COLUMN: Random recollections from junior high

These past few weeks, I’ve been mentally returning to the time of transition from elementary to high school, prompted by my daughter’s move up from middle.

These past few weeks, I’ve been mentally returning to the time of transition from elementary to high school, prompted by my daughter’s move up from middle.

For me, that was leaving a little elementary school behind, and walking through the doors of junior high where the halls were ruled by the vice-principal.

We didn’t have much interaction. That primarily occurred if you were creating trouble. And the trouble I created in Grade 8 was generally internally based. If I wasn’t lost myself, I was losing my precious stuff.

Happily, we had a Lost and Found bin. If you left an expensive textbook behind in a classroom (like me), and someone was good enough to turn it in, you’d get it back. In theory, anyway. The bad thing was that the bin was outside the office, where everyone had access to it. So, if someone else had also lost their copy of that same expensive textbook, all they had to do was dive in and get yours before you did.

It should have been called Lost and Found and Lost Again.

The office was quite a place. It was always staffed by stern ladies, who looked at you with suspicion when you showed up with some request.

All the office staff I’ve met at my daughter’s school are super friendly.

Maybe it’s because they don’t have to put up with gusts of cigarette smoke wafting out of the teachers’ staff room.

Forty years ago, teachers openly smoked. So did students – in a school-sanctioned “smokepit,” no less. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?  Thirteen-year-olds hacking butts in a designated smoking area out behind the gym. And teachers doing the same indoors while they munched their sandwiches.

Speaking of which, I see the lunch phenomenon hasn’t changed much.

It used to be kids would take the nutritious, lovingly prepared brown bag lunches their mothers made for them, and drop them in the trash can.

Then they’d walk across the soccer field to the corner store on the other side of the road, and buy pop, and chips and other junk.

You can watch the same process today, at almost any school near a gas station or convenience store.

Who wants to eat tuna sandwiches when you can chow down on Doritos and a Slurpee?

I ate my mom-supplied lunch. I couldn’t have lived with the guilt of throwing it away.

However, I did covet the gourmet food a friend always brought in his brown bag. His mother made him things like crab sandwiches. With cucumbers. And freshly baked peanut butter cookies.

Yes, peanut butter! So much as utter those words in school now, let alone bring an item actually containing that condiment, and it’s the equivalent of releasing nerve gas in the hallways.

But back then, probably one in two kids had peanut butter sandwiches – some on a daily basis for the entire school year, poor sods.

Nut allergies were way off the radar in those days. I’m not sure why …

That serious condition aside, if you did feel lousy and wanted to call home, cellphones didn’t exist, and the office telephones were heavily guarded by the stern ladies.

For student use, there was a black behemoth of a pay phone in the foyer. Of course, it required coins, and who had change in his pocket, especially after a visit to the corner store?

It was weird, but for a time, there was anecdotal evidence that if you dialed the number, reversed the receiver and shouted into the earpiece, you could be heard at the other end.

“Mom? Mom! It’s me. Pick me up!”

And then you stood out in the parking lot, hoping it worked.

Come to think of it, we did a lot of things based purely on hope.

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