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"Coming of Age" exhibit gives glimpses of life as a teen in North Bay over the past century

'It is a fun part of North Bay’s history, especially since a lot of the photos are of people hanging out at their favourite spots' museum curator Naomi Hehn

Peter Amos stands beside a picture of a young Jack Bradford who was his father’s best friend and would eventually go on to become his godfather.

He submitted the picture as part of an exhibition at the North Bay Museum called “Coming of Age” which captured life growing up as a teen in North Bay, over the past century.

Amos made the drive from Waterloo to attend the opening reception.

“My dad was an avid photographer back in the ’30s and ’40s, and I’m the custodian of all his negatives and slides, and so I knew he had some good pictures. I went through them and picked out seven or eight,” said Amos.

“In addition to this one that is on the wall, the rest are in the slide show. It was after the depression, before the war. They were young, and life was good.”

Museum volunteer Pat Moulson is credited with coming up with the idea of showcasing teens over the past 100 years.   

“I was a high school teacher, so not only did I have children of my own, but I had a lot of other people’s children to look after. I knew that if I did something about teen years, it wouldn’t be just appealing to present day teenagers, but everybody else who had ever gone through the teen years,” explained Moulson.

“At first you see the differences, like the young people who are obviously at a camp and all the ladies are wearing hats, not sun hats, but dress hats. That was from one of the earliest pictures, about 1910 we think. That was taken from the museum collection. But mostly it is not the differences you see; it is the similarities. We have a lot of young people who go through here, so I’m hoping they’ll find it interesting because they’ll see the similarities too, from every age.”    

Looking at the pictures, people can’t help but think about their own teen years.   

“It was fun to see the photos that people sent in, but also to read the stories behind them. It is a fun part of North Bay’s history, especially since a lot of the photos are of people hanging out at their favourite spots. It recalls your own memories even if you didn’t grow up in North Bay because you will be reminded of things you did that were similar,” said museum curator Naomi Hehn

Twelve framed photos hang in the gallery, and another 80 to 90 are the basis for a slide show.

“Some of the different categories for teen life include interests, which could be anything from fishing and boating to farm work. We also included music because that is a big part of teen life, courtships or dating, even just hanging out with friends. And some school life, so graduation photos, and there’s some awesome pictures of guys in shop class. We really tried to showcase all different aspects of teen life,” shared museum intern Claire MacFarlane.

Binders hold the back story of the pictures.

“The binders have printouts of all the photos you see in the slide show. So, if you wanted to get a second look, you could look there. But I also tried to include dates, names and who sent those photos to us.”

However, not all the information was made available.

“We’re asking the people who donated them, if they know the names of some of the people in the photographs, maybe locations, some of them are also missing dates, to let us know what they are. And even any fun or relevant stories they might have or other memories they would like to share with the people of North Bay.”

The exhibit will be up until the end of April.

“And then the pictures will be coming down for a month as we have another exhibit coming in, but it will be back up in June. It will then be up for the rest of the summer for people to see,” explained MacFarlane.

The slideshow will be available for people to watch in a special viewing area in the museum.

“At the other end of the second floor at the North Bay Museum, we have our new Main Street exhibit which opened last summer. We have a small Capitol Centre theatre and it will be displayed there.”

Originally from Ottawa, working on her first exhibit at the museum has given the intern a glimpse into life as a teen growing up in the city.

“I feel more connected to the community members of North Bay. Hearing their stories about growing up here, or about friends, family, I’ve really enjoyed that, getting to know people. It has been a lot of fun, and really special.”

The exhibit is included in the price of admission to the museum which is $6 for adults, and $5 for seniors, students, and youth.