In 1992 I joined the Paris Museum & Historical Society. I quickly became a board member assisting the curator Fred Bemrose.

In the 1990’s we negotiated with the Paris Library to take over their archives, located on the second floor of the library. Many people joined us then – people like Roger Sharpe, who volunteered many hours.

By 1998, Fred had retired and I was appointed curator in his place.

In October of 1998 we were asked by the Public Utilities Commission to re-locate as they needed their space in the basement where we were storing our collections.

At the beginning of November we moved into a rental warehouse space on Woodslee Ave. Moving day began as a clear day, but just after the last box was in the new warehouse, it started to snow and didn’t stop for at least another day. Three months later we were very glad that we had moved when the basement space we had been in with the Public Utilities Commission flooded to the ceiling! Our collections would have been lost!

Through 1999 on most Saturdays, Norma Maus and I, with a few others sporadically helping, started cataloging the vast number of artifacts in our collection. Cataloging then was primitive compared to what we do today.

Over the next several years not only did I do the curator’s job, but I also held positions on the Board. I was President three times, Secretary twice and various other positions.

At some point it was time to hire a curator as a full time position. It was then that Lana Jobe became our new curator.

Finances have always been a concern. As money from the bequest from the Cox family was running out, rental costs became a concern. It was decided to move to a county-owned facility to reduce our costs. Interest income did not match our expenses and we were growing in leaps and bounds.

Even after moving to the county-owned Syl Apps Arena, money became a serious issue. We could no longer support Lana’s salary and so Lana left the museum soon after. It was a difficult time for the museum, but we pulled together.

Mary Gladwin took over the helm and with her husband, Bob Groucock, they started getting The Paris Museum back on track. An appeal went out for volunteers, and many of us came back to pitch in once again. I became the Curator again with Bob Groucock’s support. One day after I was talking with him, he went home, went to bed and never woke up. That put a huge hole in our operations. It took quite a while for us to get back on our feet, but we did.

Since that time we have made great strides forward with our museum and archives. Through this time, I am proud to have been able to take the lead at our museum and archives collections. Since I first started as curator in 1998, I have made it my mission to make the archives “User Friendly”.

Approximately two years ago, I came to the realization that I needed to start looking for a replacement curator. With the Board’s help, a search was carried out. About eight months ago that person was found. I started training and nurturing them, telling them the stories I had learned, the history behind the collections and much more.

I was going to hand over the Curator’s position at the AGM, but recently I found this person was not going to be attending the AGM as they would be travelling.

So the day of the Volunteer Appreciation event seemed like a better day to pass the torch to Tina Lyon while surrounded by our volunteers. I have worked with and shared so many stories with them as a team of friends to enhance PMHS.

The “Assessment Register” book is a symbol of the Curator’s duties. It is the starting point where the curator assigns a donation its number, records the donor’s name and writes an overview of what has been donated. It is a fitting symbol to pass on.

I have had the pleasure of watching your new curator blossom over these last few months. She is thorough, inquisitive, investigative, has a good memory, is gifted with many talents and is easy to work with.

And so it gives me great pleasure to hand over this book as the symbol of the title, “Curator”, to Tina Lyon to carry on the work as our new curator for PMHS from this time forward.

Thank you all for your patience and dedication while working/volunteering with me.

Bob Hasler

Ken Sinclair

Ken was born in Paris and grew up on Spruce Street, corner of Franklin and Spruce. He and his dad had a plumbing and electrical company run out of their home. Later he worked for the PUC as an electrician. One of his first jobs was to read hydro meters and by doing so got to meet many of the town’s people and got to know their stories.

He joined PMHS in February of 1973 and was the mover and shaker of the organization, helping Fred Bemrose setup displays, like the military display each year at the Legion and the museum display in the council chambers, and move the heavy stuff around to various storage places etc. over the years. He told many stories about Paris to both Pat and I and others like Marie and Marg. He also was a conduit for many donations to the PMHS as he knew so many people. When these people were ready to donate an artifact etc. they would phone him and he would get it and bring it in along with the story about the item. He was still active in the society well into his 80’s.

I worked with him at Paris Fair time when we inspected and replaced lighting at the fair grounds in preparation for the Paris Fair and during the fair.

Ken was a life member of the PMHS. He became this during one of my tenures as president. For the last year he was living in longterm care at Telfer Place. I would see him on Sunday afternoons when Pat and I would visit a relative. I would say “How’s it going Ken?” and he would say, “Hi Bob doing ok.”

I miss him greatly.

Bob Hasler

Annual General Meeting

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at
Each year, members of the Paris Museum & Historical Society are encouraged to attend our Annual General Meeting. It’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with what’s going on at the Paris Museum. It’s also a great time to give us your feedback about the past year and let us know what you would like to see happen in the coming year. All members in good standing have a vote, and memberships can be renewed at or before the AGM.

Join us as we prepare for an exciting 2019 together!

Sunday, February 24, 2019
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The Paris Museum & Historical Society
Syl Apps Community Centre,
51 William Street
Paris, Ontario

(Enter directly from the parking lot)


President’s Holiday Message

It’s rainy and grey outside my window today. The snow has been and gone, but I hope that it’s coming back. It just doesn’t seem festive if there’s no snow glistening rooftops during the yuletide.

However you feel about the weather during the festive season and however you chose to celebrate, I hope that you have a chance to experience peace with those you love and who love you. The board of the Paris Museum and Historical Society want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the beauty of the season find its way into your heart and give purpose to all that you do.

This has been the usual busy year for us at PMHS. When I try to think about all the projects that we’ve worked on in the last 12 months, my mind is a jumble of tasks big and small. Some with an end in sight, and some that can never, by their nature, be finished.

Our devoted volunteers have organized, catalogued, researched, created, explained, fund-raised, donated, welcomed, tidied, fixed, and discovered. And they have done these things and many more, over and over again, with heart, humour and humanity. Of course, no human endeavour is without conflict but somehow or other we manage to embrace the problems, wind our way through the issues, and get on with the job. I am so proud of us for this. No organization could continue for as long as we have (since 1972) without doing most things right (or at least well enough).

One of our biggest challenges looming on the horizon is that we may have to relocate perhaps sooner than we thought. As most of you may know by now, the County of Brant Library system has chosen the Syl Apps Community Centre site for their new main branch. As far as I know, the County has not made any decisions at this time and no timelines have been established for doing so. But the possibility that they may be looking at the redevelopment of the building that we call home has increased. And so the board is beginning to grapple with the task of trying to establish a new future home for the organization. This will be a very large and complex job, and that’s not even considering the execution of a major move.

As daunting as this is, it also presents us with the perfect opportunity to find a permanent home for PMHS. Communities need museums. They need archives. And they need historical societies. And our community needs a lasting home for these things to be secure.

The County’s heritage organizations are the keepers and nurturers of our communities’ collective memory. We can tell you about and share pictures of the people who lived, worked and played here. We can show you how your community has changed over time. We can also help you see what has endured and is enduring here.

In this fast paced world, it is easy to forget the past, and through its neglect, lose its lessons. Many of you may know the lyric to the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell (my age is showing here). It goes, “they paved paradise to put up a parking lot”. Well, there’s little PMHS can do about new parking lots, and many would say that more are needed. But we can tell you the stories that live beneath the parking lot.

With the challenge of finding a new home coming towards us, now, more than ever, PMHS needs you. Nothing is accomplished without the passion of volunteers who give so generously of their time and money so that Paris’s heritage may be preserved and understood by future generations.

We look forward to seeing you at our Annual General Meeting in February.

Cate Breaugh
Paris Museum and Historical Society

Lessons of the 1918 flu pandemic

In the dying days of the First World War a second cataclysm struck: the Spanish flu. The 1918 influenza pandemic sapped armies, spread panic throughout the civilian population and racked up a death toll of approximately 100 million.

A century later, it remains one of the deadliest disease outbreaks on record.

Credit: University of Waterloo

In August of 1918, a virulent strain of the virus crossed the Atlantic and started spreading across Canada. It hit Paris on Sept. 27, according to the Star-Transcript. Large numbers of townsfolk experienced chills, aches and pain in the back and limbs, a severe sore throat, fits of sneezing, a flushed face and temperatures between 101 and 104 degrees.

“The passing of Louise Marie Snell came as a shock to many who were not aware of her severe illness,” the newspaper reported. “The entire family had been down with the influenza but were convalescing nicely. Mrs. Snell, however, took a relapse on Thursday and pneumonia developed. She passed peacefully away at the age of 32.”

That was often the way it happened. An influenza attack typically lasted from two to five days. It left victims so miserable they scarcely cared whether they lived or died. If they pulled through, they remained weak, tired and susceptible to complications for weeks. Many came down with pneumonia, acute bronchitis and severe asthma. It was these opportunistic illnesses — not the flu itself — that took their lives.

Advertisement: Toronto Globe 1918

As reports of disease multiplied, panic set in, driving people to quacks with all manner of contraptions and cures.

On Oct. 16, Paris town council ordered the closing of schools, churches, dance halls, moving picture shows, pool rooms and concert halls, in an effort to halt the spread of the outbreak. A week later, it authorized a 30-bed emergency hospital in the armoury, staffed by volunteer nurses and orderlies.

One of the saddest stories of that time was the death of Dr. Alpheus Lovett, a well-liked physician who worked tirelessly to save lives during the outbreak. On Oct. 18, he succumbed.

He was 45 years old with a wife and four young children. According to the Star-Transcript: “Day and night during the whole illness citizens were constantly inquiring about the doctor’s condition. It was felt by everyone that a life so energetic and useful, so devoted to the community and so needed at a time like this must recover. But a gloom came over the community when the news of his death was known.”

By November, the epidemic had begun to taper off. On Armistice Day, relieved Parisians ventured out of their homes at 11 am to celebrate the end of the World War and the abatement of the disease. In the evening, there was dancing on the street, followed by a torchlight procession and fireworks.

Forty-one townspeople died in the pandemic, 10 of them young children. Approximately 1500 Parisians were infected. The province-wide death toll was 8,705.

What makes this relevant today — besides the fact that 2018 is the centenary of the pandemic — is how few lessons we have learned.

Centers for Disease Control

Today we have antibiotics that would have cut the death toll in 1918. But two-thirds of us don’t get a flu shot.

No one can predict when a strain of the flu as lethal and highly contagious as the 1918 variant on the H1N1 virus will return. But instead of preparing, global leaders are impeding our chances of finding an effective remedy by erecting trade barriers and slapping tariffs on a growing list of items. Caught in the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China is the latest Chinese flu vaccine research.

The precautions our medical authorities prescribe are much the same as those recommended by their counterparts a century ago. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; wash your hands regularly; stay home from work and school if you have a fever or flu symptoms. Yet many of us still don’t. We’re too busy, too preoccupied with other priorities, too willing to take our chances.

May we be luckier than our forebears.

by Carol Goar

Sources: At the Forks of the Grand, Volume II by D.A Smith, PMHS files, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, TVO, Statistics Canada

Our turn to carry the torch

Bells peeled and sirens pierced the air at dawn on Nov. 11, 1918. Parisians rushed out of their homes cheering, shouting and waving torches. “The war to end all wars” was finally over.

Neighbours hugged each other with joy and relief. It was a noisy, happy chaotic celebration.

The 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended WWI was more subdued.

Close to a thousand citizens gathered at the Paris Cenotaph to honour those killed in war.

They acknowledged the horrendous cost of war: lives cut short, families shattered, communities stripped of their young talent. They imagined the massacres at Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge and Ypres. They renewed their pledge never to forget the sacrifice of a generation that fought so bravely.

Ninety-four soldiers and one nursing sister from Paris were killed between 1914 and 1918 or succumbed to their injuries in the months afterward. For a town of just 4,200, it was a devastating blow.

This year’s Remembrance Day ceremony held special significance — partly because it marked the centenary of the Armistice that ended WWI; but also because two new stones had been erected at the cenotaph correctly identifying every individual lost in WWI and WWII.

These pristine stones, a year and a half in the making, had been dedicated just two weeks earlier. They stood like sentinels against the grey sky as the crowd gathered to mark Remembrance Day. Over the course of the morning, their appearance was softened by dozens of wreaths; laid by descendants of the fallen, schoolchildren, police officers, firefighters, politicians, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, and representatives of local churches, service clubs and charitable organizations.

Marie Williamson, accompanied by Carol Goar, laid a wreath on behalf of the Paris Museum and Historical Society.

“They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,” said Reverend Canon Mario Hryniewicz at the ceremony. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

The crowd repeated the familiar words: “We will remember them.”

The Ayr-Paris Band played hymns of remembrance. The Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band added the skirl of bagpipes.

As a lasting reminder, members of Branch 29 of the Royal Canadian Legion gave everyone a bookmark inscribed with John McCrae’s poignant Word War I poem, In Flanders Fields.

After the benediction, families walked home together or warmed up in local restaurants and coffee shops. A few lingered to get a close look at the monument with its two new stones.

Similar ceremonies were held across the country, uniting Canadians in a moment of gratitude and remembrance.

The Paris Museum presented a slideshow of portraits of those paid the ultimate price. The pictures are part of its Fred Bemrose collection. Bemrose, a founder and early curator of the museum, spent years diligently collecting photos of everyone who served.

At 5 pm, church bells tolled across Paris in a final tribute to the soldiers, sailors, nurses, airmen who made the supreme sacrifice.

– by Carol Goar