The Sixties
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Halbert in the Sixties

I lived on Cree Ave between Lowell and Rockwood and attended Halbert in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

I remember running full tilt down the outside of the school one day. Someone pushed open the back door to a classroom and it stopped me dead in my tracks. Miss Hall, my Grade 2 teacher, took me to the nurse’s office for repairs. While in Mrs. Reid’s class, I remember looking at my report card when I got home and telling my Mom they'd made a mistake. She just smiled and told me that it was correct -- I was going from grade 3 right into grade 5.

I was in Mrs. Hannaford’s class when they announced that JFK had been shot. Mr. Ford was the science teacher for Grades 6 to 8. In Grade 7 and Grade 8 I had Mr. Green. During those last two years, we had what they called "rotary". We moved to a few different classes for various subjects. It was supposed to help prepare us for high school. One particular thing that Halbert did extremely well was drill the basics of grammar and spelling into us. I couldn't believe the difference in ability of the kids who went to Halbert and those of the other local schools when I got to high school. This solid grounding in writing has helped me more than anything else throughout school and into the workforce. I shudder now when I read some of the things kids even in college are writing. I interview and hire quite a few people every year and the deterioration in language skills over the past 30 years is scary!

I remember every year near Christmas we got song sheets from Simpsons' department store and they'd traipse all of us down to the gym to sing for an hour or so - seemed like every day but I'm sure it wasn’t that often. A bunch of us guys hated it - especially when our voices were in the process of changing. We’d hide in the cloak room at the back of the classroom. I’m sure they must’ve known we were doing it but I guess as long as we were quiet and stayed out of trouble, they ignored us. It was probably easier to leave us alone than to listen to us croak our way through song after song and acting up to try and cover our embarassment.

I remember "Fun Fair" -- once per year with a lot of help from teachers. This was a fundraiser of sorts I think, with different themes in each classroom. One room would be a "cafe" -- darkened, with checkerboard table cloths and candles on the tables. They’d sell coffee for the adults. Another class would be set up as a fish pond for kids. There was also usually a "horror house".

I remember "Field Day" every year -- all kinds of races and contests for each age group. I used to come 2nd in all the races. I could never beat Rob Wendover. I was bigger but he always ran faster.

One of the scarier memories from public school were the bomb drills. We had to get down on the floor under our desks. They gave us information on what to do if Russia dropped the big one on Toronto. I can remember thinking how pointless it all was. If it ever happened and you survived the initial blast, you'd just die painfully a few weeks later, so why not just go outside and watch the thing? Horrible thing to have to remember isn't it? But, it was part of life back then. Some people in the neighbourhood had extra stashes of food in their basements just in case. I don't personally know anyone that built a bomb shelter but there were always people talking about it -- especially during times like the Cuban missile crisis.

Even with that, I still remember that as kids we could go pretty much where we wanted, when we wanted. As an early teen, I could walk from Kingston Rd and McCowan at 10 PM, through Halbert schoolyard and never thought anything about it.

Bob Bloomer, April 2001

From The Scarboro Heights Record V9 #2

I am looking so forward to H.A. Halbert's 50th Anniversary Reunion -- to see long-lost Halbert friends from the ‘60s, from Kindergarten to Grade 8. I moved to Pickering in Grade 8 so lost contact with most of my friends. Kim Murphy keeps in touch with me every so often and we went to R.H. King’s reunion together in 1997. I did not go to high school at King but I wanted to see some Halbert friends there.

I lived right behind the school in the McCowan farm house and most mornings, noon (we used to go home for lunch in those days), and night, I crawled through the "hole" under the fence. It was quicker than walking all the way around Kingston Road and McCowan Road. In those days we (the girls) were not allowed to wear pants to school, so it was a little tricky going through the hole with the dress on. We used to play Jump Rope -- that was also tricky with the dress too. The boys had their own play yard so it wasn't so embarrassing. Some of the girls would have wanted to be out with the boys playing baseball, basketball, soccer, etc. But those were the days of separate school yards -- and dresses.

I will always have fond memories of the music that Mr. Richardson, the principal, brought to H.A. Halbert. I played the 1st Violin in Scarborough's first public school orchestra. I am not very musically inclined but he brought music to a lot of children. The Orchestra went to Ottawa to play at different public schools and we stayed at the Chateau Laurier. It was a great experience.

Thank you to Mr. Richardson and to all of my teachers of the 1960’s.

Barbara McCowan Presunka, April 2001

From The Scarboro Heights Record V9 #2