An Audio Project Update

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

For a little over a year, the OM has been offering an at-home volunteer project. Our Audio Transcription Project is making our collection more accessible and user friendly. We are digitizing cassette recordings in the collection – volunteers can access the digital files online, and they have dedicated HOURS to transcribing, typing out word for word, what is said in the recordings.

As mentioned, this makes the collection accessible. If someone is deaf or has hearing loss, the written transcription will now be readily available. The transcriptions will also be easier to search thanks to the typed transcription and search functions with PDFs.

The transcriptions get completed and returned to the OM, and I’ve been reading through the files as they get submitted. Like with many items in the archival collection, it’s very easy to ‘go down the rabbit hole’ with these transcriptions as many recollections shared within are simply fascinating.

There are a few recordings with Robinson descendants who shared their memories from when Robinson House was their family home:

INTERVIEWER: We are now in the large north room on the main floor. Percy is going to tell us how he remembers this room.

PERCY: I remember, readily, that when this room was a barber shop, the poles were out in the front, we used to sit in the front steps, and I suppose catering to the traffic down to the beach, people coming and going, especially on the weekend. But, this room was used for some time, for some years, as a barber shop.

INTERVIEWER: And the entrance to the barber shop would be the door on the north side, which we are not using today.

PERCY: Double doors

Alan Barnes was involved with the restoration of Robinson House in the 1960s before it opened as the Robinson House Museum in 1969. Through the years, the OM is often asked if we are haunted, and this is a decades old question, considering what Mr. Barnes had to say about it.

The house you know, had the reputation of being haunted, and I don’t think it was really haunted. I think it was some of the comings and goings of our less fortunate friends that went in with bottles and came out, rather staggeringly, that the kids saw the shadowy movements and assumed that it had to be spooks, so to keep the kids out, the building had been boarded up.

Stephen Saywell, in 1982, gave a talk on Oshawa’s educational history, but he also made the following, and rather prophetic, observation.

And Tom Bouckley has done a yeoman service to this city in the two books which he has written entitled Pictorial Oshawa and which I’m sure many of you have. And if you haven’t you want to have because someday, they’re going to be out of print and they’ll become collectors’ items.

Bouckley ended up publishing three volumes of Pictorial Oshawa and, sure enough, they have indeed become collectors’ items. (Shameless plug – Volume I was republished in 2010, a partnership between the OM, OPL, and RMG. You can buy your copy from the OM’s online website.)

Finally, I was delighted to find a little of my own family history in the audio cassette recordings. My grandfather’s second wife, my Grandma Doreen, was born and raised in Oshawa (she and my grandpa met while working at Duplate). Her father, George Trainer, was a barber in Oshawa, and my family donated some of his barber tools to the museum in 2010.

George Trainer

We have a recorded interview with “Ivan Richards, age 62, who lives at 20 Oshawa Boulevard South. They draw upon his own memories and those of his father, both of whom have lived in Oshawa all their lives.” In his reminiscences, Richards shared

You asked me about Cedar Dale. I know a lot about Cedar Dale having talked to people that have lived there for a great number of years, and what I said –when I should have been delivering mail, I was in the barber shop of George Trainer, and I think a story here comes to -to mind. We run into George Trainer to get your hair cut and a checkers game was on, they were playing checkers, Frank Sherwood and Trainer himself, and Ed Powers, and anyone that might want to come along and play a game of checkers this is where they played it. When you went in to get your haircut you waited until the game of checkers were over to get your hair cut. Now this was an honest fact, I seen many people sit down and wait until they got done their game of checkers and then George’d trim their hair.

I knew my step-great-grandfather was a barber – we had the clippers – but I was young when my grandmother passed away, so I didn’t think to ask her stories of her family of what growing up in Oshawa was like for her. To hear this story, and others that I’ve learned through this audio project, helps to illustrate the time and provide a glimpse of this community, how it’s grown, and what’s stayed the same.

If you would like more information about the Audio Transcription Project and how to get involved, please send me an email! High School Students – this is a GREAT way to earn community service hours! Email:

Or, you can visit the OM‘s website for more info.

Ten Years of the Earl Hann Volunteer Award

By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

2015 marks ten years since the Oshawa Community Museum has been honouring the Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year. All volunteers of the Oshawa Community Museum are eligible for this annual award. The volunteer must have contributed hours between January 1st and December 31st of that calendar year and effectively assist the Museum in accomplishing its mandate. Selected volunteers contribute to the Museum in meaningful ways that demonstrate his/her various abilities and backgrounds. Volunteers are recognized the following year during or just after National Volunteer Week at the Oshawa Historical Society’s Annual General Meeting.

Earl Hann, after whom our Volunteer of the Year Award is named for.  Earl was a charter member of the Oshawa Historical Society and an active participant in the museum and Society until he passed away in 2004.
Earl Hann, after whom our Volunteer of the Year Award is named for. Earl was a charter member of the Oshawa Historical Society and an active participant in the museum and Society until he passed away in 2004.

Throughout the years we have recognized volunteers in many facets of work, from archives assistants, bakers, gardeners, programmers and curatorial assistants. Most of our volunteers have stayed on with the Museum and continue to volunteer for us today.

The first recipient of the Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award was Kay Murray, in 2004. Kay is a long time member of the Oshawa Historical Society and worked tirelessly to bring our Victorian teas to fruition. Kay took the lead on food preparation and organization of the teas. She also found the time to work in the garden and with our children’s programs. Kay has been involved with the OCM since 2001.

Tedd Hann, Kay Murray, and Angela Siebarth, awarding the first Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year Award
Tedd Hann, Kay Murray, and Angela Siebarth, awarding the first Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year Award

2005 recognized Mary Ellen Cole. Mary Ellen has been volunteering at the Museum since 2003. She, along with Kay Murray, spearheaded our Victorian Tea efforts. Some of you might also know what an amazing baker Mary Ellen is. She has been baking for the Victorian teas for almost as long as I have been working at the OCM! Tea guests and staff are always grateful for her efforts, especially when they include gingerbread! On top of this, Mary Ellen was one of the Museum’s first at-home volunteers. After the teas, Mary Ellen would wash, dry and starch all of the linens used at the teas. This was quite an undertaking, particularly when our teas were being held weekly. Mary Ellen continues to bake and support the museum today.

Tedd Hann and Mary Ellen Cole
Tedd Hann and Mary Ellen Cole

In 2006, the Museum chose to recognize Kathryn Holden as the volunteer of the Year. Kathryn began volunteering in 2005 and was also the top hour earner that year, with 160 hours of her time being donated. Kathryn spent enormous amounts of time helping me with kids programs and was a key member of the growing Victorian tea team. Kathryn has also spent the last 10 years delivering tours to the public and for numerous school and group tours. In fact, as of August 2014, Kathryn has ceased volunteering for the Museum and is now an employed Visitor Host!

Kay Murray, Kathryn Holden, and Angela Siebarth
Kay Murray, Kathryn Holden, and Angela Siebarth

Another longtime Oshawa Historical Society member was chosen as the Volunteer of the Year in 2007. Doris Spencer joined the OHS in 1981 – before Guy House was restored! Doris was part of the OHS Social Committee. She and a small group of ladies provided tea, coffee, sandwiches and snacks for years at the Historical Society meetings, until this was phased out in the mid-2000s. Afterwards Doris would help out at Museum special events serving refreshments. She always had a smile on her face and loved chatting with visitors. Sadly Doris passed away in August of 2014, but we will always be grateful for the time she donated to the Museum.

Jillian Passmore and Doris Spencer
Jillian Passmore and Doris Spencer

Throughout 2008, Jacquie Frank spent many hours in Henry House meticulously documenting every item that was on display in each room. After this, with great care she hand-washed each piece of ceramic and glass dishware. Jacquie also spent one day a week in the Henry House gardens helping to weed and identify numerous species of flora. She even generously donated a number of cuttings from her own plants. Jacquie Frank had all of the qualities that organizations look for in volunteers, including commitment and dedication and interest in our cause and it was for this that she was the 2008 recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Tedd Hann, Jillian Passmore, and Jacquie Frank
Tedd Hann, Jillian Passmore, and Jacquie Frank

In 2009, we honoured Melanie Abrey. Melanie volunteered at the Museum since late 2008. She was very dedicated and frequently came in 2 – 3 times a week. Melanie was a great help to our Curator, Melissa; helping her clean, catalogue and photograph artifacts. She has assisted Jennifer and Tara in the archives and even tried out kids programming! Along with being our Volunteer of the Year award recipient, Melanie was also our 2009 top hour earner with 179 hours.

Melanie Abrey
Melanie Abrey

2010’s recipient for the Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award was Uwe Schneider. Uwe came to know the Museum and its staff a few years ago when he brought his grandsons to our kids summer programs. After a few years his grandsons were too old to participate, but Uwe still wanted to continue his relationship with the Museum in terms of volunteering. He spent many hours working outside if Guy House to help us keep the gardens in tip top shape. He has brought his grandsons back to help and show them the value of volunteering and always had a wonderful spirit while here. Unfortunately Uwe had to stop volunteering because his health was deteriorating, but he was our most enthusiastic and loyal volunteer in 2010!

Pat has been a loyal and enthusiastic volunteer for the Oshawa Community Archives since starting with the museum in 2010. She was familiar with the Oshawa Museum, having been a member of the Historical Society since 1997, and her interest in history has made her the ideal volunteer in the archives. Pat has been very helpful to Jennifer, assisting with scrapbook organization, digitization, transcriptions of documents, and filing various archival sources; she even accompanied Jennifer on a road trip to the Archives of Ontario when Jenn was researching the history of Henry House. Her enthusiasm, congenial nature, and sheer dedication, contributing 103 and a quarter hours in 2010 and 92 and a half hours in 2011, is why Pat was awarded the 2011 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year Award.

Pat Davies and Lisa Terech
Pat Davies and Lisa Terech

When it comes to a dedicated museum volunteer, many people think about someone who is often seen around the houses, out in the garden, at meetings and training sessions. But the 2012 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year was most comfortable out of the spotlight, often helping from where we needed it the most – at home. Erika Suchan helped to officially launch our “at-home” volunteer sector 7 years ago. In four years she amassed 162 hours of service, averaging 40.5 hours per year and 3.4 hours per month. Erika supports us by laundering tablecloths, napkins and children’s costumes after teas, birthday parties and special events. This was especially helpful when we didn’t have a washer or dryer at the museum.

Erika Suchan copy
Erika Suchan, Jillian Passmore, and Erika’s granddaughter Emily

Karen Albrecht has been a volunteer at the Museum since 2011 helping with Museum programming, and she has consistently donated her time since then.  By early 2014, she had donated 133.5 hours to the Museum, stopping only because she was attending Trent University and became an occasional Visitor Host at the Museum! Through the years, she has donned a costume for our Victorian Teas, wielded glue guns helping with crafts, provided an extra set of hands and eyes for our children’s birthday parties, and other programming in between.  Always with a smile on her face, she has been a dedicated programming volunteer and was awarded the 2013 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award.

P1150009 copy
Karen Albrecht

Finally, over the past year, Donna Martino has been a valuable asset to the volunteer program here at the Oshawa Community Museum. She has donated in total 165.5 hours, since beginning in 2012 and while she only has been volunteering with us for three years, in that time Donna has demonstrated a true passion for the Museum, through her continual support of our programs and her dedication to her role as a volunteer. The choice for Donna as a recipient for the 2014 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award is in large part due to Donna’s work with Melissa Cole, Curator at the Museum. Donna has great attention to detail when working with the collection; this in combination with her reliable and consistency for hours has been a wonderful help throughout 2014. In addition, to her work with the collection, Donna has also been one of our “go-to” volunteer bakers, by donating baked goods for our teas and offering to bake whatever is needed, whether it be scones or sweets.

Donna Martino
Donna Martino

Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.
~Author Unknown

Thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers for your hard work and enthusiasm for preserving and promoting Oshawa’s heritage!

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