I attended a small private boys’ school called St. John’s School (Elora) from September 1974-to June 1978. I graduated at the end of Grade 10 which at that time was as far as the school went. Today the school is called St. John’s-Kilmarnock School, re-located to the village of Breslau outside the city of Waterloo, Ontario. When I attended the school was located in a converted house. Today it boasts a mighty fine campus with proper buildings and facilities.
In my day the school was ruled by founder and headmaster Jim Chalmers, a fierce and intimidating character. Assistant Headmaster was Walter Langford. The staff featured Malcomb Rombach, Gerald Shantz (Latin), Donald Chapman (History), Shane Curry (Science), Ramelle Harkins (Reading, goat farmer), Mr. McDowell (the original Science teacher, and Music, pilot), Mrs. McCrae (Music), Madam Gervais (French, 3-hole punch-thrower), Mademoiselle Heidi Klaming (French), and Father Robert Hulse (Chaplain). Father Hulse’s door literally was always open. So was his car, as some of us discovered. (We paid to replace that muffler!) I even have a copy of the LP album the St. John’s School choir cut in the St. John’s the Evangelist Church with Mr. McDowell on the organ in 1975. My classmates included the likes of Jonathan Spaetzel, Deepak Gupta, the Ritson twins, Ken Thompson, Doug Hurst, Larry Lehnen, Tom Hamill, Kai Nurse, Sean Irwin, Paul Keating, Paul Charlton, Todd Halfnight, Dale Kropf, and others. The infamous and criminally insane Gary Woods, Roddy Jack, Bill Parker and Cam Purdy were a year ahead of me, but the equally infamous Peter Hyan was in my class until his early, untimely and dishonorable departure. Ian Gibson and John Macleod were other early departures from among my group. All ghosts
I got E-mail from my old school on Sunday, March 15, 2015 informing me of a reunion set for May. It doesn’t matter because I can’t attend even if I wanted to.
The school has changed a lot over the years - location, size and composition - and frankly what it is today does not resemble the school I remember. Therefore exhortations from the contemporary school’s alumni department sound like fantasy to me. I have the impression that a reunion would be attended mostly by former students from a later era than my own. The school opened in 1972, making me part of the forgotten original crowd. Reunions are likely to be populated by students from the 1990s who think of themselves as the Old Boys.
A reunion is like a séance, calling up ghosts, or like a dog returning to lick its own vomit, alternately horrific and grotesque.
After receiving the E-mail I immediately messaged back saying almost exactly that - that the school experience the writer described trying to sound nostalgic bore no resemblance to my school, the school of my memory. Then I was kept awake until almost 2:00 a.m. fretting the idea of reunions (called “dosokai” in Japanese). A reunion is like a séance, calling up ghosts, or like a dog returning to lick its own vomit, alternately horrific and grotesque. I can’t imagine the motivation. For the most part I’d rather drive my car over their legs than meet those people again.
Furthermore, we have to remember that school is primarily about schooling (that’s why it’s called that), not about education, and reunions see people willingly act out a fiction, pandering to a lie. School is more often than not about pain and suffering, torture and vendetta, heartache and rancour, alienation and despair, and indoctrination. That’s what my Latin teacher, Gerald Shantz, taught me. Later, after I had graduated and left the school the chaplain, Ft. Robert Hulse saved me. I mean he literally saved my life. Too often the most creative thing youngsters do is planning their escape. My escape took me around the world on a train. Several trains, actually, until I wound up where I am.