Ashby School only went up to Grade 7. Next stop was 8 and 9 was Woodill Jr. High, which was near the bottom of Royal Avenue. I already knew where it was from my time at Colby School, which was at the very bottom of Royal Ave. Royal Ave was flat until it got to Terrace Street where it started to slope then dip steeply down to Woodill on Hillview Street. The school was named after a Supervisor of Schools. It was not, as I had thought at one time, because there used to be woods on them there hills.
The building was a standard late-50’s two-story box with windows, unlike Colby or Ashby which were buildings that went back the 20’s. As the Sydney population decreased & schools were amalgamated it became a community centre in late 90’s & due severe flood damage it was torn down in 2017.
My memories are more of the walk to school than my class or students. No teacher names come back to me. The principle was know as Skully – because he was thin with a skull like head (gasp). There was lining up before class in mornings after recess & again the the afternoon. Boys on one side, girls on the other. This was where I got my only school yard nickname – Army Ant – because my last name was Armstrong & I was small. I vaguely remember there was a hockey team.
It was here that I got my first pair of glasses. I blamed my inability to learn on not seeing clearly so I was tested & in fact I wasn’t lying but trust me glasses did little to improve my attention issues. It also here that I ended up missing a few weeks, or more, due to appendicitis. Severe pains going up stairs were the tip off.
I remained a middling student. I tried to conform to being just one of the guys & did manage to fit socially but was never Mr. Popular, rarely fist picked for baseball. The only sport I remember is the hockey team. The school didn’t have a gym. The final year there they school held a dance for us juniors on our way to be seniors. It was torture.
I remember so little I suspect that if I have any repressed memories they are from my time at Woodill. I don’t even remember really being bullied there. Most of that was nearing to home by some troubled Catholic guys in the neighbourhood. It is only in hindsight that I see how troubled they were. Hurt kids hurt kids.
At home I was becoming more responsible for looking after my brother & sisters in the mornings before I went to class. The walk to the school was all down hill but that uphill walk home for lunch & after school was sometimes a killer. Slippery in the winter, with little protection for the wind I never did grow hair on my legs.
While Enjoying A Grape Popsicle
‘it’s the sookie
the gutless wonder – get him’
three pairs of feet rushed me
Dave Parsons, his brother Stinky
and kid sister Mag
with a bruise on her arm
Dave a year older than me
Vic in my class at school
at 12 I knew what helpless meant
there was no way out
sometimes they were suddenly there
shoving and pushing me
‘yah yellow crybaby’
Dave had me in a head lock
handed my Popsicle to Mag
‘can’t even fight a girl’
he pushed me at Mag
she hit me in the face
‘go on – you useless gutless wonder’
she hit me again
I tried to stop her third smack
the others piled on me
‘hit her would you – we’ll teach you’
kicking shoving me to the ground
I tried to stop crying
‘sookie baby you tell
and we’ll say you did that bruise to Mag’
I can place these kids
in small town unhappy drunken homes
where Dave learned
words like ‘gutless wonder’
booze-hound Dad working mother
older brothers in and out of jail
acting out as they were acted upon
abuse that I didn’t experience in my home
which doesn’t change the fact
I didn’t know how to protect myself
I believed that I was gutless
my useless word against theirs
Dave broke an arm rolling a stolen car
Stinky got busted for dealing
Mag had her first kid at 16
I suppose they suffered for their actions
yet even as I put them
in this sociological context
I still wish I had the power then
to beat them
weeping for me to quit it
as I eat my grape Popsicle
on their bruised
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One thought on “Ashby/Woodill Days”
Awful how much abuse had been and continues to be in all school systems. public private and specialized.