Oshawa Schoolbooks

By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Recently I was organizing the museum’s education collection and putting items from the schoolroom exhibit into storage. I went on to check the dates of all of our schoolbooks to ensure they dated back to the time period we were depicting. To my surprise I found eight books that contained names of Oshawa students, teachers, schools and even some amusing graffiti.

The dates of the books range from 1868 – 1929. “By this time the school readers had been made containing more imaginative prose and poetry Literature had been added to the elementary curriculum. The teacher read stories to the classes from any book or periodical he or she might have had on hand, or, a story from a book that some of the pupils had brought to school.”[1]  Surprisingly most of the schoolbooks that were found are Ontario and Canadian based. In the early days of education many children in Upper Canada studied from European, UK and American books because that was all that was available. The books this blog post are based on are: Canadian Series Fourth Reader (1868), Canadian Series Spelling  Book (1868), The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), High School Physical Science (1895), The Ontario Public School Speller (1909), The Ontario Readers Primer (1909), A Junior History of England (1929) and My Spelling Grade 5 (1943).

Five out of the eight books were used at different schools: Mary Street School, Westmount School, Simcoe Street School, and Centre Street School/Central School, with Mary Street and Centre Street Schools bring two of the oldest in Oshawa. The Junior History of England book belonged to Janet Oke who lived at 268 Ritson Road South in Oshawa and had Mr. Davidson as her Grade 8 teacher in Room 15. Unfortunately we don’t know what school she went to. It is possible that she may have attended Centre Street School as it would have been large enough by then to have at least 15 rooms.

Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection

Westmount School, from the Oshawa Archives Collection

This book also contains graffiti that seems to have been written by Janet.

“This book is full of words,

As full as it can be.

It killed the jerk who wrote it,

And now it’s killing me.”

 

“History is an awful thing,

And awful it may be.

It killed the early Romans,

And now it’s killing me.”

Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)

Graffiti found on the inside cover of A Junior History of England (18th Printing, 1949)

Another of the books also contains graffiti. The Ontario Readers Fourth Reader (1885), was owned by Miss Maude H. Clarke in 1907.  She attended Centre Street School at the time.

“If my name you wish to see, turn to page 107.

If my name you wish to find,

Shut the book and nevermind.”

 

“If this book begins to roam,

Shut the book and nevermind.”

 

“Steal not this book my honest friend,

For fear the gallows will be thy end,

And when you die the Lord will say,

Where is the book you stole away?

And if you say I do not know,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come in my dear.”

 

“Steal not this book for fear of strife,

For the owner carries a big jackknife.”

 

“Steal not this book, for when you die,

The Lord will say ‘Where is the book you stole away?’

And if you say ‘I do not know’,

The Lord will say ‘Go down below.’

And if you say ‘I got it here.’

The Lord will say ‘Come right…’

In 1996, the book was donated in memory of Nathan “Ned” Smith, who was caretaker of Lakeview Park from the 1930s to 1942, by his grandchildren: Jean Landale, Georgina Bryant, Francis Shirlock, Gail Richard, Kenneth Munro, Linda Munro. At this time it is unclear if Maude Clarke and the Smith family are related.

The High School Physical Science (1895) book was owned by sister and brother, Margaret and Donald Hawkes. They went to Oshawa High School, now O’Neill CVI, and one of their teachers was Mr. Louis Stevenson as noted in the text book. According to Olive French “He was an excellent teacher and tolerated no nonsense in his classes.”[2]

Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection

Oshawa High School, c. 1911, from the Oshawa Archives collection

It is interesting how much information we can glean from these textbooks beyond what is printed on its pages – who was teaching at the time, how long the books were used past their publishing date, what kind of language and slang the kids were using at the time. This blog post has inspired me to do some more research into the children’s families and teachers mentioned. They will be part of my ongoing research project into various aspects of the early education system in Oshawa.

 

For more information on Oshawa’s early education history, please visit our website, featuring Olive French’s unpublished manuscript.

[1] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript. 1871-1920. P.7

[2] French, Olive. Olive French Manuscript 1921-1967. P. 75

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One thought on “Oshawa Schoolbooks

  1. My father, George Goulding, was born in Oshawa on Nassau Street in 1920.  He told me he used to put inside his school books this phrase, “If this book should happen to roam, box its ears and send it home – to George Goulding, 311 Nassau Street, Oshawa.”  I have several of these old textbooks you mention.  Some also belonged to my mother.   Gloria Goulding Mills

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