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Looking for memories at my old high school and finding one of them in the bathroom

The toilet at my old high school

My mom and I drove down Avenue W in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Mount Royal Collegiate. We parked on Avenue W and walked to the front of the school. My brother and I use to walk the 1.65 miles to school, from our home on Avenue K.  When the days were the shortest, we left our home before the sun came up and came home after it set.  We could see our breath. It was cold.

My glasses fogged up when I walked into the heated school. I would wipe them clean with paper towel in the bathroom, before I went to my locker to hang up my winter coat.

I had flown in from Pennsylvania a few days before. Home for my mom’s birthday. The cold mornings were a lifetime ago. It is almost forty years since the last time my brother and I walked to school together before the sun came up.

My mom and I waited at the sidewalk until the light turned green at the corner of Rusholme road and Avenue W, in front of the high school I went to for four years. Four years that felt like they would never end. Waiting to grow up. I wonder when they put the traffic light in? 

Mpunt Royal Collegiate, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

As we walked towards the front door I saw a man walked toward a group of students.

“Excuse me, are you a teacher?”

“Yes, I am.”

I extended my hand for a firm handshake and said, “Hello, I am Pamela Hodges, class of 1976.”

I don’t know why I wanted to go back to my high school.

But I did.

I moved to Calgary in 1978, and haven’t lived in Canada since 1983. Over thirty-four years.

We were only going to drive past the school. A quick look. But we parked and went into the school.

I hadn’t been back to Canada to see my mom in six years. And the last time I walked the halls of Mount Royal Collegiate was for a special tour for our graduating classes twenty-fifth reunion. Wasn’t that enough?

 The teacher walked us to the front door and showed us the renovations to the entrance of the school. The brick wall to the gymnasium was now glass. The stage was torn down. The stage I played Snoopy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. The stage the school held Variety Night once a year, and high school dances, dancing to Jumping Jack Flash and Stairway to Heaven.

Mount Royal Collegiate

Does the school still let the school president announce events during the last three minutes of third period right before lunch? Does anyone remember Joe Jock from Joe Jock radio?

The teacher introduced us to the assistant vice-principal, Mr. David Sloboda,who showed us where the new library was on the second floor. The old library is a child care center. 

We were allowed to walk freely through the school. The art room, the door that led to yearbook room. The hallway where the football players stood against the wall. The long walk of being self-conscious in front of Letter Jackets.

The art teacher came to the door and let us walk through the room. I told her I used to attend school here, and was an artist. I cried as I talked to her. Where did my tears come  from? The sight of my old art classroom, and I had trouble speaking?

canada 092

Where do tears come from? Why did I cry? Why do we cry? I think we don’t allow ourselves to feel. It is easier to pretend it doesn’t matter. I went back to my high school to see where I came from. Where dreams start. The dream I had been neglecting.

The Vice-Principal asked us to stop by the office before we left.  He gave me two yearbooks.  

Nothing seemed the same, until we were about to leave. 

The bathroom by the front office was still there. The old counters had been ripped out. New sinks and counters replaced the while porcelain sinks. Sigh, even the bathroom has been renovated. Nothing is the same. 

And then I opened the door to the stall and saw the toilet.  Black seats. Are these the same toilet seats I sat on? 

They were. The silver handle on the left to flush. There were no electronic sensors to turn on the water if I moved before I stood up.

The black seats were the same ones I sat on from September of 1972 until the end of the school year in 1976. The black seats with the space in the front and no cover to keep pencils from falling out of your pocket when you leaned over to flush. The same toilet seats I sat on when I was bored in Chemistry and went to the bathroom to shorten class time.

On July 2nd, 2016, at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, my graduating class will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of walking on the stage to get our high school diplomas. Perhaps we will ask for another tour of the school.

The stage is gone, but the toilets are still there.

“I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes”
― Vladimir Nabokov

 Have you ever gone back to your high school to look for memories? Please tell me in the comments. I would love to chat.

 

 

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Robert Ranck

    Dear Pamela,
    I have just gotten around to reading some of your archives. I am moved.

    I suppose everybody has different memories and feelings for their schools.The building vanished in 1966, making way for a new community-based elementary school when Pennsylvania was consolidating high school systems all over the place. But the people, AH! THE PEOPLE! They were what made those years so special.

    We were, in 1955, the largest graduating class since 1924 – – there were eighteen of us. After a number of years, the class reunions all joined in one school reunion. Even in the eighties, we still had graduates of the class of 1912 who had retired after teaching there forty-five years.

    There was one teacher who always went above and beyond to not only teach, but to inspire. The love of language as art was what she managed to give so many of us, along with the geometry, biology and latin our little agricultural community thought fitted us so well.

    • Dear Robert,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my stories and comment.

      Yes, is the people that makes those years special. Our stories wrapped up in the lives of our friends and our memories.

      Growing up in an agricultural community in Pennsylvania must have been interesting. I grew up in a neighborhood in Saskatchewan. Your teacher sounds wonderful. The best kind really. To inspire and not just give facts.

      xo
      Pamela

  • La McCoy

    loved this!

  • I haven’t been inside my high school for ages; but, every time we go home to NY on vacation, I drive by – dozens of times. It seems as though it just gets newer and newer and bigger and bigger. There’s a FB “You know you’re from Akron if..” page. People post pictures of the way it used to be when I was young. I like visiting my school that way. I remember we used to have toilets with those big black seats, too. What memories.

  • kathunsworth

    Pamela must have been a buzz to see your old school I live too far away from mine but one day I would like to go back, when my daughter asks me about high school my best memories were of art, I lived for a double lesson of art and my teacher was this giant and I mean really tall American lady (rare to have a teacher from the USA in OZ in those days) She had a very dry sense of humour, everybody was scared of her, I worked out she was kidding most of the time…….best memories of school definitely art class thanks for taking us back.

  • Kathy Storrie

    I always love your stories and pictures. It’s like I’m there with you seeing it. Yes, I went back to my high school and it was a disappointment because it needed/needs a renovation. I felt/feel so sorry for the students including my son when he was there 6 yrs ago. It was old 48 yrs. ago when I graduated. I just heard it will be demolished soon and rebuilt. Hurrah! Like you I wasn’t that happy going to high school. My elementary school was old. The old maid teachers were old. But, I loved that school. (I’m writing about that in my Young Memoirs on my website. College was much better than HS better and the buildings were even older and all new now. I say OUT with the old and IN with the new!

  • Berdeane Bodley

    That was fun going back to your old school & reliving the memories with you, last time I was back they hadn’t made all the changes we saw that day, I was able to go into the library & relive the memories of you & your brother through the year books. Guess even Mothers want to remember those days. Missing you Pamela.

    • Hi Mom,
      I miss you too. It was fun to see the school again with you. You had your own memories of the school, teaching yoga on the stage they tore down.
      I miss you more.

  • MaryAnne

    I know the memories that you speak about, and treasure everyday that I work in the same kindergarten room that I once attended. Now I know why I haven’t lost my childlike wonder, because I revisit it so often. Thanks for your words that see and touch my sentiments:)

    • Hello MaryAnne,
      WOW! That word just had to be capitalized. I wasn’t yelling, just an emphatic, WOW. You are teaching in the same kindergarten room you attended? That sounds magical.
      Keeping childlike wonder is the secret to smiling every day, and never getting mad when you are stopped at a red light.
      Your students must be so sad when they have to pass to grade one.
      Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  • I went back to my college last year when my daughter graduated there. I had not been since I graduated 31 years ago! It was like I was going to somewhere I had never been. The buildings that were there had been totally renovated on the inside. In every building I visited they had changed where you come in and go out in the inside walls.

    Your art room visit was especially touching with the backdrop of the other stories you have told about your art beginnings.

    You are an artist with paint and words!

    • Hello Eva,
      How fun you were able to go back to your college. But how weird to have it all be so different. I wonder if we want our buildings to stay the same, even as we change on the inside ourselves. I felt like saying to the wall in my school, “Hey, you are messing up my memories.”

      Thank you for encouraging me Eva. Encouragement still matters, even as a woman with gray hair.

  • Loved reading this. You asked if I had gone and seen my high school. No, but it is a distinct possibility since we will be moving to Chicago. Then I will walk the halls of Schurz and see what we termed the “triangle,” the part on the third floor, I think. Where students would sometimes get turned around. Hmm. Maybe that was the start of my having trouble with directions. Nope, it was before that. I know I would have nostalgia as I walk those floors. Thanks for the peek.

    • Hello Anne,
      You are welcome for the peek at my old school. I look forward to reading your memories when you move to Chicago and return to your old school. Your writing always makes me feel as though I am standing with you. We can get lost together in the “triangle.”

  • Janelle

    Often it’s the most humble of things that survives. I love your story. I’m so happy you took some time for memories during your visit. Tears are indeed a funny thing. I felt them prick as I read your words this morning.

    • Good Morning Janelle,
      Tears sneak up on me, and surprise me. And sometimes when I anticipate tears, there aren’t any.
      One day I plan on having a good old cry when I drive three hours south of Saskatoon and meet a best friend I have never met before.