Saturday, February 1, 2020

This is Me - School Days

Two years ago I did a post called This is Me - The Early Days; I didn't expect it would take two years for me to be in the mood to sit down and write the next phase. Since I wrote that blog post, I've retired so you would think I'd have a ton of time, well just like everyone told me, your days just seem to be busy. That's not to say that I'm doing a lot but that I take more time to do things, after all no point in rushing. 

Grade 1, John A Silver School, Alsask
We were in in Alsask for four years; I finished kindergarten through Grade 3 there.  It was a great place for a kid, but maybe it was just the times, we had quite a bit of freedom to play and explore. Some of the things we did, I know now were dangerous. A friend and I once stole some thermometers to get the mercury; it was fun to play with mercury but little did I know that you could get mercury poisoning.  Also we used to play in some smaller grain bins in the surrounding fields, didn't know it then but I know now you can sink and suffocate in the grain.  Alsask, like Foymount is now closed. One of the radar domes is now a museum and some of the station facilities are still being used by the local municipality.

Christmas 1969, Great Falls, Montana
Our next posting was to Malstrom Air Force base in Montana.  It was an exchange posting for my dad with the United States Air Force. There were no married quarters for personnel on exchange so we lived in the city of Great Falls, Montana.  The living out allowances were pretty good so we rented in a fairly well off neighbourhood. Our next door neighbours were two retired pharmacists, who had two baby grand pianos in their living room. Other neighbours down the street were the owners of the Ford car dealership. Mum tried to get us into Holy Spirit Catholic school where we went to church but the first year they only had room for Annette so instead we all went to the public school, Lincoln Elementary.  In those days, not sure it's true now, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day before classes started. Mum told us we could say it if we wanted to but that since we were Canadian we didn't have to; however, she said that we did have to stand in respect for the flag.  I think at first I said the Pledge but later on I would just stand.  Isn't that a novel concept that you can respect other people's ideals without giving up your own.

Junior, Cub Scout, Brownie
We were three years in Great Falls, I did Grade 4, 5 and 6 at Lincoln Elementary.  I have lots of memories of Great Falls. We had a big backyard with crab apple tree and a pergola over the back patio covered with grape vines.  We used to sleep out on the patio in the summer.  We also did quite a bit of travelling while in Great Falls. In the summer of '69, yeah I know that's a song, we went to Disneyland in California, then up the coast to Oregon and Washington and later the same summer we went to Yellowstone National Park. 


Summer vacation, 1969
We were on our way to Disneyland when they landed on the moon, that's how I know that we did that trip in 1969. You can read my Apollo story here. Again, we kids had quite a bit of freedom in Great Falls. Our friends the Porter's were posted to Malstrom the summer after we were, we used to bike to their place. They lived on the same street but about 20 blocks away, closer to the air base, far enough away that if our parents went over they would always drive. Once, probably more than once, we told Mum and Dad we were going to Porter's and instead went to the fish hatchery at Giant Springs which was about 4 miles away, across some busy streets and railway tracks.

Taken in Great Falls, probably in 1968
We lived at 2708 4th Ave South, cool thing what with technology today is that I can street view that address. If the link on the address works, some of the pictures on the web site are how I remember the house. The grey stone fireplace and the wood paneling are what I remember for the family room, even the picture of the breezeway is how I remember it except I think the roof was green. 

Picture of Juanita, Dad and Doug in basement family room
In the summer of 1970, we returned to Canada. All of our American friends would ask what we thought of going back north and dad would tell them we were moving further south. We were posted to a radar station in St Margaret's, New Brunswick. If you look at a map, it is a little further south than Great Falls. The station at St Margaret's is also now closed and our married quarter isn't even there any more, having been sold and moved. After living in a four bedroom house with two bathrooms, a living room and family room, Mum said when she saw our three bedroom, one bath house in St Margaret's that she didn't know whether to laugh or cry as she didn't know how everything was going to fit.  At first, the four oldest girls had the master bedroom, Mum and Dad had the second biggest room and Doug and Maureen had the smallest room.  Later, Doug moved into the basement and Annette and I shared the room with the bunk beds and the three youngest had the master bedroom.

Taken in St Margaret's circa 1971
I completed Grade 7 and 8 at the base school in St Margaret's but for Grade 9 had to take the bus to go into the town of Chatham to the public junior high school, then to the new high school, James M Hill Memorial for Grades 10, 11 and 12.  While in St Margaret's, I joined the swim team in Chatham, we had to take the bus from St Margaret's to go to swim practice and once in Chatham for school we would go to the base right after classes for practice, only getting home around 7:30 pm after having left for school around 7 am. 

Chatham Golden Guppies
I wasn't much of a competitive swimmer. I never made a single qualifying time but it made me a strong enough swimmer that I passed all of my Red Cross swim tests including the Bronze Medallion and Award Merit as well as my lifeguard and swim instructor certifications. We had a lot fun travelling to swim meets on the bus which in those days were provided by the base. When buses weren't available, my dad would often drive. Swim meets were all over New Brunswick and sometimes in Nova Scotia as I remember going to Greenwood, NS and Halifax, NS.

I graduated from James M Hill and went onto Dalhousie university in Halifax but I'll end this blog post here and hopefully it won't take another two years to do the next post. 

High School grad  picture


  1. I went to a Lincoln Elementary school too, from kindergarten through 4th grade when we moved. Imagine that? LOL>....I think every town had a Lincoln school back then. We did do the Pledge every day, I remember that too. Of course it wasn't so controversial for me given I was a US citizen. But I do remember there was a boy in my class whose religion didn't allow him to do the pledge and the teacher explained that to us and he was allowed to remain seated during that time. I have no idea what religion that was.

    1. Quite a coincidence: But yes, I would expect that Lincoln was a common name for a school.

  2. It's so nice to have so many photos to remember all of your wonderful memories. I have lots of photos too - stashed somewhere.

    1. I'm still working through family photos to scan them. It's quite a project and it doesn't help when the technology doesn't work.

  3. You did a lot of travelling and experienced many things. I, too, was a 'free range' child. Family moved into our house when I was born. Younger sister lives there still with her family. We shared bedrooms and there were loads of children around, huge tracts of woods, some of them still survive as Washington, DC, spread out and engulfed the area. Funny, to hear of childhoods so far away, and yet so similar.

    1. I think it was the times. I don't think our parents worried too much about us unless we didn't show up for meals.


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