A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
Back in May, my old public school, R. H. McGregor in East York, celebrated its 100th anniversary and hosted a reunion. A few thousand of us ex-scholars were invited to participate. I sent something I wrote about our class coming last in a Kiwanis Music Festival I don`t know if they posted it on a bulletin board or not. I was tempted to drive down to the reunion but finally decided not to go. It was hot that day and what with all the traffic – I`m just making excuses for not wanting to go. I`m sure there were hundreds of old geezers wandering around the halls that day asking for me.
I may be wrong but high school reunions are held all the time and are usually well-attended. Orillia has had lots of them. High school reunions make a lot of sense since the teenage years are the years many people start lifelong friendships. Students often meet their future wives and husbands there. I know two or three couples who met in high school and are still together 65 years later. I am sure that occasionally over the past seven decades there were moments when thoughts of hiring a hitman were considered by both, but by and large they have been good marriages and Vito from Chicago was never contacted – although both have kept his phone number handy.
Public school reunions may be fine if you stayed in the community. Probably the kids you met in Grade 1 tagged along with you right through to your high school graduation. The Fosters, however, moved to Orillia when my sister was twelve and I was thirteen and I doubt we ever saw our public school friends much after that, if at all.
I do have memories of my days at R.H. McGregor but they are seventy years old and are starting to get a tad fuzzy. I have written about a few kids I remember in my Packet and Times columns over the years. I have mentioned Harold Cobalt several times. Harold shaved his eyebrows off in Grade 5 but that is not his claim to fame. Harold used to pick up fresh horse buns off the street and chase the girls with them. There were lots of horse buns around for ammunition. That was back in the 40s when milk and bread wagons were trotting up and down Mortimer Avenue. And of course I mentioned a rather odd chap named Cyril (last name withheld on the advice of legal counsel) who displayed his private parts to all the kids in Grade 4. I can still see the crowd of giggling girls gathered around his desk. Cyril was sent to the office as I recall – either for disciplinary action or the office staff wanted to have a peek.
I suspect my Grade 5 teacher wouldn’t have been in attendance at the reunion since she was gray-haired when she taught me and also taught my father some years before that. She would be getting up there as they say.
I also had a teacher in Grade 3 who I definitely would not want to see. She wouldn’t let a little girl go to the washroom and the poor little kid wet her pants. I have talked about that incident before because the old witch made her clean it up with drawing paper. It is amazing how far that stuff will run, especially if it is September and the floors have been freshly varnished. If that happened today the teacher would be fired. But first, if I was the head of the school board, I would make her sit at a desk from morning to night with just a handful of drawing paper. I would pay good money to see that. That was seventy-five years ago and it still bothers me.
I got the strap in Grade 8 for doing something I can`t remember. I think I cried, but I`m not sure. The same teacher tried to strap one of the bigger kids who held on to the strap and would not let go. His name was Bob. Bob was fifteen and a big guy. I remember Bob for the strapping but also because the teacher said he would be the first Grade 8 pupil to vote. Bob fooled him and is now high up in Doug Ford`s cabinet. (Not really, I made part that up)
As I said at the beginning of this epistle, I was tempted to go to the reunion but I thought I would not know anyone and if I did recognize some kid from the past they would likely be just as senile as I am. He or she would probably tease me about my homemade underpants that hung down below my short pants in kindergarten and I would once again be the laughing stock of R.H. McGregor. Some memories are simply vicious and come back every now and then just to haunt you.