Blog Rewind: Oshawa Schoolbooks

In honour of the first week back to school, today’s blog is revisiting graffiti found inside schoolbooks in our collection.  This was originally posted on August 7, 2015.


By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Recently I was organizing the museum’s education collection and putting items from the schoolroom exhibit into storage. I went on to check the dates of all of our schoolbooks to ensure they dated back to the time period we were depicting. To my surprise I found eight books that contained names of Oshawa students, teachers, schools and even some amusing graffiti.

The dates of the books range from 1868 – 1929. “By this time the school readers had been made containing more imaginative prose and poetry Literature had been added to the elementary curriculum. The teacher read stories to the classes from any book or periodical he or she might have had on hand, or, a story from a book that some of the pupils had brought to school.”[1]  Surprisingly most of the schoolbooks that were found are Ontario and Canadian based. In the early days of education many children in Upper Canada studied from European, UK and American books because that was all that was available. The books this blog post are based on are: Canadian Series Fourth Reader (1868), Canadian Series Spelling  Book (1868), The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), High School Physical Science (1895), The Ontario Public School Speller (1909), The Ontario Readers Primer (1909), A Junior History of England (1929) and My Spelling Grade 5 (1943).

Five out of the eight books were used at different schools: Mary Street School, Westmount School, Simcoe Street School, and Centre Street School/Central School, with Mary Street and Centre Street Schools bring two of the oldest in Oshawa. The Junior History of England book belonged to Janet Oke who lived at 268 Ritson Road South in Oshawa and had Mr. Davidson as her Grade 8 teacher in Room 15. Unfortunately we don’t know what school she went to. It is possible that she may have attended Centre Street School as it would have been large enough by then to have at least 15 rooms.

Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection
Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection

This book also contains graffiti that seems to have been written by Janet.

“This book is full of words,

As full as it can be.

It killed the jerk who wrote it,

And now it’s killing me.”

 

“History is an awful thing,

And awful it may be.

It killed the early Romans,

And now it’s killing me.”

Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)
Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)

Another of the books also contains graffiti. The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), was owned by Miss Maude H. Clarke in 1907.  She attended Centre Street School at the time.

“If my name you wish to see, turn to page 107.

If my name you wish to find,

Shut the book and nevermind.”

 

“If this book begins to roam,

Shut the book and nevermind.”

 

“Steal not this book my honest friend,

For fear the gallows will be thy end,

And when you die the Lord will say,

Where is the book you stole away?

And if you say I do not know,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come in my dear.”

 

“Steal not this book for fear of strife,

For the owner carries a big jackknife.”

 

“Steal not this book, for when you die,

The Lord will say ‘Where is the book you stole away?’

And if you say ‘I do not know’,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come right…’

In 1996, the book was donated in memory of Nathan “Ned” Smith, who was caretaker of Lakeview Park from the 1930s to 1942, by his grandchildren: Jean Landale, Georgina Bryant, Francis Shirlock, Gail Richard, Kenneth Munro, Linda Munro. At this time it is unclear if Maude Clarke and the Smith family are related.

The High School Physical Science (1895) book was owned by sister and brother, Margaret and Donald Hawkes. They went to Oshawa High School, now O’Neill CVI, and one of their teachers was Mr. Louis Stevenson as noted in the text book. According to Olive French “He was an excellent teacher and tolerated no nonsense in his classes.”[2]

Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection
Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection

It is interesting how much information we can glean from these textbooks beyond what is printed on its pages – who was teaching at the time, how long the books were used past their publishing date, what kind of language and slang the kids were using at the time. This blog post has inspired me to do some more research into the children’s families and teachers mentioned. They will be part of my ongoing research project into various aspects of the early education system in Oshawa.

 

For more information on Oshawa’s early education history, please visit our website, featuring Olive French’s unpublished manuscript.

[1] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript. 1871-1920. P.7

[2] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript 1921-1967. P. 75

Ajax’s Defence Industry Limited

By Tracy Wright, Durham College Journalism Student

When the opportunity came for Louise Johnson to work at Defence Industry Limited (DIL), she took it, with the blessing in the only letter she ever received from her father saying, “Go for it, it sounds like a great opportunity.”

Dil1

This was a historical moment. In 1942, almost all jobs for women were in the home, taking care of the family. “Back then,” says Johnson, “you worked the farm and married the boy down the road.” But the Second World War changed that.

Men had been recruited to go to the Second World War, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. There was a shortage of workers, so women were needed to fill the jobs men would normally do.

Defence Industries Limited (DIL) was a shell filling plant, says author and historian Lynn Hodgson.  Its main purpose was to build shells with explosives and have them crated then transported by cargo then rail and finally shipped to England to the men in field, according to Hodgson.

Louise Johnson was 21 years old, living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She was single and working at Saskatoon City Hospital in the nurse’s residence. Louise said she was lucky to have been at home when the call came from Civil Services (now known as Human Resources) about working at DIL.

DIL opened in the summer of 1941. It had 9,000 employees and 75 per cent of these employees were women, explains Brenda Kriz, Records and FOI coordinator for the Town of Ajax. The women came to Ajax from across Canada, as far away as Northern Alberta and Nova Scotia.

Before the Second World War, Ajax was not a city. It was all farmland.  “It became Ajax, after the war,” says Hodgson, who wrote Ajax Arsenal of Democracy.

Dil 2

The women at DIL were called Bombgirls. Johnson, like the other women, did not know what to expect when she arrived in Pickering Township.  When she was recruited, she was told the job was dangerous. She was assured she and the other 9,000 employees would be taken care of; they would receive housing and meals along with a uniform, and if they did not like it there, they would get a train ticket back home.

Defence Industries Limited was built in 1941 on 2,800 acres of land. “The land was expropriated from Pickering Township to create Defence Industries Limited,” says Kriz. This was the largest shell plant during the British Commonwealth, according to Kriz. The township of Pickering set up the factory to build bombs for the Second World War.  Pickering Township, now Ajax, was considered the perfect location.  It was away from residential areas and water supplies, which was very important because it required million gallons a day to support the site, says Kriz.

There were 600 wartime homes built as temporary residences close to the plant. “There was a community hall, movie theatre and a convenience store and a post office so you didn’t have to go outside,” according to Hodgson, who goes on to explain that “loose lips sink ships” and this is why DIL didn’t want workers speaking to the public about their job.

When the plant closed, the idea was the homes would be broken down and sent to Britain to help with the housing shortage there, but instead a town was established.  Ajax was named after a battleship called HMS Ajax.  Naming of the town came after the post office in Pickering Village could not handle the loads of mail sent there.  For a post office to be in a town, the town had to have a name.  A vote was held by to choose between Dilco, Powder City and Ajax, after the mythological Greek hero.

DIL had been in operation for about five years before Ajax got its name.

To get access to the plant, you would walk across the Bayly Bridge which is no longer there but you would have crossed over the 401 at Harwood and Bayly. This is how you’d enter the gates for DIL. From there you would take a bus that would bring you to the line where you worked.  “At the end of your shift, you’d take the bus back over the bridge and then walk back to your residence,” explains Hodgson.

“There were four lines each line produce a different kind of shell,” says Kriz.

There was heavy security at DIL, Johnson recalls.  “If you did not have a badge, you could not pass through the gates,” says Johnson.  The whole facility was surrounded by barbed wire fence.  Hodgson explains, “Security was very tight; the guards were armed veterans from the First World War.” For safety reasons, no matches were allowed on the property.  If you were caught with matches, you would go to jail. One guy served 30 days in Whitby jail for smoking behind the line, says Hodgson.

Johnson worked on line 3. Here she measured cordite, which is another form of gunpowder. Her job was to weigh it on a scale and she had to be very precise. If not filled properly, the ammunition could either explode in transport or not detonate in the field. Work was in rotating shifts each week: eight hours a day six days a week. Each shift was represented by a different colour bandana: blue, red and white. Johnson’s was blue.

The only day off was Sunday and Christmas day.  “On Sundays, you just watch the walls and cook dinner,” says Johnson.

Life at DIL was not just about work. Relationships were built there. “I met my husband at work,” laughs Johnson. “He was the cordite deliverer.”

Russell and Louise were married in 1944 and had one child, a daughter named Lynda. Russell died in 1965. “He worked hard, but was not a well man,” Johnson said.

With the end of the war, the need for shells ended too.  The lines at the factory were shut down one by one. When it came to Johnson, she was called to the office and asked if she knew how to type.  She said, “I could look for keys,” she said, “and make a stab at it.”

Johnson was assigned the task of typing quit slips. She placed her slip at the bottom of the pile and when the time came typed her own quit slip. She was the last production employee at DIL.

Johnson then went to Selective Services, now Employment Insurance, to receive her compensation.  Johnson asked the lady behind the desk if she should comeback after her EI ran out.  She was advised to not come back as there was no work for women.

Men were coming back from war. “It was a two-sided coin,” Johnson says. “The men left work to go to war and they came back.”

Not only were the jobs few, Johnson’s husband did not want her to work. She stayed home and took care of her daughter, who was eight years old.  She did start working again and was able to work from home.

Johnson now aged 96, lives on her own in the same wartime bungalow she purchased with her husband.

Comparing the workforce for women from 1942 to now in 2018 Johnson says, “Hasn’t changed.”

As for DIL, “few buildings remain. But not many,” says Kriz.   The original DIL hospital became Ajax/Pickering hospital.  The original building was demolished in the late ’60s, according to Kriz. The Ajax Town Hall sits in the same place the DIL administration office was. “The heart of the community has always been on this site,” says Kriz. Without DIL, “There would be no Ajax a town born overnight,” says Hodgson.


The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

Durham College‘s newspaper, The Chronicle, launches a new feature series called The Land Where We Stand, about the hidden stories that shape our region.

Some of the articles found on this blog have been provided through partnerships with external sources, and we welcome reader engagement through comments.  The views expressed in such articles/comments may not necessarily reflect those of the OHS/OM.

Host Files: History of Dr. F. J. Donevan Collegiate

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between!

By Karen A., Visitor Host

The Olive B. French Manuscript was written by Olive French, a local Oshawa woman, in 1968. The Manuscript gives a detailed history of education in Oshawa from the early 1800s until present time (1967). But what of Oshawa’s education after 1967? What happened to Oshawa’s schools? After doing some research, I have been able to fill in the gaps completing the history of Oshawa’s schools to our present day (2017).

Dr. F. J. Donevan Collegiate, a high school which was built in 1957 in Oshawa was permanently closed in 2010 and was recently torn down. The last class graduated from Donevan Collegiate in 2010, and the rest of the students enrolled in the school were relocated to Eastdale Collegiate.

Donevan Collegiate, located on Harmony Rd. South and Olive Avenue, first opened its doors to students in 1958 with a maximum capacity to hold 840 students, grades nine to twelve. The school saw an expansion in 1962, creating a larger cafeteria, a larger library and more classrooms.

The school was named after Dr. Frederick James Donevan who was born on July 18th, 1880 in Gananoque, Ontario. The Donevan family settled in Canada in 1850, arriving from Ireland. Frederick was educated at the Gananoque High School, later graduating from Queen’s University in 1907, completing his Doctor of medicine and master of surgery. He became an intern at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, and practiced as a doctor in Seeley’s Bay, Ontario and Smith Falls, Ontario. During World War I Frederick served overseas for four years in England and France with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

After World War I, Dr. Donevan moved to Oshawa with his wife, Lydia Evangeline Emsley, and daughter, Constance Marie.  In 1919 Donevan set up a large and eventually successful practice in Oshawa.

Dr. Donevan was very active in the development of Oshawa’s education and the facilities which were being built. A member of the Board of Education for twenty two years, Dr. Donevan was first elected in 1926. He was chairman of the Board in 1931 and 1932.

There was much debate over the closure of the school, as parents, students, teachers and Board Trustees had varying opinions. Factors in deciding the fate of the school was the decrease in population starting in 2009, when only 628 students were enrolled. That number was expected to drop by 600 in 2010, and 436 by 2016. In the end the school was closed after fifty-two years. In 2016 the site of the school was up for sale, as the Durham District School Board concluded the land was a surplus and decided to sell the nearly 13.5 acre site. At the moment I am not certain who has purchased the land or what purpose it will be used for.

donevan_collegiate
Image © Oshawa Express, accessed from Possible Buyer for Donovan Site, April 21, 2016.

For more information on Dr. F. J. Donevan collegiate check out these articles:

If you are interested in reading the Olive French Manuscript go to: https://olivefrench.wordpress.com/

Oshawa Schoolbooks

By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Recently I was organizing the museum’s education collection and putting items from the schoolroom exhibit into storage. I went on to check the dates of all of our schoolbooks to ensure they dated back to the time period we were depicting. To my surprise I found eight books that contained names of Oshawa students, teachers, schools and even some amusing graffiti.

The dates of the books range from 1868 – 1929. “By this time the school readers had been made containing more imaginative prose and poetry Literature had been added to the elementary curriculum. The teacher read stories to the classes from any book or periodical he or she might have had on hand, or, a story from a book that some of the pupils had brought to school.”[1]  Surprisingly most of the schoolbooks that were found are Ontario and Canadian based. In the early days of education many children in Upper Canada studied from European, UK and American books because that was all that was available. The books this blog post are based on are: Canadian Series Fourth Reader (1868), Canadian Series Spelling  Book (1868), The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), High School Physical Science (1895), The Ontario Public School Speller (1909), The Ontario Readers Primer (1909), A Junior History of England (1929) and My Spelling Grade 5 (1943).

Five out of the eight books were used at different schools: Mary Street School, Westmount School, Simcoe Street School, and Centre Street School/Central School, with Mary Street and Centre Street Schools bring two of the oldest in Oshawa. The Junior History of England book belonged to Janet Oke who lived at 268 Ritson Road South in Oshawa and had Mr. Davidson as her Grade 8 teacher in Room 15. Unfortunately we don’t know what school she went to. It is possible that she may have attended Centre Street School as it would have been large enough by then to have at least 15 rooms.

Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection
Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection

This book also contains graffiti that seems to have been written by Janet.

“This book is full of words,

As full as it can be.

It killed the jerk who wrote it,

And now it’s killing me.”

 

“History is an awful thing,

And awful it may be.

It killed the early Romans,

And now it’s killing me.”

Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)
Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)

Another of the books also contains graffiti. The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), was owned by Miss Maude H. Clarke in 1907.  She attended Centre Street School at the time.

“If my name you wish to see, turn to page 107.

If my name you wish to find,

Shut the book and nevermind.”

 

“If this book begins to roam,

Shut the book and nevermind.”

 

“Steal not this book my honest friend,

For fear the gallows will be thy end,

And when you die the Lord will say,

Where is the book you stole away?

And if you say I do not know,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come in my dear.”

 

“Steal not this book for fear of strife,

For the owner carries a big jackknife.”

 

“Steal not this book, for when you die,

The Lord will say ‘Where is the book you stole away?’

And if you say ‘I do not know’,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come right…’

In 1996, the book was donated in memory of Nathan “Ned” Smith, who was caretaker of Lakeview Park from the 1930s to 1942, by his grandchildren: Jean Landale, Georgina Bryant, Francis Shirlock, Gail Richard, Kenneth Munro, Linda Munro. At this time it is unclear if Maude Clarke and the Smith family are related.

The High School Physical Science (1895) book was owned by sister and brother, Margaret and Donald Hawkes. They went to Oshawa High School, now O’Neill CVI, and one of their teachers was Mr. Louis Stevenson as noted in the text book. According to Olive French “He was an excellent teacher and tolerated no nonsense in his classes.”[2]

Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection
Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection

It is interesting how much information we can glean from these textbooks beyond what is printed on its pages – who was teaching at the time, how long the books were used past their publishing date, what kind of language and slang the kids were using at the time. This blog post has inspired me to do some more research into the children’s families and teachers mentioned. They will be part of my ongoing research project into various aspects of the early education system in Oshawa.

 

For more information on Oshawa’s early education history, please visit our website, featuring Olive French’s unpublished manuscript.

[1] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript. 1871-1920. P.7

[2] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript 1921-1967. P. 75

Volunteering at the Museum!

Hi there, my name is Emily and I have been a volunteer in the archives at The Oshawa Community Museum for about a year now. I first began volunteering here to gain experience in my field as I had hoped to apply to graduate studies in Library and Information Science, after completing my undergrad at Trent University Oshawa. I thought I would take this opportunity to share a bit about my experience here, and how volunteering has helped me plan for my future career!

Emily working in the Archives!
Emily working in the Archives!

The majority of my volunteering here has been in the archives. When I began volunteering in the archives I mainly worked with the photograph collection by entering numerous photographs into the digital database. These photographs all capture a moment of Oshawa’s past and this has been very interesting for me to look through because I have been able to learn so much about the history of Oshawa.

Between school and school work, I am able to come into volunteer about once a week and have tried to keep this schedule for most of time I have been here. During the summer however, I took a short break from volunteering and put on a Victorian Dress and took on the role of summer student. While still helping in the archives, I was also able to help with other Museum functions. When September rolled around, I once again began volunteering. When I started up again I moved away from the photographs collection that I had been working on and began entering some of the larger archival items into the database. This has allowed me to become more familiar with different aspects of the archival collection at The Oshawa Community Museum.

Jen, Emily and Caitlan, summer 2013
Jen, Emily and Caitlan, summer 2013

The experience I have gained here at The Oshawa Community Museum has been extremely valuable to me for two main reasons. First, having the opportunity to work hands on in the archives, I have gained a better understanding of my field and the career I am pursuing. This experience has allowed me to determine whether the field of Information is something I could see myself doing and I think it is safe to say now that this is career path I want to take. Secondly, the time I have spent volunteering at the Museum has helped me apply to graduate studies. From being able to say I have worked with an Archivist to being able to demonstrate my passion for this field it has been great to develop skills and show this to grad schools. I am also happy to say I have now (thankfully), finished my applications to grad school and am eagerly waiting to see where I will end up next year!

Overall, I believe I have had a unique and valuable experience volunteering here at the Oshawa Community Museum. It has been a positive stop on my career path and one I know has helped shape my future in Information. I am very happy I made the decision to volunteer early and encourage students thinking about archival research, library or information studies to consider a volunteer placement somewhere like the Oshawa Community Museum!