Monday, 28 October 2013




      The iSchool and the Harbord Village Residents Association have partnered to create an exhibition about the history of the neighbourhood. The project is based primarily on a collection of oral histories and pictures that were collected from families that have lived in the area. 
I live in the Harbord Village and the neighbourhood has become so much more meaningful after working on this project. Past social activities have appealed to me, particularly when comparing past practices to current activities. One resident related a story about where people went out to have fun during the war:

      “The Canteen for the soldiers, during the war. And we used – first of all, you had to be   
      interviewed, and some people didn't get in. I did. I was very proud. And I used to go Saturday 
      nights, and we used to serve them [soldiers] coffee, and ask them to dance, and you couldn't date 
      them, and you couldn't go home with them, and that was fun.”

      Learning about where people socialized at specific times in history and before restaurants and bars were popular in the area has been very interesting because those periods are removed from our lived experience today.
      Another oral history relates that young women would organize social clubs. They used to put ads in the paper advertising for girls who wanted to join a social club and hold meetings. The resident states that it seems funny now: 

       “It was ridiculous. So many people did it then. It was very funny when I think about it now. I    
       don't know what we did. We wanted to meet boys.”

      Social activities that relate to meeting people are still relevant today. We can associate the ads in the paper to the present use of social media, for instance. We use Facebook and dating sites to meet new people.  But after restaurants and bars opened in the area they acted as social venues, where people met and formed relationships. Since starting our project, I recently revisited Free Times CafĂ© and Future’s Bakery. Both sites are frequented by people in the neighbourhood and students from U of T. They are locations that allow for people to come together and socialize with good food and drink. So although, we have moved away from independent social clubs the desire to socialize and meet people always already stays the same. 

Corporal and Mrs. Rogers Nuttal, November 19, 1944, Photographer: John H. Boyd. 
City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1266, Item 93460

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