On Monday August 3rd, 1925, Old Home Week celebrations in North Bay opened with a grand pageant parade to Memorial Park where a special ceremony was held in which the charter of the City of North Bay was granted to Mayor McDonald by the Hon. Charles McCrea, Ontario Minister of Mines. The creation of the city was marked by the firing of a cannon There was a formal blessing by both Rev. J. Ferguson and Rev. J. Chapleau. Speeches were made by McCrea, McDonald, H. Morel, M.L.A., Senator Gordon, and John Ferguson. (“North Bay, Past and Present, Celebrates,” The Nugget, August 4, 1925.) A special panoramic photograph was taken of the crowd and the float that carried the OHW Queen. A copy of this photo hangs in the Branch 23 of the Canadian Legion building today. The Legion is located on part of the site where the crowd was gathered.
In 1925 the grand opening parade of OHW on Monday August 3rd was billed as a pageant parade. At the time, pageants were all the rage. Quebec City had put on a huge pageant to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 1908. In Ontario, many of the Old Home Week celebrations of the 1920s included a pageant but these required a large outdoor space to stage them and hundreds of volunteers to act in them and North Bay settled for a less ambitious pageant parade instead. Still, like pageants, this would allow the town to highlight its history as well as its recent progress for the visitors. The key pageant floats were designed by an “expert” and the costumes were also specially prepared for them.
The organizers worked from the point of view that North Bay’s history began with Champlain’s travel through the area in 1615. A float portraying Champlain was therefore one of the key pageant floats. It created a stirring image of “Samuel de Champlain and his dauntless followers, bearing hard on their paddles, with their faces eagerly set forth in the direction of the new lands they were to explore…” This float was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Champlain, played by Chas. St. Germain, was portrayed as “the first of the party and was shown as gazing from the top of a hill over the surrounding country while his companions were landing the rest of the flotilla….”
Other pageants floats represented Jean Nicolet, the first white man to set foot in North Bay, Father Claude Pijart, the first priest to the Nipissing Indians, a band of coureurs de bois and fur traders, and the Rev. Father Le Caron and a band of frenchmen. The three railways present in North Bay, put considerable effort into their floats as well.
“The C.P.R. was represented by the Lucy Dalton, the first railway engine in Northern Ontario, drawing a miniature caboose with the conductor and the brakie in uniform on the steps. The engine was driven by a gasoline motor but nothing was lost to the realistic appearance as the engineer and firemen were in the cab, smoke issued forth and a whistle tooted incessantly.” “…Lottie Britton and Alex Gillie, employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early days, piloted Lucy Dalton, the replica of the first engine used in the service along the streets. Wm. Dreany and Harry Hughes looked out from the tail end of the caboose as they did when North Bay was only a water tank and a few surrounding shacks.” [The Nugget, Aug 4 1925.]
The T. & N.O., in three sections, depicted Northern Ontario with the themes of farming, mining, and sport life. Designed by Russel Huntington, it was built in the railway shops in only two weeks. “The third section of the float pictured a sportmen’s camp with great realism. The Indian guide was not other than Frank Commando, chief of the Nipissing tribe, while the fish were brought fresh from the water of Lake Temagami.” [The Nugget, Aug. 7, 1925]
The parade included clowns, bands, soldiers, policemen and many floats by North Bay businesses. Few of them were described but pictures of the parade show some of them. Below: A.B. Gordon & Co. Ltd., a major lumber company in the area, the float from Beamish Stores and a float showing a model of the original post office.
The pageant parade formed at the west end of Main Street. Getting it going took some time as the parade streched for six city blocks and the marshals had to place each one. It marched down Main to Fisher before turning North and making its way to Memorial Park where a large crowd was waiting and the city of North Bay was granted its charter.
Hartley Trussler was working that day but he had his camera with him and took time to take pictures of several floats as they went by the North Bay Garage. For more photos from Trussler’s album see below.
|“The parade was about eleven and say it was great. It was really a wonderful spectacle and very much better than I ever thought possible. It was a fitting start to the week it ushered in and everything seemed to be on the move and in good spirits. There are about five times as many people on the street as generally and everybody is dressed up and in holiday mood. The town is full of flags and bunting and it is really pretty.” [Hartley Trussler’s Diary, 3 Aug. 1925. Courtesy of Paul Trussler.]|
Hartley Trussler’s Photo Album of 1925 Old Home Week Parade
In 1935, the city of North Bay decided that it could not afford to spend money on an OHW celebration. Initial plans had already been made to hold a second OHW the first week of August. The promoters turned to local groups and organizations to see if any of them might be able to sponsor a day. In the end, enough groups came forward that OHW went ahead. The organizers were aware from the beginning that the Dionne quintuplets would be generating tourism to the area and they hoped to capitalize on this.
The central committee of OHW in 1935 was chaired by Dan Barker and the secretary was Alderman G.E. Palmer. The remainder of the committee was made up of two or three representatives from each of the community groups sponsoring a day. The Central Committee coordinated their efforts and dealth with the city on general matters relating to the event while the individual groups focussed on their parades and program.
The organizing groups were: the 159th Battalion, the North Bay Motor Club, the Cercle Canadien Français and the North Bay branch of the Fédération des Femmes Canadiennes-Françaises (FFCF), the Knights of Columbus, the Rorab Shrine Club, and the Associated Canadian Travellers.
It is worth noting that although French Canadian Day was organized by both a men’s and a women’s group, only the men’s group (Cercle Canadien-Français) had representatives on the Central Committee. The women’s group (Fédération des Femmes Canadiennes-Françaises) was responsible primarily for the banquet on the evening of French Canadian Day, although they were also involved in fundraising for the Jacques Cartier Monument. The French souvenir book, however, lists the full executive of both groups.
Articles in the Nugget on the organization of OHW in 1935 are listed and summarized in the attached pdf file.
The Officers and Executive Committee
Old Home in 1925 emerged out of plans for an Old Boy Reunion. When word came that city status would be granted around the same time, the celebration planned became more elaborate and over a period of several months was transformed from an Old Boy Reunion to an Old Home Week. The town of North Bay was involved in the organization and provided funds for the celebration. The work, however, was done by the many OHW committees which oversaw every aspect of the operation.
The overall organization was in the hands of the Executive which consisted of a President, four vice-presidents, a secretary, treasurer and an executive committee of eleven persons. They were all male. The president was John Ferguson, the “founder” of North Bay. Dr. J.B. MacDougall, who was probably the author of much of the souvenir book, is well known as the first principal of the North Bay high school. He was later appointed superintendant of schools for a vast area of the north and has left a fascinating account of his work called, Building the North. The other members were also prominent members of North Bay’s business and professional community including J.W. Richardson, who was mayor for several years and the founder the Richardson hardware store. A.C. Rorabeck was the first pharmacist and he also ran the Bell exchange. More information on some of these men is available in Anson Gard’s study of North Bay, The Gateway to Silverland.
Committees and Their Members
As well as the executive there were numerous working committees (see below) which supervised all aspects of the organization from sending invitations to the Old Timers to arranging billeting for them and well as all aspects of the program. A list of all the committees follows. Most of the members of these committes were well known members of the English elite of North Bay. Several of them had been or would become mayors or were on city council at some point in this period. Women were placed only on a few committees, particularly those dealing with the Old Timers. The wife of Harry Marceau (who was the local M.L.A. in 1935) sat on the the Ladies’ Old Timers Committee; she was one of the few French Canadians involved. The complete list is available here as a pdf.
List of Nugget Articles
Articles in the Nugget on the organization of OHW in 1925 are listed and summarized in the attached pdf file.
The Dionne Quintuplets and Old Home Week
If it had not been for the the birth and survival of the Dionne quintuplets in nearby Corbeil in May of 1934, the 1935 OHW celebrations would not have been organized. North Bay, like the rest of the country was in the throes of the Great Depression and unemployment caused great hardships not just for many families and individuals but for the city. It could not afford to pay for such a celebration. The promoters of OHW, however, were banking on the fact that the “Quints” would be one year old in 1935 and that tourists would be arriving to see them.
An invitation was sent out to as many people associated with North Bay as possible. It showed the five girls with their names and the slogan “Five reasons to visit North Bay – Gateway to the Land of Gold .” Stationery with this image sold at one cents a page and earned $150 indicating that up to 15,000 sheets may have been in circulation. (The Nugget, May 8, 1935.)
This “Official Song” written by Ernie Mills with music by Bill Davis is one of the few items of ephemera produced during Old Home Week.
List of Visitors from the Nugget Personals
Approximately 20,000 people attended the OHW celebrations of 1935, many of them visitors. The 159th Battalion reunion brought many veterans together again. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen also chose to have their 50th anniversary reunion during OHW thereby bringing many of the original railroaders to town. Many other Old Timers were present and the Nugget featured some of them in its pages. Locals also called the paper with the names of those who were visiting and these were published in the personals, as they were year-round. Of those listed, more came from Toronto and Sudbury than anywhere else.
The 1925 invitation was in Old English and took the form of a proclamation from George V. It was addressed to all “Olden Boyes and Girles, far and nygh” asking them to assemble in North Bay on August 2nd through 8th for the celebration of Old Home Week. It was signed by John Ferguson as President of OHW. Produced on thick cream paper with decked edges and with a red seal affixed to it, the invitation looked very official. Music, parades, sports and dancing in the street was promised. Everyone who knew anyone who had lived in Norrth Bay in the past was therefore asked to help by providing names and addresses so those people could be personally invited and over 5000 invitations were sent out. If you are a collector, note that a facsimile of this invitation on thin paper and somewhat smaller was printed at a later date.
R.S. Huntingdon’s Logo for the Envelope
The envelope that was used to send ot the invitations and the letterhead paper that was used by the committee was totally different. The logo on it, a drawing by local artist R.S. Huntingdon, shows two men, explorers, emerging from a thick forest, one of them portaging a canoe. They are approaching a lake with a sunset which proclaims “Prosperity for all”. The trunks of two tall trees are crossed by a banner to form the shape of a gateway. The banner proclaims: “The Gateway to the North .” In the corner is the text ” Back to ‘the Bay ‘ Aug. 2nd. to 8th. -1925.” The image is inviting and bids you to walk into the light and the promised prosperity along with the travelers.
Poetry Competition Winner
“Come back to the lake where you fished and swam,/ And rolled on the sun-drenched sand,…”
|The Women’s Canadian Club held a competition in 1925 for the best poem on the history of North Bay, Old Home Week, or the incorporation of the city. The winning poem by Miss Oneita McEwan was in the “Call to Old Home Week” category.|
List of Old Timers
A large number of Old Timers attended OHW and helped to shape the nature of the celebrations. Veterans were remembered on Soldier’s Day. Old Timers played lacrosse and other sports. Mostly, they must have met old friends and reminisced. Unfortunately these stories were never recorded and the guest books that carefully recorded the names of all the guests that registered were lost with the rest of the Board of Trade records in a fire. The names of those who registered with the OHW committee, however, were published in the paper and a full list of these names could be compiled, although in some cases the microfilm is light and hard to read. The names of Old Timers (with the place they came from) published on August 7th, 1925 have been transcribed. Even from these names alone, one can see that people did come from great distances, but more came from Toronto than anywhere else. For anyone interested in these Old Timers from a genealogical purposes, the list is somewhat limited as women are often referred to only as Mrs. John Smith.
History of Old Home Week Celebrations
Old Home Week celebrations began around the turn of the last century and took place throughout the Eastern United States and Canada. They were similar to Old Boy Reunions and slowly began to repace them. In Ontario they were particularly popular in the 1920s. Older cities and towns had them to celebrate important anniversaries. Owen Sound used it to celebrate Canada’s Diamond Jubilee in 1927.
North Bay, Ontario had its first Old Home Week to celebrate becomming a city in 1925. It was held through the first week of August, the Monday being a civic holiday. Provincial government officials were present to hand over the charter of the new city. The week was filled with parades, sporting events, promotions, music, dancing, and entertainment. Invitations were sent out to all the “Old Boys” who, with their ladies, came back from all over Canada and the United States to celebrate and reminisce. The local newspaper, the Nugget, was filled with stories of the week’s events as well stories about the history of the town. Long lists of visiting Old Timers were published in the local paper as well. A special pageant parade was held on Civic Day to commemorate the history of the place since 1615, the year of Samuel de Champlain’s travels through the area. His image adorned the cover of the souvenir book and was a key figure in the pageant parade.
The second Old Home Week held in North Bay was ostensibly to celebrate North Bay’s tenth anniversary, but really, it was an opportunity to highlight the city as a tourist destination as thousands of visitors began their summer trek north to seek out the Dionne quintuplets, born only twelve miles away, in May 1934. The summer of 1935 they were displayed to the public several times a day. Despite the depression, the week was a success and virtually paid for itself. It had to be organized by local clubs and organizations, however, because the city did not have money to spare for such an event. The cost of providing relief was taking its toll on public funds. The week-long celebrations were very similar to those in 1925 with sports and entertainment of various kinds. There was also a commemorative ceremony unveiling the monument erected by two French Canadian groups in honour of the 400th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Canada.
Later Old Home Weeks
North Bay had several other Old Home Week celebrations in the period after World War II. The North Bay public library has a copy of a souvenir book published for the one in 1948, but the exact dates of the others have not been verified. They do not appear to have left a mark in the same way as the first two. From a historical perspective, the 1925 and 1935 Old Home Week celebrations were particularly important because of the records they left as to the early history of North Bay.
For more history, images, and links to documents relating to North Bay’s Old Home Week Celebrations click on the link to the “Old Home Week” tag below.
Local Archival Material
Researching the history of North Bay has its challenges. There are no city archives and most public documents from the city, the school boards, and the registry office are still held by those bodies and have not been deposited with the Archives of Ontario. This makes access more difficult as the main mandate of these bodies is to deal with current issues, not historical ones. The city disposed of most, if not all, the historical documents it was not legally required to keep. It therefore has council minutes, bylaws and assessment rolls. The bylaws are online but the earlier ones are not indexed. Discovery North Bay has an important collection of material but there is no online catalogue to date. The Dionne Quint Museum has the Fred Davis collection of images and a collection of scrapbooks but most of its collection consists of actual artifacts and printed sources. A major collection of Orange Order material is available at Nipissing University. Indexes to the census, cemetary records and many other useful sources can be found at the library of the Nipissing Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society housed in the Public Library.
The Archives of Ontario does have some material relating to North Bay, usually in a series created for other purposes such as the theatre files, educational material, or material relating to licensed premises. There is a good online search engine. Some of the collections at the Laurentian University Archives and the Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française in Ottawa also have records relating to North Bay.
There are many private collections of material which can sometimes be accessed. The most important are those belonging to North Bay’s oldest churches, Pro-Cathedral, Trinity, St Andrew’s and St John the Divine. Fraternal groups, service clubs and other social organizations also often have material but there is no central listing of who to contact. Some family collections are also important.
North Bay: Gateway to Silverland by Anson Gard
Anson Gard was North Bay’s first oral historian. An American by birth, he had spent over seven years in Canada and had published a dozen Canadian books by 1909, the year his North Bay: The Gateway to Silverland was published. Here, as in the Ottawa valley and Cobalt earlier, he traveled through the area, spoken to people, gathered their stories, and wrote them down. He also did research in the files of North Bay’s two early papers, the North Bay Times and The Despatch, newspapers which unfortunately have all but disappeared today. He sought out those who had collected photos of the early days and included a photo essay on North Bay along with his text.
Gateway to Silverland, consists of three distinct sections. The first, “Gateway to Silverland,” is made up of the stories he collected. These range from very obvious tall tales to much more factual information such as a list of firsts and histories of founding societies, schools, and churches. There is also a chapter on the railways and one on the Georgian Bay Ship Canal. The second section is his photo essay, “North Bay in Picture, the Old and the New” which includes many interesting early photographs, only some of which can still be found. The third section, “Patrons of ‘The Gateway,'” consists of sixty biographical sketches of the leading members of the town, many of them members of the Board of Trade, who supported his efforts.
Anson Gard did not write the kind of book we would write today. There is no doubt that he adopted the boosterism of his patrons and wrote of North Bay only in the most glowing of terms. It is also clear that he had little opportunity to meet ordinary working people; his informants were among the most affluent in the town, male, and Anglophone. He was aware of the presence of the First Nations in the area and devotes a short section to their history, but he does not appear to have spoken to any of them. He makes infrequent references to French Canadians who contributed to the early history of North Bay, but seldom refers to any of them by name. Today such a clear bias would be unacceptable.
Why, then, an anniversary edition of Gateway to Silverland? Through his stories Gard brings to life the flavour of North Bay at the time. It was the entertainment capital of the area. Tall tales were told around the fire and practical jokes were played on newcomers. Railroaders were bigger than life as they heroically steamed into town to vote on the choice of a District capital. His biographical sketches read like a street directory – Ferguson, Leask, McKeown, McGaughey, Parsons – and are an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to research the genealogy of these local families as he usually gives a place of birth and the maiden name of the wife. For one hundred years now, the stories that Anson Gard recorded about early North Bay are almost all that we know about these early days. They have been repeated, often without giving him credit. He deserves to be read in the original where what is fact and what is tall tale can more easily be discerned. He also deserves to be credited for his accomplishment. Since his book has long been out of print and remaining copies are expensive, a new anniversary edition will make it possible for those interested in North Bay history to read for themselves this wonderful story teller. His book, he wrote, involved “the recalling of memories, and preserving of those memories to those who may in the future see the part played by some ancestor” (p. 116). He could not have predicted the extent to which his efforts would be vital in helping to keep those early days alive in our collective memory.
Community History Publications’ new 100th anniversary softcover edition of Anson Gard’s North Bay: The Gateway to Silverland is available at Gulliver’s and at the Dionne Quint Museum shop. As well as reproducing all three sections of the 1909 edition in a modern font it includes a new preface by Françoise Noël and an index to “Patrons.” (ISBN: 978-0-9812769-0-8, retail price $19.95.)
W.K.P. Kennedy’s North Bay: Past–Present–Prospective
W.K.P. Kennedy’s North Bay: Past–Present–Prospective is a compilation of useful information rather than an analytical history. Kennedy was very familiar with North Bay’s early history, having arrived in North Bay in 1887, and he was given access to sources which can be difficult to get to today. For example, his section on municipal government summarize the minutes of council for every year from 1894 to 1960. Even in a summarized format, these provide us with an overview of important issues and the original minutes or the Nugget can then be consulted to find out more. He acknowledges having made use of Anson Gard and the Nugget, and the 1925 Old Home Week section clearly makes extensive use of the 1925 souvenir book. He provides lists of charter members of organizations, of businesses, hotels, schools, and churches, short histories of the railways, sports, and personalities, as well as some of his own recollections. It is an essential starting point for further research. The major drawback of this source is that almost fifty years have elapsed since it was written, leaving a long gap where similar information is not available. Like Gard he tends to be more familiar with anglophone North Bay but the book includes wonderful surprises like the image of Felix Labreche’s blacksmith shop shown here.
Railton Photo’s Original Photograph
The original photograph of the Rinkey Dinks by Railton Photo in 1928 consisted of twelve individual images of the players and the two coaches, dry-mounted on a large mat with three rows of photographs with an image of hand-lettered text in the middle of the bottom row. The name and position of each player was lettered onto the mat below the image. It looked a lot like the restored image below.
The Damaged Photographs
This composite photograph was later dismantled. The individual photographs were torn apart, remaining attached to the mat. At some point they must have been stored in a damp place and the photographs began to deteriorate. They all looked more or less like the photo of Dot Gore shown here on the right.
The Restored Photographs
Having done some photo restoration before, I thought it might be possible to restore these photographs at least to some extent. Once I had scanned them, I realized that the amount of work to be done was more than I had encountered before. I consulted photographer Mike de Moree and asked for advice as to how to best proceed. He worked on one image and showed me how it might be possible to make them look better although this would mean softening the focus considerably on the most damaged parts. Luckily the faces tended to be in better shape than the uniforms. After considerable effort and adding a sepia filter the images looked much better. The text, however, did not look great.
The next problem was how to lay these out. For this I consulted with my husband who is very good at puzzles. We looked at the patterns of discoloration on the backs of the images and tried to fit them together to match. The restored images were then laid out as they would have been originally together with the text image. In the end I decided not to use the original text under each photograph, but to type in the same information with a similar font.
The Restored Digital Portrait
For the final restored photograph a background colour was chosen similar to the original mat. A border was placed around it for viewing as a digital image. The final result is shown below.
The original intention in undertaking this work (which took many hours) was to have a copy printed and placed in a public place like Memorial Gardens so that the Rinkey Dinks, the first team to bring home a provincial championship to North Bay (see previous post), be better remembered. A first attempt to do so failed because the file was too large. I believe that the new wide printer at Nipissing should be able to print this image full size and I am able to print a smaller version on my printer. Anyone wishing a print copy can therefore contact me. I would be particularly pleased to see it go up in a public venue.
The portraits of the individual players are 4 inches by 6.1 inches in size. The shield and text is 5.4 by 6.6 inches in size. The full image is 28.8 inches by 24 inches in size and the file size for the full colour image as above is 255.87 MB. A black and white version is only 85.3 MB in size.
Postcript on Jean Wilson
The last living Rinkey Dink, Jean Wilson, died in North Bay in 2012. She is top left in this photo. She did not play in 1929 when they won the championship because she had left the team to go to Normal School. She taught several generations of North Bay students who remember her fondly. She was 105 years old.