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Oshawa: A Story Worth Telling

March is the month for Oshawa’s 100 anniversary as a city. It was on March 8, 1924, when the City of Oshawa was incorporated. What started as a link between Lake Ontario and Lake Scugog has grown into a place with its own distinct story and a heritage worth celebrating. 

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is celebrating this auspicious occasion. The Gallery, located at Civic Square, takes a look back at Oshawa life in 1924 via an exhibit of photographs from the Thomas Bouckley Collection which the Gallery houses. 

Old Post Office - North East corner of King St. E. and Ontario St.
Old Post Office - North East corner of King St. E. and Ontario St.

Bouckley was a historian and collector who passed away in 1988 at the age of 84. His collection of photographs of city life was donated to the gallery and comprises over three and a half thousand images depicting the everyday activities of area residents. 

The Centennial also features an exhibit, ‘Commonplace’ by artist Kendra Yee, which opens March 3 with an artist talk by the Gallery’s RBC Emerging Artist in Residence. Yee’s exhibit features a series of 100 clay tiles inspired by memory stories provided by those who answered her call for such. 

Regardless of how the stories were submitted, poetry, sketch, or prose, Yee translates the memories into clay tiles, which are presented on a long dining table. The exhibit is rich in metaphor and symbolism, reflecting the importance of gathering and anchoring a story to a place. The City of Oshawa is such a place, it is a city with a story, one globally known, and a place growing daily with more and more stories as people around the nation and across the globe choose Oshawa to live, work and play in.

Preliminary sketch study of the Oshawa Public Libraries McLaughlin Branch by Arthur H Eadie
Preliminary sketch study of the Oshawa Public Libraries McLaughlin Branch by Arthur H Eadie (1954)

Stories, mostly of the written kind, are, of course, at the core of the Oshawa Public Library - McLaughlin Branch, also located in the City's Civic Square. The Library is marking the city's Centennial with a Reading Challenge. The goal is to read four books published in 1924. The Library has provided a list, and a special prize is available for the winner.  Authors on the list include such notaries and classics as English authors E.M. Forster ( A Passage to India), Somerset Maughan (The Painted Veil), Graham Greene (The Man Within), as well as Americans Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) and Sinclair Lewis (Main Street). All interesting choices and indicative of Oshawa’s as a place where American and English culture meet.

General Motors chose the city as its HQ and the city’s greatest philanthropist, Col. Sam McLaughlin, as president of the Canadian GM. His stately home, Parkwood, sits still as a testament to the importance of this confluence of Anglo-American heritage and is open to the public for tours, library included. It is one of the last such estates in the country and well worth visiting. It is also a very popular location site for movies and music videos.

Adam Sandler in Billy Madison taking a swim in the Parkwood Fountain
Adam Sandler as Billy Madison taking a swim in the Parkwood fountain

During March Break, Parkwood is hosting its annual “Behind The Scenes: Movie Tour,” where one can be guided through the great variety of activities and preparations needed for a successful film shoot, including how staff protect the heritage aspect of the estate. There are several tours each day, March 13 through March 17.

Tours of the Oshawa Museum in Lakeview Park are also taking place during March Break. In collaboration with the Oshawa Public Library, the museum presents: Oshawa’s Voices: Oral History Project Showcase’ on Tuesday, March 19 and on Sunday, March 24, to mark World Storytelling Day, a Tea and Talk with Durham Storytellers. ‘Building Bridges’ is the title, and members of the Durham Storytellers will share tales about actual bridges and bridges as a metaphor for community building. 

Oshawa started as a land bridge between lakes and now sits as a city in its own right, celebrating a centennial of community building. That's a story worth telling.

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