When dad had polio in the early fifties…The rest of the family was put under quarantine primarily due to the fact that Ruth was still an infant and public health wanted to be sure she had not contracted the disease. We were like lepers on a desert island and could only watch the world go by through our living room window. We lived in Barrie and mom had three children to look after and did not drive.
You’d think a young boy who liked to skate would want to play hockey but I always had weak ankles and found even ankle supports did not give me what I needed. However, a taller, tighter skate would so – no, don’t do it! You wuss! Figure skating it would be!
With that the five of them jumped us. That was fair. Doug backed the instigator into a corner of the school yard and commenced opening the scars on his face. He ran away bleeding as Doug turned to see how I was doing. I really wasn’t doing too well in the middle of the field with four guys twice my size; maybe I should have started my Judo lessons a little sooner than I did. Now I didn’t usually get frightened but I was just not used to being pulverized. Doug tried to help me but with little success. By a sudden, adroit movement I placed my left eye against Terry’s fist. The ground immediately flew up and hit me hard in the face. I was left in the middle of the football field crying and bleeding. Doug helped me up and walked me home. Just my kind of luck to get wiped out at a Fun Fair.
Grade seven passed with little or no fanfare, nothing much happened that year but it was the year I entered the world of drama – maybe I’d become an actor, a thespian – or maybe not. I played Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol, our class play. Wrapped in chains, which much to my distress had hooks on the ends, I stood behind the curtains waiting to make my grand entrance. There was a grate in the floor and two girls in my class stuck the hooks in the grate just as I was to appear on stage. Of course I had no idea this was going on and started to walk slowly through the curtains onto the stage. “I am the ghost of Jacob Mar…” With a tremendous crash and a subsequent rattle I fell flat on my face in the middle of the stage.
Patrick and I ran around the corner of the building like the Devil himself was chasing us; James rolled down the bank into the river. He knew of a great place to hide but had momentarily forgotten that it was on the other side of the river. It didn’t matter because James was forgotten and the monks came after Patrick and me. We ran across the field and hid in some bushes for the next 15 minutes. When the monks left so did we. We got home safely and found that James, apart from receiving a lecture about swimming alone at night, was alright.
When Paul Simon wrote, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all” I thought he must certainly be talking about me. In September 1966 I arrived at Georges Vanier Secondary School in Toronto – that was my first mistake. My second mistake was staying. However, if I had to do it all over again I’d probably do it the same way. I couldn’t help feeling deep in my heart that there was something good about that school and after four years I was still looking for it. I quickly bought into Mark Twain’s adage that I never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Somewhere I had read or was told that Ontario’s Junior Forest Ranger Program was a great way to spend the summer. I enthusiastically signed up; as it turned out I was misinformed. I was 17 at the time and very impressionable but soon realized it wasn’t great, it was just incredibly weird.
My third math teacher brought back fond memories of times past at Vanier. Mr. J. was a tad dozy. A boy stood awaiting his seat assignment. Mr. J. studied his chart and commented, “I’ll put you in Bob’s place for now.”
“I am Bob.”
“Oh yes, that’s right, you are Bob. It says so right here.”
Here we go again.