Sunday, 15 February 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat (Part 3) - Down to the Maritimes

We lived in Bagotville until 1961(ish) and then my Dad was transferred (or posted as we call it) to a new job at a new base, that being RCAF Station Chatham, New Brunswick. It was a relatively big base, at least to me, located on the Miramichi River by the towns of Chatham and Newcastle. We were there from 1961 until 1967, when we were transferred to Germany, but more about that in future Blogs.

The happy family, with a new addition (more about that later)
A lot of my growing up occurred in Chatham. The move, itself, was the first that I remember and I found it very traumatic. I'd grown up in Bagotville and all my friends were there and here we were, moving from the interior of Quebec to the East Coast. It was quite frightening and depressing for me and I will admit that one of the aspects of being a military brat that I liked the least was losing friends and having to start over again. It went against my personality as I wasn't the most outgoing person. Now, having said that, I always had friends wherever we ended up but at times I envy those people who lived their lives in one community and had the same friends from childhood until their adult lives. Each type of life has its advantage and disadvantages, I realize that and I wouldn't have given up mine for anything. I did get to see a great many locations throughout the world and it's made me an independent person who has been able to adjust to new locations and new jobs relatively easily.

Anyway, enough blathering, let's talk about Chatham. In this extract, I'll probably focus on school and if I still have a lot to say, I'll continue talking about Chatham in a second Blog. Firstly, we lived at 623 Charlottetown Crescent (I'm pretty sure that was the address) for the whole six years that we were in Chatham. It was a bigger house than we had lived in at Bagotville; a brick fronted row house with three bedrooms upstairs, a nice living room, dining room and kitchen on the ground floor and a huge basement that we could always play in. We were the end unit of 4 units in our row. On either side were two bigger units with eight house in them and the three homes kind of formed a big V, with a nice little field and playground in the middle of them.

That's me back row, middle in the dark jacket and tie.
I started Grade 2 in Chatham and over our stay there, completed up to Grade 6 and then 3/4's of Grade 7.  I went to the D.L. MacLaren School, which was located centrally in the Housing area, about a 5 or 10 minute walk from our home. It had from Grade Kindergarten (I guess, I didn't hang with those kids.. ) and up to Grade 6. Grade 7's and, I believe, 8's went to a small school that was located on the military base proper, kind of an overflow classroom. Ricky and Christine both went to schools downtown as they were in high school. I believe, because they both had started in the Quebec school system, which had a higher standard of education than New Brunswick at that time, that they both skipped a grade with we moved to Chatham. They went to different high schools, Ricky to St Thomas?? (a Catholic boys school anyway) and Christine to Chatham High. I don't know much about their schools so I won't go into that in any detail. I think they had a good time, they were both very outgoing and very smart kids.

Me the nerd even then
My first teacher was Miss Flynn. I think she was pretty strict but not overly. I was a bit of a teacher's pet anyway or at least I did well enough that I never had to worry about the strap or that sort of thing. I don't know that I actually recall a teacher giving the strap, although it's possible. My grade 5 teacher used to like to throw chalk about the room when we were too rambunctious and I found myself placed amongst the chattier kids for some reason. I think he thought I might be a good influence or something. lol!

Yes, I was a smartie
All in all school was great. As you can see, I did pretty well, even if it was just the New Brunswick school system I can't think of a year that I didn't get an honour certificate or even most years a Perfect Attendance certificate. I remember being awarded a copy of Black Beauty one year and Tom Sawyer another. I did love reading. There were so many activities at school. Gym class was always fun. The school had a huge gymnasium and we could play almost any sport on the floor, dodge ball, floor hockey, broom ball. The school had an outdoor skating rink that could be used in the winter. I wasn't a great skater so I didn't play hockey, just road hockey with my buddies.

Grade 6, in the front row as per normal, right next to Mr. Carmichael
In grade 4 or 5, I discovered the joy of the Scholastic book club. I used to order books regularly; my parents were great encouragers of reading for enjoyment. Grade 6 was my last year at the D.L. MacLaren proper. I do wish I could remember everyone's name from each year, but it's been so long. I do remember having a powerful crush on Paula Shaw, second row, middle and even asking her to go to the movies with me. (more about after school activities in my next entry).  I think I also went to my first school dance in Grade 6 and was allowed to come home at 11 p.m.
In my last year of schooling in Chatham, I started Grade 7 at the school on the base. It was a hefty walk, especially in the winter and we still had to go home for lunch each day. For the Catholics amongst us, at least once a week, we had to stay for Religious instruction, which meant a rush home for lunch, then a rush back for classes. My favourite teacher of my years in Chatham was my Grade 7 teacher, Miss Linda Lee, a young, lovely teacher, full of enthusiasm and ideas. I think we all had a crush on her. She let us bring radios to class in the fall so we could listen to the World Series games, between the St Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox (as most games were in the afternoon). We did projects on the Montreal Exposition.
My last report card, see my last day is Mar 26/ 68
I got all sorts of neat information about the various countries. She also got us started with curling; I think my dad may have helped her. I wish I had a class photo from Grade 7 but we moved in Mar of the year and I missed the last 3 months of school and finished it in Germany. My marks for the last three months showed how I adapted at first to a new, harder schooling system at the school in Germany.
Ready for a school photo
All in all, my schooling in Chatham was fun, I had many friends, John Wilson, Billy McSepheny (I know I'm spelling that wrong), Patrick Wilson and so many others. We learned a lot, I think and we took part in so many activities. I will say we didn't go on school trips like my children have when they were in school, but it didn't seem to matter. Our after school and summer activities made up for that so very much. I'll talk more about that in my next entry. I hope you enjoyed this.

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