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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wolfville Munroe School Days

Its funny the things you remember.  The Munroe school building, once located at the centre of Acadia Street was built like a fortress.  More than a little, the architecture echoed the authoritarian order of a penitentiary.  The Munroe school years were golden for so many of us who went there, rich with wonderful memories.  Young boys and girls exited and entered the building at separate entrances, girls on the sunny west end (your right) and boys to the east, adults at centre.  Washrooms were located at each end of the building in the basement and a hallway joining between them had a welded wire set of double doors that were chained and padlocked.  The boys washroom sported two or three toilets with closed doors, but the urinal was a deep communal vessel, a beveled enamel trough that ran the full length of one wall.  Sometimes at recess we made bets and had pissing matches, participating boys being readily identifiable to all well in advance of a tournament by their frequent trips to the water fountain.  Copper fortunes were won, lost, in laughter, in heated arguments over games of marbles in the green outdoors of spring, the colorful autumn leaves and in that dingy basement lavatory in winter.  

At the front of the building, the enormous school yard was also drawn and divided by a line between boys and girls to segregate the sexes at lunch time and recess.   Each school room had blackboards, an ancient scroll map of Canada from about 1900, a Union Jack, a picture of Queen Elizabeth, and we all would stand together to sing "God Save the Queen" and "Oh, Canada" each morning.  Earl Godfrey, Austin Rand, Tony Erskine, Sherman Blakeney, Merritt Gibson, Lloyd Duncanson, Peter Smith, Julie Porter and many other scientists and naturalists that were so kind to mentor me in my later life, all went to school here too.

Munroe school days were always chock full of excitement.  For example, in late spring when I was in grade 5, a boy cut off his big toe with a lawn mower that rolled back on him as he worked on Prospect Street over lunch hour.  As news of the sling blade tragedy and the new word "amputation" travelled throughout the little elementary school - kids were shaken, but exceedingly curious.  Learning this, one enterprising classmate excused himself to go to the washroom, then left the school grounds, searched for and found the excised toe on the nearby lawn after the casualty had been taken to the hospital.  Placed carefully in a small box with a lid, the toe was exhibited around the school yard at afternoon recess for private showings - just .10 cents a peek!  Kids screamed, they laughed, they cried, but when one girl threw up her lunch, the toe was confiscated by a teacher and later restored to its rightful owner - all one sunny afternoon in June.

In winter the school was warm, but the smell of damp clothes and dust bane permeated the air inside.  Snowball fights were almost a daily event and the student body was divided by fickle daily snowball alliances or "gangs."  Kay Mitchell a grade six teacher ruled the roost and kept chaos from breaking out - too often.  Kay was the supreme deliverer of justice and taught students early that justice is most often self-delivered and that the best way to catch a weasel is to think like one.  For instance, when the boys in Mrs. Legge's class had pelted snowballs at a group of girls from Mrs. Mitchell's as they lined up like sheep to enter the building one recess; later at lunchtime, the pockets, mittens and boots of all the offenders were mysteriously found full of wet snow.  "Now who would do a thing like that?" she said.  Kay would jump right in between boy's worst bloody fisticuffs, grabbing the offenders by the ears and marching them on tip toes right up the main front steps for a trip through those doors otherwise forbidden to youth  - a trip that they would not soon forget. 

1 comment:

  1. Mark...thanks so much for this trip down memory lane. I so remember the Munroe School having pretty much grown up right behind the building, just down Prospect St a bit. I spent so much time there while growing up, playing ball, tag, throwing balls at the building etc. The sad day was when the place came down. I stood there stunned watching the demotion...couldn't believe my eyes. There goes all my and everyone's history for modern advances. Do you remember the grey building for Primary, 1 and 2? That was another beautiful wooden structure. Loved the high ceilings and the feel of the place. My 1st memory of school was in 1955 when Primary was located in the small house to the left of the Munroe School. It later was used for Manual Training...still can smell the sawdust from Mr. Crosby's planer. So many memories are flooding back...thanks for this!

    Ron Troke

    PS...Are you related to Sharman Elderkin...she was in my class?