hose and ladder evolutions, chemical and their various uses, and fire department tools and their uses. A class in First Aid and artificial resuscitation was also started and this class was largely attended by the members of the C.A.T.S. an newlyformed volunteer Womans Organization. The membership of the auxiliary fire service increased to some 80 members in 1942, with ten members of the C.A.T.S. being attached to the fire services, and participating in every phase of the work.
A019.2.7 Pg. 175
In this excerpt from 1941, we are introduced to two organizations. The Civilian Defense Committee A.R.P., or the Air Raid Precautionary, was a civilian defense organization created by the federal government to prepare civilians for an attack. Roles for volunteers included auxiliary fire fighters, fire-aid roles like driving ambulances and general care for casualties, and auxiliary police. The efforts of this organization were to train civilians for any situation.
What stood out to me in this passage was C.A.T.S., described as a newly formed volunteer women’s organization. C.A.T.S., or the Canadian Auxiliary for Territorial Service, was based off the British Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.). A Globe and Mail article from May 18, 1945 states that C.A.T.S. serve in any useful capacity to any branch of the Service anywhere. It went on to list the work these women participated in: transport, A.R.P., food administration, welfare, and clerical activities. Through this 1941 passage, some of the C.A.T.S. members were auxiliary fire fighters.
The excerpt from the fire department shows us a snapshot of what home life was like for civilians during the war and the incredible volunteer legacy that women had.