Thursday, November 15, 2012

Secrets of An Eighth Grade Nothing

I spent my teen years living in a subdivision. In fact, it was considered the first real subdivision in Ontario. With a $500 down payment on a bungalow, and a developer's promise of a soon to be built high school, my parents left our three room flat in Toronto and made the big move to the 'burb. I was sent on a bus to complete 8th grade in a school built in 1888. It had a girls' entrance and a boys' entrance and by the time I attended, almost 80 years later, the "powers that be" still abided by this tradition of sex segregation. Of course, once inside the building, it was a free for all.

The classroom numbers were huge, over forty eighth graders by the time I arrived. The walls were thin. The radiators leaked and hissed. Plaster chunks dropped randomly from the ceiling. When the third floor teacher practiced his trumpet during the noon hour, every student in the school was motivated to eat lunch more quickly and get outside. The storage area was like the magic porridge pot, spewing not porridge, but additional lift top desks each day, as new subdivision students continued to appear.

Despite its historical interest, the building was eventually condemned. I found this photo of Church Street Public School from the early 1900's in the PADA archives.

I remember the girls' door was on the right, near the massive elm tree. The elm tree still existed when I attended the school, although it was infested with disease carrying beetles by then.

"Someone" used to collect the bugs and "innocently" deposit them into the desks of squeamish and annoying girls. I can't recall who actually did that, but I can personally guarantee that this individual would never have been a suspect.

The school had some wonderful ornamental cement edging and the less sophisticated of the eighth graders enjoyed playing "ledgers" with tennis balls on these outdoor shelves. The rest of the students found hiding places around the building to get into other sorts of mischief. This was our class  photo taken at the back of the building.

My teacher was young, handsome and patient. During an parent-teacher interview, he told my folks how quiet I was and how it was hard to discern what my interests were. He told them I appeared to be interested in nothing.

He also predicted to our huge class that only about four or five students would eventually make it to university. He was pretty accurate.

 In later years, he was a principal and eventually hired one of those students. Now, fifty two years later, I still occasionally see the eighth grade teacher who once hired me. I wonder whether he ever figured out who put all those bugs into people's desks.
September 2013 Update
Wish I'd known about this. I might have joined them.


  1. What an interesting story. I had no idea there was an old school in Pickering called Church Street Public School and I'm so pleased that you found a photo of it!
    One of the things which really captured my attention (apart from Rudy) was that you played ledgers. I attended an old public school on Broadview Ave. in Toronto and we did ledgers there. I loved that game and wish kids could play it nowadays. If someone could enjoy ledgers, I can't imagine how their attention could possibly be diverted by bugs. That person is probably still a pest, whoever s/he may be. ;-)
    It's great to have the continuity of Rudy in your life. He runs like a thread through my life and Mike's too - three different schools for me and 15 years as my principal.
    Thanks for writing these blogs, Hilde. They are amazing!

  2. I bet he'd enjoy learning who the bug collector was.

    1. Well, now that Avril knows, I live in fear...ha,ha.