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I Remember (Part 2)

November 18, 2012

Last week I posted the first in a multi-part series about my early school days (beginning, of course, with my very first year at school); today I’m continuing with what I remember about my ‘junior primary’ years (Grades 1 through 4).

Grade 1 (September 1959 – June 1960)

Brantwood PS - Back

Boys entered through the door on the right; the girls’ door was on the left; its now ‘obstructed’ by the entryway to the new gymnasium that was built onto the school in the 1980s

I’ll be honest– I don’t remember very much about Grade 1. I do remember that it marked the beginning of ‘all day’ school for me; we attended morning classes from 9:00 a.m. to 11:45, and afternoon classes from 1:15 to 4:00 p.m. Everyone walked to school (there was no busing, no ‘helicopter’ parents driving their kids to school – in fact, most families were lucky to own even one car and the fathers used it to get to and from work), and everyone went home for lunch (in the late 50s and early 60s most mothers didn’t work, and the few who did made arrangements for their children to have lunch at a friend or neighbour’s home).  When the warning bell rang at five minutes to nine and ten minutes past one, I remember lining up at the ‘Girls’ entrance (the south door); the boys lined up at the ‘Boys’ entrance (at the north end). Only when we were standing in a straight line – quietly – would the teachers who had been ‘On Duty’ let us into the school.  (I remember that if it was raining, you could go in early – but never more than five minutes before the ‘starting bell’; if you arrived before then, you stood outside in the rain).

Grade 1 FashionsIn the cold weather we (the girls, that is) wore tights to keep our legs warm (girls were not allowed to wear pants to school in those days); poodle skirts and tartans were ‘in’. I wore a lot of ‘hand me downs’ from my older sister – some of which were duplicates of skirts or dresses my mother had made for me [she’d often dress my sister and I in ‘matching outfits’], making it seem, sometimes, as if I was wearing the same outfit for years.

Grade 1 Report CardAccording to my report card, I spent my Grade 1 year in Room 3; my teacher was Miss E. Hallawell (I remember absolutely nothing about her; my only recollection of the room was that it had the same supply closet and sink – and a similar coat closet – as in the Kindergarten room, minus the ‘cubbies’).  In November Miss Hallawell wrote in my report card: “Margo has adjusted nicely to Grade One work. I am pleased with her effort to date. She is a neat and willing worker and co-operates at all times. Margo plays well with other children and has many friends. Polite and good manners.”  In that first term, I got three Bs in Reading, Printing and Writing, and Phonics, and two As – in Health and Arithmetic.  Apparently I missed 22 ‘half days’ in October (which is probably when I had chicken pox); other than that, my attendance was fairly regular (and I was NEVER late!)

My grade in Reading went up to an A in February (I was always an avid reader), while my other marks remained the same; Miss Hallawell wrote, “Margo is doing good steady work and is making very satisfactory progress. Printing could be neater. Books could be a little neater.” (I had more than one negative comment about my printing and writing during my school years – I’m left handed and I tended to drag my fist through whatever it was I’d written, blurring the words and leaving pencil or ink smears along the edge of my hand; being a ‘leftie’ was actually frowned upon in those days).

Grade 1 BadgesBy June, I’d improved my Phonics mark to an A and Language had been added to the report card (I got an A in that, too).  I received both a Citizenship and an Academic ‘badge’ for my efforts (I wonder what being a ‘good citizen’ meant in Grade 1? It was probably about having a positive attitude, exhibiting good behaviour, and being helpful – traits I like to think I still exhibit).  According to Miss Hallawell’s final report card comments, I was “A fine student with a bright future”.  This might be 50 years too late, but I’d like to say: Thank You, Miss Hallawell for that vote of confidence!

Grade 2 (September 1960 – June 1961)

Fun With Dick And JaneI spent my Grade 2 year in Room 8 with Mrs. Joan Sandford. I remember her fairly well (partly because I had her as a teacher for two years, and partly because shortly afterwards she quit teaching to stay home and care for a pair of adopted twins and she moved in with her family to a house down the street from where I lived; I saw her quite a lot over the next five or so years).  I remember sitting at a desk that had a hinged lid; inside we kept our readers (‘Fun with Dick and Jane’), our lined workbooks (with different coloured lines for properly forming capital and lower case letters), and our big fat red pencils, multi-coloured pencils crayons, wooden rulers, and pink erasers.

One thing I also remember about those early years at school was having a fairly consistent group of friends (although there were the not-uncommon shifts and changes over the years as families moved in and out of the neighbourhood). Three of the girls who attended my sixth birthday party were the same ones who’d helped me celebrate my fifth; five of the same girls attended my sixth and seventh birthdays (a couple of those remained good friends right through Grade 8, although the rest got ‘left behind’ when some of us were ‘accelerated’ in Grade 3 [see below]).

Fifth Birthday - 1958 Sixth Birthday - 1959
1958 (Kindergarten year) Grade 1, 1959

I remember birthday parties being Saturday afternoon events where everyone wore fancy ‘party’ dresses and black patent shoes. We played simple games like ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ and ‘Musical Chairs’; prizes were ‘dime store’ items like hair bows or plastic bracelets. My mother served egg salad and salmon and peanut butter sandwiches cut into triangles, with the crusts removed, and she made (or, occasionally, bought) a basic white birthday cake with ‘Happy Birthday Margo’ piped in pink icing across the top (store bought cakes had hard pink candy roses on the corners – EVERYONE wanted a corner piece); the cake was accompanied by vanilla ice cream.  I remember my mother hiding money (a few nickels and dimes; one quarter) in her homemade cakes (I don’t recall them being wrapped or anything – I suppose we weren’t so worried about germs back then!) At the end of the party, each girl would get a tiny plastic basket filled with jelly beans to take home. It was certainly a much simpler time (compared to the kind of birthday parties my boys had, and the expensive ‘all out’ birthday bashes that seemed to be all the rage these days (mini golf and bouncy castles and afternoons at the movies or the spa – sheesh!)

Seventh Birthday - 1960 Eighth Birthday - 1961
Grade 2, 1960 Grade 3, 1961

Bronze Medal for Good AttendanceMrs. Sandford wasn’t particularly wordy in her comments on my report card – the only thing other than “Satisfactory” that she wrote (in November) was “Lets books and desk get very untidy.” (No surprise there – and as I look at the desk I’m currently sitting at as I type this, I am ashamed to admit that I still have that problem!) However, I got mostly As and Bs on my report card (except for the dreaded Printing and Writing, where I received a C- in November and a C+ in February and June), and I was absent only 25 half days (between December and May), and was never late – as a result, I received a Bronze Attendance Medal at the end of the year (which I still have, in its original little blue box).

Grades 3 and 4 (September 1961 – June 1962)

I completed Grades 3 and 4 in one year.  Called ‘acceleration’ back in the 50s and 60s, it was a way of moving children with ‘above average ability’ ahead more quickly than their peers (my older sister and I both accelerated).  On the opposite end of the academic achievement spectrum, students who under-performed – i.e., received Ds and Es on their report cards – ‘failed’ (were held back) – that’s something that doesn’t happen anymore (although I’m not sure the ‘no child left behind’ movement is at all beneficial to those who clearly aren’t ready to move on – academically or behaviorally).

Me - Upside DownMrs. Sandford was my teacher again that year, and we were once again in Room 8. Other than my now-standard C+ in Printing and Writing, I was a fairly average student and managed As and Bs in Reading, Spelling, Language, Social Studies, Arithmetic, Science, Phonics and Literature (the only other subject that I received a C+, C-, and B in was Health).  Mrs. Sandford wrote slightly more on my report card this year: “Margo has been doing very good work. She plays and works well with others. Lets work become untidy unless reminded often.” (November); and “Polite; uses equipment carefully; is doing good work.” (February).  She included no comments at all for June.  I had particularly good attendance that year (a total of only nine half days absent and no lates).  I have a Softball badge that I apparently received for Grades 3 / 4, although I don’t recall playing softball (I was never exactly the athletic type, although I loved the playground monkey bars).

PantaloonsI remember wearing ‘pantaloons’ (cotton or double-knit ‘drawers’) under my skirts – both for warmth and so that no one could see my underwear when I was hanging upside down.  Safety obviously wasn’t as much of a concern then as it is nowadays – in addition to the high metal ‘monkey bars’  located at either end of the schoolyard, we had a half dozen metal swings and two teeter-totters (‘see saws’) for use during recesses and before the bell rang (these were replaced with a more modern playground structure in the late 70s).

HopscotchI remember playing hopscotch (the lines were painted on the blacktop for us) and jump rope (I was particularly good at double-dutch); the boys played tether ball and Red Rover (or just tussled with one another) at the other end of the yard (we weren’t segregated; boys and girls just didn’t mingle much on the playground).  We didn’t have a school nurse, so if you got hurt, the principal’s secretary (whose name I cannot recall) would either dab cuts with Mercurochrome (that horrible stingy red stuff) and put a band-aid over them, or (in more serious cases) call your mother to come and take you home (I don’t remember ever getting sent home from school because of illness or accident, but there were a couple of boys I suspected ‘injured’ themselves regularly just to get out of class).

This is the only junior primary year that I have a class photo from – unfortunately, I didn’t write down the names of the boys and girls who were in my class (I can, however, identify about half of them by either their first name or their full name).  I don’t know where any of my former classmates are nowadays, but I do know that, like me, they’re all on … the other side of 55.

Grade 3/4 Class Photo

My Grade 3/4 Class Photo (I’m the happy looking little girl four in from the right in the second to last row!)

My Story Continues: I Remember (Part 3)

  1. November 25, 2012 12:22 pm

    Never would have come into my mind on my own, but once I read it, I remember those little plastic baskets :)I also remember going home for lunch.

  2. November 20, 2012 3:41 pm

    Read your first and second installments..interesting how much you remember….mine are rather skimpy but I’m further past this side of 55 than you are. LOL

    • November 20, 2012 4:33 pm

      It started with the bag of report cards, etc. The more I ruminated on things, the more I remembered. Stuff even started coming to me in the middle of the night. I think it just took a trigger …


  3. November 19, 2012 11:02 am

    This was like a trip down memory lane for me too. I’m a lefty and in third grade my teacher taught me to slant the paper to the left so that my hand was not curved above the paper. During recess we’d play freeze tag, boys and girls together. Times change, my kids weren’t allowed to play tag at recess, they might fall down while running. Really? No running at recess? 🙂

    • November 19, 2012 1:35 pm

      I used the ‘curved hand’ method during Grades 5 and 6 but my Grade 7 and 8 teachers felt that was ‘cheating’ somehow and insisted I learn to write ‘football shaped’ without dragging my hand through the ink (an impossible task). Now, all sorts of accommodations are made for kids who are lefties (although have you seen how strangely some children hold pencils/pens? It’s like they’ve never learned how to do it at all). As for recess, well, the changes there are just plain ridiculous. When you put children in a ‘bubble’ (for ‘their own protection’) they don’t learn how to fall down and get back up again – one of life’s first (and may most important) lessons. Glad you enjoyed the post.



  1. I Remember (Part 1) | The Other Side of 55
  2. I Remember (Part 3) « The Other Side of 55

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