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Memories of Victoria School now celebrating its centennial

Learning that the centennial of the Victoria School is being celebrated tomorrow, it was difficult to keep my mind from thinking about my first six years of formal education.
William Koreluik Byline
Learning that the centennial of the Victoria School is being celebrated tomorrow, it was difficult to keep my mind from thinking about my first six years of formal education.
My thoughts often gravitated to my days as a student at the Victoria School and among the most vivid are those of our daily 9 a.m. line-up outside the Victoria School’s two double front doors.
The “last” bell had rung and two-by-two, we were lined up. The Grade 1 classes were in front, and the senior class, the Grade 8s, were at back. The boys lined up on the right side facing the building, and girls to the left, because the boys would be marched up the stairs and into the building through the “boys’” door, and the girls, through the “girls’” door. And all day and every day, including for recesses, if you went into the school, and if you were a boy, you entered through the “boy’s” door, and if a girl, the “girl’s” door. That’s the way it was, folks. 
Spring, fall or winter, we lined up outside and waited. Everyone in place, then Mrs. MacLellan would blow into a harmonica to get a brief note, and with arms moving like a conductor of an orchestra, she would lead us all in the singing of God Save the Queen. I recall that in unison we all then recited The Lord’s Prayer and for me it was years before I realized it was not: “For ever and never, amen.”
O Canada was saved to the end of the day, at 4 p.m., when it was sung in each classroom just prior to dismissal.
That done, we all marched up the stairs through those doors, girls through one set, and the boys, the other, and into our respective classrooms. It being the days before Kindergarten was invented, my classroom was the room in which Ruth Cooper was teaching Grade 1.
A lasting memory was the day we were learning to print our Cs. We had to print Cs all along one line of the notebook, and then along anther line. Wanting to be teacher’s favourite, I had told myself that I would make real good Cs, as I thought I was doing. Mrs. Cooper, on her way up and down the isles, stopped by my desk and surprise, surprise, she scolded me. She said my Cs were not good, that I could do better. I was crushed, but kept on. Can I blame my resulting poor penmanship on that trauma?
Mr. Reusch was the principal when I began Grade 1. I remember one day when I had to visit him in his office for some long forgotten reason. He had been eating peanuts. He took one out of his pocket and he gave it to me. I know I had the crumbled peanut shell in my pocket for weeks after that. 
In grades three and four, our class was located in one half of the large, second-floor room that had originally been an auditorium, equipped with a stage. The room had been divided into two classrooms, and in Grade 3, we had the stage as part of our room, and the next year, we had the other part.
I know I had enjoyed John Moriarty, who had been my homeroom teacher in Grade 5 because at the beginning of each afternoon he had spent time reading to us. But those were the days of corporal punishment, and on one of those days, when my enthusiasm for learning had been seen by him as having been too disruptive, I was ordered to the front of the room where I had to extend the palm of my right hand. Two quick slaps of the leather strap were delivered. I returned to my desk, sure not to speak out of turn, at least not for the next while. Oh, the embarrassment!
For physical education, or PT as it was then called, each classroom was taken to the low-ceilinged, concrete-floored basement room located adjacent to the washrooms. Movement must have been severely restricted because I remember large water pipes (most likely asbestos covered) reaching all over the ceiling. I know we tumbled onto mats, and often had to line-up according to height. I was always towards the back of the row, just in front of Faye Kazakoff.
John Smandych was the principal and my homeroom teacher in my last year at that school, which was Grade 6, just prior to the opening of the new Kamsack Junior High School. When our Grade 6 class had been given detention, usually for having been too noisy when he had left the room, Mr. Smandych would start the half-hour, after-four detention period by writing a number consisting of seven or eight digits on the blackboard and a number of six or seven more digits under it. He would instruct us to multiply the top series of numbers by the bottom series. Once done, we were then to divide the answer by the second set of numbers in order to arrive at the other set, thereby checking our multiplication. We kept quiet for the entire detention time doing that arithmetic.
For school assemblies, everyone was led out of the classrooms to sit on the stairs. The school had a big, wide staircase leading from the main floor to the second floor. Halfway up was the principal’s office and the landing which served as “centre stage.” It was while sitting on those steps that we listened to veterans discussing their war experiences during the Remembrance Day services. That was where we sang Christmas carols and where we received “important” information.
Leaving the Victoria School after passing Grade 6, I began Grade 7 in 1960 as part of the first group of students to have entered the Kamsack Junior High School. For the assembly at the first day of school all the students had to sit in the balcony of the gymnasium and Mr. Keith, the principal, had to speak to us while standing on top of a pile of gravel where one day the gymnasium floor would be constructed. In spite of that, you would not believe how fortunate we felt as students in the new school.
My last time in that original portion of the Victoria School was in 1980, which by then had had other sections added to it. I was at work at the Times office when shortly after 1 p.m., I had received a phone call from Harry Shukin, who was the principal. He told me to get to the school immediately; that the ceiling in his upper floor classroom, the room in which Mr. Smandych had kept us in detention 20 years earlier, had fallen. He told me to bring my camera.
I was among the first people to see the collapse of the ceiling onto the desks. The collapse had occurred during the lunch break so no students had been at their desks when the heavy plaster fell. The school board, obviously relieved to have averted the disaster that could have been, immediately closed that portion of the school. Soon another new area was built and opened, and all the new portions together have become the Victoria School as it is now.
Happy 100th! Thanks for all the memories.