Student Museum Musings – Kirbi

By Kirbi B., Durham College LIT Student

Hello Everyone!

My name is Kirbi B., I am enrolled in the Library and Information Technician Program at Durham College. This is my final requirement to be eligible for graduation. I am working here at the museum as a placement student in the archives. I am enjoying my time here and this placement provides me with the opportunity to further my knowledge on museums and archives aside from what we learn in class. It provides a “hands on” experience that I would not be able to get without securing a job in the field. This placement will assist me in determining if this is an area I would like pursue after graduation.

I have been working on the creation of finding aids for the archives on General Motors, Oshawa Fire Department and the Oshawa General Hospitals Nursing School. These finding aids contain detailed information about the collection of papers and records within the archive.

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General Motors Plant, part of the North Plant building on Bond Street East. 1983 (A997.18.29)

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Student Museum Musings – Adam

By Adam A., Archives Assistant Student

 

Hello reader. I am Adam, the third summer student working at the Oshawa Museum. This is my first summer as an employee here; however I am very familiar with the museum as I have been a somewhat regular volunteer since 2016. Despite this I am still enjoying many new experiences; I have found leading tours to be particularly exciting and fulfilling. At the end of the summer I will return to Trent University Peterborough for the fourth and final year of my degree in History and Media Studies, and so I am eager to get as much experience out of this position as possible.

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As the Archives Assistant I spend most of my time in the frigid back area of Guy House, where I work closely with Jenn, and (due to space constraints) shoulder to shoulder with Mia, the writer and subject of the previous Student Museum Musing. My work has largely been directed towards the organization and digitization of the archives. Recently I completed a new and improved finding aid for the contents of our Map Boxes (which also contain schematics!). Prior to that, I was tasked with digitizing the contents of our Photo Albums. However both of those tasks were quick and easy compared to my present task of transcribing the Oshawa Vindicator’s Births, Marriages, and Obituaries from 1863-1871, which I have been working on intermittently since the start of my employment with the Museum.

Despite having thus far transcribed more than 23 thousand words at the time of my writing this, I am still only a little over halfway through the task, and it has granted a strange insight to the past. Most of the individual entries are very short, often even abandoning grammatical standards in pursuit of brevity. There are some exceptions, such as the essay length obituary of Mr. Justice Connor, a former Lawyer and Member of the Parliament of Canada West, but most of what I’ve learned has come from the shorter ones. The first thing I had to learn was how to read them, as previously mentioned they tended to not follow grammatical norms. Instead they roughly adhere to the same formats, for instance all birth records are “[Place], [day of week], [date], the wife of Mr. [First and Last names of husband], of [a son/a daughter/twins].” These records also make copious use of abbreviations and acronyms, some more common ones being: inst. (Instant: the current month), ult. (Ultimo: the previous month), C. W.(Canada West: The portion of the Province of Canada which later became Ontario), Esq. (Esquire: a courtesy title). In addition to those it also occasionally abbreviates given names such as Thomas becoming “Thos” or William becoming “Wm.”

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From the Oshawa Vindicator, 11 Sept 1867, p 2.

Furthermore, on the rare instances when it does list a cause of death it often uses an antiquated medical term like “water on the brain” or “enlargement of the heart”. On the topic of deaths it can be somewhat unsettling to see a familiar name listed amongst the obituaries, such as a priest who performed many marriages, in a way the obituaries allow one to see the blows a community sustains. Even more unsettling is number of children and infants. I had known from previous studies that infant and child mortality rates were through the roof prior to modern medicine, but I did not fully grasp what this meant until now, as those aged less than 10 will usually account for at least half the obituaries on any given week. It suffices to say that this has served as a good reminder that I am lucky to only be studying and helping others learn about the past, rather than actually living back then.


Read these obituaries and other historical newspaper articles by checking out http://communitydigitalarchives.com/newspapers.html

Student Museum Musings – Mia

By Mia V., Oral History Project Student

Hello everyone. I’m Mia, one of the summer students here at the Oshawa Museum. I have presently finished my second year at the University of Toronto, majoring in socio-cultural anthropology and history while minoring in French. Since learning about different cultures and eras of history has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember, I have naturally always gravitated toward museums. Being on the other side of the museum experience – helping to bring the history the museum offers to the wider public – is something I’m very glad to be able to do, not least because it is something I want to continue to pursue once I finish my studies.

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In taking on the role of Oral History Project Coordinator, I have focused a lot of my time on familiarizing myself with the museum’s ongoing Displaced Persons project. The aim of the project is to collect and preserve the memories of individuals who immigrated to Canada and Oshawa after the Second World War – from those people themselves or from those that knew them. In continuing this research so far, I have compiled some of the stories and artifacts into online exhibits for a website I’ve created. In comparing the similar experiences of people’s accounts, I feel that I’m getting a better feel for this time period of history than I ever could otherwise. I am so pleased to be able to work on such an important and genuinely fulfilling project, as I am convinced that these are stories that need to be told and ones that will continue to resonate with so many people.

To continue to talk about my experience at the museum so far, I must point out the people – the staff who have been so welcoming, as well as the visitors that come in. It’s great to work with people who are so clearly passionate about what they do and, with the new faces that come in every day, there has certainly hardly been a dull moment. As such, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to tour people through the houses, including the children that come through! It was quite something to put on a Victorian dress and guide groups of kindergarten kids through Henry House. You never know who among them will grow up to be history lovers, too! Although I was initially just a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to lead a tour, I have since learned so much about what it is to engage people with history. The chance to give tours is now already one of my favourite things to do here at the museum.

Additionally, I have enjoyed learning about the history of Oshawa, since I didn’t know very much local history until now. I have a particular fondness for the First Nations exhibit in Robinson House, which tells of the communities who made their homes in Oshawa as early as the 15th century. This exhibit puts the scope of Oshawa’s history into perspective for me – enabling me to visualize the layers upon layers of history that can be uncovered. I also love touring people through this floor, as so many are just pleased as I am to see the way the exhibit is set up (with the interior of a longhouse!) and to learn more about this piece of Oshawa’s past.

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Our three summer students, Adam, Lauren, and Mia!

Given that each day differs to the next, I am looking forward to what the rest of summer will bring.

Student Museum Musings – Lauren

By Lauren R., Summer Museum Assistant

Hello there! I’d like to start out this blog post by saying how excited I am to be working as a summer student for the second year in a row. I am already at the end of my third week back at work and it feels as though I’ve picked up right where I left off at the end of last summer. This summer I am once again having the pleasure of being involved with numerous projects, including two larger projects that are a constant work in progress. Trust me – it’s keeping me on my toes!

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Lauren assisting with silver polishing earlier this month

The first of the projects that I have undertaken this summer has to do with the Education Kits that the museum offers as resources to schools to enrich the learning experience for students. While these programs are very useful it was put to me that we may be able to do more with them. Specifically, that there may be more of them! With this in mind, I am helping to look at new ways to present the material that we already have and at how to make more of these kits available for teacher use, bridging a vast range of topics. In my first few days back on the job full-time I went through each of the kits, reading all of the information that they had to offer and then examining their complementary artefacts. From there I made it my goal to read several books on programming to see if there was anything that they could offer me to enrich the way that I was looking to construct the programs. After all of this research, I had the pleasure of joining one of my colleagues at a school to see how these outreach kits work in person and the response that they produced from students. Thus far I have come up with 7 new programs that can be introduced to our selection of Education Kits. I am going to endeavour to make each of these 7 kits flexible so that they can be used by both older and younger grades, bringing the count of new education kits to 14!

The second thing that I have been engaged in this summer is research for the new Medical Exhibit being created! For this I have been hard at work reading up on the history of the Oshawa General Hospital and how it came to be. So far I am finding the story fascinating! The original building for the Oshawa Hospital came about as the result of the hard work of a group of determined women. In 1906, the debt of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was cleared with the work of some of the local women’s societies. Seeing that their work had been completed, and that they could focus their attention on a new and worthy cause, Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin gathered a representative from each of the local societies to vote on the next cause that should be attended to. The cause that was chosen was the Oshawa General Hospital. In 1906 the campaigning for the hospital began and it was built soon after and opened in 1910. I have absolutely fallen in love with the story of how the Oshawa General Hospital came to be. It highlights the great things that can be accomplished when a group of strong-minded and determined people come together for the greater good. I look forward to learning more about each bit of Oshawa’s medical history as I strive to construct an interesting and engaging exhibit around it, though it is proving difficult to narrow down what fascinating facts to include when there is so much interesting information at hand!

There have been many more interesting things I have been doing but there will be another blog post for me to talk about those. For now I work diligently at the Medical Exhibit and wait with baited breath to see it come to reality…

Oshawa’s Post Office

By Heather Snowdon, Durham College Journalism Student

When Bryan Jacula was ten years old his parents, Mary Nee Rudka and Michael Jacula, owned a store. Located on King Street and Westmount Avenue in Oshawa, it was a sub post office, which means it was a post office as well as a general store. Now in his fifties, Jacula still lives in Oshawa.

“It’s been so long since I’ve thought about that store,” says Jacula.

It was 1835 when Edward Skae came to Oshawa. Back then it wasn’t known as Oshawa, the town was small and was just starting to grow. Skae was well liked by residents and the town became known as Skae’s Corners.

As Skae’s Corners grew, there was a need for a post office and in 1842 Skae sent in an application to Home District in parliament, a form of government at the time, asking for one.

In the 1800s, it was common for residents to go to general stores to pick up mail. Many small towns didn’t have stand-alone post offices. Sub post offices, located in general stores, were the norm.

To avoid confusion, parliament told him he could have a post office if Skae’s Corners changed its name since there were too many towns in the area with the name ‘corner’.

The townspeople held a meeting and many wealthy residents in Skae’s Corners were in attendance, Moody Farewell was one of them. He was a farmer and large hotel owner in Oshawa. Legend has it he asked his Indigenous friends what the name of the town was and they told him it was called Oshawa.

Another legend says Farewell was angry with the First Nations for coming to the meeting and there was a confrontation between them. Jennifer Weymark, archivist at the Oshawa Museum, says one of the legends is likely true.

The Indigenous named the town Oshawa, which was translated from Ojibwa, an Algonquian language, means to portage or to take the canoe out of the water and go over land. Other translations include the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.

Skae opened Oshawa’s first post office in 1845, known as a sub post office, because it was located in his general store. He became Oshawa’s first post master. Skae was post master for three years, following his death at the age of 44.

In the 1800s, mail was delivered by sleighs and stage coaches, which are horse drawn carriages. Before that, men on horseback delivered mail from Kingston to Toronto on what we now know as Highway 2 or King Street. It took 18 days for mail to reach Quebec from Pickering, Ontario. Lake Ontario became a lifeline to early settlers who used it as their only means of transportation, and in 1822 settlers began to establish themselves along Highway 2.

It wasn’t until the 1850s that Canada would start the Trans-Atlantic mail delivery and in 1856 Canada opened the Grand Trunk Railway and mail was no longer carried by stagecoaches or on horseback.

The closure of Skae’s post office sparked a change in Oshawa. In 1872, a new sub post office was opened on King Street.

As Oshawa continued to grow, there was a need for a larger post office.

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Location of the former Post Office at 40 King Street East

In 1907, Oshawa acquired its first stand-alone post office, located on 40 King St. E. It was running until 1950, when the City of Oshawa decided to sell it.

A fire in 1955 left no one to bid on the property and in 1957, the first stand-alone post office was demolished and left Oshawa forever. The actual whereabouts of Oshawa’s first sub post office, in Skae’s General Store is unknown. Myths surrounding its location suggest the building was put on the corner of King and Queen Street in 1825.

According to an archival article, written in 1949, by Oshawa’s Daily Times Gazette, was torn down for a grocery store in the early 1950s.

There was a demand for a post office in Oshawa after the closure of the 40 King Street’s post office in 1950. In March 1951, the Jacula family opened a sub post office in their convenience store, located at 399 King St. W.

“It was a tight fit, putting the post office in the convenience store,” says Jacula.

According to an article provided by Eva Saether, local history and genealogy librarian at the Oshawa Public Library, in 1950 two residents living on Church and William Street in Oshawa were asked to vacate their homes for a new post office. In 1952, the new stand-alone post office was built. But it was only temporary.

Many postal closures happened in 1986. In Oshawa, there were 5,955 rural and urban post offices. By the 1990s, there were 93 urban and 1,442 rural post office closures, leaving 14,000 workers in the postal services without jobs. From 1989 to 1992, 2,250 rural post offices closed and there were 153 urban closures from 1992 to 1993. Canada Post fired an average of 47 workers per month in 1992.

Canada Post was planning to shut down public post offices by 1996, saying it would make sense economically to have one public post office.

A new post office was opened at 47 Simcoe St. S. in 1954. This building is still being used today, and this location is the implemented plan from Canada Post. In Oshawa, there is now only one public post office.

Bryan Jacula says his parents were adamant about the importance of having a post office in Oshawa.

“I’m glad we were a part of it,” says Jacula.


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.