“I can’t praise this place enough. The Jubilee Pavilion is a one of its kind place in all of Canada,” said Art Hallman in 1987.1 Hallman would know; as a notable Canadian musician, he played across the country, stopping at the Jubilee Pavilion once a month for 35 years. The idea for a pavilion at the lakefront was not a new idea. The Mallory/Henry/Barnhart Pavilion was a feature of the area since the 1880s. However, it wasn’t until 1921 that N.D. Hinkson appealed to the Town of Oshawa for a building permit. For some reason they deferred consideration for the permit and denied Hinkson’s request. The pavilion designed by Mathers & Haldenby and built by W.J. Trick & Co. in 1927 was almost identical to what Hinkson proposed in 1921. Regardless, a new pavilion would contribute to Oshawa’s image as a summer resort town. In fact, many would know it as “the amusement resort and trysting place of young Oshawa.”
Trick & Co. won the bid to build the pavilion for $13,975, but that only accounted for the exterior of the building. The wood frame building sits on a concrete foundation, with two separate basements at the east and west ends. Furnaces in these basements kept the central maple dance floor heated, which was convenient when the managers later made the decision to winterize the pavilion. Originally, there were restrooms and cafés at both ends of the pavilion. This eventually changed to accommodate a stage for bands and orchestras. The maple dance floor is 42 x 118 feet, and it is common knowledge amongst locals that it is one of the best dance floors in Ontario. Fifteen-foot promenades surround the dance floor. A bright green roof sat atop grey wood-planked walls with cream trim. The name ‘Jubilee Pavilion’ commemorated Canada’s 60th Anniversary of Confederation. There was a grand opening weekend filled with dancing on June 30, July 1, and July 2, inviting everyone to “dance the old era out and the new era in.”2
Only a few years after opening, the Jubilee Pavilion experienced a fire in September 1931, after a dance known as ‘the Midnight Frolic.’ According to the Oshawa Daily Times, someone carelessly threw a cigarette butt near the orchestra platform, and that caused the fire. Within six minutes, the fire department arrived and extinguished the blaze.3 The damage was in the $10,000 range, and newspapers as far away as The Leader Post in Regina, Saskatchewan, reported the story.
While the City of Oshawa4 owned the building, Robert Fraser was the original manager of “an up to date pavilion in every respect.” In the early days of the Pavilion, bands were booked for a season, as was popular throughout North America. Thomas Bouckley, a notable Oshawa resident, and manager in the 1930s and 1940s remembered that the bands would often stay in nearby cottages on Bonnie Brae Point. In terms of genres and styles of dance, first came the jazz era, followed closely by the big band and swing eras into the later 1930s and 1940s. “Dance music of the early thirties was a sad mess of syrupy notes.”5 Throughout this time, the Jubilee attracted such famous acts as Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, Bert Niosi – ‘Canada’s Swing King,’ Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Mart Kenny and his Western Gentlemen, and Bobby Gimby. Owen McCrohan operated the Jubilee (later with business partner, Thomas Bouckley), circa 1932. They brought in the remarkable entertainment.
McCrohan, Bouckley, and Lloyd White were part of a group of friends that spent their summers at the lakefront. Their lives are photo documented in the Lowry Collection, a series of photographs in the archival collection at the Oshawa Museum. “Lloyd White was a brother to Ruth White, the first wife of Owen McCrohan who leased and operated the Jubilee Pavilion. Lloyd worked there on dance nights as a doorman and taking tickets,”6 recalls Betty MacInally.7 He also worked “at Johnson’s Men’s Wear at 8 Simcoe North.”8 This is probably why many people remember him as being “a smart dresser.”9 As part of the Oshawa Museum’s Lakefront Memories project, Grant Reeve told us “It was Lloyd who got me the DJ job at the ‘Jube.’ Lloyd was a short, dapper dressed man and as a manager, he set up the table reservations for Saturday night ‘line dances.’”10 Apparently, everyone knew Lloyd White. Photos in the Lowry Collection seem to corroborate this as many different photos show Lloyd with several different groups of people. They knew him as a smart dresser and was quite a palpable personality within the community.
Admission to the Jubilee Pavilion, “throughout the thirties and forties…was free, as it was in most dance halls across Canada, but
“if you wanted to cross on to the velvet-roped dance floor and trip the light fantastic you had to surrender a five-cent ticket, known as a Jitney (also slang for a five-cent bus ticket.) Any man who wanted to impress the ladies would have a strip of jitney tickets hanging from his pocket to show that he could afford, and was ready, to dance. Jitney dances fell from popularity at the end of the forties, when regular admission fees became the norm everywhere.”11
In Oshawa, many people remembered the dances at the Jube cost ten cents instead of five, but in the late 1930s, dances did in fact cost five cents, according to Douglas Mackie who worked at the Jube in 1937. In addition, many participants in the Lakefront Memories project told us that the number of dancers determined the length of the song. Perhaps if there were not a lot of dancers the song was not seen as popular. Cutting the song short would allow more dancers, for more popular songs, bringing in more money. Bouckley also claimed this was to discourage ‘show boaters’ from taking over the dance floor. “During the Second World War, the Jube became a familiar off-base objective for hundreds of airmen stationed at the Royal Canadian Air Force flying training school, now Oshawa Airport.”12 There was also an influx of soldiers and officers from other military sectors. Men at the Armouries, Camp X, and Camp 30 in Bowmanville also frequented Oshawa’s dance pavilions, looking to impress the ladies.
In the early years of its tenure, the Jube was only open during the summer months. In order to encourage a more varied patronage, managers introduced roller-skating. Lakefront Memories participant, Betty MacInally recalls,
“From far and wide, the Jubilee was known for being one of the best and smoothest dance floors. Roller-skating was tried there in about 1939-1940, but they found it damaging to the floor and the skating was abruptly stopped.”
At this time in Oshawa and other nearby towns and cities, more people were beginning to travel north to cottages during the summer. McCrohan and Bouckley needed a reason to keep patrons in Oshawa and at the Lake specifically. In the late 1940s, they winterized the building. This, along with continued access to mainstream, popular bands and music, made the Jubilee real competition for other local dancehalls, like Barnhart’s, the Avalon, and the Masonic Hall.
Dancing continued six nights a week through the 1950s and 1960s. McCrohan would bring in various partners, like Rich Harris13 to help him run the Jube. He also worked with community partners, such as Donald McGarry, who was president of the Oshawa Teen Club. According to the Windsor Star on April 6, 1950, McCrohan and McGarry landed themselves in court for violating the Lord’s Day Act, an act that barred pavilion operators from holding dances on Sundays. They were both “remanded without plea.”14
The Jube is now remembered as a springboard many famous acts, but in 1963 “the most adored of all Motown’s groups,” The Supremes, played during one of their “record hops.” In a 1966 interview with Elwood Glover on Luncheon Date, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson discuss how they were little-known artists back then and that they “hadn’t put out a hit record yet.” It was on one of the record hops that the women hopped on over to the Jubilee “for a one night stand for the measly fee of around $150,”15 according to the Nanaimo Daily News on August 16, 1966. Incidentally, the article also notes that by 1966 on their return trip to Toronto, The Supremes were now playing for six nights, with a 17-piece orchestra at the O’Keefe Centre, (followed by Little Stevie Wonder and Red Buttons or all people) for $25,000. For more info, see interview with CBC.
Owen McCrohan managed the Jube until his death in 1981. Perhaps one of the most exciting times for him was being able to propel the careers of his sons Dennis and Jerry McCrohan. Both founding members of Jack London and the Sparrows, the group often played at the Jube and other locations around the City, like the GET. Both McCrohans would later change their last name to Edmonton. As The Sparrows continued their journey, Dennis decided to go solo, changing his name once more to Mars Bonfire. The Sparrows added singer John Kay to the lineup, eventually making their way to the States. Dennis and Kay would go on to form Steppenwolf with Goldy McJohn.16
In the late 1970s, Lawrence Shurman, who worked as the booking agent, said that booking bands depended on a number of factors: availability; if they were already established; notoriety; and, ability to attract 500 or more people, filling the venue. That being said, acts included David Wilcox, Rough Trade, Kim Mitchell, Doug & the Slugs, The Headpins, Kick Axe, The Spoons, Burton Cummings, The Good Brothers, Blue Peter, Bill Haley & the Comets, Little Cesar and the Consuls, George Oliver and Gangbuster, Rush, April Wine, Crowbar, and Lighthouse.
After McCrohan passed away, the City of Oshawa leased the Jube to the Central Lions Club of Oshawa. This was the impetus for a series of renovations beginning in 1982, including covering the wood plank exterior with a brick façade, upgraded lighting and electrical systems at the snack bar, kitchen, and stage area as well as the Lakeview Room, which the Club used for its own meetings. With these changes, the Jubilee could now cater to the largest banquets in Oshawa with its new modernized kitchen. Renovations continued to take place for the next six years and were estimated to cost “between $300,000 and $350,000.”17 In 1983, there were 16 employees – 2 full time and 14 part time. In 1988, the Lions Club hosted a Fiesta Pavilion, appropriately called “Rockin’ at the Jube.” Tracy Benjamin was crowned Miss Oshawa Central Lion. This was at a time when Fiesta Week had grown, and many community groups were sponsoring pavilions along with cultural community pavilions.
Along with dances and concerts, a main fundraiser for the Lions Clubs various charitable acts were bingo nights. In 1987, the club held bingo four nights a week, and this helped pay for community improvements, including a $150,000 playground next to the pavilion.18 Bingo grew in popularity so much that at one point various organizations held nine different bingo events there throughout the day and week. This, along with the other bingo halls in Oshawa, caused an oversaturation of the market, and the last bingo night at the Jubilee Pavilion happened in January 1999.
In the late 1990s, there was a revival of swing music and swing dancing across North America. Licensed dances returned to the Jube on Saturday nights from 8 pm – 12 am. In November 2002, the Jubilee Pavilion celebrated its 75th Anniversary with the time-honoured tradition of dancing. Couples, young and young at heart, would celebrate and reminisce as they danced the night away. Sadly, only two years later on December 29, 2004, the Lions Club hosted their last dance.
The Club had been struggling financially for years and finally could no longer afford the lease, taxes, and maintenance of the building. In 2004, the City of Oshawa began looking for new owners and redevelopment opportunities. On January 5, 2005, twenty years after the City granted it, the Central Lions Club of Oshawa returned the lease.
Simultaneously, in December 2003, Guy House of the Oshawa Museum suffered a fire. With nowhere else to go, the Lions Club welcomed the staff of the OM into their Lakeview Room; while the staff waited to hear if Guy House would be rebuilt, they submitted a proposal to the City that the Oshawa Historical Society (who manages the OM) take over the Jube. Proposed modifications and improvements to the space would allow the Museum to move their collections into one single space, along with enhanced space for programming and offices. The Lakeview Room became the centre of operations for the OM through 2004, continuing to work there until May 2005 when Guy House’s reopened.
According to the Jube’s website,
“in 2005, Danny Kalinteris and the Grenadier Group restored the Jubilee Pavilion to its original purpose. After extensive renovations of the kitchen and restoration of the original dance floor, the Jubilee has become Oshawa’s hidden gem by the lake. The Jubilee has restored life back to Lakeview Park, by offering services like, the snack bar, off-site catering, and hall receptions and on-site ceremonies.”19
Since its revitalization, the Jube has seen 825 weddings, 1400 corporate events, 185 bridal and baby showers and 209 proms.
If you have lived in Oshawa long enough, you’ll have some memory of the Jube – whether it’s getting fries on a hot summer day at the beach, having your prom or wedding take place there, seeing your first concert, first dances, first kisses, or spending a year and a half working there like I do after the Guy House fire. If you’re new to the area, just ask someone – residents love to walk down memory lane.
- Oshawa This Week. February 4, 1987, A7
- Oshawa Museum Archives Photo
- Oshawa Daily Times. August 11, 1928
- Oshawa became a City in 1924
- “SWING KING” Dillon O’Leary archive.macleans.ca/article/1945/7/1/swing-king.
- Oshawa Museum, Lakefront Memories: Reminiscences of the Oshawa Harbour. (Oshawa. 2002), 35
- Betty MacInally was a Lakefront Memories participant
- Oshawa Museum. Lakefront Memories, 35
- Oshawa Museum. Lakefront Memories, 35
- Oshawa Museum. Lakefront Memories, 35
- “Dancing Retro in Saskatchewan,” Lola Brown, inspiration.travelmindset.com/saskatoon-club/.
- John Goodwin, “Jubilee Pavilion marks 62nd year July 1” Durham Life, June 29, 1988, 20.
- Vintage Oshawa. Facebook.com
- “Dances on Sunday Land 2 in Court,” Windsor Star, April 6, 1950.
- “Diana Ross and Her Days with the Supremes,” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 24 June 2019, http://www.cbc.ca/archives/diana-ross-and-her-days-with-the-supremes-1.5062878.
- Oshawa Whitby This Week. February 4, 1987. P. A7 MariAnne Kazmer
- The playground has been redesigned and rebuilt a number of times since the early 1980s, and is currently (2020) in the midst of another rebuilt.
King, Betty Nygaard. “Art Hallman.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 06 January 2014, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/art-hallman-emc. Accessed 26 August 2020.
O’Leary, Dillon. “SWING KING: Maclean’s: July 1, 1945.” Maclean’s | The Complete Archive, archive.macleans.ca/article/1945/7/1/swing-king.
Oshawa Museum. Lakefront Memories. First ed., Self Published, 2002.
Brown, Lola. “Dancing Retro in Saskatchewan.” Travel Mindset, 28 Dec. 2016, inspiration.travelmindset.com/saskatoon-club/.
“Dances on Sunday Land 2 in Court.” The Windsor Star, 6 April 1950.
Jack, Brother. “Supremes Thrill Large Crowd In Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre.” Nanaimo Daily News. 16 August 1966.
CBC Archives. “Diana Ross and Her Days with the Supremes | CBC Archives.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 24 June 2019, http://www.cbc.ca/archives/diana-ross-and-her-days-with-the-supremes-1.5062878.
Oshawa This Week. February 4, 1987.
Oshawa Daily Times. August 11, 1928.
John Goodwin, “Jubilee Pavilion marks 62nd year July 1” Durham Life, June 29, 1988.
MariAnne Kazmer. Oshawa Whitby This Wee, 4 February 1987, p. A7.
Brenda Larson. Oshawa This Week, 28 September 1983, p.S22.
Oshawa This Week, 22 December 2004.
Oshawa This Week, 16 February 1999, p. 3.
Greg McDowell. Oshawa This Week, 15 April 1987.
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection. Jubilee Pavilion. Subject 0003, Box 0003, File 0039