The PMHS Outreach Program

The Paris Museum strives to inform and educate the public about the history of Paris, its buildings and families. However, some people, such as seniors, may not be able to come to the museum. So the museum comes to them.

The volunteers that are involved in our Outreach program visit Telfer Place on Grand River Street in Paris, Tranquility Place in Brantford and starting in March will visit Park Lane Terrace, also on Grand River Street in Paris.

The presentations may include videos about the Penmans factories, farming in the area and parades and events in 1940s Paris. Outreach volunteers also bring artifacts to show during presentations. The Museum has a traveling “What’s This” box. Seniors can look at and handle objects from the box while trying to guess what the objects were used for. Some volunteers bring storyboards about topics like the Coronation of Elizabeth II or Prohibition.

The presentations are informative and cover topics like how the cobblestone houses unique to our area were built and how exclusive miniatures depicting those cobblestone buildings, on display in our museum, are made.

The presentations also often evoke memories for the seniors who attend. For instance, a PMHS video showing interviews with area farmers brought back vivid memories of growing up on farms or owning farms for some seniors who attended a recent presentation. And they happily shared their memories with others who attended.

If you are interested in helping with the Outreach program, or would like more information, send an email to The Outreach Program Co-ordinator will also have a sign-up sheet at PMHS’s upcoming Annual General Meeting and will be available to answer questions at that time. The AGM will be held on Sunday, February 25th starting at 2 pm.

– Ursula O’Brien

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Paris Museum and Historical Society

It’s Christmas day. The sun is strong and bright overhead, the snow squeaky under my feet. I can feel my cheeks reddening with the cold. I am wearing my new Christmas outfit, a tartan kilt with a hunter green cardigan and tights to match. And I am walking the three blocks from my home to my grandparent’s house for our annual Christmas family gathering. Once everyone has arrived it will be happy chaos. The modest white-framed house, so lovingly and diligently maintained inside and out, will be bursting at the seams. But for now I am savouring the quiet. There’s no one else in sight. All I hear is church bells. It feels perfect. Like a true introvert, I am storing this feeling of peace against the hurly burly that I know is coming. I am also happily anticipating the fact that, because I have volunteered to come early and help my beloved Grandmother with preparations (she won’t actually need my help, everything will be under control and under her thumb), I will have her to myself for a little while.

The above is a moment in time from one of my happiest remembrances of childhood Christmases. I hope that you also have some happy memories of Christmas and that you will have a chance this year to make many more with your loved ones.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Paris Museum and Historical Society!

2017 has been a busy year for PMHS. Our energetic and committed volunteers have researched, catalogued, cleaned, organized, blogged, fundraised, filed and just generally participated in a million and one activities — all necessary to keep our organization on track, so that we can keep Paris’ history alive for future generations. So it’s time to say a huge “Thank-you” to all of you. And that includes not just our active volunteers but also all of our devoted members and community supporters as well. None of the magic happens without you!

It seems fitting in this holiday season to take the time to reflect not just on the past year, but on the coming one as well. Rest assured, there’s a lot in store for PMHS moving forward into 2018.

To find out more about what’s coming up, please mark Sunday, February 25th on your calendar and plan to join us at our Annual General Meeting. It’s a chance to catch up with other like-minded supporters of local history, have a look at our current exhibit if you haven’t been in for a while and get a glimpse into the inner workings of our organization. We hope to see you there.

But for now, I hope that you are happily anticipating those little moments either alone or in company, that will make your Christmas bright and memorable.

Cate Breaugh

Gift shop ends the year on a high note

Thanks to an influx of new vendors, some well-timed marketing and a donation of tapestries depicting landmarks of Paris, our gift shop was a busy, profitable place in the last two months of 2017.

In the final four days before our Dec. 17 Christmas break, we chalked up an extraordinary $700 in sales.

The hottest selling item of the season was our Paris afghans/tapestries, depicting town landmarks. Volunteer Steve Pinkett brought in a donation of 42, provided by Mary Maxim. Just one — the display model — remained on closing day.

Other top sellers included copies of At the Forks of the Grand — Parts I and II, written half a century ago by Donald A. Smith, one of the founders of the Paris Museum; photographic prints of Paris scenes by volunteer Wayne Wilkinson; one-of-a-kind jewelry, hand-crafted soaps with ceramic dishes and maps of Paris.

Under the leadership of gift shop manager Chris Galloway, the entire inventory of the gift shop is now digitized for our new tracking system. It is now possible to produce a daily, weekly or monthly account of how many items were sold, how each was paid for and what needs to be re-ordered.

As a back-up, our paper bookkeeping is being kept in operation until all front-desk volunteers are trained to operate the museum’s new electronic system.

The steady improvement in the museum’s 2-year-old gift shop is the result of a team effort. Chris recruited and interviewed vendors, welcoming suggestions from PMHS volunteers. Sharon Murphy got the word out, Ursula O’Brien recommended new artisans. And Steve Pinkett, as mentioned, delivered boxloads of Paris afghans donated by Mary Maxim.

For those seeking warmth as the temperature plummets in January, there are plenty of winter hats still in stock. We also have a good supply of 2018 calendars with spectacular photos of Paris, produced by Concerned Citizens of Brant.

The museum and gift shop re-open on Jan. 3, 2018.

Carol Goar

Volunteer appreciation reception

Honouring a tradition initiated in 2002, the Paris Museum and Historical Society held a volunteer appreciation reception in early December.

The first such gathering was hosted by Marg Deans. It consisted of a horse-drawn wagon ride followed by potluck dinner.

This year’s get-together was held at the festively decorated museum.

The highlight of the afternoon was a talk by pottery collector Sean Murphy about the origin of local pottery and earthenware; what antique collectors should know about the price of these items; and how to differentiate a genuine antique from an old, but not valuable, jar.

Volunteers — both antiquarians and interested novices — listened intently as he illustrated the attributes and estimated the selling price of pieces of pottery from his own collection, then answered questions about everything from where to go treasure hunting; to whether to buy a piece just because you like it.

After a break, where volunteers mingled over wine, punch, fruit and goodies in the research room, they were called back to participate in a prize draw.

Each person had received a ticket at the door. When his or her number was picked out a drum, the individual was invited to the prize table to choose one prize. Pictures, puzzles, aprons, tote bags and books were available.

There were more prizes than tickets, so most volunteers ended up with at least two items. On their way out, they also received a goodie bag and sincere thanks for their dedication.

The reception was a collective effort but Cate Breaugh, Sean and Sharon Murphy and Marie Williamson deserve special thanks for their leadership.

Carol Goar

Volunteer Appreciation

On Sunday, December 3rd the hard-working volunteers of the Paris Museum and Historical Society gathered for a Volunteer Appreciation event. Attendees enjoyed a buffet, prize draws and a presentation by bottle collector, museum member and volunteer Sean Murphy.

Rick O’Brien

PMHS Volunteer Awards

Congratulations to Bob Hasler and Sharon Murphy on receiving volunteer awards. The awards were given in recognition of outstanding contributions made to our community as Canada and Ontario celebrate their 150th anniversary.

On September 9th 2017 Phil McColeman MP and Dave Levac MPP hosted an award ceremony at the Sanderson Centre in Brantford. At the ceremony 150 volunteers from Brant County were given awards for their outstanding volunteer work. The ceremony also honoured Dave Levac, who will be retiring in June 2018, with a speech of appreciation by Phil McColeman and a slide show of Levac’s years of service.

Contributed by Ursula O’Brien

PMHS: quiet partner in the Syl Apps banner raising

Toronto has long claimed hockey legend Syl Apps as its own. His banner hung over the ice in the Air Canada Centre for 18 years, saluting the Maple Leafs team captain’s NHL career which included three Stanley Cups wins.

But that was only one of his remarkable achievements.

He was a football star at McMaster University, winning two national championships; an Olympic pole vaulter; a World War II veteran; a Progressive Conservative MPP and a cabinet minister.

When the Leafs offered the 16-foot banner to Apps’ hometown this fall, Brant County wanted to celebrate his whole story, not just the Toronto chapter.

John Bishop, supervisor of the Syl Apps Centre, knew exactly where to turn. He asked Sharon Murphy of the Paris Museum and Historical Society to pull together a display featuring personal memorabilia that documented the rise of the bright young Paris athlete to the to the top ranks of the NHL, to the Olympics, to the provincial legislature and to the status of national sports legend.

Sharon, working with a handful of PMHS volunteers, didn’t have much time, but she created a visual history ensuring that Apps’s roots, multiple awards and his leadership — on and off the ice — were recognized.

The banner raising took place at the Brant Sports Complex on November 4 at 7 p.m. A good crowd was on hand to cheer the homecoming. Mayor Ron Eddy shared his recollections of Apps, who was 16 years older than him. “I had the privilege of meeting Apps when I was in Grade 13 and he was the guest speaker.” The two Parisians met again when Apps was elected MPP for Kingston and the Islands and Eddy was his counterpart for Brant-Haldimand

There were congratulations and thanks all around. Neither the Brantford Expositor nor Brant News mentioned the museum’s contribution.

Sharon was philosophical. She had the satisfaction of a job well done and the museum was “golden” in the eyes of the county, one of its principal supporters.

Carol Goar with files from Sharon Murphy

Bawcutt Centre one step closer

The Paris Old Town Hall — now known as The Bawcutt Centre — has become a Designated Heritage Property. The plaque was unveiled during a ceremony on November 20th, 2017. The event was attended by the Centre’s namesake, former Paris mayor Jack Bawcutt.

– Rick O’Brien

Canada embraced Ku Klux Klan in early 20th century

The spirit of the Ku Klux Klan is alive today in Canada, professor Jim Penton told a hushed audience at the Paris Museum. “It shows up in the anti-refugee, anti-indigenous, anti-immigrant attitudes we see today.”

The purpose of Penton’s lecture was two-fold; first to disprove the myth that Canada is — or ever was — immune to racial hatred; and second to demonstrate that, even without hooded gowns and burning crosses, white supremacism is deeply rooted in Canada.

“Weren’t we a lot better?” Penton asked rhetorically, referring to the early 20th century. “Absolutely not!”

He cited three ugly examples of the Klan’s racist activities in Canada:

In Oakville in 1930, a mixed-race couple was forcibly separated by a troop of hooded Klansmen from Hamilton, their house set aflame. When the police chief arrived, the leaders took off their hoods. Recognizing several of them, he assured the group no arrests would be made, no charges laid.

In Barrie, a Catholic church was dynamited in 1926, allegedly at the secret hand of the KKK.

In London, a South Carolina Klansman fleeing U.S. police in 1872 was hailed as a local hero. When American detectives seized him, took him across the border and charged him with the murder of a black man, an outcry went up among Canadians. Anxious to avoid an international showdown, U.S. marshals dispatched him back to Ontario, where he was warmly welcomed and spent his life.

Two characteristics made Canada’s white supremacist movement different from its American counterpart, Penton explained. It was nurtured by many mainstream institutions — the Presbyterian Church, the Salvation Army and the Orange Lodge Order. Its targets were not just black — it propagated hatred toward Roman Catholics, Jews, “Indians” and people of mixed race. Its goal was to keep Canada British, Protestant and white.

Although Penton has no personal knowledge of KKK activity in Paris, he told the audience “I have no doubt the Klan was here.” He pointed to rumours of cross burnings and reports of a by-law forbidding black people from staying in Paris overnight.

In fact, local historians have found evidence that the Ku Klux Klan held an organizing meeting in Paris on April 27, 1927. It circulated a manifesto, obtained by the (Paris) Star-Transcript, listing these objectives:

  • To honour the glorious Union Jack;
  • To serve the Protestant Church;
  • And to advocate white supremacy and racial purity.

At the time, there were no blacks in town. The 2 Jewish families were well-respected. And there was little antipathy between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Enthusiasm for the movement quickly fizzled.

Penton, now 85 and retired from the University of Lethbridge, felt the brush of the KKK personally. He grew up in small-town Saskatchewan. His family belonged to a small sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He has Metis ancestry, making him vulnerable on two counts. He remembers a neighbour’s house being burnt to the ground.

At 16 years of age, his parents sent him to Arizona, ostensibly because of ill health. He went to high school in Tucson, earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona and acquired his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Iowa.

“I’ve seen so much hatred in my life that I feel very strongly about human freedom,” he said in an interview. “We could all be a little more compassionate.”

Carol Goar

“We will remember them”

Marie Williamson and Carol Goar shared the honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the Paris Museum and Historical Society on the cenotaph this year.

Remembrance Day dawned sunny but bitterly cold (minus 2 degrees.) Despite the weather, close to 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony, spilling out into Grand River Street North and Mechanic Street.

The wreath-laying was part of the lead-up to the 2 minutes of silence. Marie and Carol, who arrived early, placed the PMHS wreath on the cenotaph shortly after 10 am. They were escorted by a veteran, who provided directions, saluted their wreath smartly and accompanied them back.

By 11 am when bugler Geoff Adeney sounded the last post, the cenotaph was covered with dozens of identical wreaths — from relatives and comrades of deceased veterans, service clubs, churches, retirement homes, Girl Guides, Scouts, local firefighters and police, all three levels of government and the Royal Canadian Legion.

The only sound during the 2-minute pause was the mournful bark of a cold dog; a fitting remembrance of the misery in which 19,252 Canadians died at Vimy Ridge and Passenchdale 100 years earlier.

The silence was broken by Reverend Canon Mario Hryniewicz, reading the familiar words: “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not wear them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

The crowd repeated: “We will remember them.”

After the 90-minute ceremony, Marie who grew up in Paris, said she was struck by how well-attended the event was on a wintry morning. “Boy were there ever a lot of new faces,” she observed.

Carol, who is adjusting to small-town life, was stirred by the coming together of old and young. From babies bundled up blankets in their wagons to veterans wrapped in eiderdowns in their wheelchairs, everyone was united in the act of remembrance and gratitude.

Carol Goar