Reflecting on 30 Years

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

In February, I celebrated 30 years of working with the Oshawa Historical Society.  I like to use the word celebrating because I have enjoyed my years of service to the OHS.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with incredible staff, volunteers, board members and friends of history throughout the years. Things have changed in the last 30 years, and I am proud to have a small  part in making the Oshawa Museum the dynamic place it is today.

Recently I was thinking about my first few days working at the museum.  Jerry Conlin (now the Director of Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing Services at the City of Oshawa) was the Director of the Museum, and I was hired as a Curatorial Assistant to look after the artefacts and help with exhibits.  In February 1989, Henry House was under renovation to correct some structural deficiencies. The house had been closed since November 1987 and staff and volunteers were looking forward to its re-opening on July 1, 1989.  All of the artefacts had been removed and the entire house seemed  to be full of dust, construction personnel and tools. During my first week of work, Jerry gave me a tour of Henry House so I could at least help in the preparations for re-staging the exhibits. I remember standing in in the front room (now the study)  listening to Jerry explain the work to me when suddenly part of the floor gave way, and I was up to my knees in floor boards. Not exactly the start to my career that I had envisioned!

The construction at Henry House continued for my first few months of work, and things soon became hectic as the July 1 deadline for the re-opening of Henry House loomed.  Once the construction finished, staff had to add the finishing touches, such as paint and flooring as well as re-establish the exhibits in the house.  This involved moving artefacts across Henry Street which at the time dissected the museum site.  I can remember staff moving Thomas Henry’s portrait across the street dodging the cars coming into the park on a busy summer day.  Those weeks leading up to the official unveiling were busy ones, but I’m happy to say we made the deadline, and Henry House opened in front of an enthusiastic crowd on Canada Day.  This date also marked the designation of Henry House, Robinson House and Guy House as historic sites under the Ontario Heritage Act, the first buildings in Oshawa to be designated as such.

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Although I started at the museum in the middle of the Henry House project, I can remember my sense of pride in being part of this project. Henry House looked great and was once again able to be open for public tours.  Talking with many enthusiastic visitors that day, I was able to get a sense of just how important a landmark is Henry House for the people of Oshawa.

Reflections of All Hallow’s Eve Past

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Halloween has always been one of my favourite times of year. I was always the kid who decided what they wanted to dress up as the day after trick-or-treating. And what kid doesn’t love candy? I have fond memories of my family carving the family pumpkins. We would draw out different faces on the newsprint, but Dad always had a few tricks up his sleeve – corn husk hair, a gourd for a Gonzo nose or a pipe. And of course we had the vintage looking pumpkin trick-or-treat buckets.

Angela and Jill carving pumpkins, 2004
Angela and Jill carving pumpkins, 2004

My mom would sew all of our costumes or re-purpose them to suit my brother or sister or I. It was always fun when the box of costumes came out; it was just like Mr. Dressup’s tickle trunk! One of my earliest memories of Halloween was dressing up like an angel. With homemade, foil covered wings and a silver elasticized headband and my Mom’s pure 80s blue eye shadow plastered on. So much fun! Later it was exciting when I got to go trick-or-treating with my older sister and her friends – the cool kids. We got to stop at their houses and their parents would check our candy and let us eat some. I loved dressing up so much that I think I was in grade 8 or 9 before I gave up to hand out candy. But even then I would get dressed up.

Jill at Halloween 2004
Jill at Halloween 2004

When I came to work at the Museum, one of the first things I got to work on was Halloween at the Harbour. The Museum would set up various stations and invite families to get dressed up and come down to participate in things like pumpkin painting, mad scientist laboratories and spooky stories. The entire staff would get dressed up, even Laura – the Executive Director!

Over the years we tried many variations of Halloween at the Harbour; daytime, night time, just harvest-themed activities, harvest and Halloween. You name it, we’ve tried it. This was always a great time to see volunteers and make community connections. Algoma Orchards, Ian Critchell – the Beeman, D &D Exotics, Geissberger Farmhouse Cider and Spirit Matters have all taken part in Halloween at the Harbour over the years.

I’ve only missed one Halloween at the Harbour since 2002. In 2011 I had just given birth to my first child three weeks early and left Museum staff in a bit of a lurch when it came to planning the last minute details! Sadly (for me) 2012 was our last Halloween at the Harbour. Times had changed in the ten years I had been participating in the event and we decided to focus on other kinds of programming that engaged more than just children.

Melissa, Jenn & Jill, Halloween 2012
Melissa, Jenn & Jill, Halloween 2012

I feel lucky to have been able to keep my love of Halloween alive for all these years. There aren’t many people who go to work and dress up for Halloween programming like we did at the Museum. And I feel lucky that I will be able to share these amazing memories I have from my childhood and adulthood with my own children, who are just starting to get into the Halloween spirit.



The witches fly
Across the sky,
The owls go, “Who? Who? Who?”
The black cats yowl
And green ghosts howl,
“Scary Halloween to you!”
–Nina Willis Walter

From the staff at the Oshawa Community Museum we wish you a spooky, safe and FUN Halloween!


Curator’s Community Reflections

By Melissa Cole, Curator

A few years ago, one morning during the month of June while sitting at my desk, which is located in Guy House looking out onto Lakeview Park, I heard a gentleman talking on his cell phone outside my office window,

“…there is a large playground, sandy beach, a museum, snack bar, wow this park is beautiful”

Lakeview Park, from Melissa's office window
Lakeview Park, from Melissa’s office window

I couldn’t agree more with this statement.   I spend most of my days at Lakeview Park and quite often I am treated to stories of lazy days spent down at the lake whether it was learning to swim or taking a ride on the Ocean Wave.

The Ocean Wave
The Ocean Wave

As a child I also spent many summer days down at the lake, with my dad, going for walks, stopping at Tommy’s for fries and watching the waves crash on the beach!  Of course I always wanted to stop and play at the wooden playground that had these amazing bridges that moved when you ran across them.

Tommy's Fries, August 1988
Tommy’s Fries, August 1988

At the time, the Oshawa Marina was located off Harbour Road.  We would stand on the pier and watch boats coming and going from the marina.  After we left the park, Dad always loved driving over to the Marina and looking at all the boats.  I remember thinking how large all the boats looked when they were out of the water and parked on shore.

Today I bring my daughter down to the lake to frolic in the park and at the playground!  She seems to enjoy it just as much as I did and still do.  Hopefully Lakeview Park will bring fond memories to her as well, when she is older.

Early morning hours of Lakeview Park
Early morning hours of Lakeview Park

Reflections of Oshawa: Celebrating 90 Years as a City opens September 26, 2014.

Student Museum Musings – Caitlan

By Caitlan Madden, Summer Student and Visitor Host

Over the summer Lisa and some volunteers have sat down with citizens of Oshawa to gather their memories of Oshawa. These past few days I have had the pleasure to go through all the memories and got a glimpse of peoples love for Oshawa.

The Four Corners, June 2013
The Four Corners, June 2013

Although being born and growing up in Oshawa, I never thought of it being this special place, and never knew it had history until coming to this museum. To me Oshawa was just a place I lived and nothing special at all. Once I started to learn about the history I grew an appreciation for this city, but going through all these memories made me feel a bit bad because you can just see the love people have for Oshawa. For many people Oshawa is just not a place they live, it’s a place that they call home and their community they call friends and family. One similar aspect they all had was how as kids they would just be with their friends exploring Oshawa on their bikes made me think of a memory I have as a child.

My Grandma lived not even a 10 minute walk away from us and pretty much every day we would go to her house. Her street mostly consisted of people her age with Grandchildren of similar ages to me and my brother, which meant there were always kids to play with. A typically day was about 10 children outside playing hide and seek on the street. We could wonder in the neighbours backyards to hide and if they were outside they would even help hide us. A lot of the neighbours also had vegetable gardens so sometimes we would pick a few and eat while we were hiding.

The other day I was at my Grandmas and on the street all I saw were these kids playing outside doing a similar thing I did. It is strange that whenever I thought of Oshawa it was just a place I lived but thinking back to my memories as a kid, it really has been a place I called home and truly is a special place.

Caitlan in the Henry House Kitchen
Caitlan in the Henry House Kitchen


Thank you Caitlan for your hard work this summer, and good luck with your future studies!

My Reflections of Oshawa

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

I grew up on the west side of Oshawa, very close to the Whitby border. There have been many changes in that area in the last 30 years. I watched from my backyard as two plazas were being built on the north and south sides of King Street and Thornton Road. Sheridan Nurseries and a van rental company had occupied the land on the south side prior to the plaza being built. When it first opened, a Don Cherry’s Sports Bar was located there. I remember coming outside to hear that my dad and sister had just met Mr. Cherry himself! He was there checking out the restaurant.

We went on many walks and bike rides through Union Cemetery, picking wildflowers to lay on random graves. On one walk my brother fell behind and we heard him screaming like a banshee a few minutes later. We thought he thought he’d seen a ghost or something. It turns out he had just lost a marble!

I attended St. Michael Catholic Elementary School with my siblings and was saddened to hear that it would be closing due to low attendance. But now I am proud to see that it is being used for the Trent University – Oshawa campus.

We practically lived at the Civic Auditorium. Every Sunday in the winter we’d be at public skating. The theme from St. Elmo’s Fire was *THE* song to skate to! We’d always try and make it to the Skate With the Generals events too. Skate with the Generals, watch the Gens practices, go to games. A pretty decent benefit of living close to the Civic.

While I wasn’t born in Oshawa, I’ve been here long enough that it’s my hometown for sure. I’ve grown up with so many wonderful memories of this town, it’s difficult to hear people knock it. They obviously don’t know a good thing when they see it!

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