A short time prior to my starting school we had moved from Merritton to my grandfather’s (William [Bill] Richardson, Richardson’s Bakery) farm along the Queen Elizabeth Highway between Eighteen Mile Creek and The Beacon Restaurant. The farm consisted of three acres and the main house on the lake side of the ‘Queen E’ and fifteen acres, barn and a second house on the other side of the QEW. Our neighbours to the east and on the other side of the Queen E were the Troops.
So this six year old in 1949 was off to an all day grade one class. The Troop children would walk across the Queen E to get me then it was back across the highway and through the orchards, picking fruit along the way, to school. The school was located on either, Fifteenth Street or Jordan Road which was a fair distance from both farms.
However, when I went in search of it in the 1980’s I could not find it, which was a disappointment to me because I had been telling my children of the long arduous walk to and from school.
The school was a typical one room country school with each class, from grade one to eight, assigned a separate row, with grade one on the right side and ending with grade eight on the left side.
Because the teacher would be instructing each grade at different times throughout the day one of the things we students were allowed to do was whisper in class. Of course the whispering could only relate to school work. You were allowed to ask for or help fellow students that were in the same row or one of the adjacent rows. It was not uncommon for a grade two student to help a grade one student with a problem. It was also not uncommon for a grade three student to help a grade four student. Looking back, what a wonderful way to learn; if you were having problems with a subject you could listen to the teacher as they instructed a younger grade, or ask for help from any nearby fellow student, while on the other hand if you were ahead in a subject you could listen while the teacher instructed a more advanced grade.
My mother suffered terribly with asthma and was bed ridden for much of our time at the farm and so it was at the end of October or early November it was back to Merritton for us. The walk from Chestnut Street to the “Little School” was much shorter, but not as interesting as the walk to the country school.
Moving from a one room country school house to a town school with individual class rooms which were quiet, was a first day eye opener but the most traumatizing experience was to follow on my second or third day in class.
On that fateful day I made the grievous error of asking one of the nearby students for help in something that I did not understand. I was immediately called up in front of the class by the young female teacher (that is all that I can remember about her) and berated for talking in class. When I tried to explain what and why I was told that I was now in town and the bumpkin ways of country folk were to be left behind. I do not remember if I got the strap or not but it is quite possible that I did. So it was a traumatized youngster who just had a rude awakening to the ways of a city world that went back to his seat to sit quietly for ever after.
Looking back I wonder if that was the first experience that set me along the path of a complete dislike for school and I ended up being a grade ten dropout. I did go back to university as an adult and got my degree and enjoyed every minute of that experience.
Of all the teachers that I had in Merritton I only remember a very few; Miss Wilson in grade two, Mrs Wilson grade four, Miss Zimmerman grade six and of course Miss Cline grade seven. Our family moved in the month of May while I was in grade eight so I never had the experience of Merritton High.