Catholic Grade School

…September 1957. It was now time for school. Grade one. I was a smart young lad back then for I skipped Kindergarten. What kind of name is that anyway, Kindergarten? Jimmy-mum and I would go together, walk to school, and keep each other company all the way and on the way. It was about a mile and a half to walk, normally taking a shortcut through a huge hydro-field. I can still remember that walk. Stay on the left side of the road, face traffic, look both ways, cut across the street, quickly, then walk through the long grass of the hydro field. That field’s long and soft early autumn grass seemed to undulate magically in the light breeze, like an ocean’s swell of late summer’s willowing grass. Each long and tenuous swell appearing to a young fellow like me as some sort of an enormous barrier or sea swell that had to be climbed or sailed across. Down hill and dale we would go, through valley and trough; then up to the next crest, and to the next, and to the next, finally portaging across some wild and raging river until alas, back to the reality of the school yard where I would be confined to for the next seven years.

Catholic grade school: grades 1 through 8. No junior high or whatever they feel inclined to call these things these days. To us kids it made no difference.  And to an imaginative lad school was school. And it sucked. And the Catholic Schools really, really sucked because in addition to all of the scholarly stuff we also had to contend with the wrath of God disguised in long flowing black robes and habits. Sister this and sister that.  Father this and father that.  Adapt quickly and quietly and quickly and quietly we did for it soon became apparent that it was us against them. For that reason alone our time in the Catholic School system was the very best of times as well as the very worst of times.  At its worse? A residential school for white Anglo – Saxon boys and girls. At its best? It was a great deal of fun and a whole lot of laughs for it was us against them for the next seven years. Seven years, as I skipped a grade for being the smart ass that I was back in those days.  Then again the Catholic Separate School System had a mandate and a mission to spit out as many good catholic boys and girls on society as fast as was heavenly possible.

They had lay teachers there as well. Some were great, others not so much.  Ms McFayden, grade seven, a closet chain smoker.   Mr Bowner: a superb, artistically inclined grade six teacher. There was Ms Tupper, grade three; Ms Kellerer, grades four and five; Ms Raddigan, grade eight, Radiator in our vernacular. Sister Theresa, grade one. Grade two – I can’t remember…