of St. John’s School (Elora)
September 1974 - June 1978
I remember the Dorset trips with Mr. Curry. I remember freezing next to an open classroom window I was forbidden to close. I remember Mr. Chalmers angrily warning all of us that he did not want to see any uneaten food on our plates at the end of meal time in the Dorsetdining room. I remember inner tubing down a wooded hillside at night in the winter. I remember Depak Gupta crashing into a tree, damaging his teeth, and having to be taken to the local hospital.
I remember Gary Woods getting kicked out of Dorset for putting his foot through a door. His parents had to drive all the way up there from Guelphto retrieve him. It was a difficult decision by Mr. Chalmers, but ... Gary was trouble. Years later, Larry Lehnen received the school’s top prize on graduation in June 1978 even though he got off to an inauspicious beginning by smashing a window on his first day at school in Grade 8.
I remember Cam Purdy, son of the Chairman of the Board of Governors at the time, getting suspended from school for bringing his father’s pistol to school in a box. I also remember an angry motorist stopping the school bus at an intersection in Fergus and boarding the bus to demand Cam’s name after identifying him as the one responsible for throwing papers out the bus window at adjacent traffic on the last day of school.
I remember my classmate Kai Nurse, whose father was a doctor. It has always been an interesting anecdote to tell people, about Dr. Nurse.
I remember the excruciating cross country runs from Elora out to the Kilmarnockfarm. The isolation along the highway was very welcome. But I also remember cross country runs through the Grand Riverconservation park, up and down hills, winding our way back to the school on Price Street.
I remember playing soccer in the winder time on an Elora community park field, wearing only Adidas running shoes on our feet and long Adidas sports pants. We began the games in snow half way up our shins but quickly tamped it all down to a rock-hard veneer over the uneven ground.
I remember pitched, all-out snowball battles between older boys and younger boys in the nearby Village Green, where the Village of Elora snow removal teams dumped the collected snow in a towering mound.
I remember Mr. Rombach in a fit of anger threatening to pitch Paul Keating down the second floor stairwell during a Grade 7 Geography class. Grabbing Paul’s necktie knot, Mr. Rombach suspended him backwards over the empty space.
I remember Madame Gervais pitching a three-hole punch at Ian Gibson’s head during Grade 8 French, and the heavy instrument crashing against the chalk board. Of course, Ian was a boor who deserved it, but it could have ended badly.
I remember the Montreal train trip with Madame Heidi Klamming in ’77 with the St. Margaret’s girls. We met Montrealmayor Jean Drapeau, the man largely credited with bringing the 1976 Olympics to the city. Tom Hammil forgot his spending money and his mother jumped in a car and raced to meet the train in Kingston to delivery his wallet.
The next year we visited Ottawaand met with former Fergus-Elora constituency MP Perin Beaty, later the Minister of Defense under the corruption-plagued Mulroney administration. Coming back to Guelph by VIA Rail I visited the train’s canteen for a refreshment. I asked the attendant,
“Do you have any drinks?”
“Do you have chocolate milk?”
“Okay, I’ll have a chocolate milk.”
Man, was he ever enthusiastic about that chocolate milk!
I remember Father Hulse prowling the school on Friday afternoons looking for a student victim/volunteer to read the Bible passage at Evensong. Being Server at morning chapel service was an exciting thrill, but being the Bible reader at Evensong was dreaded by all.
I remember Mrs. Ross in her office with the collection of books that composed the original library. We used to tear through there like banshees oblivious to it being her work area. She was a good sport.
I remember Mr. McDowell, Science teacher, choir master, organist. Later a pilot.
I remember taking a sleeping bag to school and storing it in the building basement against the unlikely necessity of being trapped in Elora by snow. There was an old well sunk from the basement of the house. It was spooky even during the day time.
Very clearly I remember Mr. Chalmers’ Grammar classes and his type-written handout of Grammar Definitions which had to be memorized backwards and forwards by each class of incoming Grade Sevens.
I remember when the school expanded for the first time, adding Grades 5 and 6. They occupied portable classrooms attached to the Church Hall, and were physically separate from the rest of the school in the corner house on Price Street. That created a sense of alienation between the older and younger boys.
I remember the St. John’s bazaar fund raising sales held on the lot of land next to the Church Hall and facing the Village Green, before the Grade 5 and 6 portables were erected on the site.
For my Grade 9 and 10 years, September 1977 - June 1978 I occupied portable classrooms built behind the schoolhouse. It was the fist time I had ever occupied a portable. From the outside they were/are quite ugly, but tolerable on the inside. The company made them tolerable.
I remember Mr. Chapman beginning each day by reciting from Parliamentary Hansards of the previous day’s legislative proceedings in Ottawa, and then discussing the newspapers’ headlines. When I began at St. John’sMr. Chapman was clean shaven. But during the summer of 1975 he grew the beard that he was known for, and Mr. Chalmers commented on it during his opening address in September 1976, the month that Chairman Mao Zedong died. I might not remember Chairman Mao so much if Mr. Chapman hadn’t explained his importance when he died.
I remember the debating programme and the debating trophy. I was the first one to win the cup more than once.
I remember being among the first St.John’s graduates to apply to the school to teach. I was ignored.
I remember that obnoxious bully and petty criminal Roddy Jack terrorizing everyone around him. He died in an untimely accident as a university student and I believe SJK inappropriately commemorates him with a portrait in its foyer today. Under the portrait ought to be a note that he was a bully and notorious thumper. Certainly not missed or mourned by his victims.
Most of all I remember the pedophilia.