nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘getting to school

remembering place – Grade One

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On a ‘mind map’ of my life, what places are clearly marked as important, with bright yellow stickpins of internal memory?

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home

home (map from Google Earth)

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Since I spent most of my younger days in school, it isn’t very surprising that many of those stickpins mark the schools I attended.  One of these is Vincent Massey Elementary School in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

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Vincent Massey Elementary School in 2006 - looks just the same as in the early 1960s

Vincent Massey Elementary School in 2012 – looks just the same as in the early 1960s (image from Street View)

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In the early 1960s there were three elementary schools within a reasonable distance of our house. The story of how I came to attend Vincent Massey was probably one of the first dramatic events in my life to that date.

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The school I was assigned to attend was determined by the School Board.   The summer just before I was to attend school for the first time, a delegate of the School Board came around the neighborhood to let the parents know which school their children would attend.  Mom and Dad were not at home when the representative came to call.  My Mom got the information second-hand, from the mother of my best friend, just across the street.

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from home to school in Grade One

from home to school in Grade One (map from Google Earth)

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Mom and Dad were quite alarmed to discover I was to go to Vincent Massey Elementary School, seven blocks away.  This may not seem far today – my son attended Grade One in a community 13 kilometers away.  But in those days, there was no school bus and my Mom had my eighteen-month-old brother to care for.  I would have to get to school on my own two feet.

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My brother and I in 1960 - I had been in Grade One for three months when the picture was taken - I look like I could easily make those seven blocks to school!

My brother and I in 1960 – I had been in Grade One for three months when the picture was taken – I look like I could easily make those seven blocks to school!

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I remember the discussions well – about the best route for me to take, about what we would do about dinner time, about the dangers of taking to strangers.  We did a couple of dry runs.  I can still remember my Mom showing me how to cross the busy four-lane Division Avenue.  Up to this point, I had not been allowed to go beyond our own block by myself.

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Division Avenue

Division Avenue in 2012 (image from Street View) – I remember standing on the curb looking at the traffic whizzing back and forth … no crosswalk!!!!

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The first day at school, the drama expanded.  Mom had told me to be very careful to listen for my first name – Alexandra.  I was usually called by my second name – Jane – so this was a major worry for me.  On that first morning, all the students were assembled in the gymn.  We sat on the floor and our names were called, one by one.  I listened for that long, strange first name as each name was called.  And, at the very end, I was all alone in the gymn … no one had called the name Alexandra.

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The teachers were very nice, of course.  I was told not to worry, and Mrs. MacDonald, a teacher of one of the Grade One classes, came to get me.

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As it turned out, the neighbor had given my Mom the wrong information.  Today, knowing urban planning as I do, I think ‘Division Avenue’ might have provided the first clue!!!!

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I had a great year.  I walked to school with friends.  We stuck to the planned route for a while, but ended up taking shortcuts through various yards.  By the end of the year, I was taking the city bus, dropping my quarter into the slot like a pro.  I stayed with Mrs. MacDonald for my first year of school and emerged from the grade convinced that rabbit was spelled ‘raddit’ (no fault of the teacher’s).

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Mrs. McDonald's Grade One class (I am first left in bottom row; Mrs. McDonald is at upper left)

Mrs. McDonald’s Grade One class (I am first left in bottom row; Mrs. McDonald is at upper left)

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The next year, properly directed by the School Board, I was sent to Crescent Heights Elementary School, two blocks away, and another stickpin on my ‘mind map’ …

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 27, 2014 at 7:27 am

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