The Oshawa Crippled Children’s School and Treatment Centre

* Please remember that this article was written by Olive French in 1967 and in no way a reflection of current terminology used at the Oshawa Community Museum. *

In 1949 the “Ontario Federation of the Cerebral Palsied” was formed and St. Paul’s Centre was the outcome. Before 1953, the parents of children with Cerebral palsy[1] in this district had to travel to Toronto to obtain help for them.

As it was too far for the Oshawa and Bowmanville children to attend and as they were anxious for a day school for their children, two of the parents inquired how the St. Paul’s Centre was started. They were told to contact a prominent businessman who had a child with Cerebral palsy and ask him to start a parental Council and Clinic. Thus it was on March 31st, 1953, that Mr. and Mrs. Delbert Arkless called a meeting of a group of parents in an effort to obtain help and assistance for the children with Cerebral palsy in this district.

Mrs. Peggy Fowler, then a resident of Oshawa obtained permission for the first meeting to be held in the First Baptist Church on King Street East in Oshawa. The president of the Ontario Federation for the Cerebral Palsied, Mr. William Anderson and the Secretary, Mrs. Doris Griffiths attended this meeting to instruct and help them how to form a group. Their assistance to them over the following years was invaluable, for which they have been sincerely grateful. Through negotiations of the newly formed executive, the first school and clinic was held in Rotary Hall on Centre Street.

However, it was through a talk given by Mrs. Fowler that they were received into Simcoe Hall. Mr. McNeill, Director of Simcoe Hall heard Mrs. Fowler and came to offer any assistance that Simcoe Hall could give. Shortly after the school and clinic was set up at Simcoe Hall, a film was made entitled “Gems in His Crown” of the children, by Mrs. Thrasher of the Bowmanville Camera Club. Through a campaign of giving talks on Cerebral Palsy and showing this film to various organization and clubs, etc., the public began to be aware of their situation and donations and help started to come their way. The following is the account of the first meeting that was held:

Oshawa and District Cerebral Palsy Parent Council

Meeting Place: First Baptist Church in Oshawa.

The Oshawa and District Cerebral Palsy Parent Council organized March 21st, 1953

President – Delbert G. Arkless – Oshawa

Vice-President – C.S Pearson – Oshawa

Secretary – Mrs. J.M McDonald – Pickering

Treasurer – Mrs. Peggy Fowler – Oshawa

Meeting under the direction of Mrs. S. D. Griffiths, Ontario Federation, Toronto and Mr. Delbert G. Arkless, Chairman.

  1. Fifteen parents attended this meeting from Oshawa, Ajax, Pickering, Bowmanville, Columbus and New Castle. One parent unable to attend reported to the chairman as interested.
  2. Contact to be made for a regular meeting place and date of meeting. Thursday night and time 8 P.M. was decided on.
  3. To form an Advisory Council consisting of Medical, Educational and Service Club members.
  4. Membership fee of $1.00 per family per year was agreed upon.
  5. Application was to be made by the Secretary to the Ontario Federation for the Cerebral Palsied for a grant of $100: for the purchase of educational books and material for the use of the parents.
  6. The post of Librarian was left open until a later date, pending the actual arrival of books and material and the Council’s decision as to where the material was to be kept.

Parents who attended the first organization meeting:

Mr. and Mrs. Pereman – Oshawa

Mr. and Mrs. Barefoot – Ajax

Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett – Oshawa

Mrs. R. Campbell – Bowmanville

Mrs. D. Gray – Newcastle

Mr. and Mrs. D.G. Arkless – Oshawa

Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Pearson – Oshawa

Mrs. Peggy Fowler – Oshawa

Mrs. Cuthbert – Oshawa

Mrs. J.M. MacDonald – Pickering

Mrs. Daniel – (unable to attend the meeting but reported to the President).

In November of 1953, the children started [going] to school two and one half days a week in Rotary Hall, for part of the first year. They moved to Simcoe Hall at the end of that time and conducted classes there until they moved to the Union School Section No. 6 public school on Bloor Street East in Oshawa.

In 1954 the members of the staff were:

Dr. A.E. King

Mrs. M. Henderson – director

Mrs. F. Griffith – physiotherapist

Dr. Smith –

Mrs. W. Hendry – helper

Mrs. G. Bellis – helper

Mrs. Knowler – helper

Mrs. J.W. Heath – helper

Miss L. Mather – helper

I might mention here about the work of the helpers after a lesson had been given to the children by the teacher, a helper aided the child with the work on that lesson. It must be remembered that most of these children are quite helpless[2]. They had to be helped in every way, moving from one place to another, bathroom duties and putting on and taking off wraps. Those helpers gave unstintingly of their time to aid in this worthy cause.

The policemen went to the gymnasium in Simcoe Hall occasionally to play volleyball and they often assisted the children in playing games. The firemen also gave valuable assistance in lifting the children in and out of cars. Later they were taken to school in taxis. Pickering, Bowmanville, Newcastle and Ajax paid the transportation instead of hiring a teacher. Later the Oshawa Rotary Club donated a bus. The school could not have carried on without the help of those volunteers.

In 1955, Mrs. Margaret Beamish was appointed teacher and the children attending at the time were:

Gary Arkless

Margaret Barta

David Barefoot

Allan Campbell

Murray Clark

Frank Pearson

Michael Regan

Carol Gray

 Mrs. Margaret Beamish and Mrs. Arkless went around to the various organizations in Oshawa, giving talks on the work being done in the school, in order to stimulate interest in the project. Many organizations raised money to help and donations were received from private parties. Mrs. Arkless assisted in the schoolroom as much as she could.

It was during those first few years that the foundation of the present school was laid. The spade work was being done and much credit is due to the staff in those days. They carried on under conditions that were difficult owing to the lack of space and necessary equipment. The dollars were not too plentiful either. However they were not discouraged “Forward be our Watchword[3].”

In 1956, the [size of the] staff was enlarged; there were two physiotherapists, Miss Jacqueline Attersley and Mrs. R.A. Groves. Mrs. Marjorie Holmes was the teacher and Mrs. Margaret Beamish, principal. Classes were being held five mornings, a week.

During this period to 1961, the school saw some busy years. Money was now being received from the community chest and many organizations were raising funds in different ways. The school attendance was increasing. Some of the children had responded to the treatment so well that they were able to attend public school. The first one to do so was Michael Regan in 1956. Later more graduated. In 1960 two little girls – Rosemary Pearson aged seven and Deborah Bothwell aged five were successful and received certificate from Dr. C.M. Elliott. They wore the traditional black gowns and mortar boards; “something that they would remember all their lives[4]” was the comment. In 1960 little Miss Terry Luke, a little scholar in a wheel chair was the district “Miss Easter Seal.”

In October 1955, the Oshawa and District Cerebral Palsy School became a registered school. Dr. Elliott guided the school all the way. The government then helped with the teacher’s salaries.

In 1961, owing to the difficulty in raising money to support the school, the Women’s Welfare league was asked to take over the administration. The name was changed to the ‘Simcoe Hall Crippled Children’s School and Treatment Centre.” By that time all children with any physical handicap were accepted. The Parent Council became the “Oshawa and District Cerebral Palsy Parent Council for the Crippled Children.” It is a very active organization, working to support and further the activities of the school.

By the year 1963, the classroom space was not adequate to accommodate the pupils who were attending and another situation had to be found for the school. The little red school house Union School Section No. 6 on Bloor Street East was thought to be suitable for the purpose. It was not being used any more for a Public school. The district had been taken in by the corporation of the city of Oshawa by this time and the local Board of Education was approached about it. At first they were reluctant thinking that the school might be needed again in the future. Finally they decided in the negative and handed over the deeds to the committees for $1.00 with the understanding that it was only to be used for school purposes. Members of the Parent Council gave the building a thorough renovating. It was thoroughly cleaned, re-decorated and some plumbing fixtures were added.

This was indeed a milestone in the school’s history. It was a “dream come true” that a Centre was procured and equipped in which they could carry on their work.

March 4th, 1964, was set aside for the dedication of the building. Representatives from various organizations were present as well as many well wishers. The little school was packed tight to witness the ceremony. Father P. Darby gave the invocation; Rev. E.C. Woodland of Newcastle dedicated the building and Rabbi Martin Kutzinger pronounced the benediction. Harold McNeill introduced the staff, which was at that time as follows:

Miss Rachel Cooper – principal

Miss Lynn Avery – physiotherapist

Miss Marie Gartshore – teacher

A wonderful work had been carried on during the years that the school had been in operation.

In a short time more space had to be found for the programme being carried on. The building was re-divided to make extra rooms and a nursery was built in the basement. A trailer was rented to carry on therapy treatment; it was joined to the main building by a ramp. A full time speech therapist was hired in August 1966 and also a third teacher in September of that same year. Early in 1966, it was evident that more space was needed and a committee was formed to campaign for the funds to build a new school.

At a sod turning ceremony held July 5th, 1966, Honourable Dr. Dumond did the honours and Oshawa’s “Tammy” little Miss Anne Kosul was the one who turned the last sod.

On June 21st, 1967, the new Simcoe Hall Crippled Children’s School and Treatment Centre was officially opened. The existence of the Union School Section No.6 was ended when it was taken down to make way for the new building.

The school classes are now under the direction of a voluntary three board of Education[5], appointed by the Department of Education in Ontario. The medical work is directed by a voluntary medical board, which is responsible for the admission, prescribing treatment and the discharge of children from the centre.

Peter Boyko son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Boyko of this city, who is a pupil in the school at present, designed the shield with the motto “Hope through Treatment and Education.”

In closing this history I must add that it was Mr. and Mrs. Delbert G. Arkless who can take the credit for starting this school in the first place. They were the ones who helped to organize the executive and Mr. Arkless was president for some time. Their untiring efforts along with the others who worked with them kept the school alive during its first difficult years. The task was not an easy one.

Mrs. Margaret Beamish, who was a teacher and then principal of the school at the time, also did her part in getting the school work organized under difficult circumstances. These people carried on and gave the school the ground work which has made it the strong organization that it is today.

[1] Cerebral palsy is a condition when muscle movements and posture is affected (palsy) due to brain damage (cerebral). Unlike chicken pox or measles, cerebral palsy is not a disease but it is a condition. It is not communicable and although there is no cure it is not progressive, as brain damage does not increase over time.

[2] This is an antiquated way of viewing people and children with a disability. The damage [caused by Cerebral palsy] can be either so minor that it is hardly noticeable or it can be severe mental and physical damage.

[3] This hymn was writ­ten for the Tenth Fes­ti­val of the Pa­ro­ch­ial Choirs of the Can­ter­bu­ry Di­o­ces­an Un­ion, held in Canter­bury Cathed­ral, Eng­land. Hen­ry Al­ford, 1871.

[4] Source not available.

[5] Unsure of what Olive French means by this.


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