School and the Early Grades
Chinook Consolidated School was the pride of the whole community. It boasted four classrooms capable of seating 20 students per room, plus an auditorium complete with stage and a seating capacity of 60 (if you counted standing room).
We also had real steam heat, with radiators that banged and cracked and sang in a variety of tones depending on how much coal old "Wibbly Wobbly" Isbester (our janitor) flung into the fire box through the little square door, while he leapt from one foot to the other in an attempt to aim the shovel and deliver the coal as it passed by the small opening. He had Saint Vitis dance in it's advanced stages and only his determination enabled him to function at all.
My grade 3 teacher Miss Shire tells of her first meeting with old "Wibbly Wobbly". It seems the principal was introducing her to the staff, and had not told her of his affliction. When Miss Shire put out her hand after the introduction, poor Bill (his real name) stabbed toward her hand and missed . Stabbed again with rocket speed. Another miss. Four misses in a row and Miss Shire having tried her best to dock with this rocket, placed her hand behind her back and said pleased to meet you.
School for me started in the fall of 1933 in one of the 4 classrooms. Our classroom faced north and held all students enrolled in grades 1 to 3. Grade 1 students sat on the east side of the room, grade 2 in the middle, and grade 3 on the west side closest to the windows. There was a certain logic to this arrangement, which goes as follows. When you got to grade 3 you could stand the cold draft from the windows, and the sudden bang of the radiators didn't scare you so much, whereas when you entered grade 1 you were the furthest away from drafts, sudden noise, and had the added security of the inside wall.
We grade one students were eager to learn from any available source, and were a parroting sponge of any new information the big boys could feed us. This is how I first learned about pornography. One of these big boys sat three of us grade one boys down during recess, and taught us a poem. He had us repeat it until we knew it by heart, and then instructed us to tell it to our mothers as soon as we got home. I still remember the words which I sang out with pride at full volume. "A woodpecker pecked on the old school door. He pecked and he pecked until his pecker got sore."
After listening to this proud recital, Mother got a very strange look on her face and sat me down to listen to a strange explanation of why this poem was not to be presented in public. Although it was a poem it was not a fit poem. I got the real scoop at school the next day when I found out that a boy’s "thing" is his pecker.
My grade 1 teacher was a very short, chunky little married woman, Mrs. Robinson. She was so short that she could not pull down the charts or maps which were mounted above the blackboards.
To correct this problem, she had to drag a step stool and position it. Mrs. Robinson discovered however that young August Rosenau, also a grade 1 student, could reach these maps without the aid of a stool. From that day on August (we all called him Gus) was the official map puller. It was his only real claim to fame that year or any other school year that I recall. Although in later school years he was able to take more strappings without crying than any other kid in the school.
The principal, John Charyk, used to march poor Gus up to the office. Up 11 squeaky stairs. We all listened in deathly silence while our teacher opened both the classroom doors (the better for us to hear). Charyk would wrap Gus's wrists with bandages out of the first aid kit (to keep the strap from drawing blood) and then lay into him. You could hear a pin drop in our room as we waited for the next explosion of belt against flesh. Every boy in the school felt his own palms swell and redden as smack after smack resounded from the hall. Six blows to each hand was the norm, and with Gus there was mainly silence in between.
Our school had no running water, no washing facilities, and no means of cleaning away the tears after this punishment was administered, but the recipient was given five minutes to collect his composure and go to the bathroom, which was a five holer, located 100 feet from the back door of the school.
Gus was the only boy I know who had the pride and the guts to creak his way directly down those office stairs, cross the hall and enter our classroom through the front door (the door reserved for teacher only) and with the best imitation of a grin that he could manage with his tightly-gritted teeth, walk proudly to his desk.
Gus was not the smartest boy in the school, but he was the biggest by a long shot. No body crossed Gus if they wanted to live, but for all that Gus was not a bully, nor was he belligerent in any way. He did have a lot of smart and dumb answers which he gave to the teachers in a system of rotation. This seemed to cause a build up of fury in the teacher until about every three weeks it would be "August Rosenau" you go to the office right now, and wait there until the principal sees you." The principal (John Charyk) was the high school teacher and taught grades 10, 11, and 12.
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