School Daze

Evry morning when I make the bed, I think of Miss Burrill.

Miss Burrill was my home ec teacher back in grade 7 and 8. She taught a whole roomful of naive girls how to be successful homemakers. One of the important skills was how to make the bed quickly: make one entire side of the bed first, then go around to the other side and make it. No back and forth, pulling up one sheet or cover at a time. NO! You had to be efficient! When Miss Burrill wasn’t looking, we girls hid in a corner and laughed ourselves silly.

I have lots of other memories of my elementary school days and my teachers, back in the 1950’s. The girls all had a crush on Mr, Vasko, phys ed teacher who also coached basketball and was really cute. And Mr. Glass; we knew to avoid him because, when he gave a girl a detention at recess, he would hover around her desk much too close. We had great respect for Miss Dobson, our grade 3 teacher, who let us vote on whether she should give a boy the strap for a misdemeanor. We adored Miss Stoutenberg who had the most beautiful clothes – and matching shoes!

And friends: every day I walked part-way to school by myself. Then I met my friend Jolaine at the corner of her street and we walked the rest of the way together. But one morning she wasn’t there – she had found another friend, Penny, to walk with. I cried buckets about losing my best friend. But then I found another best friend, Linda, and started walking to school with her.

Linda and I gossiped a lot about Jolaine and Penny; their clothes, their lunches, anything we could think of to criticize. Except sometimes we all got together to talk about somebody else – Sammy Backus. Sammy was the class rebel. He wore his hair slicked down in waves and often had a cigarette tucked behind his ear. On the weekends he would get into trouble robbing a store or gas station, and sometimes he even spent a night in jail. We were thrilled and terrified at the same time. Once Penny took her Brownie camera to school and snuck a photo of him, which we passed around when the teacher wasn’t looking.

In grade 8, I was chosen by the teacher to be the editor of the class yearbook. I loved my role of collecting stories and poems from the kids, writing the cover letter, running the finished pages off on the ditto machine, and getting a little high on the smell of the ink. I beamed with pride as I distributed the copies of the finished book on the last day of school, and everybody began collecting autographs on the back page. It was the beginning of my writing career.

As I look back at my years in elementary school, I guess somewhere along the way I learned math, science, English and history. But that’s not what I remember. The things I recall and cherish are the connections, the friendships, the learning together. And I understand why kids these days are so anxious to get back to school.

Right now parents all across Canada, whether they live in the city or the country, are trying to decide whether to send their child back to school in September. Will it be safe in the classroom? Are there covid germs lurking around? But that’s not what the kids are thinking about at all. They want to hang out with their friends, laugh at their teachers’ quirks, and sneak some pictures of the class rebel on their phones.


Sammy was not available for a photo.
Miss Burrill would be pleased.

6 thoughts on “School Daze

  1. What a great read. I loved the names that added so much colour. And, of course, your insights are so germane to the current state of affairs.


  2. You have an amazing memory and fun remembrances. I can only remember the name of a few of my teachers and friends.
    Great story as usual.


  3. This was an outstanding read! I am impressed with your memory…for someone in their seventies! Bravo! I am going to be sharing this story with some of my grade school friends for dinner this week. Going to ask them to put on their memory caps and see what we remember. You hit the nail on the head about how the kids are feeling about returning to school. Hilarious read about your school days!


  4. What a fun read Sue…I loved my high school days also. I am going to try making a more efficient bed one side then the other. Hope you are having fu up north with your granddaughter


  5. Imagine my shock, Sue, at discovering I’ve been making my bed wrong all these years! I remember learning how to make hospital corners, but whether that was home ec class or Girl Guides, I no longer remember. But I have been using Miss Burrill’s technique every day now. It is definitely efficient. Now what to do with all these minutes I’m saving every morning!


    Sent from my iPad



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