When we moved to Canada in January of 1973 my parents kept me home for a couple of months to adjust to the move and to help with the renovation of the old farmhouse.
When it came time for me to go to school I was offered the choice of two schools because we were pretty much equidistant from them both – a junior high in the university town of Sackville, or the junior high in Port Elgin, a small rural town northeast of us.
The school board let me make the decision which was very nice of them. So my parents arranged to take me to both schools for a look about. We went to the school in Sackville first and though it was a bright happy looking place it made me anxious the way the kids stared at me.(little did I know that these kids were the Townies and were ever after Townies through High School and college too.)
When we went to visit the school in Port Elgin the kids stood up from their seats to see me and they waved and smiled – some even came out in the halls to say hello… so I choose to go to the friendly school in Port Elgin. It was a great choice in retrospect. I met kids from all over the area and the school had a very relaxed and open atmosphere. Many of the kids were from farming or fishing families (and many of the fishing families were lobster fishermen).
I was seated in a class next to a rambunctious and fun loving boy named David. What I remember most from these first few months was that David was always getting into trouble for talking or goofing around and the teacher would send anything at hand flying at his head – chalkboard erasures, rubber erasers, pens, whatever, so I had to learn to duck fast.
I thought it wonderful that our school trip that semester was to the local agricultural station. We went by bus to see the pigs and cows and chickens and grains and things that they were working with to develop better methods of agriculture for the region. My assignment after the trip was to write about different kinds of swine and draw pictures of all the breeds.
The principle took me out of class for a couple of days to test my education levels. So I spent some hours writing standardized tests – which I actually found quite fun. He was astonished at how high I scored but really I think it was just a matter of curriculum differences between New York and New Brunswick, Canada.
I also got to learn French for the first time, which was a great thing for me. But to the local kids it was a source of political scorn. They drove every French teacher insane with their disobedience – no amount of throwing erasures would have made a difference. I was shocked at how much animosity there was towards the French people in English Canada.
The first thing I learned to say in French was “le baton de hockey” (hockey stick) – very important to learn about hockey when living in Canada. We had only two TV stations that we could get at our house so my mother and I would watch Hockey Night in Canada every week (we had our favorite players – mine was Darryl Sittler until he lost all his teeth).
Everyone was nice to me in Port Elgin with the exception of one kid who kept saying to me “Yankee Go Home”. It annoyed me that it went on for years – even into High School – but I knew it was just meant teasingly – at least I hope it was meant in a friendly way.