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Location & Contact


Natasha Wiatr - Museum Curator

September to April: Thursday to Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm
May to August: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm

107 Lansdowne St.
P.O. Box 100
Callander, Ontario
P0H 1H0 

Phone: (705) 752-2282 
Fax:(705) 752-3116 
Email: or

Welcome to the new blog of the Callander Bay Heritage Museum & Alex Dufresne Gallery!


June 4, 2019

On this day, June 4, 1950 the monkeys were loose in Callander!

The following story was featured in one of our recent newsletters and was written by Don Clysdale.

Art Ranney and Danny Davis were pre-teens enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon by the Davis docks on Lansdowne Street, when they heard a funny noise, looked up and saw a boxcar flying through the air.

The train carrying the Bernard and Barry Midway from Toronto to Timmins derailed Sunday 4th of June, 1950 at 4:25 in the afternoon by the current Foodland, just south of the Callander train station. The first dozen cars were ok, but the next boxcar was trailing something which caught on the switch for the station yard, and sent the boxcar and the following ones flying. Thirteen boxcars and one passenger car left the rails and were smashed. Strangely, the caboose at the end stayed on the tracks.

One member of the circus cast, Arthur Gagne, 22, of Sudbury, was the only injury when he was hurled from the door of one of the cars. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in North Bay, and treated for bruises and shock.

The monkeys escaped and happily played on top of the overturned midway cars, but hurried to their keepers when they appeared. During repairs, the animals were taken from the wrecked boxcars. After the wreck, many children in the area were kept inside for fear there were still circus animals on the loose.

Main Street, also Highway 11 at the time, escaped being blocked, but Lansdowne Street (Hwy 94) was completely blocked, cutting off access to Quintland. Oliva Dionne, father of the quintuplet sisters, was trying to get to town, but had to turn back at the wreckage.

Callander Reeve Leonard Wookey was enjoying his Sunday afternoon nap at his Red Line Inn, when he heard the noise and looked out the window to see a boxcar flying towards him. It stopped in the sand 20 feet before the hotel.

About the most unhappy member of the crew was Lee Garridy of Toronto. He was playing poker with six others, and after 15 losses finally had a good hand when the wreck occurred. He was still carrying his cards in his hand as he looked at the wreckage an hour later.

The twisted rides, games and other accoutrements of the midway attracted almost as much attention as they would have in operation.

Repair crews were very busy repairing the hundreds of feet of chewed up rails and railway ties. Rail traffic started going through Callander again at 6:25 the following morning. In the interim, three trains were rerouted through Capreol. The circus was delayed for two weeks until the show was ready to go again.

It was a busy weekend for circus trains, as no fewer than four trains were in the area. The Bernard and Barry Midway was derailed in Callander. The Dailey Brothers show was setting up in Amelia Park in North Bay for its opening show Monday. Grey’s Show went through the city on its way to Sturgeon falls, and finally the Wallace Brother’s bright orange circus train sped on its way to New Liskeard.





June 3, 2019

“On this day…”

In 1934 the names of the Dionne quintuplets were written down for perhaps the first time, or at least one of the earliest times. Nurse Yvonne Leroux wrote in her diary: “They have been named – Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie and Marie in order of size. We have small tags on their coats with names on them.”

This picture, from Getty Images, shows Nurse Leroux placing one of the sisters in an incubator.



June 1, 2019

“On this day…”

In 1934 the North Bay Nugget published the news that Oliva Dionne has signed a contract with the Tour Bureau to exhibit the family at the Chicago World’s Fair. When the opportunity arose, Mr. Dionne spoke with Dr. Dafoe who advised him that the babies were not likely to survive and to make money while he could to provide support for the rest of his children and his sick wife. His priest, Father Daniel Routhier, accompanied Mr. Dionne to the business meeting in Orillia as his business manager. He would retain 7% profits from the deal that was to go towards the building of a new church in Corbeil, while the Dionnes would receive 23%.

The contract stipulated that the physician in charge, which would have been Dr. Dafoe, must declare that the mother and children are healthy enough to travel – this was a clause in the contract that Mr. Dionne had requested to add. This prevented the removal of the sisters before they were healthy enough to travel. The Tour Bureau would provide special transportation for the entire family, including the grandfather, doctor, and nurse, and assume all costs of the trip including salaries of everyone attending.

From Lilian Barker’s The Quints Have A Family page 59, on why he signed the contract: “Because his wife and babies were so critically ill, and, in his financial distress he hadn’t known how, even if they survived, he could provide the medical care they would all require for months and months to come.”

Here is technicolour footage of the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair:

May 30, 2019

“On this day…”

In 1934 Chicago reporter Charlie Blake arrived at the Dionne homestead hauling an 1895 incubator after being stopped at the customs boarder. It would have typically fit one baby, but, being so tiny, three of the Dionne quintuplets were placed inside of it. From Louise de Kiriline Lawrence’s book The Quintuplets’ First Year, “It’s outer walls were formed into a container which was filled with warm water. Inside there was a thermometer to control the heat. A sponge always kept moist provided the necessary humidity of the air circulating past the baby inside.” The incubators never ran on electricity or were powered by kerosene. Dr. Dafoe reportedly told Mr. Blake that “those babies don’t know what they owe you” as the timely arrival of the machine had given the girls a chance to fight for survival.

Elzire Dionne looks into the incubator at her daughters while Nurse Yvonne Leroux looks on. Courtesy of the Callander Bay Heritage Museum.

This incubator is currently part of the Saint Louise Science Center Collections because it was built and designed in Saint Louis by Aloe Medical.

Interestingly, Coney Island nursed premature babies back to their proper weight using incubators, but there was a catch: the babies would be on display for a paying public to see. The profit would go back to paying the nurses for their care and for other operating costs, they did not charge the parents. They essentially saved thousands of American babies this way.

Infants in incubators on display at Coney Island 1939-1940. Image courtesy of New York Public Library.

Thanks to Sarah Miller ( for helping us find some articles to verify information regarding the incubators! Sarah will be releasing her new book “The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets” on August 27 and will be here at the museum that day signing copies of her book and answering your questions.

April 10, 2019

Artefact: Dionne quintuplets guard clock
Accession Number: 2018.420.02

As their popularity increased, many people feared for the safety of the Dionne quintuplets and their fears were warranted – there were multiple failed kidnapping attempts throughout 1934 and 1935. In March 1935, the Ontario Provincial Police were brought in to guard the nursery 24/7, and a station was built at the entrance. The image to the bottom left shows the nursery to the right, and the guard station to the left. During their nightly rounds, the guards would bring a watchclock with them where, at various stations around the property, they would insert a key and “clock in” the time they were at that location. This ensured they were not sleeping on the job!

Originally on loan to us for our “Northern Coney Island” exhibit, the donor, Leonard Belsher, decided to permanently donate this unique artefact to our museum last spring, and we thank him for his generosity!

2018-420-02-quint-guard-clock-front 2018-420-02-quint-guard-clock-back-clasp-closed 2018-420-02-quint-guard-clock-bottom 2018-420-02-quint-guard-clock-inside 2018-420-02-quint-guard-clock-back-close-up-label