Scarborough’s past stranger than fiction

The life of a teacher in need of a shave in 19th-century Scarborough was governed by some strange rules, visitors to the Scarborough Historical Society’s annual exhibit learned.

The three-day exhibit, timed to coincide with Heritage Week, was held on the weekend at the Scarborough Town Centre and offered historical information and photography documenting the growth of Scarborough.

Information on past employment requirements, cultural sensibilities and the bizarre was on display, too, and included  the job regulations for teachers in the 19th century.

One rule stated, “Any teacher who gets shaved in a barbershop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.”

“There was more going on at the barbershop than shaving,” historian Don Allen said. “It was well known that drinking and gambling were taking place in the back.”

Rick Schofield, the Scarborough Historical Society’s head archivist, added that a teacher were vulnerable if they decided to have a public shave.

“Teachers would be threatened with the straight razor by the barber or someone to give their child better marks,” he said.

Scarborough’s history is a family affair for the Schofields. Schofield’s daughter Meredyth is a history major at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

Growing up around the archives and the historical society has been beneficial to Meredyth’s education, she said.

“The last year of high school, I won the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for preparing an R.H. King research guide,” she said.

Meredyth Schofield explains how the Scarborough Historical Society’s archives helped her gain academic recognition.

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After graduation, the younger Schofield, whose mother works at the Scarborough Museum in Thompson Park, said she plans to follow in her father’s footsteps.

“I want to teach and be an archivist,” she said. “That’s how my father started.”

The three-day exhibit featured aerial photos of Scarborough through the years, historic artifacts like tickets collected by milkmen and historical timelines.

The Scarborough archives are kept at 6282 Kingston Rd. and are maintained by the Scarborough Historical Society.

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