Reflections on The Other NFB

A note from visitor Peter Young and his reaction to The Other NFB and the “Bren Gun Girl” Veronica Foster.

I visited the RMG on Sunday to take in The Other NFB, and I’d like to say that it’s just a great exhibit. The photographs portray such a wonderful variety of life in Canada over 30 years between 1941 and 1971. I understand it’s curated by Dr. Carol Payne from Carleton University who has also authored a comprehensive book “The Official Picture” on this subject, published in 2013.

I have some information for you, along with a few visuals, that I thought you’d enjoy which relate to a selection of the photos.

There were a number of photographs in The Other NFB depicting “Bren Gun Girl” Veronica Foster, very effective shots portraying women’s roles in munitions factories in Canada during WWII. Seeing Veronica was so coincidental because I recognized her name, having used a photo of her (not in the exhibit) on the cover of one my books “Let’s Dance – A Celebration of Ontario’s Dance Halls and Summer Dance Pavilions.”

Bren Gun Girl Ronnie Foster with son Thomas 1973 9

Bren Gun Girl Ronnie Foster with son Thomas 1973

The photograph I used is one of a series taken at the Glen Eagle Country Club on May 10, 1941, where she’s dancing with Michael Craig. I obtained it from the National Archives and have included the related info. This is the same date the other shots in the exhibit were taken, and at the same locale. In fact you can see the chandelier and the French door in the background, and there’s a juke box in mine.

After a little research, I discovered that Veronica, or “Ronnie” as she seemed to be called, was also a Big Band singer. She performed with the Mart Kenney Orchestra as well as Trump Davidson. Mart’s band was known across Canada, doing regular radio broadcasts and performances. He was based in BC but toured the country relentlessly for over 60 years and was heavily involved with raising funds for bonds during WWII as well. Trump Davidson was also one of Canada’s best jazz arrangers, composers and band leaders. He led the house band for years at the Palace Pier in Toronto.

Ronnie met her future husband, trombonist George Guerrette who performed with Trump. They had 5 kids and from what I can determine, George passed away and Ronnie moved back to Toronto when her family was rather young. One of her sons, also named George, followed in his Dad’s footsteps and has been involved with music for most of his life.

Bren Gun Girl Ronnie Foster

Bren Gun Girl Ronnie Foster

My book “Let’s Dance” covers many of the venues in Ontario where people met, socialized, enjoyed entertainment and often formed life-long relationships from the late 1920’s up to the early years of rock & roll. You might be interested to know that the Jubilee Pavilion in Oshawa’s Lakeview Park, built in 1927, is one of the few original dance pavilions remaining in the Province. It successfully made the transition from Big Band to Rock music under the management of Owen McCrohan – affectionately known as “Onie McCronie” around town – who ran the place for 50 years!

I thought you’d like to read this “story behind the photo.” It’s always interesting to learn more about subjects in photos that captured a moment in time.

Bren Gun Girl Ronnie Foster in Chester NS 1999

Bren Gun Girl Ronnie Foster in Chester NS 1999

During the 1960’s and 1970’s Peter Young used to work in a number of rock and roll bands, playing in many of the dance halls and summer dance pavilions throughout the province. Most of these venues have disappeared over the years.

He has written three books about this subject, the most recent one is “Let’s Dance,” published by Dundurn.  Writing the books has been part of Peter’s interest in nostalgia and pop culture. He researches destinations where people went for their entertainment and to socialize, including small town movie theatres, drive-in movie theatres, older diners and other aspects of life from the post-war era, particularly places which have survived and continue to operate. Peter runs his own business, PDA Communications Ltd in Oshawa, where he works as a freelance writer.

Spend Valentine’s Day at the RMG

Step up your Valentine’s Day game this year! Make a memorable impression on your special someone or have a great day off with the family at the RMG. Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year so you have the perfect opportunity to spend the whole day celebrating with your loved ones at the RMG.

Family making art

For the Family

Start the morning by heading to the RMG’s Valentine’s Day Brunch together and dig into the delicious menu from Pilar’s Catering. The menu features something for everyone in the family, even the pickiest of eaters, with baked goods, a full hot breakfast including everything from bacon to French toast, salads, cheeses, and finally a dessert buffet. With two seating’s available at 10:30am and 12:30pm, you’ll have lots of time to enjoy your quiet Sunday morning before the fun begins. Reservations are required so be sure to book your seats soon before they fill up.

After bunch, you can head down to one of our many galleries to check out the latest exhibitions and pieces from our permanent collection, or bring the little ones down to the studio for the Valentine’s addition of our monthly OPG Second Sundays. Work together to explore various materials to create heart shape inspired activities including sun catchers and garlands using diffusing paper and expressive abstract paintings in the studio. On your way out, be sure to check out the RMG Shop. Young or old, there are plenty of last minute Valentine’s gifts, like the Rob Ryan His n’ Her coffee mug set for mom and dad, or a craft kit and hand-made sock puppets for the little ones. However you choose to celebrate your Valentine’s, the RMG is a great way to go for the whole family.


Arthurs of the 4th

Photo by Brilynn Ferguson

The First Date

Start the morning off by surprising your date with a romantic brunch with a panoramic view. Checking out the gallery with your special someone is a great chance to strike up conversation, and ensure there is no first date awkwardness. Talking about art is also a great way to get to know one another whether you’ve been together for 20 years, or you are 20 minutes into your first date.

A great place to start is Holly King’s newest exhibition Edging Toward the Mysterious. This collection consists of various large-scale photographs of her constructed photographs of imagined landscapes. While enjoying the art together, present your loved one with a gift from the RMG Shop. Among the abundance of art catalogues and other popular titles, the RMG Shop has a wide selection of beautiful, locally sourced handmade items such as jewelry, specialty soaps, and teas. Whether the gift is for him or her, the RMG Shop is a great place to come looking for that one of a kind Valentine’s gift that will top off a fantastic date.


The 1,000th Date

Whether you and your partner are new to the gallery or not, there are plenty of reasons to make the RMG your Valentine’s destination this year.

After enjoying a delicious brunch in the Arthur’s on the 4th head directly downstairs to our most recent exhibition, The Other NFB. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has long been acclaimed for documentary, animated and feature films, which are among Canada’s iconic cultural products and exports. But few Canadians know that during a pivotal period in the country’s history—the mid-twentieth century—the NFB also functioned as the country’s official photographer, which is where this series of photos stems from. This collection is sure to bring back some memories and spark conversation about times past, making it a Valentine’s day to remember.

Don’t forget to visit the shop and get something special for your special someone! Pick a gift together and get someone you will enjoy in your home, made by a local artisan.

As the afternoon comes to a close and you’ve enjoyed each and every exhibition, remember that your time here at the gallery doesn’t have to end on February 14th. Volunteering as a couple can be a great experience, offering bonding time while doing something great for the community.

A look through the lens…

This winter, the RMG shifts its focus to exploring how artists view the world through images. Photography is used to document history, to capture a memory, to tell a story or to create an imaginary landscape. We invite you to consider capturing these moments and the role of the artist behind the lens when you visit.

The Other NFB: The National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division, 1941-1971 is an exhibition exploring our national identity and history by showing how Canada was presented to the world. Through this collection of images, we see a slice of Canadian life at this important time in history. This exhibition serves as a reminder of how photography informs our national identity. How do you relate to these images? How does the photograph relate to your personal narrative or family story?

In Their Stories: Unidentified Portraits from the Thomas Bouckley Collection we are taking a different approach to historical photography. In this exhibition, we put out a call for writers to create narratives for a selection of unidentified portraits from our collection of historical Oshawa photographs. The stories we received were varied, creative and shine a new and exciting look into the possible lives of these people. We encourage you to think about these unidentified subjects and the lives they may have lived.

We take another look at the photographic image in Holly King: Edging Towards the Mysterious. In this mid-career retrospective, the artist presents a series of idealistic and beautiful landscapes. At first glance, you hope these are real— possible utopian escapes. But at second glance you feel a sense of loneliness and anxiety from something unsettling in the landscape. This feeling is caused by King’s use of staged photography. By manufacturing her landscapes, we are forced to question the image we are presented with— is it real, is it fake, or are we lost in our imaginations?

In April, we will celebrate the CONTACT Photography Festival with an exhibition by RMG Exposed winner Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock entitled Familiarity in the Foreign. The images represent the quiet moments that she found among the chaos of travel, as well as memories of places visited.

In conjunction with our photography exhibitions, we are excited to offer accompanying programming. Please join us for a symposium, featuring The Other NFB, that will examine Canada and Canadian identity through visual image. A tour of the exhibition will be given by curator Carol Payne, followed by an interactive discussion with 5 panelists. This will be an invigorating day so register early to guarantee your spot!