Opens May 26, 2018: The Northern Coney Island
Quintuplet Drive. Dionneville. The Quintuplet Village. Quintland. All these names described a stretch of road no longer than 300 meters that attracted over 3 million tourists in the 30s and 40s to come and watch five identical girls dance and play in an outdoor observatory. This “Coney Island of the North” rivalled Niagara Falls as the top tourist destination in Canada as thousands of people were counted waiting in line for the free shows that took place each day. Luckily for the area, an influx of tourists meant an opportunity for business and commercialization, and it did not take long for souvenir shops, information booths, public restrooms, and even a teepee to arrive, where guests could have their photo taken with a First Nations Chief.
Over 20 buildings (some built from scratch, some moved to different locations, others gained additions) covered this landscape between 1934 and 1938, with the exception of the Big House in 1943. Outside of this area, other souvenir shops opened up in downtown Callander just 5 minutes away. This exhibit explores the timeline of these buildings, and the evolution of Quintland, from a regular country road to a bustling attraction, that compared to the likes of Radio City Music Hall, Mount Vernon, and Gettysburg.
Amelia Earhart: Her Life, Her Death and Her Trip to Callander
It was a common sight for celebrities to be spotted around the Dionne Quintuplet Observatory, or sitting and chatting with Dr. Dafoe in his office, and 80 years ago one such woman came to Callander. In 1937 famed female aviator, author, fashion designer, advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment and columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine Amelia Earhart visited the region to meet Dr. Dafoe and see the Dionne Quintuplets. It was only 6 weeks after this visit to Callander that her plane disappeared in the South Pacific and her fate, while wildly speculated on, has never been proven. It was not her first trip to Canada as she was actually a resident of Toronto in 1918 when she trained as a nurse’s aide to contribute to the war effort and it was here where her lifelong love of aviation was ignited and her life course completely changed.
It was long believed Earhart and her husband, George Putnam, came to Callander for a simple vacation to see the Dionne Quintuplets: however, recent research suggests that Earhart may have had business to discuss in Callander. To discover more about Earhart’s story and her visit to Callander, come see our informational exhibit at the Callander Bay Heritage Museum available starting July 1st, 2017.
The Barber Shop
Our turn-of-the-century barber shop is one of the most unique aspects to our museum. Complete with a working barber pole installed at the entrance, take a stroll through time and see the original chairs from the shop, a wall of mugs (used by the regulars at the time), old razors and more. It was first owned by Eugene Dufresne and then later his son, Alex Dufresne. Alex apprenticed many barbers who then went on to run their own shops in the area. The shop was also used as a Credit Union where loans were given on a handshake. The shop was originally located on the Main Street in Callander before making the move to the old Dafoe house in 1979 where it was retired from regular use. Along with many other artefacts also donated by Alex, it was set up as a permanent display in the new North Himsworth Museum (later changed to the Callander Bay Heritage Museum).
The Story of the Dionne Quintuplets and Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe
This room explores the international sensation of the Dionne Quintuplets and the “country doctor” of the 1930s through artefacts that include photos, charts, books, newspaper articles and old newsreels (available to view on request). There is also clothing and souvenir memorabilia, as well as old advertisements and an exhibit entitled “When Hollywood Came To Callander” which depicts the various celebrities of the 1930s who trekked to Northern Ontario to meet the doctor and view the Quints and the 3 Hollywood films the Quints themselves starred in. Our collection of over 400 artefacts also includes many from Dafoe’s personal life such as his short wave radio, his (now) 100-year old pump Karn organ, the wedding dress of his mother’s from the 1880s and many of his medical instruments. In addition the room gives a flashback to the doctor’s life during the Quintuplet era, as the original phone line to the Dafoe Hospital/Nursery is on the wall. This was how he stayed in contact with the nurses while he was at home.
Shipping on Lake Nipissing
Originally the office and examination room of Dr. Dafoe, this room now explores the nautical history of Lake Nipissing. Because of the strong presence of the lumber industry in the area, shipping became very important and at one point there was approximately 54 working ships/tugboats on the lake. Our collection features models of the Chief Commanda I, Northern Belle, Woodchuck, Sea Gull I and Sea Gull II, artefacts such as compasses, barometers, spotlights and steam whistles, and many photos and paintings of the boats and their crew. In addition, our museum houses artefacts from the John Fraser shipwreck of 1893 – the worst shipping disaster in Lake Nipissing history. After remaining under water for 80 years, the North Bay Scuba Club discovered the wreck in 1972 retrieved many of the objects during an “underwater excavation”. Most notable of these objects on display is the steam whistle, which is in surprisingly stable condition. Some of our Fraser collection is currently on loan to Discovery North Bay Museum, and we encourage you to visit their display to see the rest of the artefacts.
Saw Mills and the Logging Industry
J.B. Smith and Sons, J.R. Booth, and the Payette Lumber Company all operated mills along Callander Bay. McBurney and Leacock, Darling and Sons, A.B. Gordon, the Canadian Timber Company and Callander Industries Limited (Gary Mote’s Mill) ran at different times but at the same location, at present day Centennial Park. There is evidence of other mills as well operating in the Callander area. The bay provided a calm body of water for the operations, and the area was abundant in the highly sought after white pine which attracted many lumber tycoons and men seeking work. It was a very busy lumbering town with workers typically spending their summers working at the mills, or on the boats, and their winters in logging camps out in the bush.
Our upstairs exhibit contains a model created by Chippewa Secondary School students that depict logging in the winter and the summer, many tools and photos of the industry, and other models of the various machines (such as the watering tank, the rutter plow, the log jammer, and the skids) that were used in lumbering operations.