Sydney Academy 3

When I was in Sydney recently my sister asked what did I do to ‘hang out’? At the Academy I was fairly active in some of the ‘clubs.’ One was the Junior Red Cross that devoted its energy to raising money – I guess the money went to the Red Cross. One year we sold ballpoint pens with, I think, Sydney Academy & the school logo printed on them. I remember this because I the group bought them from a company my father’s business used for similar office stuff.

If the order was large enough the company threw in an extra bonus: a coffee percolator one year, a wrist watch the next. We also sold raffle tickets for those bonus items. One year there was regional Jr. Red Cross conference held at Riverview (I think). There was a dinner& dance. 

I also joined the Chess Club, even though I wasn’t all that good at it. I barely remember anyone in it. The same for a short-lived ‘Record Club’ where we brought our favourite lps & played a couple of tracks & talked about why we liked them. My selection ‘The King & I’ wasn’t deemed serious enough. The teacher behind the group wanted to hear serious music not pop, show tunes or jazz. The club didn’t last.

My biggest involvement was badminton. We had the gym every Saturday & played round-robin. Singles, mens doubles, girls doubles & mixed doubles. I was a fairly accomplished player & did win a few trophies. There was also competition with other schools.

The best part of this became music! We were allowed to play records, usually 45s, while the play was going on. I quickly gravitated to this & became a sort of dj as mt pop music interest increased. Popular stuff was the Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beatles, Dave Clarke 5. I recall playing The Gates of Eden, which was the flip side of Like A Rolling Stone & being asked to play less serious stuff. When the Monkee’s I’m Not Your Stepping Stone was first played everyone went nuts for it & we had to play it over & over again.

I was pretty serious about badminton though. A bunch of us also played at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, (now home of HAT) which had a couple of courts in its semi-basement auditorium. The space was also used by the Rotary Club for rehearsals & set building. It was great as we got to practice without the rest of the school around us. I was quite taken by one of the other guys who played. He was hairy & sometimes sported a beard until someone at the school would tell him it was time to shave.

The one non-school organization I became involved with was DeMolay, but that’s another post 🙂

The Whitney Pier Museum

 

is dedicated to the industry of the area

steel workers miners

displays about the various ethic groups

that created the community

Jewish Black Ukrainian

old high-school year books

pictures of teams hockey basketballs

rows of mothers knitting for the war

soldiers returning 

those lost

churches that have come gone

business that survived then faded

as economies rose and dipped

the first black owned store in the city

 

families in fields picnics outings

Christmas parties in church auditoriums

faces turned to cameras

leaden in front of raging blast furnaces

or smeared with cold dust at a mine entrance

men in groups workers comrades

sometimes everyone named

who’s your father 

takes on a tree of discovery

 

I sift through these

wonder about the real lives of these men

wonder where is my queer history

I’m assume each of them

had a wife and kids somewhere

they sweated and worked for that classic dream

a house a garden 

 

no way to find out if any of them

sought out something in each other

no mention that 

this is Jack and John 

who lived happily together 

in this house on Lingan Road

everyone knew but no one cared

 

I’m happy to know the lives

of famed homos of the past

Radcliff Hall Alan Ginsburg

the list gets longer 

as we allow history to reveal

what some historians once thought 

too sordid to bring to light

the sex lives of heteros are fine fodder mind you

 

I look at these photos and wonder

what truths are hidden 

unrecognized

no display of the same-sex inclined

it is as if only the famed were queers in history

no ordinary folks

in these little local museums 

of the closeted

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

October

Stratford Festival – The Crucible

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Sydney Academy 2

 


I remember some of the teachers: Mr. Miller known as Jolly Miller behind his back who taught mathematics: algebra, trigonometry _ I excelled at the first & got lost with the second. Two English teachers stand out as well. Mr. Mould – an English gentleman whose accent we all tried to imitate. Rather staid & he always favoured the memorizers. Miss Laura Donaldson: perhaps my favourite English teacher who was sarcastic, challenging & stern. The English literature we were taught was never modern though. Dickens was as up to date as it got.

The other teacher I can’t forget is Mr. Mills who taught phys-ed at all grade levels. We had to have our gym shoes whitened properly for every class, we lined up for shoe & sock inspection, as well fingernails. Boys & girls got separate gym classes, to keep those raging hormones under control. We were never taught about how to control them expect avoidance. There was no sex ed that I recall.

I stumbled through basketball – never learned a lay up. Managed volley ball, hated gymnastics, found wrestling confusing – thanks to my raging hormones 🙂 After gym there were communal showers where I always washed as fast as possible, keeping my eyes on the floor to avoid slipping on soap suds. Our lockers were assigned so I changed next to the same boys each term. It was here I saw lots of different cocks, saw that some were darker skinned than the rest of the body, saw public hair, hairy chests, hairy legs.

There lots of taunting & bragging. Because I was crappy at every sport, except badminton, I was derided for not being good at basketball etc. There was no physical abuse though. In fact I experienced little of that but there was lots of verbal abuse in the halls.

My sense of style surfaced in high school. I had some paisley shirts, the first seen in the school. My hair was longish & Mr. Mills frequently suggested I get a haircut. I remember seeing a band on TV wearing shirts with cuffs & collars that matched so I had my mother cover the collar and cuffs of one my shirts with some polka dot fabric. I loved it. Another time I had her sew epaulettes on a shirt for me. The teasing increased & escalated to shoving. I didn’t back down.

Suffocating

me face down flat on the floor

me: fifteen

the floor: high school gym

pine slats and the smell of socks

 

lift from the waist

me lifting sweating

I could do this much of the class

I felt safe in one spot

not facing anything   anyone

 

now roll over

this was a little worse

I could see the other guys in my class

but I’m still safe

in one spot on the floor

 

I dreaded it all so much

I’d arrive at school in my gym clothes 

to avoid the change room

okay on your feet boys

we groaned up

jumping jacks

 

I was still safe in one spot

I could keep up with this

it was basketball that did me in

where I could never remember left from right

never could manage a lay up

traveling with the ball – whatever that was

I would pass whenever I could

sometimes I’d fall to get out of the way

 

but that fear was merely prelude 

to what I dreaded the most

the showers

I’d yank my glasses off right away

soft focus everyone

into naked fuzzy forms

I would slink in as small as I could

rinse down

dart back to my locker

keep my eyes to the floor – to faces

but there was always someone too close

someone I couldn’t keep from focusing on

when I was trying not to look

at hair everywhere on some of them

asses backs around their balls

 

I would dress barely dried off 

rush up the stairs and outside

to breath

to keep from drowning 

in the damp desires

that were suffocating me

http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1dQ

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

October

Stratford Festival – The Crucible

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Sydney Academy 1



After graduating from Woodill the next step up the educational ladder was Sydney Academy – the big boys school. Senior High grades 10 – 11- 12. This was a was a relief mainly because although there were hills they weren’t as steep as the ones down Royal Ave. The walk was much shorter.

One building I remember is the dry cleaners, Snow White Laundry, which was directly across the street from the front entrance. It had a wall painting of, of all things, Disney’s Snow White & some of the dwarves. Looking out the windows facing Terrace St it was the one thing one always saw. The wall painting eventually went – maybe Disney copyright lawyers threatened to sur.

The main entrance doors were for teachers & visitors. We students entered around the side where the parking lot was. No lining up by classes. We had homerooms & moved from class to class, as opposed to the teachers moving from room to room. At Colby & Ashby we remained in one classroom the whole semester. Woodill may have been the same one room but I can’t recall. 

The building was larger than Woodill’s. Some students being bussed in. It was Sydney’s main public senior high – there was a Catholic equivalent – which was the school’s main sports rival. The school had a huge gym, a major phys-ed program that included basketball, volley ball, gymnastics. It did have a hockey team as well but that was a separate entity for boys who qualified for the team.

The school had science labs, woodworking & metal workshops & probably ones for domestic sciences as well. Lots of extra-curricular activities like Jr. Red Cross, Drama club etc. There was a cafeteria on the basement level, which is where the lockers rooms & showers for the gym were. Sock hops were held in this area too.

The social context was totally different from Woodill with the mix of students from across the city. It wasn’t particularly diverse though. Sydney did have a large black population but they were ‘confined’ to the Whitney Pier area – which, I think, had its own senior high. 

Coming next week: troubling locker room memories

Square Root

I wished him dead

every time I sat in his class

I wished he were dead   buried

not someone I had to face every day

 

I would only have to glance up at him

writing formulas on the black board

the drone of his voice 

and wish him dead

 

he would always call on me

to read out what he had written

I picture his brain exploding

bloody cosines gush from his nose

all over his spotless white shirt

 

I wanted a sharp steel edge 

on my protractor

to cut out his heart

save the class from algebra trig calculus

his stories of sailing

how he figured directions 

with his slide rule

 

die die die

so we can figure out the angle

to bury you so your rotting corpse

will slump into your penny loafers

bones a jumble of secants 

and underpants

 

the formula on the board

meant nothing to me

it could have been written in flame

blah blah squared 

equals something degrees

 

my feet burning by the time I sat down

he would pat me on the shoulder

say   you seem to be catching on

when I was really catching on fire

his abacus belt buckle at eye level

 

I’d stare at the rubble on my page

hope his hand would stay a bit longer

hope some of his knowledge could rub off

what was the angle of the dangle 

behind that zipper

 

if he were to die I wouldn’t have to wonder

about where to look 

when he stood so close

 

I leave the class

can’t remember a formula or anything

all I could see was that glint of belt buckle

and that wouldn’t be on the exam

http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1yO

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


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

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

October

Stratford Festival – The Crucible

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Nailed

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton.

Nailed

‘don’t bite your nails’ 

‘sorry’

I never knew I was biting my nails 

till I was told to stop
it kept me from chewing my lower lip 

good thing I didn’t have long hair
or I’d have been chewing on that too 

 

I rubbed my eyes
tried to focus on the blackboard 

so much to learn 

all I could think was 

that I’d never learn it all 

 

‘stop biting your nails’ ‘sorry’

 

I didn’t feel my teeth 

try to find a bit of nail 

how did it happen 

that Mike Kennedy two rows over 

never did things like that
he never got a runny nose
and let it dribble on his tongue

 

Mike turned around to say something 

to Trevor Steeles behind him
they laughed looked at
Liz Sampson 

on the other side of me 

she stared out the window
as she chewed her hair 

 

the teacher droned on
‘take notes this will be on the exam’ 

 

our little pens itched
page after page of big words
all of which would be on the exam 

dazed I filled the margins
with small zigzag mazes
when I was trying not to bite my nails
or chew my lower lip bloody

 

little mazes
that never got me out of this puzzle
I could barely grasp
the writing on the blackboard
a scattering of thin snow on mud
I had to plod through this sludge
to rescue meaning
then I’d be safe

on the other side of the exams 

 

‘stop biting your nails 

you can’t take notes 

with your fingers in your mouth’
the class all looked at me laughing

 

‘it helps me think’ 

 

‘another reason to stop
at your age 

thinking
is a dangerous thing’

 

‘yes sir, I’ll never 

think in your class again’

 

funny what I could say
when my fingers stopped 

getting in the way 

All through school I had attention problems. I was easily distracted and was more interested in things around me than what the teacher was saying. I was one of those kids who filled in all the ‘o’ on a page. In high-school teachers would often dictate things for us to write down – no mimeographed hand-outs in those days – the theory being writing it out made more of an impression on the teen brain. Sometimes we had to hand in our note books for the teacher to approve of our note taking.

This is a Sydney Academy high-school memory. I think the class was Civics, in which we were learning about government from the top down – federal, provincial, city. It made running for alderman very unappetizing 🙂 My attention would always wander in this class and I would be abruptly brought to reality by the teacher. Was I biting my nail at this moment? Possibly. In this class we weren’t allowed to fidget either.

I wasn’t considered out of the bright boys in the class & didn’t get much attention from the teacher. I stop nothing too put my hand up as the keeners quickly got all his focus. I did doodle in my notebooks. zig-zags, spirals that sort of thing. When taking notes I was something writing teen-age angst poetry with lots of rhymes – because that was how one wrote real poetry. Influenced by Paul Simon mainly with a dash of Dylan.

I got caught doodle daydreaming more than once in this class & the teacher never hesitated to point out to me, in front of the class, that I wasting my brain by not paying attention to his insights. If wanted to get better than c’s I’d have to smarten up etc. I did innocently say ‘I was thinking’ & gave the ‘never think’ reply too. He had me stay after class to lecture me on being a smart mouth. I think it was the closet I ever came to a teaching calling me smart.

 

I didn’t dare tell him that what I was thinking of, sometimes, were the barely hidden boners of a couple of my classmates. Maybe that’s what I imagining myself biting when I was biting my nails 🙂 

 

 

previous Brown Betty posts:

Man With A Past 1 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3B3

When I Was A Young Boy  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3By

Home (not of the brave) https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Cg


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

School’s Out 1

My house in Toronto’s east end is surrounded by schools. There are at least 5 within 5 minutes walking distance, plus another 5 within 15 minutes. A couple of the buildings remind me of the schools I went to in Sydney. 1920’s functional with a bit of actual design work around entrances & windows.

The end of the school year always being back memories of anticipating summer. Sitting in class rooms fidgeting with nothing to do – final exams were over, no more lessons to be taught, waiting for reports cards to be filled in the given out. I don’t even know if report cards exist anymore. Back int he day we had to take them home for parents sign during the year. I may have one of my old ones hidden somewhere in my archives.

I was always an average student. Fairly obedient, rarely got into trouble, so deportment was good. But I had attention problems. Also I had spelling issues, which in looking back was a mild dyslexia. One summer I had to spend an hour or so every day writing out words – spelling them each ten times – so I could take that spelling exams once more to see if I could pass into the next grade. 

 

I went to four schools – Colby Elementary, Ashby Middle School, Woodhill Junior High, Sydney Academy High-School. Only the Academy is still standing. Colby was replaced with a big tin box, Ashby burned down mysteriously & was replaced by a big tin box; Woodhill became a community centre for decades & was finally torn down for a housing complex.

 

As much as I was eager for summer I dreaded that final report card – would my marks be good enough to get my reward: a new bicycle, cash. One year they weren’t & I was so demoralized I was afraid to go home & not get my reward. One year I did get that bicycle but not the one I wanted 🙂

Out of Control 

in control or out of control

which gives the better result

which can lead to where 

control is too hard to relinquish

expectations drive dreams goals

 

can someone with control issues

get out of control

with the need to control

hold on too tight

or drop everything too suddenly

relax into a puddle

even a puddle is controlled 

by gravity

free fall isn’t free

free form still has form

 

is the goal to be shapeless 

uncontainable

is that destruction 

anarchy

aimless directionlessness

still has points of reference

that pull to the norm

can the norm be out of control

 

who imposes that structure

who gets to be responsible 

while the rest

are wild and free 

is there actual energy 

in being out of control

doing nothing takes no energy 

realize float down stream

the stream has the control

the surrender is to another’s control

even when out of control

someone does the doing 

 

what is ‘out’

what is ‘control’

who is the object of these definitions

of these structures

even light need dark to exist

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


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

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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