Oliver Associates, a NFP, volunteer organisation, was created in 1998, on the cusp of the new millennium. It was created to help further Leslie Oliver’s interests in Canadian material cultural studies. Of particular interest was his study of results and consequences of the work of the HVACR [Heating, Ventilation, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration] industry on Canadian society and culture – one step at a time.
Leslie was born in 1929 in Aurora Ontario, then a small exurban settlement north of Toronto, on the north slopes of the Oakridge’s moraine - a detail that would prove to be significant in shaping his life-time interests in Canada’s evolving material culture. For Aurora and the surrounding townships of Whitchurch and King were relatively prosperous areas of early Canadian pioneer settlement and would be “early adopters” of the science and engineering enabled devices of the early 20th century.
Included were urban and rural electrification, central home heating, automobiles on county and town roads, tractors, cultivators, seeders, harvesters, milking machines, and cream separators on the farm, along with home appliances in the kitchen, and radio and phonograph in the parlor. For these would be amongst the early precursors of a vastly changing, technology enabled, Canadian society and culture - standing in sharp contrast to Canada’s early settlement years not far behind.
Howard Oliver, Leslie’s father, growing up in his early 20th century world, would be one of its early “high-tech” workers - contributing to the early years of development in the fields of internal combustion, refrigeration, and radio reception. Leslie, for his part, would grow up watching his father at work, fascinated by his acquired personal knowledge and insight, his seemingly inherent understandings, meticulous handling, and reverence for the science and engineering enabled devices of his times - how they worked, what they did, and how to fix them if they failed to do what was expected.
Born into the tumult of the depression and WWII years, Leslie, a twin son of T. H. [Howard] Oliver and Leta Oliver, both third generation descendants of settlers taking up land grants on the Whitchurch highlands. would come to maturity in the relative prosperity of Canada’s post WWII years - seemingly born “at the right time” [Doug Owram 1996].
Not surprisingly, Leslie’s take-a-way from his early life experience was, much like his father, a personal fascination with engineering, science, and the world of things they enabled, the stories they told of life and times, the centrality of historic knowledge to human understanding, and the acquisition and application of personal and professional knowledge.
With an honor’s degree in electrical engineering, he would settle into professional life as vice-president and general manager of the family’s rapidly growing business, prior to returning to university to pursue doctoral studies, furthering his interests in the content, structure, acquisition, and dissemination of personal and professional knowledge, as well as to his commitment to studies in Canadian material culture.