President’s Message (April 2021)

So it’s April! Spring is definitely here – the weather’s been really mild – even warm – so trees are in bud, the grass is greening and I’ve seen lots of Robins. I’m sure we’re in store for some rain, but we need it. It’s great to have winter behind us.

One thing we don’t have behind us is the pandemic. Covid-19 is not only still with us, it seems to be at its worst! Variants of Concern are clearly contributing to the latest surge, and our health care system and all the people who work in it are once again being put to the test – big time. Thankfully, vaccines are being rolled out, and more and more people are getting their shots. I know I’m thankful that both Marion and I have had our first shots (Pfizer, in our case), and it’s good to see that more and more opportunities are being provided to access vaccinations. Between vaccinations and the latest “stay at home” order, we can only hope that we can gain some ground on the pandemic and begin to see a degree of normalcy reappear.

Now onto Historical Society stuff.

My first order of business is to admit to forgetting to send you the link to access the presentation I made at our February meeting about my time in Gros Morne National Park in the early 1970s. Marj Andre and others had encouraged me to send a recording of the presentation out to the whole membership, but I simply forgot! So here’s the YouTube link – have a look. I hope you enjoy it.

Our next regular meeting – by Zoom – is scheduled for Monday, April 19th, at 7:30 PM. Our speaker will be Jason Burgoin, whose presentation will be: “Raising Canadian Standards; The Colorful World of Canadian Heraldry.” Jason is a member of the Toronto Branch of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Among other things, I’m sure Jason will be happy to tell us just how his Society came to be a “Royal” Society. If you are interested in attending, send us a message at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

Speaking of speakers. I’m sure that many of you are aware that our Publicity Director, Marj Andre, is a very busy advocate in Richmond Hill for keeping its residents connected and finding opportunities to bring informative and educational material to our attention. One of those opportunities is a Speaker Series that has been in place for some time, but that has had to adapt, like everything else, to the realities of the pandemic. Marj is keen to let you know that the Speaker Series is back in a Webinar format available through Zoom. There is currently a series of four great talks scheduled:

  • April 15, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Dr. Barbara Perry speaking on “The Resurgence of the Extreme Right”
  • April 22, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Dr. Suzanne Evans speaking on “The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook”
  • April 29, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere & Rebeka Tabobondung speaking on “Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place”
  • May 13, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Dr. Olivier Courteaux speaking on “The Forgotten History of Those Women Who Helped Win World War II”

Marj tells us that you can purchase tickets for all four lectures ($30.00) or for individual lectures ($12.00), and that more information is available at https://onrichmondhill.com or at https://tickets.rhcentre.ca/Online/default.asp. You could also reach Marj at 416 822 5139.

A topic that I have been a bit of a pest about is Society memberships. You will recall that we decided early on that, given the pandemic circumstances, we would offer members the opportunity to simply roll over their 2020 membership fees into 2021 – our activities, after all are forced to be minimal. Many of you have chosen to pay your normal 2021 fees anyway, for which we thank you, but I want to reiterate that you have that choice. Also, for those who wish to pay their 2021 fees, we have set up an e-transfer arrangement through our bank. Though there have been a few glitches in this process, I have been assured that everything has been fixed, so that option is certainly open to you. Some of you have also chosen to pay by cheque, which is also totally acceptable.

It is important, though, that you let us know if your preference is to roll over your 2020 fees, so that we can track our membership and keep everything up to date. So, if you intend to roll your fees over, or indeed, if you intend to pay your 2021 fees, please let us know before June. We will need this information to plan for the rest of the year, report on our activities and apply for annual grants.

Well, that’s enough for this message. Stay safe, everyone. I’ll send you a reminder about the April 19th meeting a day or two in advance.

President’s Message (March 2021)

Hi everyone,

Well, here we are in March. Covid 19 has been with us for a year, now, and I’m sure we’re all suffering from what I’ve come to call “the Covid rut.” I’m also sure that we’re all really looking forward to getting out of that rut and back to normal. We’re getting good news about vaccines, though I’m trying, with some difficulty, to be patient about where and when, and even how, my turn will come. It will sure be nice when our TV news reports and newspapers aren’t full of all the data – and tragedies – generated by this pandemic.

March, of course also means that spring is on its way. I don’t want to jinx our weather, but, all in all, this winter hasn’t been too bad. Snow shoveling hasn’t been terrible, so far, and until recently, it hasn’t even been really cold. More recently, it’s even warm! But I’m still looking forward to spring. I’m just not a winter person!

Our next regular meeting – by Zoom, of course – is Monday, March 15th, at 7:30 PM. Our speaker this month is Alexander Gates, the Executive Director and Curator of the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa. His presentation is entitled: “120 Years of Fear and Fascination with the Automobile.” I’ve checked out the Museum’s website, and I think we’ll be getting a really interesting look at the history of cars in Canada – and a big chunk of that history happened just down the road, in Oshawa. I would like to encourage you to search out their website. It’s really worth a look. The address is: www.canadianautomotivemuseum.com/

This is also an opportunity to remind you that guests are welcome to our Zoom meetings, just as they are to our regular meetings. At those regular meetings, we have been seeking a $5.00 fee for each guest, which has been well-received. I would encourage any guests at our Zoom meetings to consider a $5.00 donation to the Society – this is easy to do through an e-transfer process that I’ll be speaking further about shortly. For the Zoom link, please contact us at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

I’ve mentioned before that we have set up the opportunity to make membership payments to the Society through e-transfers, and I’m pleased to report that it’s working well. We’ve received a number of payments this way, and I must say that it’s really convenient. I would like to remind you that you have the option of rolling your 2020 fees over to cover 2021 – the choice is yours. If your choice is to pay the normal 2021 fees, I would encourage you to use an e-transfer. I know different banks have different processes, but our account is with TD, and you will have to use the Society’s email address to make the payment. Our address is: r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca . Another reminder: the annual fees are $25.00 for a single membership and $40.00 for a family membership.

I began this message by talking about March and the imminent arrival of spring, but it also means the imminent arrival of Councillor David West’s annual Maple Syrup Festival. The Richmond Hill Historical Society has been associated with the Festival from the beginning, and we’re certainly pleased with how it has grown. In 2020, the Festival had the misfortune to be the first City event to be cancelled because of the pandemic, but this year, it’s going ahead, albeit in a virtual format.

Join us for the 5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival, a virtual celebration hosted by Councillor David West. Sunday, March 21, 2021 10 am to 12 pm. http://DavidWest-Richmondhill.ca/Maple-syrup-festival Highlights: Join us for a free online experience to learn about Canada's sweetest national treasure, maple syrup! Attend an educational and interactive webinar. Learn how to tap a maple tree in our maple-themed resource centre. Participate in various activities for your chance to win a prize. Register today! In partnership with Richmond Hill Historical Society, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, City of Richmond Hill.
5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival Poster

Marj Andre and I have been part of the planning process for the Festival’s agenda, and I believe it’s shaping up to be a significant event, virtual or not. A big part of the Festival will be an educational and interactive webinar from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Sunday, March 21st. I would really encourage you to register for the Webinar on David West’s website – DavidWest-RichmondHill.ca/Maple-Syrup-Festival – and continue to offer the Festival the kind of support it deserves. The Webinar’s agenda includes:

  • Indigenous participation
  • Music, that was always a big hit
  • Maple artifacts
  • A maple beverage demo, and
  • An ecology presentation by TRCA.

Also available through the website will be opportunities to view maple syrup videos (tapping trees, boiling sap, storytelling) and to participate in a variety of activities, including maple-oriented arts and crafts, recipes – beyond pancakes – and a scavenger hunt. There is also a resource center available that will contain maple syrup facts and trivia.

So take advantage of this opportunity – participate in the webinar and get involved in the videos and other activities that are being made available. It’s a great chance to support our community and Councilor West. I’ve included the poster that has been created to support the festival below.

Thanks for your attention. I hope to see you on March 15th, at 7:30 PM.

Jim

President’s Message (February 2021)

Here I am again, reminding you about our upcoming regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 15th, at 7:30 PM.

Our last meeting, our Annual General Meeting, went really well. We had a great turnout, we heard reports from our various Executive members, though most of them were much shorter than usual, and Cheryl Butler led us through the election of our new Executive. The “Bring and Brag,” at the end of the meeting was terrific! There was a real variety of items presented, and their accompanying stories made them particularly interesting.

At our Executive meeting, a week ago, we were able to confirm the roles of our Executive for the coming year:

  • President – Jim Vollmershausen
  • Vice-President – Andrea Kulesh
  • Treasurer – Laura McMullen
  • Secretary – Vera Tachtaul
  • Membership – Karen Dance
  • Programming – Kevin dark
  • Publicity – Marj Andre
  • Social – Joan Lund
  • Director-at-Large – Cameron Telch
  • Representative to Heritage Richmond Hill – Marj Andre
  • Representative to Heritage Centre Advisory Committee – Jim Vollmershausen

As you can imagine, our collective wish for the coming year is to find ourselves able to get together in the same Hall and start getting back to normal. I don’t really have any idea about just when that might happen, though I personally wouldn’t expect to see it before the fall. The most important thing, at the end of the day, is to respect all of the protocols and stay safe! Vaccines are coming, slower than I would like, but I really hope that the Government’s goal of having anyone vaccinated who wants to be by September is met.

In my last message, I talked about a few events that were underway or planned in Richmond Hill that could help us have some fun and get through the rest of the winter. I hope some of you were able to participate in the “Skillage in the Village Scavenger Hunt,” which ran until the end of January, and I know that there was a lot of interest in the annual Winter Festival, which happened, virtually, of course, over this past weekend. I would like you to keep an eye out for information on Councilor West’s annual Maple Syrup Festival, which is scheduled for Sunday, March 21st. I know that there are lots of virtual and on-line events and activities being planned, so more information should be available soon

I’m pleased to see that a few e-transfers have been used to pay for 2021 membership dues, and it certainly does make life easier for us. I would like to encourage you to use this method of payment. If you would like further information, please contact us at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca. Also, please remember that if you wish to roll your 2020 dues that you’ve already paid over to 2021, please let us know.

Finally, back to the beginning. Please remember that our next regular meeting is this coming Monday, Feb. 15th, at 7:30 PM. The speaker will be – get ready for it – me. I’ve been asked to speak about my time in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, from 1973 to 1975. I’ll be using my own old slides from that time, and my memory, to talk about that remarkable place – not only its beauty, but also a bit about the culture and the people that I found there.

For meeting Zoom meeting details, contact us at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

Message from the President (October 9, 2020)

Hi again, everyone.

I hope you’re not getting tired of these messages – this darn pandemic is sure forcing us to experience new normals, including how we communicate with each other. Emails and Zoom meetings certainly aren’t my first choice for getting together or trying to provide people with information, but at the moment, they are, unfortunately, our best choice.

The main purpose of this message is to confirm that we will proceed with our first Zoom meeting on Monday, October 19th at 7:30 PM – the same date and time as our normal meeting would have been. Thankfully, Marj Andre has again agreed to organize and manage the meeting.

It would be great if you could let Marj and I know if you can join us, so we will know how many to expect. As I understand it, you can join a Zoom meeting through your laptop, tablet or smartphone, and I now have a webcam attached to my desktop monitor, so my desktop PC should work, as well. You will be asked to provide a name when you click on the link – please use your real name, rather than a code, so we know who you are. Also, feel free to join early, as early as 7:20 as Marj will certainly be on early and will be able to help if you have any questions. Marj also asked me to tell you that if you have any Zoom issues in advance of the call, to please get in touch with her directly. Marj can be reached by email at marj at marjandre.com, or by phone at 416 822 5139.

As with our normal meetings, Kevin Dark has arranged for a speaker at this meeting, as well. Mr. Gary Toffoli, of Canadian Royal Trust will talk about Richmond Hill’s namesake, the Fourth Duke of Richmond, Sir Charles Lennox.

I also wanted to let you know that I have heard from Maggie Mackenzie, with Heritage Services, and she reports that the planned renovations at the Heritage Centre are imminent. The Centre itself has been emptied, a contractor has been hired, and work is expected to be underway soon on the Centre and the gazebo. Maggie herself, in spite of a sojourn with the Parks people, has been able to devote time to the development of exhibits and is working on a variety of hybrid virtual/in-person programming.

Also, I wanted to let you know that there are still places available in the final two Walk and Learn Heritage Tours that I told you about in my last message. The first one, The Village Backstreets was held on Oct. 6th and was well received. The next one is North Yonge Street on Tuesday, Oct 13th at 10; 00 AM and the third one is Mill Pond History on Tuesday, Oct. 20th at 10; 00 AM.

Finally, I wanted to ask you that, if you know of any of our members who do not have access to a computer, you could pass on the information in these messages. I know there might be 18 or so members that do not have email addresses, so if you know any of them, I would really appreciate it if you could reach out to them and pass on some of the tidbits that I’ve provided.

Thanks again for your attention, and keep on staying safe.

And hope that you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

JIM

Message from the President (Sep 17, 2020)

In my last message, some weeks ago, I spent a fair bit of time worrying about uncertainties, decisions the Society might have to make, and decisions we all will have to make about getting together. I asked you to think about that last issue, and let me know your views. I’m pleased to say that many of you responded, and your views were clear – you would prefer virtual meetings

The Executive had similar views, so we proceeded to set up a Zoom meeting for last Thursday. Thank goodness Marj Andre was able to facilitate the whole thing, and we actually had our first Executive meeting by Zoom. It wasn’t perfect (I couldn’t get my audio to work, so I was on the phone), but we had a good meeting nonetheless and covered quite a bit of ground.

One of the more important items we discussed was responding to your preference for virtual Society meetings. Feeling we probably needed more time to get our (my) technology up to speed, we agreed that we would hold our first Zoom regular meeting on Monday, October 19th, which is when we would normally have met. So please mark the date. We’ll be in touch well in advance to give you some information on connecting to a Zoom meeting. I’ve participated in Zoom meetings on my cell, and I know my tablet will work as well. I think most laptops have cameras built in, and I have a webcam attached to my desktop monitor – so there are several ways to connect.

Another important item on our agenda was the question of 2020 and 2021 fees. We decided that, since 2020 was going to be sort of a non-year in terms of the Society, we would simply roll any fees that were paid for 2020 over to 2021 Some of you may choose to leave your 2020 fee in place and still pay for 2021 – that’s totally up to you. But we felt it was important to acknowledge the loss of our 2020 activities, and give our members a choice.

There were a number of other items discussed, as well:

  • I expect many of you saw the article in the Liberal about Richmond Hill’s Rose industry I’m pleased to let you know that the next article – on the Rebellion of 1837 – has been submitted. So keep your eye out – hopefully, it will appear soon.
  • I should have mentioned this in my last message, but we did determine that, as long as I am sending out these messages, we would forego our newsletter. Normally, another newsletter would be coming out around now – so don’t look for it.
  • We did get some information (thanks again, Marj) on two buildings we have been interested in. There has been no new developments regarding the Jefferson Schoolhouse – a demolition permit was denied by Council, and now we’re waiting for next steps. Also as you probably know, Dr. Duncomb’s Hall on Yonge Street was demolished, though I believe the Society helped ensure that original materials from the front façade of the building were salvaged and are stored at the Operations Centre. I’m not aware of any interior material that was salvaged.
  • Some of you may be wondering what became of the Bert Hunt Heritage Award this year – it would normally have been awarded at the Strawberry Social in June. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and it’s been decided to just wait until June 2021, when we can hopefully make the presentation in person.
  • And finally, you may have noticed that there are by-elections underway for York Region School Board Trustees in Wards 1, 2 and 4. It may be out of sync, and the pandemic will certainly influence how voting occurs, but I would urge you all to look for information and be sure to vote.

The last thing I wanted to mention was the availability of Walking Tours in Richmond Hill in October. Maggie Mackenzie is organizing these tours, and there are still spots available. I’ve included a lot of information about the tours below.

So that’s it for this message. I hope you found it useful. I’ll be sending out another one in a few weeks.

Thanks for your attention, and keep on staying safe.

I really hope I’ll see you soon.

Jim

Walk and Learn Heritage Tour Series

Enjoy fresh air, exercise and a healthy physically distanced walk through a historic neighbourhood and discover your community heritage! Tours are approximately 1.5 -2 hours long and take place rain or shine. Pre-registration required. COVID protocols will be in place.

The Village Backstreets

In contrast to the present-day traffic and commerce along Yonge Street, Richmond Hill’s side streets have historically been a quiet refuge. It was on these village backstreets that the ordinary citizens of the Victorian and Edwardian community lived in their comfortable but unpretentious houses. The village backstreets remain a desirable place to live, with large shade trees lining the streets, picket or plated fences, beautiful gardens and many fine old buildings.

Tuesday Oct 6, 10:00 AM
$4.20 per person
Elgin Barrow Arena Parking Lot
E-Reg Code: 60760

North Yonge Street

North Yonge Street in the village core is a unique part of the city featuring a history of politics, education, medicine and the arts!

Tuesday Oct 13, 10:00 AM
$4.20 per person
Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Art Parking Lot
E-Reg Code: 60761

Mill Pond History

Today’s Mill Pond is a place of recreation, but did you know when it was first created in the mid-1830s, it was a hub of industry and commerce.

Tuesday Oct 20, 10:00 AM
$4.20 per person
Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Art Parking Lot
E-Reg Code: 60762

Pre-Registration required for all tours. Please go to www.richmondhill.ca/en/find-or-learn-about/Heritage-Programs.aspx

Message from the President (Sep 1, 2020)

The last time you heard from me was in our May – August Newsletter, when I had the opportunity to reflect on the challenges we were all facing in the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown. When I look back on my comments at that time, I’m struck by how I was looking forward to getting back to some kind of normal, when we could have meetings, share our stories of how we coped with isolation and social distancing and generally carry on from where we left off – always the optimist.

Well, it’s now a few months later, and we are still faced with a lot of uncertainty. As much as Stage 3 has allowed us to experience a greater degree of normalcy, albeit with continued social distancing, the wearing of masks, and limits to social gatherings, we still don’t know when we might see the end of COVID-19 restrictions. We certainly don’t know when the Executive might be able to get together, or when we’ll be able to schedule our regular meetings. Even further, we don’t know what kind of decisions any of us will be making about how we live our lives. We all have our own circumstances to consider, which, in terms of the Society, will lead to very personal choices about whether or not we would even be comfortable in attending any kind of a meeting in the near future.

I thought it was important to let you know that, in spite of all the uncertainties, we have been thinking about how and when the Historical Society can get back into business. Based on discussions with the Church, we know that the earliest possible opportunity to use Wallace Hall for a meeting would be October, though we don’t know what limitations and protocols we might be faced with. I’m also concerned that circumstances might make any fall meetings unlikely.

Perhaps more importantly, we also don’t know what your views about attending a face-to-face meeting might be. This is something I would really appreciate your feedback on – how comfortable would you be to attend a meeting? Another option we have is to go high-tech and try a virtual meeting via ZOOM. I know that this is a very manageable option, and if you would prefer to give it a try rather than go to a meeting, I would be happy to set it up. My understanding is that it would be available to anyone with access to a computer.

So please get back to me on the question of whether you would prefer a face-to-face meeting or a virtual meeting via ZOOM. I will react accordingly.

In the meantime, we are looking to get an Executive Meeting organized soon (either face-to-face or virtual), where we will discuss such issues as budgets, fees, timing and scheduling, programming and speakers, and the format for a first meeting. When we have more information, I will let you know. Until we are back on a regular schedule, I intend to stay in touch with you through these messages – I hope you find them useful.

Thanks for your attention, and keep on staying safe – and please let me know what you prefer – real meetings or a ZOOM meeting.