Archives at Home: Staying Connected with our Community

Hello Everyone,

this next post was written by Megan Lockhart, Archives Technician at the Oxford County Archives

Patterson Family of Eastwood, part of the Spring Garden Party with the Archives

            With the provincial and federal stay home orders underway, archives staff have been working from home for six weeks. This has been an adjustment for not only us but for our patrons as well. Just like many other archives, libraries, galleries, and museums we have had to tap into our creativity to develop innovative ways to stay connected with the community we serve. We have continued to respond to research requests through email but some of our other services are not so easily adapted. Through inspiration from other organizations and institutions and brainstorming between staff we have created a variety of exciting projects including new online activities, virtual programming, and the collection of community stories.

Online Activities

            People are looking for ways to entertain themselves and their children at home. Upon seeing the York University Archives’ online puzzles, we were eager to create our own. This led to our “archival puzzles” initiative. Thirty-five free online puzzles all featuring historical photographs and postcards from the archives are now available online at: Not only do these puzzles provide people with some fun while stuck at home, it also opens a new avenue of interactivity between our community and our archival collections.

Along with the puzzle project new Oxford County themed colouring pages are also now available on our website. We are encouraging people to colour the pages and send their masterpieces to us so we can share them on social media. Adults and children are both welcome to submit! Send your completed pages to

            We are also in the process of developing an online exhibit featuring food and recipes from the era of the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic. Recipes from this time will be featured online in a restaurant menu format. We hope that people will enjoy the exhibit as both educational and interactive if they choose to make the featured recipes at home.

Virtual Programming

One of our most popular programs, Memories from the Vault, has been put on hold temporarily due to COVID-19. As our program coordinator, I applied myself to finding a way to bring the program to our community remotely. I am thankful for our social media platforms as this has allowed me to create virtual video versions of the program which we will be sharing on Instagram during the month of May. The theme is “Spring Garden Party with the Archives”. I will be discussing certain historical springtime trends such as food, fashion, recreation, and leisure. Pictured on the right are two embroidered handkerchiefs from the Archive’s collection. Developing these virtual programs have provided its own challenges, having to film myself speaking, writing a script, and learning the ins and outs of video editing. I am excited to share the videos with everyone online weekly beginning May 12.

Collecting Community Stories

            The Oxford County Archives has entered an exciting partnership with the Woodstock Museum NHS in collecting community stories and records related to COVID-19. We are asking for submissions of photographs, letters, journals, video, audio, artwork or digital text to be sent to These records will be a significant resource for future generations of students, researchers, archivists, and historians. The material will be stored at the museum but the archives will be provided access and a collaborative exhibit will likely be developed in future. To correspond with this project we have established a new educational programme at the archives: “Students Living History”. We are asking local students to submit journal entries and photos outlining their personal pandemic experiences; we would also like to use this material in a future exhibit.

Students please send your personal experiences to

            These past few weeks have put things into perspective for us at the archives. It has made us appreciate the internet, and social media which has allowed us to stay connected with our patrons and community partners. It has brought us closer to colleagues in other heritage/cultural institutions. “We are all in this together” is a saying that has really applied to us in recent times. We have been compelled to think outside the box when it comes to how we provide our services. Most importantly, we have realized just how important community connections are and keeping our archival collections visible, relevant, and accessible is a goal we will continue to strive toward even after we return to the archives. Click on Oxford County Archives to go to their web page.

Woodstock Museum, NHS Collecting Photos & Stories About Life in COVID-19 Pandemic

Hello Everyone,

The Woodstock Museum, NHS is asking for your help in collecting stories and photos about life during this pandemic. The following quote and photograph are from the Museum’s Facebook page:

Send us your written accounts, artwork, photographs or video recordings about everyday life during the pandemic to with the subject “Writing COVID-19 History.” Future generations are depending on you to explain what social distancing was and why toilet paper was being hoarded in 2020!

This historic photo depicts men wearing masks during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918. The Woodstock Museum was surprised by the lack of local firsthand accounts and artifacts documenting the epidemic during the final year of the First World War. (Photo from Library and Archives Canada)
This historic photo depicts men wearing masks during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918. The Woodstock Museum was surprised by the lack of local firsthand accounts and artifacts documenting the epidemic during the final year of the First World War. (Photo from Library and Archives Canada)

Woodstock Sentinel Review published an article about the Museum on April 22, 2020, written by Kathleen Saylors. Here is the link to the Woodstock Sentinel Review article.

A further article and interview about the Museum’s request for submission can be found on the London CTV News site.

Submissions can be sent by email to with the subject: “Writing COVID-19 History.” For more information visit the Museum’s website or their Facebook page.

Woodstock As It Was!

Hello Everyone,

During this time of social distancing I thought I would share an article from one of the Society’s previous newsletters.

The following post are a collection of excerpts taken from an article written by Chris Packman, and was originally published in the OxHS Newsletter of January 2014. It is based on Eleanor Gardhouse’s presentation: Woodstock as it Was; which she presented to the Society on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, at the Woodstock Museum, NHS. The postcards are from Don Wilson’s collection.

“Truth, Duty Valour” was embossed on the Memorial Gateway to Southside Park Woodstock, at the south end of Victoria Street. In the park, on the east side of its driveway, was once a picnic pavilion from which the band from Norwich, the Lions Club, the Salvation Army or the militia would give concerts in July and August. Today, it’s gone.

The Southside Park pond, fed by Cedar Creek, had changing rooms for boys and girls. It was popular for swimming, and fun to jump off the dam at its exit. But you took care in the spring because upstream was a slaughterhouse: sometimes, stuff got in the water and Dick Sales, the drover, got scolded. Even when drunk, frequently, Dick could look at a cow, tell you how much it weighed and its dollar value. His brother Jack loaned money: useful if you needed a loan to buy a farm or a house. But miss a payment and Jack would foreclose.

There was a hydro power station near the pond. Close by was the city’s waterworks with a beautiful rock garden in front, created by a man who worked there. East of the power station was the railway line from Stratford, south to Port Dover. If you lived in Curries, and went to school in Woodstock, you’d hop on a train there into Woodstock.

Eleanor showed several pictures showing the changes over the decades in retail ownership around Civic (Museum) Square. An Imperial Bank was at the east corner of the Square, its front on Dundas St. Upstairs were rooms that bank staff could rent. The late Ed Bennett told Eleanor that, on Sunday afternoons, they used to fill the bathtubs full of water, put beer bottles in them to cool, then play poker all afternoon.

Eleanor reminisced, “At Christmas time, people used to come from all over to buy fine linens and beautiful clothes at the John White store, 425-429 Dundas. Right in front of where the elevator was, there were stools where young members of staff would sit. A customer would come in and go to one of the counters to buy something; a lady would write out a bill, take your money and put it into a little round container; pop it into a pneumatic tube and, whoosh, it would be gone. And, on the other side of the elevator, up high, with some steps going up to it, was a platform with a railing around it. That’s where the money would go. The person up there would put the change in the container and return it back down. The girls sitting beside the elevator would watch where the customers were, and the sales lady would signal one of them and you’d go over, pick up their parcel, and take it over to where, under where they were sorting the money, there was a table, paper and string. You had to learn how to break that string without hurting yourself. And you would carefully take the parcel back to the customer and present it to them.”

The John White store can be seen on the far side of the postcard.

West down the street was the Opera House [at one point, seating 1400]. After variations on this name, it began showing movies, as the “Capital Theatre”, until it closed in the late 1990s.

Going East, Frank Hyde Drugstore [397 Dundas] was right on the corner of Light Street. Next to it was the Princess theatre, at 399 Dundas, which opened in 1916 and showed movies until 1948. When you went into the show, there was only one aisle and seats on each side; very, very narrow. For 10 cents on Saturday, you could watch the Lone Ranger, or Buck Rogers. Nearby were two good Chinese restaurants: Food Rite, 407 Dundas; Canton at 411: very good Chinese food.

Eleanor showed a street picture, a few doors east of the old post office (now City Hall) that including two horse- drawn buggies in the street. The uniformed CN Express driver with a peak cap on one of them was Eleanor’s father, John Russell Adam. The next picture showed one of the motorized delivery trucks that replaced the buggies. Her dad has his arm around a little girl sitting on a fender, wearing his peaked cap. She still has the cap.

Photo courtesy of Eleanor Gardhouse

Down at the former GTR [now VIA] train station, when a steam train came in, its fireman would reach out, grab a chain to pull down a pipe leading from a trackside water tank, and top up the water reservoir in the train’s tender. This, in turn, fed the boiler.

Eleanor showed the station. “Now the telegraph office is right here and has a bay window so the person inside could look out, up and down the track, because his desk was right up in that window. If the train was not going to stop in Woodstock, but there had to be a message sent, they had a hoop made of bamboo, with a long stick on it. The telegrapher would tie the message to it and he’d stand out by the train track with his hand held up in the air. The engineer would simply reach out of his window as the train was going through, take the message off and then drop the hoop.”

“Now when a new messenger (telegrapher) would come, sometimes, not every time, Dad would come home and say, “New messenger”. If it was a warm day, Mom [once a trained telegrapher] would go and stand outside that window and she’d listen to what he would [hand key]. Now they didn’t always just send messages, they gossiped and told dirty stories.

When he signed off … you can’t imagine how surprised he would be when mother, this little lady with grey hair standing there, told him what he had just said.”

She had pictures and stories of some of the city’s hotels: Hotel Oxford, once the most ritzy in Woodstock, just across from the Museum; the Commercial Hotel on Graham Street, now renovated as the Econolodge; the

Royal Hotel on the corner of Brock Street and Dundas, that burnt on Christmas Eve, 1970. A credit union is now at that site. Ted’s log cabins were on Norwich, just before Parkinson road: a nice place to stay; or, Houser’s Motel, on the present site of Zehrs on Dundas.

Not forgetting places to eat: Ye OldeShu where Rochdale Credit Union is now (943 Dundas), or the Terrace Tea Gardens on the Beachville Road. Its owners closed it, moved it to Woodstock and opened on the site of what is now Bronson’s.

Eleanor closed with several aerial photographs taken in 1919. The city was smaller then; homes giving way to grassy fields north of Ingersoll Avenue.