Speaking Presentation Topics


“Bomb Girls” of the General Engineering Company (Canada) Limited

Aerial View of GECO

Aerial View of GECO

The story of General Engineering Company (Canada) Limited, locally known as “GECO” (pronounced “Gee-ko”), was set against the backdrop of a world at war. On September 10th, 1939, a mere two decades after the “War to End All Wars” ended, Canada once again was thrust into a growing global conflict.William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada offered his country’s services to Churchill. Within nine months, farmland in Scarborough, Ontario was ploughed under and a top-secret munitions plant built. GECO would fill and ship over 256 million fuses to the Allied Forces in Britain and Europe. The plant would employ over 20,000, two thirds of them women.Come and learn about GECO, one of Canada’s best kept secrets. Learn about life at GECO, about the tenacity of thousands of young women and mothers–fondly referred to as the “Girls behind the Guns” or GECOites–who worked six days a week until the world claimed victory in 1945. Discover the amazing over four-kilometre tunnel system built under the complex that still exists today.

Tour the Tunnels of GECO

Lying under the city of Scarborough, Ontario, are over four kilometres of tunnels built during WWII as part of a top-secret munitions plant called GECO. This powerful slide presentation showcases the tunnel system, offering a historical perspective including why the elaborate system was built and what remains today. Come take a virtual tour of the tunnels!

Original GECO Tunnel under the City of Scarborough, Ontario

Original GECO Tunnel under the City of Scarborough, Ontario

Tour the Physical Remains of GECO

Original GECO Shift House in 2012

Original GECO Shift House circa 2012

Would you, your company, or community group enjoy a guided tour of the remains of a top-secret WWII munitions plant? Barb offers private walking tours of the remains of the old GECO site. During this fascinating one-hour tour, we’ll stop at designated spots where Barb will speak at length about GECO’s important history and the contribution made to the Allied War effort by thousands of brave and patriotic Canadian women who worked there. You’ll learn how to identify an original building with its many unique features. With your very own GECO map souvenir, you can continue, at your leisure, your own tour of this sprawling area of southern Scarborough. GECO was, and still is a historical treasure trove, not only in its physical ruins, but in its legacy to the future generations of Scarborough and Canada.

Canada: Before She Became a Country

Come discover life in Canada during the first half of the 19th century as seen through the eyes of an English gentleman, David Cragg. A true-life account, David, born in 1769, lived through the Napoleonic wars, the death of his beloved Molly from a grand consumption, the Industrial Revolution, and his immigration to Canada as a widower with eight children. This fascinating presentation–a walk down memory lane and told through David’s own writing–will intrigue and inspire Canadians, historians, and anyone who’s interested in learning more about Toronto, Ontario, and Canada’s history.David disembarked at the foot of Yonge Street after a 80-day harrowing ocean journey. Pigeons in Muddy York were so thick they were shot on sight. His daughter washed their clothes on the shores of Lake Ontario. Take a virtual walk down Toronto’s bustling King Street and catch some of David’s exuberance as he sets up house on Hospital Street, and starts a new life in Upper Canada.

David Cragg's Home

David Cragg’s Home

They Came in Ships: An Emigrant’s Journey to Canada

Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland

Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland

Barb presents a harrowing true-life account faced by future Canadians as they survive a two-month voyage upon the unforgiving and turbulent North Atlantic in 1833.Emigration to the New Worlde was fraught with risk: from disease on board ship to treacherous storms; from thievery to rape; from hitting ice bergs off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to starvation; from murder to poverty, these courageous folk would endure it all.

Where the Irish Died

The Irish people helped build Canada but at great cost. Some say over one million men, women and children fled Erin, dying from poverty and starvation, especially during the Great Hunger from 1845-1852. Desperately hoping to start a new life in Canada, tens of thousands contracted typhus aboard “coffin ships” and either died before stepping foot upon Canada’s shores, or died in a frantic attempt to reach their destination along the St. Lawrence River. Even more tragically, many of their final resting places remain unmarked or unremembered today. Come be part of honouring the courage and tenacity of the Irish people and their lasting quiet legacy to Canada’s history.

Toronto's Ireland Park

Toronto’s Ireland Park

MS Doesn’t Have to Be a Mess

MS Doesn't Have to Be a Mess

MS Doesn’t Have to Be a Mess

A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis doesn’t mean giving up or giving in. It means getting tough and getting even. Join me as we look at some lessons learned from living with MS–not only about coping with this relentless, unforgiving disease, but about life as well. You, too, can reclaim your life, and look to the future with hope.


To contact or book Barbara

  • Leave a reply below
  • Send an E-mail to: barbara at barbaradickson dot ca
  • Write in care of:
    P.O. Box 30001
    RPO Huntingwood
    Scarborough, ON M1T 0A1

5 comments for “Speaking Presentation Topics

  1. Jeff Montgomery
    January 26, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Hi Barb
    My friends and I would be very interested in your tour.
    Can only hope that your still giving tours.
    Very interesting and important history.
    Looking forward to your reply.
    Jeff Montgomery

    • January 27, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Jeff, thanks for your post. Yes, I give tours of the GECO property; as recently as this past Christmas season. Let me know what you would like to learn/see, and how many people would be with you, and we can work out the details. I do charge a nominal fee per “tour-ist” but you get a pretty cool takeaway: an historic map of GECO to help you navigate the site at your leisure.

  2. Catherine Staples
    November 13, 2014 at 4:18 am

    Do you still give tours of the area of GECO?

  3. Carole Lupton
    March 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Barbara, I was with my mother last Thursday, and we both thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. The next day we took a little drive around the area, but found it quite difficult to determine what might remain of GECO. We look forward to your book!
    I have mentioned you and your presentation to people, and everyone was quite surprised by the revelation of what has been hidden from our history all these years.

    • Barbara
      March 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Carole, thanks for your post. I’m so glad you and your mother enjoyed the presentation. Yes, it can be difficult to pick out an original GECO building today because of alterations/upgrades/deterioration of individual properties since the war ended (almost 70 years ago.) If you picked up a map of the plant at the presentation, you’ll see hash marks through some of the buildings, especially along Manville Avenue. The hash tags indicate that an original building still stands. If you are part of an organization which might be interested in a walking tour, I do give tours of the GECO site. While we walk, I point out original buildings and their purpose during the war. Thanks again. Take care, Barbara

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