Ashby/Woodill Days

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’

looking back

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

and piss 

on their bruised 



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my next trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? 

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One thought on “Ashby/Woodill Days

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