• Terry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. La Salle Secondary

Lasalle Secondary School

I attended La Salle Secondary School in Kingston for grade 9 and 10. I liked the school and a lot of the teachers there but these were two unsettling years for me. The fact I was going through puberty, and being a late bloomer, probably had a lot to do with the anxiety I felt, but there was something else going on that I still do not fully understand.

My best friends at school at this time were Gerald B, Bruce L, and Mark T. Uwe (pronounced oover) B was the one I hung out with the most but he was in a grade lower than me so went to a different school. By the time Uwe got to high school, his dad had been posted to London.

Because I was working my paper routes, babysitting, and cutting lawns in the summer, shoveling driveways in the winter, I generally had money. This didn't mean I was flamboyant, but I could convince myself to splurge on some little things.

One thing I really liked was the foam on the top of the hot chocolate that was dispensed from a vending machine in the school cafeteria. It was always a good day when it was started by sipping that chocolaty, sweet foam. My friends and I would generally all meet at the seating by the vending machines and play chess before class so it was really handy. The rest of the drink was OK, but that first frothy sip was pure ambrosia to me and well worth the twenty-five cent cost.

Getting an order of french fries from the cafeteria at lunch was another pleasure I was willing drop a few quarters on. The aroma around the serving table was so tempting, I can still get my mouth to water just by remembering it.

By this time I was smoking regularly and spent a lot of time in the areas where we were allowed to smoke. This led me to meet Bruce A. He came out from between two dumpsters one day and asked me for a light for his cigarette. From that odd encounter we became friends. Not great friends, but acquaintances of note at school. There was another fellow he was friends with but I do not recall his name.

Bruce introduced me to his sister Sue, and his younger brother, another name that has slipped into the black-hole of my memory. Neither of these two had reached high school yet but from that introduction, I had many inspiring telephone conversations with Sue.

Sue and I only met once. She lived north of me, somewhere near highway 401, where there was no bus service. We arranged to meet in Kingston, in front of the S&R store. She and her younger brother were waiting when I arrived on my bike.

I had a good day, that day. We walked back to the base, talking, while I pointed out places I was familiar with and described things I did. I was feeling pretty awkward talking to Sue face to face. I had been a lot more relaxed when there was miles of telephone lines between us but my confidence waned when we were together. I think I may have seemed to ignore her as I engaged with her brother more. She was quite quiet too, maybe feeling awkward as well. We continued to chat on the phone for a time after that but then life continued on and we went our own ways. I tried to locate her a few years later, but wasn't successful. I like reconnecting with old friends, learning how life turned out for them.

I liked the freedom of high school, how it allowed me to make a lot of my own choices. Sometimes I grew through this but sometimes I was a brat. I suffered through more than one detention for making the choice to not attend a class.

One choice I made that still affects me today, was to take typing class. I had been admonished a lot in public school because of my poor handwriting. I had the ability to print or write cursive in fairly neat scripts but, that was such a slow effort. The ideas that were leaking out through the pen in my hand just did not allow me to take the time to present it in tidy fashion. I decided that if I could type, I wouldn't have to worry about being neat and could simply focus on the content.

When I got to typing class, I was horrified to see that there were no markings on the typewriter keys. How was I supposed to know which ones to press? The teacher reassured us we would learn the keys and she was right, but only after hours of typing exercises. We were learning on manual typewriters and pressing those keys was hard. I will never forget the monotony of typing aaaa bbbb cccc .... However, the instructor was correct and within just a few weeks, I was typing with pretty good accuracy.

Each evening I would go home and type out my notes from the day. I had asked for a typewriter for Christmas and my parents had bought me a blue portable Smith-Corona. It even offered red on the ribbon. I was in heaven.

Now my trouble was, my handwriting was so horrible from scratching down so much in the classroom, that sometimes I couldn't read what I had written. Also, I never had enough time to write all I wanted, the teacher would move on so quickly, saying so much each class. I decided I needed a better way to take notes so I enrolled in a speed-writing class in grade 10.

In those days, early 70s, there were two types of shorthand available to us, Forkner and Pitman.

Pitman was a bunch of symbols that you would string together and could later decipher, Forkner was more like abbreviated writing and, while it wasn't as fast as Pitman, it was a lot faster than writing long-hand. I studied Forkner.

The first day I entered the classroom, I heard a bunch of giggles. Turns out I was the only boy to sign up and the girls all thought it was funny that I was there. There wasn't any giggling after a couple of weeks and I was taking dictation at 120 wpm which was a good speed, even for Pitman.

I don't use the speed-writing much any more but those keyboarding skills are used every single day.

I have so many memories of high school. Some are uncomfortable but many are good. I was never an ideal student but when something caught my fancy, I could do well. I do regret not applying myself more, I managed to close some doors by being a brat but, I had the good fortune to be taught by some very encouraging, and forgiving, teachers, and I carry their lessons with me to this day.

What were your high school years like? What is your favorite memory?

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