The Host Files: Taste and Scent of Community: The Oshawa Bakery and other Eastern European Groceries

By Mia Vujcic, Visitor Host

When we are asked to share something about our heritage or ethnic background, food is often the first thing that springs to mind. In a number of previous blog posts, I explored different aspects of the research behind Leaving Home Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration (open now in Robinson House!). As the title hints at, this exhibit features some of the communities and institutions which made up the flourishing multicultural landscape in post-World War II Oshawa. Although they were far from family and the once familiar rhythms of their daily lives, newcomers to the city at this time would have had several options to shop for culturally specific delicacies and ingredients.  

One such location was the well-loved and remembered Oshawa Bakery. The Oshawa Bakery was founded in 1920 by Fred and Mary Shelenkoff. The Shelenkoffs (who in one newspaper article are described as Russian immigrants) arrived from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to Montreal after World War I. Soon afterwards, the family moved to Oshawa where they opened the Oshawa Bakery on the corner of Stacey Ave. and Court St. There they had the space to keep a stable, for their delivery horses, and sheds full of other farm animals. Their five children each helped out in the bakery from a very young age, taking on more responsibility as they grew up. The business grew as steadily as the city did around them, necessitating a move to Olive Ave. 

Black and white photograph of a long, white building, and writing on the side identifies it as the Oshawa Bakery Ltd.
The Oshawa Bakery; Oshawa Times, 27 January 1982

By 1930, at least another two local businesses in the city specialized in Ukrainian groceries. These co-operative grocery stores were located at 212 Bloor St. E and 598 Albert St. – close to the Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic churches respectively. During the period of the Great Depression, community-based resources such as these businesses would have been invaluable. Many recent immigrants in the city at this time had been laid off but did not wish to apply for welfare, as they were not naturalized and feared deportation. In order to get by, Oshawa’s Ukrainians (and many others) took on odd jobs, and a number of families grew their own fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the existence of these co-operatives hints at and can be better explained by the deep labour history in the city. 

Ukrainian Co-op Grocery, managed by Fred Yakimchuk, highlighted; 1930 Oshawa City Directory

Despite facing hard times during the Great Depression and shutting down for a time, the Oshawa Bakery also introduced two initiatives to help individuals in need. Due to their store’s proximity to the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, impoverished travellers, or “hobos” as Shelenkoff daughter Leta remembered calling them as a child, would often stop in. They never turned one away, always giving them some fresh bread. The bakery also arranged to sell bread for six cents (below the cost of production at that time) for two hours each day at six other stores in areas of the city heavily affected by poverty. 

Until the 1970s, the Oshawa Bakery had door-to-door delivery, for which they reserved eight wagons. Leta recalls that she and her sister “would get out [their] little red wagon on Easter Sunday and deliver hot cross buns” to each house. The business progressively expanded, employing 35 full-time and part-time bakers and office staff in the year 1980. Throughout the decades, the bakery was kept in the family. It closed in the year 1990 when two of the Shelenkoff children, Vera and Lida, were too old to be involved any longer. 

Black and white photograph of three people inside a bakery with trays of baked goods in front of them
Inside the Oshawa Bakery; Oshawa Times, 18 October 1980

A lot of nostalgia is centred around a community hub and neighbourhood landmark like this one – where generations of families worked, visited, and gathered for over half a century. As Leta remembers, “Children were always specially treated, and often sent home with a gift of a roll or sweet bun.” The bakery’s permanent location at Olive Ave. was just across from St. Hedwig’s Polish Catholic Church. The bakery became especially busy after Sunday Mass, as Helen Bajorek-Macdonald recalls from her childhood memories. The bakery would be “jam-crushed with bodies waiting their turn at the counter” in order to buy “bread in the Russian language, Ukrainian, English, or Polish.” 

Newspaper ad for the Oshawa bakery's 60th anniversary
Oshawa Bakery Ad; Oshawa Times, 30 October 1980, page 17

Today, of course, there are even more numerous options for getting a taste of cultural cuisines in Oshawa. These include multiple other ethnic-inspired bakeries and delis and others which are centered at the city’s multicultural halls – which of course make up the well-loved annual Fiesta Week festival organized by the Oshawa Folk Arts Council. Some of the regular Eastern European originating pavilions include: Lviv (connected to Lviv Hall, next to St. George the Great Martyr Ukrainian Catholic Church on Lviv Blvd.), Odesa (connected to the hall at St John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Bloor St.), Krakow (connected to the hall at General W. Sikorski Polish Veterans’ Association at Stevenson Rd. N.), and Poznan (connected to the Polish Alliance Canada Branch 21 on Olive Ave.). 

During times of celebration, just as in periods of hardship, preparing, consuming, and sharing traditional foods from one’s heritage is a source of comfort. As Ukrainians are again faced with war and displacement, we are reminded of the continued plight and resilience of refugees around the world. 

The Host Files: The Coming of the Oshawa GO Station

By Adam A., Visitor Host

Everyday, thousands of people get up and in one way or another make their way over to the Oshawa GO Station. The overwhelming majority of these people are heading into Toronto.

Oshawa stands as the eastern terminus for the GO train’s Lakeshore East Line. However, this only became the case in 1995. The story of how the GO Train came to Oshawa begins much earlier.

Oshawa had been host to a rail station since 1856, when the Grand Trunk Railway came to town. While mainly a freight route, a passenger service was provided by Grand Trunk initially, then CNR after 1923, and VIA Rail after 1976.

In 1912, a station for the Canadian Pacific Railway was opened near their railyard, yet it closed in the 1960s, once again leaving Oshawa with one passenger rail service.

Black and white photo of a train station with a number of people in front of the station
C.P.R. Station, undated; Oshawa Museum archival collection

GO Transit was established by the Government of Ontario in 1967, and almost immediately there were many who recognized that Oshawa’s future prospects would depend on getting a station. Over the ensuing decades many promises to extend the rail line east to Oshawa were made, yet they consistently fell through. Most notable of these being the GO ALRT (Advanced Light Rail Transit) project of the 1980s, which would have provided an express light rail service between downtown Oshawa and the Pickering GO Station where one would be able to transfer on a regular GO Train.

Black and white photo of a train station, with two rail lines in the foreground
Canadian National Railway Station in Oshawa, 1970; Oshawa Museum archival collection

As per Premier David Peterson’s election promise, the GO Train did finally come to Oshawa in 1990. However, it did not yet have its own dedicated line or station building, and Oshawa was served by exactly one train each way per day, leaving Oshawa at 7:17AM and departing Union Station for Oshawa at 5:33PM. Perhaps this lacklustre limited service played a part in why the arrival of the first GO Train in Oshawa was greeted by only 150 of an expected 400-500 passengers.

The Lakeshore East Line was only properly extended out to the Oshawa train station in 1995. With a dedicated double tracked passenger line, GO could extend its regular service out to Oshawa, though plans for the line to extend to the Oshawa Centre and downtown ultimately fell through. During the early ’90s, the GO Train only ran east of Pickering during rush hour, but high demand following the opening of Oshawa GO brought hourly service out to Oshawa.

Colour photograph of a parking lot beside a train station. The train station has signs for VIA Rail and GO Transit, and there is a sign identifying the station as Oshawa
Oshawa Train Station, 2013; Dowsley Collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection

The site had previously been the station for the CNR’s passenger service, and had been modified for use by VIA Rail and GO Transit in the early ’90s. The site underwent additional renovations in 2009 to improve accessibility. Between 2015 and late 2017 the site underwent another major renovation which brought the site to its current form.

The Month That Was – June 1944

The Times-Gazette, 01 June 1944
Corvette Crew Is Welcomed

Gifts Presented At Civic Ceremony Monday At Peterborough

Peterborough, May 30 – “A sailor’s life is one of great hazard and whatever the fortunes of war may carry you, our thoughts and supplications will be with you. We hope that when the war ends you will come back to visit us, and meantime we will do all we can to help you,” said Mayor Hamilton, addressing the ship’s company of H.M.O.S. Peterborough at the welcoming ceremonies help in Riverside Bowl Monday evening.

There were six officers and 54 ratings of a crew that will eventually comprise upwards of 95 men present at the ceremony.

George McDonald, chairman of the Corvette committee, presented a box, of the same kind that every member of the ships company will receive, to one of the ratings called to the platform for the occasion, a sort of symbolic transfer of the equipment garnered by the committee to the men for whom it is intended. While many youngsters milled around the makeshift stand determined to be in on the unwrapping of the package, the sailor, a leading telegraphist from Verdun Que., proceeded to undo a large box of comforts which included face cloths, handkerchiefs, shaving soap, razor blades, toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, nail file, chewing gum, chocolate bars, tins of soup and still other gifts even unto woolen articles. While the sailor tried on a leather jacket, Mr. MacDonald commented humorously, “If it’s too large, he’ll wear it.” In a moment, however, he was able to announce with satisfaction, that the jacket did fit.

Ad for the Oshawa Rotary Fair
Canadian Statesman, 1 Jun 1944, p. 5

The Globe and Mail, 05 June 1944, 23.
Oshawa Public Schools

Require for Sept 5th, qualified lady assistants for grade positions. Must have at least 2 years experience. Initial salary according to qualifications and experience. Applications giving full particulars of qualifications and experience will be received up to and including Sat., June 10, 1944. No personal applications unless requested. W. Gordon Bunker. Business Administrator. Board of Education. Oshawa.

Black and White ad for War Work - Men and Women, Youths and Girls
Canadian Statesman, 1 Jun 1944, p. 5

Toronto Daily Star, 07 June 1944, 3.
Record RCAF Raid Helps Clear Path for Invaders

London, June 7 – (CP) – In a quick follow up to the great invasion-eve assault on the French coast, the RCAF bomber group set a record last night during its participation with the RAF in the attack on coastal defences.

Some 5,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the RAF and RCAF heavy bombers and at least 1,000 tons were dropped by the Canadians. Targets were roads, railways and bridges back of the beachheads, destruction of which would delay German reinforcements. …

The City of Oshawa squadron was the first back from the beaches in the morning. Group Capt. MacBrien led the first three Canadian squadrons, accompanied by Wing Cmdr. Lloyd Chadburn, of Aurora, Ldr. RA Buckham, of Vancouver, and Sqdn Ldr. Walter Conrad, of Richmond, Ont.

Toronto Daily Star, 7 Jun 1944, 8.
Robert beats, chokes him jeweler unconscious hour

Oshawa, June 7th- city and provincial police maintained a sharp watch over highways, rail and bus terminals last night and today for a man said to have been wearing the uniform of the US ferry command, who entered the jewelry store of Fritz von Gunten, 66. After beating and choking the proprietor the wanted man robbed the store of an undetermined amount of jewelry, police said.

Von Gunten is an awkward is in Oshawa General Hospital with cuts on his head and left hand and bruises about his throat and body. Police said he had been beaten over the head with a blunt instrument. Hospital officials said his condition was “improving.”

Inspector Wilbur Dawn of the Oshawa police said it would be impossible to assess the amount of jewelry stolen until the proprietor recovered sufficiently to check over his stock.

“We found Mr von Gunten lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his store.” Inspector Dawn stated. “His groans attracted the attention of the men in the lunch counter next door and they gave the alarm.”

James Edgar, who was painting the interior of the lunch counter, said: “ I heard an awful yell and came down from my ladder and looked into the Chinese laundry next door, but didn’t see anything.” Police said von Gunten was so badly beaten that he lay unconscious for over an hour before recovering sufficiently to call for help.

The jeweler told the police he had no warning of the assault. “The man came right in and struck me over the head and beat me before looting the showcases of rings and watches” he said.

*Note: This news event was also reported on by the Globe & Mail. They provided additional details such as the address to the store (125 King St.), and that the wanted man was seen boarding a TTC Bus for Toronto. It was Dr. FJ Rundle who gave details about the state of Mr. Von Gunten.

Black and White ad for movie times at Oshawa's Regent Theatre
Canadian Statesman, 8 Jun 1944, p. 3

The Times Gazette, 17 June, 1944
Freedom Our Birthright

Tomorrow Oshawa will celebrate the 729th anniversary of the signing of what has frequently been called, “the first Act of Parliament.” It was on June 15th, 1215, that King John, one of England’s worst kings, unwillingly signed the 48 articles of a document that during the ensuing few days was still further documented into 63 chapters of the Magna Charta. There remain now by four signed copies of the charter, but they are jealously guarded as something of priceless sentiment.

Apart from the peculiar circumstances of its origin this charter has been regarded through the years that followed its dramatic signing in the meadows of Runnymede, as a charter of wellnigh sacred principles. This is not to be wondered at, for it embodies the highest ideals of English liberty. We use the word ‘English’ advisedly for it was in England that this enunciation of the principles of the rights of free men was so harshly wrested from an unscrupulous, despotic monarch. On the clauses of its various chapters, our modern laws are based. Many additional laws have since been contributed to our wellbeing; but Magna Charts remains the standard towards which all British subjects, wherever domiciled, may look if they desire, as is their due, to draw themselves up and say, “I am free born.”

We must hold fast to this our heritage. During the stress of war we have willingly though temporarily, yielded some of our hard won freedom. But when peace returns, we must make sure that these are restored. For example, let us make sure that no one can ever delay, or deny justice to our citizens. Let us do our part also to ensure that the Four Freedoms of the Atlantic Charter of 1940 based in great measure on the Magna Charta, are not just pious hopes and eloquent phrases. The path of our forefathers since 1215 has been rough and rugged. Perfection lies still far beyond our vision. It is well that we celebrate anniversaries such as this – lest we forget. Human nature being what it is, unfortunately, we forget too soon. 

The Globe and Mail, Jun 21, 1944, 4.
Lloyd Chadburn dies of collision injuries
By Allan Nickleson

London, June 20th (CP).- Wing Commander Lloyd B Chadburn, a fighter ace who ranked with Canada’s greatest airman, was injured fatally a week ago in a collision while leading his wing on operations over France.

His plane exploded on impact with another aircraft which crashed in flames and a subsequent RCAF announcement said that the 24 year old Aurora, Ont., pilot, holder of a double DSO and the DFC, “died later of his injuries.”

The tall, quietly spoken Chadburn had a record of 14 enemy aircraft destroyed, three probably destroyed and eight damaged but you never would learn that from this ace who rose from the ranks. …

Chadburn’s first squadron was adopted by the city of Oshawa, which name it now bears. That squadron had the best Canadian record at Dieppe where Chadburn shot down one of the four aircraft the squadron destroyed without last to itself.

Black and White ad for Coca-Cola and Hambly's Beverages, using the imagery of a soldier and two young boys
Canadian Statesman, 29 Jun 1944, p. 5

Canadian Statesman, 22 Jun 1944, 1.
Dept. of Highways Post-War Program a Four-Year Plan

In the Ontario Department of Highways’ post-war program a four-year plan is being laid down by Minister George H. Doucett, calling for a total expenditure of $180,000,000 at $45,000,000 a year. Employment is expected to be given over the four years to at least 25,000 men.

It includes extensions to the existing Queen Elizabeth Way, east from Oshawa, ultimately to the Quebec boundary.

Work is now progressing east of Oshawa to Newcastle and plans are prepared to reroute the construction to fit in with the development of the St. Lawrence in Eastern Ontario…

A recent acquisition: The Canadian Red Cross Collection

By Kes Murray, Registrar

This past week, we had the pleasure of welcoming a large collection of items from the Canadian Red Cross, Durham Branch, into our collection. This new acquisition is quite vast, with objects ranging from uniforms to annual reports. And, of course, going through our newest acquisition lead me down a Red Cross history spiral…

A grey/blue uniform consisting of a knee length skirt, jacket, and bonnet style hat. The hat and jacket feature a Red Cross patch
Women’s Red Cross uniform, unknown year 022.1.1-3

The Red Cross was founded in 1859 by Henry Dunant. Dunant witnessed a battle between the French and Austrian armies in Northern Italy. Here he saw many soldiers wounded. With medics unable to cope with the volume of patients, he set up a temporary hospital. Three years later, Dunant wrote a novel proposing his idea of countries establishing a neutral and independent group of helpers that could provide care during times of conflicts. This sparked the creation of the Red Cross movement.

Here in Canada, the Red Cross movement began with the North West Resistance of 1885. Certain individuals familiar with the Red Cross movement in Europe used the Red Cross flag to act as independent medics. It was not until 1896 that Toronto surgeon and militia member Dr. George Sterling Ryerson gained permission to establish a branch of the British Red Cross in Canada.

A white pin, featuring a red cross and the year 1940
1940 Red Cross pin 022.1.4

In its early years, the Canadian Red Cross only worked during wartime. However, a turning point came at the end of the First World War.

During the war, the Canadian Red Cross had increased substantially with funding and volunteers, so much so that Canadian Red Cross leaders did not want to see the organization disappear until another war broke out. So, the Canadian Red Cross expanded their mandate to include the phrase “in times of peace.” This allowed the Red Cross to be involved in many peacetime public health and welfare work. Finally in 1927, rather than being a branch of the British Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross officially became an independent Red Cross society.

All the photographs you see in this post are some of my favourite items in our new collection. The uniform was particularly exciting to unbox and photograph. It is a woman’s uniform, most likely made of wool and handmade. It is a most unique item as we do not have anything like the uniform in our collection.

During my research, I also learned that May 8 is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. This day celebrates the creation of the Red Cross movement. It seems rather fortunate, then, that I get to share with you all our newest acquisition.


Sources consulted:

https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/about-the-canadian-red-cross/historical-highlights/getting-started-1896-1913

https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/about-the-canadian-red-cross/historical-highlights/the-interwar-years-1919-1939

https://www.redcross.ca/blog/2018/5/a-reason-to-smile-world-red-cross-day

The Month That Was – May 1862

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

Content warning – an article in 21 May 1862 discusses a death by suicide.

7 May 1862, Page 2

Postmasterships
Mr. Francis Kellar, of Whitby, has been appointed Postmaster of Oshawa, in place of Mr. D. Smith, who is appointed to the Whitby office. We hope Sidney and the wire-pullers will get things fixed to suit them pretty soon. The hangers-on of Whitby are very well pleased with the position of the cards at present. Mr. Kellar’s being stationed at Oshawa instead of Whitby leaves the Whitby office still open for aspirants – Mr. Smith’s appointment being only one of convenience for the time being. He is worthy of a better position, and will get it, if the last of the Hincksites is not ejected from office too suddenly to allow of the papers being made out. We are sorry to part with Mr. Smith at Oshawa, for we believe he gave the best of satisfaction to all having business at the office.

Page 3

Notice
Valuable Property For Sale in the Village of Oshawa

The building at present occupied by Henry Binge, Druggist, and Frank Taylor, Jeweler, situated on the northeast corner of King and Simcoe Streets, known as Sutton’s Block, will be sold by public auction at Woon’s Hotel, on Thursday the 15th day of May next, at 12 o’clock noon. Terms made known on day of sale.

John Warren, Wm. Bartlett, Assignees of WJ Sutton’s Estate. Oshawa, April 22nd, 1862.

Coal! Coal!
Just received Ex “Royal Oak” from Oswego, a lot of Blacksmiths’ Coal, which will be sold cheap for Cash or approved credit. A supply will be kept constantly on hand. James O. Guy, Port Oshawa, April 15th, 1862

7 May 1862, page 3

14 May 1862, page 2

Ran away, but got Caught
On Saturday evening last, while the members of the Oshawa Rescue Fire Company were returning to their quarters, after going through with one of their monthly evolutions, a span of smart looking horses from the country, not being accustomed to such sights, took fright at the red-coated gentlemen and their machine, and started on a gallop with their load. The firemen slipped anchor and gave chase, in right earnest. The horses passed up King, down Centre, and on to Athol Street, where they were intercepted by some half dozen of the fleetest of the Rescuers, and after knocking down one who attempted to grapple the bits, were “brought to,” almost instantly. Immediately the wagon box was filled with cargo of firemen, several of whom got hold of the “horse strings: to act as moderators, while others sent the air with ebullitions of exultation over their bravery in capturing the team. … The damage done on occasion was very slight – nothing further than distributing a few bags of wheat, bran, &c., along the street; but it might have been worse, and shows that people should not be so reckless of life and property as to leave their horses standing in the street without being securely tied. – Communicated

Page 3

Torch Lights,
This is to caution all parties against carrying Torch Lights, or cutting Pine Timber on my premise – particularly on the north 60 acres of Lot No. 4, Broken Front, as the penalties of the law will be strictly enforced. John Wilson, East Whitby, April 22nd, 1862

Died
On the battle-field at Pittsburg Landing (Tenn.) on Sunday, April 6th, First Lieutenant Frank N. Doyle, of Company H, 16th Iowa Volunteers, formerly of this office, in the 24th year of his age.

“Poor Frank! He little thought he was to die so soon; yet he died nobly, with his face to the foe, encouraging the men to retreat in good order. We buried him on yesterday, April 8th, on the field where he so nobly fell, with nought but a pine board with his name, age, rank, date of his death, and his place of residence on it to mark the spot where the young hero died. There he lies, far from home and friends, in an enemy’s country, in the wilds of Tennessee, within a short distance of the Tennessee River. You may judge of the feelings of those who had been so long associated with him, on this occasion. Often we think of him and murmur a prayer for him who sleeps the long sleep.” Letter from an officer of the regiment, published in the Dubuqe Daily Times.

Newspaper notice for property for sale by auction
14 May 1862, page 3

21 May 1862, page 2

Distressing Suicide in Oshawa
On Friday morning last, the inhabitants of our village were startled at an early hour, with the intelligence which went the rounds with marvelous speed, that Mr. Martin Bambridge, Blacksmith, one of the oldest and best known residents of the place, had been found dead, at five o’clock, in the loft of his stable.

A jury was soon summoned to investigate the matter, and a Coroner’s Inquest was held, before Dr. Jos. Clarke, at the residence of the deceased, at 9 o’clock. …

The jury, after hearing [the evidence] agreed upon their verdict without leaving the room, which was that the deceased was found hanged, and that, in the opinion of the jury, he came to his death by his own hands.

The deceased was widely known and highly respected in the community, and his untimely death has produced a painful impression in the minds of a large circle of friends. His remains were accompanied to their place of internment, in the Episcopal-burying ground, on Sabbath afternoon, by a great concourse of people. The burial service was performed by Rev. Mr. Dickson.

Newspaper ad for fancy work
21 May 1862, page 3

28 May 1862, page 2

New Election in Oshawa
On Friday next, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, a meeting of the Electors of Oshawa is to be held at the Court House for the Purpose of electing a Village Councillor in place of Mr. W. W. Brown, who has resigned. It is to be well represented at the meeting, and that a wise choice will be made.

Base Ball Club
At a meeting held in Woon’s Hotel, on Wednesday evening, the 14th inst., by a number of the young men of this place, a Club was organized entitled the Morning Star Base Ball Club of Oshawa, and the following members were elected as Officers for the present season, viz: Edward Morris, President; Thomas W. Gibbs, Vice Pres.; Wm. Ogston Hay, Secretary. Committee of Management: T.G. Webster, Walter Spender, James Stephens, T.W. Gibbs.

The above Club meets, for play, every morning at 5 ½ o’clock, on Conant’s field. Persons wishing to become members of the same, can hand in their names to the Secretary.

Two newspaper ads for wool
28 May 1862, page 3
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