By Kes Murray, Registrar
One of my current projects here in the archives is re-organizing our oversize photograph and document boxes. This will make finding photographs and documents much easier. Of course, going through these boxes sometimes brings about mysteries or excitement, especially when I find something that hasn’t been seen in some time.
One such document that made many of us here at the museum stop and look was a poster from the Jubilee Pavilion, advertising Ozzie Williams and his Orchestra. No one had seen the poster in some time, which led to the question, who was Ozzie Williams and his Orchestra, and what was his connection to the Jubilee Pavilion?
Ozzie Williams, writes the website The Toronto Historical Jukebox, started his career all the way back in the early 1930s. Williams made his name as a band leader leading orchestras at popular dance halls in Toronto, like the Kingsway Club and the Embassy.
The 1930s were the time of the “Big Band,” large orchestra-type bands that played jazz music. Big Bands enjoyed wide success through their radio work and public appearances, like in dance halls.
Thinking of dance halls, the Jubilee Pavilion has a special place amongst many residents of Oshawa. Built in 1927, it has served as the venue for many bands over their almost 100 years in service. Thanks to some sleuthing in the Toronto Star Archives through the Toronto Public Library, I learned that Williams played at the Jube in 1936. In his book, Let’s Dance: A Celebration of Ontario’s Dance Halls and Summer Dance Pavilions, Peter Young writes, “Big Bands were usually hired [at the Jube] for the whole summer, performing six nights per week, and would often stay in cottages very nearby… Some of the popular bands to perform at the Jube included Ozzie Williams, Stan Williams and His Blue Marines, Boyd Valleau, Jack Denton and Pat Riccio.”
From Young’s excerpt, we learn more of Williams’s time here in Oshawa. The fact that bands were hired for an entire summer explains why the poster has June, July, and August on the bottom. Also, that many bands stayed in cottages in Lakeview Park explains why we have a photograph of Williams in our Lowry Collection. The Lowry Lakeview Park Collection contains hundreds of photographs of Lakeview Park, mostly from the 1930s. In this photograph, Williams sitting with an individual named Georgie Robinson. We can assume that this photograph was taken when Williams lived in the Park
Although Williams’s entire life is still a mystery, his time here in Oshawa seemed rather busy, with many nights played at the Jube. I absolutely loved looking in Williams’s time here in Oshawa. All of this really gives us a snapshot at what nights were like at the Jube and the bands that played there.
McNamara, Helen. “Dance bands”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 13 June 2014, Historica Canada. www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dance-bands-emc. Accessed 11 May 2023.
Young, Peter. Let’s Dance: A Celebration of Ontario’s Dance Halls and Summer Dance Pavilions. Toronto, National Heritage, 2002.