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Writer's Corner- New Brunswick


Changing Schools
By Barry L. Hatt

   My first six years of schooling were in a one-room school. In L’Étang we might have had 30+ children in the whole one room school, but I got used to that type of learning. After finishing grade six I finally realized that I was going to have to go to a larger school, Eastern Charlotte Regional School in St. George. It was somewhat disconcerting. My mother, being a teacher, tried to prepare me as much as possible for the change with emphasis on the positive aspects, but there was an inherent fear of change that remained. It helped that my older brother Clynel had gone there the previous year and didn’t seem any worse because of it. The one thing that helped most was that my friends were going too and that was the biggest plus. Fear of the unknown, all by oneself, is frightening, but that fear diminishes in direct proportion to the number of friends with you.

   Students came from all over Eastern Charlotte County to go to ECRS, Lepreau, Pocologan, Seelys Cove, Second Falls, Bonney River, Back Bay, Letete, L’Étang, Elmsville etc.
   Grade seven in the early 1960s was interesting because there were as many people in that one class as we had in our entire school the previous year. I think I was shy by nature but masked it well by being a bit of a clown. Schoolwork never took on much attraction for me but I managed to do quite well by osmosis. I would be almost asleep in Math class with my book propped up in front of me. But my pores must have absorbed the lesson being taught because I did reasonably well.

   The good thing about going to a new school was that you made new friends and at ECRS there were sports and I also began to realize that there were considerable differences between the sexes.

   I even got elected to represent the class on the student council that year, which was interesting in that I had to learn to write reasonably well so I could read my own writing in order to report to the class.

   My friend Wayne Patterson was in one of my classes, Mme. Morins’ French class. We made paper airplanes and were waiting for her to turn around to help someone so that we could launch them to see who would win the distance record.

   Invariably we sat near the back of the class, which gave us a good field of fire. The moment that Mme. Morin turned to help someone, we both launched our airplanes and a fraction of a second latter the Principal, Mr. Harvey, looked through the window of the closed door. In a situation like that you want your plane to immediately crash and burn, but no such luck, superior technology combined with good aerodynamics allowed both our planes to have a long, uninterrupted flight. The planes crossed in midair; Waynes’ proceeded to do a perfect landing on the teachers desk while mine flew leisurely towards the door and landed appropriately in the waste basket.

   When the door began to open I knew that our aviation careers had come to an untimely end. “ Who threw those airplanes? “ filled the room. Mme. Morin turned around with a surprised look on her face. Wayne and I knew that the gig was up and raised our hands to await our punishment. Looking back I remember that there was an honour code. If you did something wrong, you admitted doing it and accepted the penalty. In this instance we wound up writing lines. “I shall not throw paper airplanes in class.” (Did you know that you could write two lines at once by using two pencils?)

   I usually had two or three good friends in each year at ECRS. Wayne, Eugene and Blaine came with me from L’Étang but Mark, Ian, Donnie and many others made those walks around the school with me during recess and lunch.

   ECRS was an interesting school because grades went from 7 to 12. Compared to a small rural school it was huge. If someone smoked they had to go up on the ‘Hill’ to do so because of the no smoking policy on school property. When the bell rang there was a steady movement of people going there. I remember once, probably in grade 9, when we were in one of the upper floor rooms at the back of the school, with the window wide open. Someone had an orange in their lunch which was thrown at a couple of guys heading for the hill. I think it was Halley Kimball who picked it up and threw it back as hard as he could. It went through the open window and splattered all over the wall near the large round clock near the door.

   The loud bang it made as it hit attracted the nearest teacher, who happened to be Mr. Bernard who was then the Principal. He wanted to know who had thrown it. When none of us spoke up he informed us that the entire class would have to stay in until someone admitted doing it. After he left we were in a bit of a quandary because we didn’t want to rat on the guy who threw it, especially since we had started it. We also didn’t feel that we should make our class stay in. Finally a delegation of Wayne Kelson and I went to the Principals office and told half the story. We said that someone going up the hill to smoke had done it but we didn’t know who it was. It worked! We didn’t draw the ire of the older guys on us, plus the class didn’t have to stay in.

   We had many really good teachers back then and I think they out numbered the ones that you hoped would go elsewhere. I would mention names but might get into trouble if I started to make lists. I remember one great injustice that was done to Wayne Patterson, probably in grade 7. We had to do a book report and I think his reward for doing well was to be able to go to Boy Scout Camp. English literature was not one of his stronger classes but this time he was determined to do well.

   He wrote and rewrote his report many times. I remember going to his place once to play but he told me that he was finishing his book report. Well to me that was something. He never did that before in his life. I was sure he was going to do well. When he got his report back he had received a failing mark because his teacher said he must have copied from someone else. Frustration, anger and disbelief all were felt. I saw first hand what a teacher could wrongly do to a student who deserved better. Those are the types of situations that alter a persons’ life.

   As I progressed through school I got involved with basketball and was on the Junior team under Frank Johnson as well on the intramural teams under Eugene Maxwell. Some of us on the Junior team were invited to play in a game with the senior team and we did reasonably well. I was looking forward to playing with the Senior Team the next year.

   In the summer of 1965 My family moved to Toronto which was a culture shock to all involved. From the friendly confines of ECRS to a huge impersonal school in Etobicoke didn’t do much for my enthusiasm towards schoolwork or schooling in general but I managed to make the necessary changes and get through it.

   The old adage “You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy” is still true. All of my family eventually moved back to New Brunswick. ECRS is no longer called that but the building still stands there and I am sure has given good memories to innumerable people. Thanks for the memories.

Barry Hatt lives in Fredericton. You may contact him through his e-mail address which is blhatt@rogers.com

THE END

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