Fascinating Ruins

I love ruins. When traveling, my greatest pleasure is to see those mysterious remains of ancient cultures, standing often in remote areas, excavated thousands of years after they ceased to be inhabited. You can imagine, then, how much I enjoyed Dr. Rakhshanda Bashir’s lecture on the civilization of ancient India and Pakistan, held at John Street Branch on February 15.

Dr. Bashir began by explaining that evidence suggests that India has been populated for more than 50,000 years. Her topic that day was the civilization found in the valley of the Indus River, which flows from the Himalayas, south through eastern Pakistan, before emptying into the Arabian Sea. There were hundreds of small, ancient villages and towns in the valley, but Dr. Bashir focused her talk on the bronzeage city of Mohenjo Daro, first excavated in 1922. Her pictures of this amazing place helped greatly to imagine how it must have looked 5,000 years ago.

I was surprised to hear that in the Indus Valley excavations, no evidence has been found of temples, palaces or military structures, leading to the belief that this was a peaceful, egalitarian society. Mohenjo Daro was a planned city of mud-brick buildings which were often more than one storey high. Houses, which opened to inner courtyards, were built along straight, wide roads. A great bath made of bricks and lined with bitumen was probably used for public bathing rituals. Bricks were made to standard sizes, according to mathematical ratios. Wedge-shaped bricks were used to make circular structures. This was obviously a highly organized society, using advanced mathematics, but it seems to have had no centre of power. Their script has never been deciphered.

The most incredible feature of Mohenjo Daro was its drainage system. A network of huge, circular brick wells provided water to each neighbourhood and most houses had indoor bathrooms with bathing platforms and toilets. Water and waste spilled down chutes into the city’s drainage system which emptied into covered sewers – the world’s first urban sanitation plan.

Dr. Bashir showed pictures of excavated artifacts exhibiting a high level of technical and artistic skill: pottery, jewelry, seals, games, toys and figures with huge, elaborate hair-styles. There is even evidence of dentistry being practised, but no tombs or burial grounds. Isn’t archaeology fascinating?

Dr. Bashir returned on February 12 to add some fun to our study of the Indus Valley Culture by showing a Bollywood movie about Mohenjo Daro. How about that for spanning millenia?


Celebrating the Year of the Pig

Arriving at the Conant Branch in the evening of February 5, I followed the enticing aroma of good food to the cafeteria where a crowd had assembled to celebrate Chinese New Year. It was a festive occasion, with red hanging decorations and tables covered in bright red cloths. Red symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity, so red place mats showed the Chinese Zodiac. We immediately searched for our signs according to our year of birth. I was very excited to discover that I am a Tiger, brave and strong, with a wild personality. Who knew?

Since this is the Year of the Pig, a red paper pig was the centrepiece of each table, along with chopsticks and fortune cookies at each setting. Red paper envelopes containing chocolate coins fulfilled the tradition of giving money at New Years to wish friends good luck. According to Chinese lore, a mythological beast called the Nian once terrorized China, roaming about eating villagers. When they discovered that the Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises, the people created a festival featuring red decorations and firecrackers. The Nain fled to the mountains, never to be seen again and the celebration of New Years was born. This special day occurs at the second new moon after the winter solstice according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

Soon we were called by table to the buffet. Our plates were loaded with all the favourite dishes, from egg rolls to chop suey, fried rice, chicken balls, wings, lemon chicken and beef with mixed vegetables. Yum! As coffee and tea were served, we finished up with ice cream. “This is fantastic,” said Barb, who was sitting across the table, “I think it’s great that we’re celebrating other cultures.”

Having feasted, we were led out of the cafeteria to the lounge, where we were treated to a talk by Karen Pelzowski about her trip to China with her husband and son. Karen’s lively stories, punctuated by candid comments, interesting local observations and pictures of the sites they visited, made for a perfect accompaniment to our dinner. We traveled with her to Shanghai, then on to Beijing where we heard about Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, markets and gardens. We watched as Karen climbed the amazing Great Wall (whew!), visited a zoo and the ‘birds’ nest’ Olympic arena. We saw the incredible terra cotta warriors and took a cruise on the Yangtze River, through the famous Three Gorges. To top off the evening Karen had laid out a display of the artefacts and souvenirs they brought home from China.

What an interesting event! Many thanks to Karen as well as all the staff and volunteers who worked so hard to give us this great evening.

Learn to Get the Most From Your Digital SLR Camera

Are you like most people who enjoy taking pictures? Are you a little (or maybe even a lot) uncertain about all those dials and menu items on your SLR camera?

I fit into that category, even though I have been taking photos for years for the OSCC Newsletter and more recently for Snap’d. Yes, I can ‘see’ the shot and know a good picture after I’ve taken it. But setting up for the shot has always been a bit tricky for me, especially when the lighting is poor, or the subject is fidgety (like a small child or an action shot). Sometimes you get ‘lucky’ because the auto settings have given you gold, but other times……… well, you get the picture!

OSCC has recently added several courses taught by John Smith, who has over 40 years of experience teaching photography, and was instrumental in setting up many of the camera courses for Durham College. John is a very ‘hands on’ instructor, asking students to participate in experiments to help them gain and retain the information he is providing.

I am currently enrolled in the Digital SLR Photography six-week course, and John starts right with the very basics, explaining how a camera should be cleaned and even the best way to hold a camera to prevent blur in the picture due to camera-shake. The course covers obtaining the proper exposure, composing your shots and many tips and tricks. John is an excellent instructor. I’ve taken other courses offered by specialists in the field, but I am coming away from this course and actually retaining what I have learned! There are varied ranges of experience in the class from beginners to pros. It is clear from discussions among the students that others feel the way I do, that they are truly gaining from the instruction and happy with the way the course has progressed.

I’m looking forward to other shorter courses John is instructing in the winter session, such as Photography—The Exposure Triangle and Travel Photography.

If you want to get a handle on taking better photos with your camera, check the Spring Activity Guide available on March 4 for the upcoming classes on photography listed below. No doubt you will find that you really do ‘get the picture’ after taking some of these courses!

All You Need Is Love

Can you imagine how many great stories there must be about the interesting and unusual ways that some OSCC couples met? In the spirit of Valentine’s Day I invite you to enjoy three more wonderful love stories.


Senior high school student Kathy agreed to join her friend’s bowling league. Tim, a young man on Kathy’s team, did not impress her at all. He was loud and made fun of the way she wiggled when she bowled! Kathy eventually got used to Tim’s behaviour and accepted his invitation to be his date for the bowling banquet. They had been at the banquet for a very short time when Kathy got a message that her mother and father needed help to get home from Whitby. Tim immediately drove Kathy to pick up her parents, then followed closely behind to ensure that they got home safely. It was three years before Kathy and Tim dated again and Kathy realized that she had fallen in love with this caring, kind and really funny man. Six months later, Kathy & Tim Burley were married and have raised three children. Even after 46 years, Tim still enjoys Kathy’s “wiggle”.


Wendy Stevens and Jack McGinty met and fell in love on a wilderness canoeing trip. Their subsequent canoeing adventures took them all over Western, Northern and Southern Ontario. They married and had two children who grew up enjoying camping and canoeing in places such as Algonquin and Kilarney Parks and the Long Lake area of Peterborough. Every spring, as soon as the ice was gone, the family weekend trips would resume and continue until Thanksgiving. Wendy and Jack maintained that, if you can fall in love over four days with no toilets, showers or running water, paddling white water and not causing the canoe to capsize, then there is something special there. Wendy and Jack enjoyed 35 very special years together.


Teenager Ed worked part-time in a restaurant. Margaret, who also had an after-school job in the same restaurant, appealed to Ed but refused his constant invitations to go out with him. Ed’s very wise boss decided that Cupid (and Ed) needed some help so he assigned both Ed and Margaret to kitchen duties – on the same shift! Washing dishes in the small kitchen with this relentless boy left Margaret very little choice but to get to know him better and she finally agreed to a date. Ed and Margaret Campbell married, had three children and shared 53 years of happiness, proving that persistence pays.

Do you have a story that you would like to share in this newsletter? For information, please contact Jennifer Milligan at 905-576-6712, ext. 2832.

Please don’t be shy because all you need is love.

A 15-Year OSCC Gem!

Do you know about the exciting event that is held near the end of every month to recognize OSCC members who have birthdays within that month? I’m talking about the Tetley Tea event which this year celebrates its 15th year anniversary! All members are welcome to attend and all are treated to tea, coffee, birthday cake and amazing entertainment.

The First Tetley Tea was organized by Andrew Goss and held at John Street Branch in September, 2004. The entertainment was provided by “The Sharps & Flats” and the “poster girl” for the event was “Tea Pot Pearl” a.k.a. Pearl Bidgood. It was an instant success and has been regularly held at John St. Branch ever since.

Tetley Tea’s 15th year celebration was kicked off on Jan. 24th with the distinctive ukulele stylings of the fabulous Idle Frets. The band took us on a mental musical journey; first to see the beautiful “Rose of San Antone”, and then on to “The Streets of Bakersfield”. After a trip to Hawaii to sing and dance along with the lovely “Ukulele Lady”, it was a smooth journey all the way back to “Georgia”. Casablanca was also on our itinerary and, “As Time Goes By”, we returned to Canada in time to enjoy the original musical adaptation: “I Am Canadian”. We danced, clapped our hands, sang, laughed – what more could we ask for in a birthday party? As well you are told the names of famous people born on the same day. Did I mention that there was cake?

Sikorski Tuesday Fun: Acrylics and Readers Theatre

Advanced Acrylics is a course offered at Sikorski where the students continue to learn acrylic painting skills through a series of projects relating to art concepts and techniques. Each class covers an important topic and exercise, working toward a finished painting. This is a level three course so the students enrolled have previous experience in using acrylics. The participants and instructor enjoy Tuesday mornings spent working towards similar goals. They develop their skills and spend time painting. With coffee brewing and the painting happening it’s a lovely place to spend your morning at Sikorski.

Readers Theatre is offered Tuesday afternoons. This fun event is about creating drama and characters with the voice – as if you were acting for the radio. The audience is meant to hear you, not see you. Participants use scripts and scenes from various time periods and have the opportunity to explore different theatrical styles and genres. Each week, participants are engaged reading and learning new methods to fully embrace this art. They break off into partners or groups and practice for an afternoon of creativity and fun!

Mardis Gras Fun at OSCC

In case you missed it, Friday, February 8, OSCC matched the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orléans. Andrew Goss and his team set the mood with carnival decorations transforming the John St. Branch into party central.

Folks were sporting funny costumes, adorned with colourful beads and enjoyed a nice meal in the Diamond Café. They were surprised when trumpeter Brian Dinsdale and banjo player Jamie Macpherson lead the parade to show off the besparkled celebratory cake, then led the revellers down to the dance hall. There Dixieland jazz pianist Roberta Hunt and bass player Bob Welbourn augmented the authentic sounds of a Mardi Gras. The Chameleon Jazz Band, kept the place humming. For one song the audience repeated the words, “Why don’t you go, why don’t you go, to New Orleans, where you’ll never see ice and snow”. OSCC guest singers Adriane Stewart and Carol Wilson drew great applause. The cash bar and comradery completed this fun-filled evening!

All About Art

For the last few terms I’ve been enjoying the art appreciation classes given by Margaret Rodgers at the John Street Branch. Margaret is a well-known artist and teacher whose informal style, humour and connection to the audience make each class a fun experience. She has talked about art history from ancient times to today, as well as concentrating on some pivotal artists, always encouraging questions and discussion. Margaret’s use of music, history and literature helps put the artworks into context.

Margaret is not doing a course in the winter term, but I’m very glad to see that in the Spring she will return! This time she is offering a variety of topics, from The Jazz Age to The Dirty Thirties to Famous Art Thefts. I’m really looking forward to these classes. You can join us on Tuesday mornings at 11:10, starting on April 2, to enhance your knowledge about the art world. Speaking as a completely talentless person who just likes to look at art, I promise that you don’t have to be an artist to attend. See you in April!

Show Off Your Talent!

Once again it’s time to think about entering your work in the art and writing contests. These are open to seniors who are members of either OSCC, the Oshawa Public Libraries or the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Brochures explaining the rules will soon be available at all branches, but here are some key dates for your calendar.

  • Deadline to submit writing – May 15
  • Tell Tale Tea where Writing Contest winners are announced – June 19
  • Submissions to Art Show – June 10
  • Art Show Reception where winners are announced – June 14

Something New! This year there will be a prize for the best piece of art done by a novice artist.

Ring In The New Year

On Dec. 31, OSCC hosted its 10th Annual New Year’s Eve dance at Northview Community Centre. This very successful licensed event was sold-out weeks in advance.

From the very beginning of the evening, it was obvious that the guests had come to have fun. The dance floor was full from the first song performed by those marvellous entertainers, “Two For The Show”, and remained at high energy all evening. Draws were held for several beautiful gift baskets, and many spot prizes were won.

After a short break to enjoy a wonderful and generous buffet of sandwiches, cheeses, fresh vegetables, fruits and various desserts, the entertainment and dancing resumed. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the next Ring In The New Year celebration and I highly recommend that you get your tickets early for this very popular event.