Hammertime: Back to school and Ponoka’s old Red Brick School

With kids back to school, Hammertime celebrates the old days of getting back to education

Mike Rainone


Every time I drive past the grand old Ponoka Red Brick School I have some cherished flashbacks about the memorable years that I spent there over 60 years ago.

Once again it was early September 1954 and I still vividly recall walking hand-in-hand with my mother down that same long cement sidewalk and up to those really big wooden doors. There were also lots of other scared but excited children with their parents taking that same stroll into what would be the first day of the great adventure of learning and making lots of new friends.

There were of course a few tears when our parents left us there at our home room under the direction of our very first teacher, but we were all quickly given our own wooden desk, and once settled down we found out that we would only have to be quiet, pay attention, and speak when spoken to for a half day. From now on the forever rule would be to put up our hands if we had a question or needed to go to the bathroom. Some of the early rules included leaving our boots and lunch kits in the ‘coat room’, and yours truly was so small I could hardly reach the hook to hang up my jacket and silly English cap. As we all got used to that big old school room it was amazing, as it was full of books and pictures, as well as a great big blackboard with long brushes and chunks of coloured chalk, the national flag, a round spinning ball with a map of the world, and so many other treats that we would get to learn and touch from now until June, when there would be a break called ‘summer holidays.’

We even got to go out for recess on that first morning, play games, and run around that big playground full of swings, teeter-totters, maypoles, and slides. I know that many renovations have been done at that now 89 year old school, but I have noticed that those same large windows are still there, which we used to stare through and daydream until the attentive teacher or noisy buzzer always brought us back to reality. At the end of that first morning we got a list of supplies we needed, including pencils, eraser, glue, ruler, crayons, scribblers, lunch kit, and may-be even a backpack to stuff it all in, or maybe even a new bike to show off. Needless to say most of us couldn’t wait to come back the next day, and such was the humble beginnings of our glorious school adventure, and here are just a few high-lights of what were and always should be the best 12 or so years of our young lives, with only a few glitches and broken hearts thrown in along the way. There is no doubt that you will add and share a few of your own?

• Remember those finger nail/hands/ears/and hair inspections in the morning before health class? In that busy old classroom all of us were soon introduced to the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic, made friends with Dick-Jane-Spot and Puff, and got a star on the wall if we finished our lessons. We also got to make many neat things, and proudly take them home as a gift or to be hung on the fridge, to act or sing in a concert or drama play, dissect a frog, or go on field trips in those big yellow buses.

• In the early grades our buddies were usually boys, because we were to shy to talk to silly girls, unless they were good marble players, gave us a valentines’ day card, or picked us on their playground team. That of course changed when we got into junior high, where there were chaperoned dances in the gym, we all played or cheered for the school team, and fell in love with the cheer squads.

• Of course there will always be many challenges throughout school…homework, staying buddies with the bullies and avoiding the snobs, taking a not-so-good report card home then sitting through parent/teacher interviews, far to many crushes, detention, remembering the combination to your locker, being a part of the in-crowd, or trying to fit all your friends into one car at noon hour. How many of you recall taking cod liver oil pills, annual vaccinations, and attending classes at the army huts while they were building our fancy new community schools?

• Our parents always insisted that our school dress code was plain, practical and hand-me-downs, haircuts stayed short and skirts stayed long (for a while), respect and honesty was a cardinal rule, and the best efforts would usually bring rewards.

There is absolutely no doubt that the education process has changed quite a bit over the years, and now there are a whole lot more schools and teachers, the technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, and bike racks have been over-come by more parking lots. Whatever the case, the high quality and spirit of the education is still the best, and the opportunity and results can be an exciting step into the future for each and every student who accepts the challenge. Get ready and pumped for a great year in school, and then have a great week, all of you.

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