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Col. Sam and the Parkwood Estate

I doubt if many of the readers have ever visited this mansion situated at 275 Simcoe Street North in Oshawa, Ontario. Construction started in 1916. At the time, it was the most expensive home ever built in Canada and is situated on twelve acres of land right downtown.

It was the home of Col. Robert Samuel McLaughlin, better known as Col. Sam.

“Colonel” was an honourary title bestowed upon him by the RCAC, a reserve armoured regiment based in Oshawa. He was born in 1871 in Enniskillen Ontario. He married Adelaide Mowbray in 1898 and they had five daughters.

The McLaughlin family is such a big part of Oshawa History. They had become the largest builders of buggy’s and carriages in the Dominion.

Col. Sam’s claim to fame is that he encouraged his father to let him start making automobiles instead of carriages. As well, his older brother, chemist J. J. McLaughlin, 1865-1914, started a neat company called Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

The McLaughlin Motor Car Company was founded in 1907. Shortly after starting they made a deal with Buick in the USA to use their power trains and other parts. By 1918 they sold their company to General Motors USA who then formed General Motors of Canada Ltd. Col. Sam retired in 1945 but remained chairman of the board of GM Canada till he passed away in 1972. I was at his 100th birthday party with the McLaughlin-Buick car club and as Sam sat on the front porch the group all drove buy in our old McLaughlin cars. We each got a wave from Sam.

I have personally shaken his hand twice at new model dealer shows where he held court in the front row seats at every event.

By the way, you might find it interesting to know that Sam was interested in most sports but his favourite was horse racing.

He established Parkwood Stable just north of Oshawa. His horses competed and won in major race events both in Canada and the USA. Turning eighty, he retired from racing and sold his stable to E. P. Taylor.

Col. Sam was a very generous man. Just a few that benefitted greatly from him was Queens University in Kingston. He provided medical scholarships that have financed over 500 Canadian Doctors in their studies around the world. He built a multi- million dollar Planetarium as a gift to the University of Toronto. From `1953-2003 the McLaughlin Foundation has donated 200 million dollars to that University.

Boy Scout troups benefitted as well. Col. Sam purchased Camp Samac, just outside Oshawa, in 1946 for their use.

McLaughlin College at York University, McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph, McLaughlin Hall at St. Andrews College in Aurora, the list goes on and on.

The home was willed to the Oshawa General Hospital and enough money for them to convert the 50 room house to suit their needs. It is open to the public and is a wonderful place to visit.

The ceilings in the hall ways are solid one piece formed to fit, slabs of Wedgewood brought in from Great Britain.

There is an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, indoor squash court and a bowling alley.

At this point in my automotive career I had been selected by General Motors personal to be one of twelve to represent all the Canadian dealers at business meetings and other functions. I was 50 years old and had to provide a photo for the agenda book so that we would all recognize each other at meetings. I had the photo done by Coleen McGuire here in town.

Before long, we were to gather at Parkwood to greet a new President for GM Canada who was coming here from Europe. It was a gala event held outdoors by that huge pool that stretched back to the Grandstand which of course had a band playing beautiful music.

What a privilege to have sat at that dining room table you can see in the picture and have a meal served on solid gold trimmed plates!

I had to think, “not bad, eh?” for a small town dealer with a grade eleven education.

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