Uncle Block presents another great guest rant from the prolific Harvenut Puritan.
I decided to draft something different for this rant instead of raving about discouraging issues mainly...ya, you got it, our governments.
I am a baby boomer. Every now and then I contemplate on the past events of my life...I think most people do. As brainless as it sounds, at times I still feel I'm in my late teens but then I look at myself in the mirror and see my 62 year old body and quickly return to reality.
I attended Westmount Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario from Sept. 1968 - June 1973. We were called the Westmount Highlanders. Back in those days the education system platform had three options a student could choose before entering high school: a 2 year program grades 9 and 10 inclusive for students with vocational interests, a 4 year program grades 9 - 12 inclusive for students aspiring to attend college or seeking a trade and a 5 year program grades 9 - 13 inclusive for students pursuing University. If students received 66% or higher in any subject they were recommended, meaning they were exempt from writing a final exam in that course. Students were also allowed to have a maximum of three failures with a certain percentage and could still pass their year.
I was in the 4 year program but made it a 5 year journey...I failed grade 9. I had 44% with 7 failures...I was toast, burnt toast. I wasn't keen on grade 9, grade 9 the second time around and grade 10 and I certainly wasn't a devoted student. The only highlight in those three years was playing football as a minor niner'. I 'sat on the bench' for the entire season with the exception of one, yes only one play. I sacked the quarterback (I was 2nd string defensive end) on a frozen field, on a frigid and freezing day at Southmount S.S. and that folks is my one play of junior high school football.
I tried to play in me repeat year of grade 9 but the Board of Education had a very strict rule with no flexibility whatsoever. Their protocol was if a student failed the previous year he wasn't allowed to play football the following year. I wanted to play...I could taste it. I pleaded with everyone, my phys. ed. teacher, phys. ed. head and even Mr. Tom McGuffin our school principal...it was all in vain, the rule was carved in stone.
For the next two years (2nd time in grade 9 and grade 10) I engaged in activities I would like to forget about. Such as drugs, hanging out with the wrong crowd and overall just being an immature jerk.
Then in Sept. 1971 entering grade 11, it was like a 'new age'. I completely terminated my drug use and felt more mature. My friends were either non drug users or just pot smokers and tokers and most of them (not all mind you) respected my wishes of not participating in drugs...however we certainly enjoyed our beer. I tried out for the Senior football team and just didn't make the squad but I started at Safety (defensive halfback) and ran back punts...I guess the coaches saw something in me. The biggest game of the year was the last one, against the Hill Park Rams. Westmount and Hill Park were like neighbours, just 2 miles apart. So it is safe to say the two schools had an enormous rivalry. We beat Hill Park that day 15 - 11 - it was a massive upset. All three defensive backs (including myself) 'picked off' interceptions from the Rams signal caller, Joe Fabiani. Joe was one of the best quarterbacks in the city but the game belonged to us...it was a team victory for all the players. The win amplified moral and installed confidence and more importantly (believe it or not) it gave us a playoff spot with a 2 win and 3 loss record. The next morning I was sitting in my geography class still feeling the euphoria from the game. My teacher, Mr. Jim 'Duke' Schram (R.I.P. and God Rest Your Soul) centered me out in front of the entire class and asked, your name Puritan and I replied yes sir. He then said you were the best player on that football field yesterday. A compliment like that was a total honour especially coming from him...he could be hard nosed, no nonsense and intimidating at times but overall a good teacher...I liked him. You might say that time in geography class was my fifteen seconds of fame and glory during my high school football days. However it was a team effort...we won as a team.
The next week we played the Westdale Warriors in a quarter final game. I recall there as a massive turnout of fans for the game. Unfortunately for our team and supporters the Highlander bubble burst...we lost 13 - 0. Nevertheless other players and myself (who were eligible to play the following year) felt positive and had loads of optimism for the next season.
During the 1971 football season I experienced a powerful feeling that I never encountered before...it was a complete delight and glee. There was a certain girl in my history class. This reminded me of the Bobby Curtola song 'Three Rows Over and Two Seats Down', this was a shade different...she sat in front of me. My joy and passion for her was no crush...it was a crazy little thing called love.
She was a 5 year program student in grade 12 who played volleyball, basketball and track and field. It didn't take long until I was 'head over heels' on her...suddenly history was my favourite subject. Every morning while I was getting dressed for school and making my bed I would hear the song 'Pretty Lady' by 'Lighthouse' on the radio station CKOC-AM and I would instantly think of her. The 'word was out' (thanks to a mutual friend), we both liked each other and we finally connected. I took her to see the movie Billy Jack and the Senior Football championship game between Delta Red Raiders and Westdale Warriors, we would go for walks, I met her parents. Things were 'clicking' very nicely. I recall she had a volleyball game at Sir Allan MacNab S.S. and I just showed up to watch her...she was shocked. I walked her home after the game and enjoyed every minute of it. We both had an abundance of exercise that day walking over 8 miles. Then one day it was over. I won't get into details, but I will say it was TOTALLY my fault, and only my fault, because of my own stupidity, selfishness and being a self centered immature jerk. The remainder of grade 11 was uneventful but still good...academically it was my best year in high school.
The beginning of Grade 12 was full of optimism and confidence for the senior football team. Players were given their equipment before the summer holidays so we could practice before the official season started. A Board of Education rule prohibited any coaches present so I conducted the practices. I must say they were half ass...nothing with any real structure or discipline, just basic 'stuff', tackling and running back punts. You might say it may have been the start of my coaching career...I coached football for 32 seasons at many different levels.
The football season turned out to be a complete disaster...a full blown nightmare. Our record was 0 wins and 5 losses...we were annihilated every game. The one game that stood out in my mind was against Sir Allan MacNab Lions...they trounced us 53 - 0. Mind you, that's what sports is all about, you win a few and then you get your ass kicked. I was knocked out unconscious in that game. I remember being helped up on to my feet but wondering where the previous twenty seconds had disappeared. I remained in the game to the bitter end. It was damaging enough of being totally embarrassed and humiliated but what really annoyed me the most was the Lions Head Coach and majority of his players running off the field and not shaking hands with us at the end of the game...I found it a complete lack of sportsmanship. Unbeknown to me, years later the Lions Head Coach and myself would be standing on the same side line coaching together and becoming very good friends. He was extremely instrumental helping my executive assistant's ex husband and two other Glendale S.S. football players receiving full ride scholarships to Youngstown State University in Ohio and other players pursuing football scholarships in the United States. Football wasn't his only forte. He was a very intelligent individual who wrote math books for the Ontario Ministry of Education School curriculum...his name, George Knill. I have been friends with George and his football cohort Dennis Griffin for many years, Both gentlemen are highly respected and were a dynamic duo of Hamilton's football community for many years. The 53 - 0 loss was so devastating some players quit before the season was finished. However I 'stuck it out' having the attitude...'I'm going down with the ship'.
The rest of grade 12 was routine. I had a girlfriend during the summer before school started and throughout a section of the year. We had some fun times but we parted our separate ways on a mutual agreement. I must say I didn't have the same feeling with her that I had with my 'history gal' the year before. I recall one hilarious and on going episode in Ms. Biro's math class. A friend of mine (we are still very good friends today) had a 'difficult' time, (I was in the same boat as he was as well as some other students), we just couldn't capture the concept of algebra. Ms. Biro would go through the problems she had wrote on the blackboard step by step to arrive at the final answer. Every time my friend didn't understand part of the answer he would perform a time out signal with his hands (you know, like they do in sports) and yell out "TIME OUT, TIME OUT". Ms. Biro would back track and explain what she had done. It didn't take long before a few other students (myself included) were engaging in the 'time out rule'. The 'time out rule' in math class...it was original and absolutely comical, clever and ingenious and you know what...it worked.
Little did I realize I would be defensive coordinator for the Westmount Wildcats Senior Football Team in 1998 and 1999 and yes what you read is correct...Wildcats. The name Wildcats has always been intriguing to me...why the change? Finally, I decided to search out the answer. I phoned Wes Hicks Ward 8 School Trustee for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. I told his secretary my question and she stated I will have Wes phone you...that was Jan. 13/16. Obviously obtaining no help from him I drove to Westmount S.S. and talked to the Vice Principal John Northey. He invited me in to his office (he was very courteous, friendly and professional) and conveyed to me "this is what I was told" and began to explain the reasoning for the name change. I will paraphrase what he said. Years ago there two school boards, Hamilton Wentworth and City of Hamilton. When they amalgamated it was decided to change the name Highlanders to Wildcats because of a secondary school in Dundas (suburb of Hamilton) called Highland so the Highlander name was axed. Whether that is the actual verity (I am leaning that way...it does make sense) or it's more insanity and nonsense of political correctness I still call it 'The Tragic Death of a Highlander" and for Wes Hicks...I wonder if he would have returned my call if it was an election year?
Unfortunately we all know death never takes a holiday. I must not forget some friends and other folks I periodically associated with and are no longer with us:Steve Ayers, Dave Biggs, Okka Bouma, Jim Guetter, Elizabeth Malstrom, Bob 'Fritz' Peterson, Stewart Rennie, Terry 'Jack" Selkirk and Mark Waind...R.I.P. and God Rest Your Souls. Sadly enough there are probably more names I could add to the list but these are the former students I know about.
I remember constantly looking out my physics class window and watching the construction of two high rise apartments (11 and 21Kendale Crt.) and not giving two hoots learning about matter and energy.
I remember the bush parties at 'the cow pond' and brow.
I remember arriving home from football practice every night around 6:30 PM and my mother (R.I.P., God Rest Your Soul) would always have my supper ready for me.
I remember 'hanging out' in the smoking area, puffing away on cigarettes and socializing with my friends and fellow schoolmates.
I remember working part time at Mohawk Ford (a car dealership) for $1.25/Hr.
I remember my 'Pretty Lady' allowing me to cheat off her history test, man, I just couldn't get into British Monarchy.
I remember hearing the Hill Park football coach tell his team if they lose to Westmount again he will resign...sounds like his players liked him...they pounded us 33 - 0.
I remember flying in a helicopter over the Ford Motor Company plant in Oakville Ontario for a grade 11 geography field trip thinking WOW! This place is humongous.
I remember the 'astro turf' at Ivor Wynne (now Tim Hortons Field) being absolutely rock hard with no cushion whatsoever...it was almost like a thick slab of concrete painted green.
I remember my father (R.I.P. and God Rest Your Soul) attending most of my football games in grade 11...it made me feel dam good.
I remember when my 'history gal' first 'caught my eye' and I heard the song on the radio 'I'd Like To Get To Know You' by Spanky and Our Gang.
I remember Sr. football team pep rallies outdoors and inside...for me it was a great form of motivation.
I remember hurting me knee in a grade 11 football game. Only sidelined for two weeks I returned to play, but 35 years later I was told I probably tore my A.C.L. (acute cruciate ligament) that day.
I remember the Viet Nam 'conflict' was coming to an end and thanking whoever I didn't have to participate in that stupid and ridiculous war.
I remember sitting in my bedroom and listening to the Chicago Black Hawks on WMAQ-AM on my transistor radio and get so irritated because the reception would fade in and out.
I remember attending Delta S.S. for night school during my grade 12 year because I needed one credit for the required thirty to graduate. Little did I know years later I would be their Head Football Coach for five seasons.
I remember attending house parties in grades 11 and 12 and on occasion some required a 'boost'. Once a Scottish friend would arrive the party would transform from a wake to a rousing great time...years later he became a very successful businessman.
I remember skipping my marketing lesson to watch a playoff football game between Hill Park and Sir Allan MacNab when my teacher (who was also my football coach) told me to get into his class and I refused and attended the game. My teacher had the last laugh though. My final mark in his class before exams was 65%...66% was recommendation.
I remember at a football practice in grade 12 our coach said, if you're not willing to hurt someone you shouldn't be playing this game. To this day I still have a problem with his moronic statement and never, ever had that philosophy in all my years of coaching football.
I had a lot of good times in grades 11 and 12 and have always treasured the memories. I hope all high school students, past, present and future can reflect back on those days with some enjoyable experiences.
TIME OUT, TIME