Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grade One

At long last I was in Grade One and finally had girls to play with at school.  No girls were living near our house so the three boys, Bruce, Brian and Dennis who lived down the street had been my only playmates since moving to Cordova Bay several months earlier.  I was six and the boys, Bruce who was six and Brian and Dennis who were eight years of age had included me in their activities, but were not interested in skipping or playing hopscotch or anything that girls might like.  I learned to run and climb trees and catch snakes just as well as they could, in fact it surprised me years later when I learned that girls were supposed to be afraid of snakes.  They liked to hike and explore on the beach or just hang out in our neighbourhood and I tagged along.
Climbing a tree with my father
in the background

One day as we were walking along a narrow path not far from Cordova Bay Road we came across a slough in the dense underbrush.  This was a new area to me, very swamp-like and I found it was noisy with the sounds of croaking frogs and loud chirping birds echoing around us.  As we stopped to look at the murky water, someone walking by warned us that it was quicksand and we should be careful.  Whether it was actually quicksand or some sort of bog, we never did find out but when we were told what could happen if you fell in quicksand, we got out of there quickly.  The beach was my favourite place but it was best to stick to the sandy areas as the barnacles on the nearby rocks could be painful if they were accidentally stepped on, especially in bare feet.

When school started, because of overcrowding at some schools, the boys went to Strawberry Vale and I went to Royal Oak.

When I was in Grade One the reader in common use was Fun With Dick and Jane.  I think most Canadian school age children in the 1940s had their introduction to reading through the very simple stories of Dick and Jane and their dog Spot.  The repetitive words in the storyline such as, "see Spot jump, jump  Spot jump" made reading an easy and enjoyable activity.  Learning to read and following the stories of Dick and Jane and Spot as well as the little sister Sally was something I would look forward to each day.

As war concerns ramped up we learned about blackouts.  At night the darkened blinds would be pulled down in our house and only a dim lamp would be turned on in the living room.  Most of the light in the room would come from the flickering flames of the burning wood in the fireplace.  My mother volunteered to become a Deputy Air Raid Warden  and in that position would walk up and down the dark streets near our house and make sure no light was visible during a blackout.  If even the slightest light was showing from a house, it was her responsibility to go to the door and inform the residents of the infraction.  Because the blackouts were ongoing, there were many deputies who ventured out into their communities during the pitch-black nights, walking with a dimmed flashlight and making sure there was not a glimmer of light that might identify our presence to an enemy plane if one should ever fly over Cordova Bay.

The fall of 1942 quickly passed and soon Christmas was approaching.  Our class had been rehearsing for a small school concert and finally the big day arrived.  I recall the Grade One girls being dressed in white, possibly as angels.  The movie Holiday Inn had come out that summer starring Bing Crosby with a new song, White Christmas.  As part of our concert an older girl had joined us and was singing White Christmas.  When she finished the first few lines, she looked at those of us in Grade One and said, "Now everyone sing along."  Because this new song was being played frequently on the radio we all knew it by heart and joined in with gusto, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know . . . ".  It was a great moment.