The Orillia Spirit


2017 Orillia Museum of Art & History Award, Historical Publications and/or Research — Winner
The history of Orillia, told through the stories of its people, bringing to life the community’s heritage and significance.

The Orillia Spirit:

  • Muddling through Canada’s first, and hilarious, experiment with daylight savings time, Mayor “Daylight Bill” Frost had it.
  • Creating his own money and dreaming a drainage ditch would become a tourist attraction, Mayor Ben Johnson had it.
  • Taking his town’s electric company by force, Mayor J.B. Tudhope had it.
  • Inventing early forms of medicare and the first RVs, dreaming of universities and folk festivals, battling for decades over liquor and rinks, ordinary people had it.

Something about the place immortalized in Stephen Leacock’s classic Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town has always inspired its people to reach for their dreams. Turn-of-the-twentieth-century leaders coined the phrase “the Orillia Spirit” to describe their drive to make the town a social, moral, and economic leader of Canada. The results have been comic, tragic, and heroic, as shown in this colourful history of Orillia.


Orillia Museum of Art & History Award, Historical Publications and/or Research category


How locally-generated power changed our community from a sleepy lumber village to a thriving industrial centre is an engrossing read — as entertaining as it is enlightening — in Randy Richmond’s The Orillia Spirit.

Packet & Times

About the Authors

Randy Richmond

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Randy Richmond photo

Randy Richmond

Randy Richmond is an award-winning journalist living in London, Ontario. He is the former editor of The Packet & Times in Orillia, where he wrote the first Orillia Spirit, married, and had three children. He is the coauthor of Colossal Canadian Failures 1 and 2, also published by Dundurn Press.

James A. “Pete” McGarvey

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

James A. “Pete” McGarvey

James A. "Pete" McGarvey has spent nearly half a century in Ontario radio. In the 70s and 80s he was a commentator on Toronto's CKEY. When in 1957 McGarvey was named Orillia's Citizen of the Year for his efforts to preserve The Old Brewery Bay, the Orillia Packet and Times wrote "[He] patiently persevered in the long and difficult negotiations with a host of lawyers, owners, potential owners, advisers and hangers-on ...