A History: Extracurricular Clubs at Harbord through the Century

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Written By: India Anamanthadoo

The great thing about high school—Harbord in particular—is that, even if you suck at the academic aspect of school, there is always—well, maybe not always—good old extracurriculars. And when I say ‘old’, I mean it. The first extracurricular club, the Literary Society, was established on February 12, 1892, a mere five weeks after Harbord’s inception.  For a small fee of 15 cents, the “Lit” provided its members with “instruction and entertainment of a literary nature…by means of music, dramatics, oratory, and so on”. As “amusing” as the Lit sounds, we are greatly indebted to this club for two major school contributions: the yearbook and the school colours. Without the Literary Society we may have ended up with something far worse than Halloween colours.

Although we are not certain what happened to the Lit, it is widely believed that it eventually evolved into Harbord’s Student Activity Council, which was first established in 1944. SAC, as it still is today, was the most influential and comprehensive club at Harbord; as one former principle wrote: “As a co-ordinating body, it is unbeatable”. Perhaps where the past SACs surpass current SACs is in their executive positions: the presidents of the Girls’ and Boys’ Athletic Associations, as well as the editor of the yearbook and the president of the Prom Committee, were required to be active members of SAC—in effect, creating a conglomerate team.

Around the same time that SAC was established, the Sodalitas Harbordensis (or the Harbord Classical Society) was formed; the Sodalitas aimed to promote the study of classic literature. As the meetings of the Sodalitas were held in private homes, membership was “necessarily” restricted to the top 30 academic students in fourth and fifth form. The Sodalitas’ first meeting was apparently quite a busy one; the first 3 hours were spent  “profusely” amending the constitution, deciding on a pin and introducing the club song. Afterwards members enjoyed three excerpts from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar performed by toga-wearing actors, followed by “long-awaited” refreshments: “sandwiches, pop, cake, cookies and candies”.

Probably the most remarkable club in all of Harbord’s history is the Oola Boola Club, a group of students who preformed knee-slapping skits. In 1932, in the midst of the Depression, the auditorium was completed—however, much to the dismay of Harbord teacher Charles Girdler, the Board of Education could not afford to buy stage curtains. Determined to raise money, Mr. Girdler rounded up 14 actors and produced a show composed of a number of comedic skits, charging a nickel for admission. The show netted $85, a major contribution towards the purchase and installation of the stage curtains—thus allowing for the presentation of more elaborate productions.

To this day, the Oola Boola Club remains a legend among alumni; its hysterical, skillful, and even irrational antics left an imprint on the minds of students and staff alike.  I can’t help but question if any of the current clubs at Harbord will be able to do the same.

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