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.

Cancellation of ALL OxHS Events

Hello Everyone,

As I’m sure by now all of you are aware that all non-essential businesses are closed and all public meetings are cancelled.

This includes all of the Society’s regularly scheduled meetings for April and May.

Therefore, until further notice the Oxford Historical Society has cancelled all of its events.

Please stay healthy and remember to practice the safe distancing. The City of Woodstock has provided a simple guideline for everyone to follow.

Wednesday, March 25 Presentation Rescheduled

Hello Everyone,

The Oxford Historical Society regularly scheduled public meeting on Wednesday, March 25 will NOT take place due to the COVID-19 Virus.

The presentation Memories From the Vault, featuring Megan Lockhart from the Oxford County Archives, will now take place on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at the Woodstock Museum, NHS.

Woodstock Collegiate Institute, Early 1900’s

Memories From the Vault program is an interactive event in which Oxford County shares aspects of their archival collection (photos, newspapers articles, scrapbooks, artifacts etc.) with the participants, who in turn share some of their memories with the Archives. A great way to learn more about our history!

Upcoming Presentation: Memories from the Vault!

Woodstock Collegiate Institute, Early 1900's
Woodstock Collegiate Institute, Early 1900’s. Photo courtesy of Oxford County Archives.

Our next speaker will be Megan Lockhart, from the Oxford County Archives. She will be presenting their Memories From the Vault program. This is an interactive event in which Oxford County shares aspects of their archival collection (photos, newspapers articles, scrapbooks, artifacts etc.) with the participants and they in turn share some of their memories with the Archives. A great sharing experience for all involved!

The meeting will be held at the Woodstock Museum, NHS on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, starting at 6:45pm. This is a free event and all are welcome to attend.

Invitation: Donor Presentation for Reconstruction of the Old Gaol

Hello Everyone,

I am forwarding on an invitation from Oxford County Council:

County Council will formally acknowledge the Flowers family on March 11 for a generous $250,000 donation from the estate of the late R. Bruce Flowers to restore part of the Old Gaol on Buller Street in Woodstock. A light reception and archival display will take place beforehand.

When:     Wednesday, March 11, 2020 
                9:00 a.m. Light reception and Old Gaol display
                9:30 a.m. Council presentation       

Who:        David Flowers, Jim Flowers and Shelagh Morrison, siblings of Bruce Flowers, will be in attendance, with David Flowers speaking 

               Warden Larry Martin will present each family member with a framed photograph showcasing the Old Gaol’s reconstructed features, accompanied by a miniature replica of the donor recognition plaque now affixed to the building

Where:     Oxford County Administration Building
                 21 Reeve Street, Woodstock
                 Main lobby and Council Chamber

The reconstruction project funded by the donation was used at the request of Bruce Flowers to restore the chimneys and bartizans (overhanging turrets) that were removed from the Old Gaol in 1954, a century after it was constructed. The Old Gaol, which currently houses public health services, was built in the Italianate Romanesque style and retains many architecturally significant features, such as Tuscan Gothic detailing and a central pillar foundation that carries the entire weight of the building.

For more information contact:                                        
Chloe Senior, Clerk, Oxford County                                 
519-539-9800, ext. 3001 | csenior@oxfordcounty.ca

Norwich & District Historical Society

Hello Everyone,

Here are some upcoming events happening at the Norwich & District Museum.

They are offering a Lunch & Learn session on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, from 11am-1pm, featuring Jeff Tribe. Jeff Tribe will talk about the use of drone photography in marijuana farming. Jeff Tribe went from newspaper fella to video communication and ended up at a cannabis factory. In this Lunch & Learn event he will talk about his experiences, give an overview of the cannabis market, and delight everyone with his story. For more information about this event go to N&DM’s Facebook page. This event will take place at the Norwich & District Museum.

The NDHS’s AGM will be held on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 from 7-9pm at the Norwich & District Museum. Matthew Lloyd, Curator of the Norwich & District Museum, will be presenting on Greek Archaeology. More information about this event can be found on the N&DM’s Facebook page.If you wish to attend either event contact the Norwich & District Museum at 519-863-3101 or email Norwich & District Museum.

Leslie MacKay Commemorative Stamp!

Hello Everyone,

George Leslie MacKayHere’s some information that will be of interest to some of our members.

The Canadian MacKay Committee is petitioning Canada Post to dedicate a stamp in 2022, commemorating the 150th anniversary of George Leslie MacKay arriving in Taiwan (then Formosa). Leslie MacKay was born in Embro, Ontario in 1844 and was one of Oxford County’s most influential citizens. There is a statue of him, pictured on the right, which can be seen on the lawn of Oxford County’s courthouse here in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian MacKay Committee has provided the header picture of the MacKay family. Text from their site is below in italics. Afterwards is a link to their site.

“On March 9, 1872 Canada first set foot in Asia, in the person of Rev. George Leslie Mackay (1844-1901), a man who founded the first Canadian overseas mission and is now a national hero in Taiwan.

“Mackay of Formosa” was the most famous missionary of his generation, noted for his unusual yet successful methods. He established the first hospital, first modern school, first school for women, and first museum in Taiwan. He is remembered there in school textbooks, on a 2001 stamp, in statues, a museum, commemorative days, and Mackay Memorial Hospital.

It is a surprise to people from Taiwan to learn that Mackay is unknown in Canada today. Commemorating him on a stamp for the 150th anniversary of Canada’s engagement in Asia would be a small step to reviving this forgotten history.”

If you wish to read more about this petition, click on this link, Commemorate George Leslie MacKay on a Canadian stamp!, and then follow the prompts.


Welcome to the OxHS Blog!

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the very first blog post for the Oxford Historical Society! We will be using this space to let you know about upcoming events, projects we have going on, volunteer opportunities and many other exciting things to come. Our blogs posts are replacing the email blasts that you previously received.

Our website has also been updated. We now have a page dedicated to OxHS Happenings. This is the page where our blogs will appear. The volunteer page will also be updated as new volunteer opportunities come along, so keep checking it to see if there are projects or events you can assist us with. Our current event pages lists all our upcoming events and there is a drop down menu, Annual Events Summary, which tells you where the Society has been the last few years.

The Society wishes to thank everyone who was able to attend our AGM on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. Peter Harrison read out the nominations for the 2020 Board and Scott Gillies gave a wonderful presentation on the History of Cheese Making in Oxford County.

The 2020 Executive Board members are:

  • President – Kathie Richards
  • Vice President – Vacant
  • Treasurer/Research – Dr. Elaine Becker
  • Secretary/Communications – Laura Centore
  • Membership – Judy Klages
  • Archives – Eleanor Gardhouse
  • Members at Large – Jim Groulx & Don Wilson
From left to right: Front row: Kathie Richards, Laura Centore
Middle row: Jim Groulx, Elaine Becker, Karen Houston, Judy Klages
Back row: Don Wilson
Absent: Eleanor Gardhouse

Stay tuned for more exciting events in 2020!