Total Pageviews

Monday, 21 May 2012

Willingdon School, Montreal

Willingdon School
Willingdon Elementary School. I went there for 8 years in the 1950s including kindergarten. The school was built around 1929 and was named after a man who was Governor General of Canada between 1926 and 1931. I guess he was in the right place at the right time. There is a rumour that William Shatner went to Willingdon in the 1940s.

In kindergarten a few of us ate paste and few of us had “accidents” in our pants.

Kindergarten report card

In grade 1 our class went as far as Old Orchard Avenue on a field trip to find the perfect maple leaf. It was also the year a lot of purple paint and crayons were used because of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
In grade 2 my teacher, Miss McNabb, wore a tartan skirt every day and rode her bike to school when there wasn’t any snow on the ground. It was also the first year that I got the strap from the principal. I got the strap at least once a year for the rest of my time at Willingdon.
IIn grade 3 I had my first crush on a girl but she preferred someone else. I think it was the same year I stuffed the Valentine’s box with cards with my name on it.
2nd from the left top row grade 3

In grade 4 I was still wearing flannel shorts in warmer weather and britches in the winter. After school we would go sliding down the snow stacks on Royal Avenue that the snow blowers had left behind.
In grade 5 we would rush home to watch Huckleberry Hound on TV. Some kids from Hungary turned up at the school. I finally got some long pants to wear to school.
The big guy in the back is Don Moore, my old roommate in Toronto. I'm in the center in front.
In grade 6 I was caught trying a get a peek under the woman gym teacher’s skirt. I also finally mastered making it up the two story ropes in the gym.
In grade 7 I had about the worst teacher ever, Mrs. Miller, who was a real nasty piece of work.  At the end of the year there was going to be a dance and she paired most of the boys off with girls that she chose. 6 or 7 of us were left in class to our own devises and we ended up playing “hangman”. Years later when I heard the Janis Ian song “At Seventeen” I knew what the song meant and felt badly for the girls that were left behind that day.
For most of my years at Willingdon I was the flavour of the day with a lot of kids. That is until they weren’t allowed to play with me anymore. It seemed like I was always in some kind of trouble. And word got around.
The school had an interesting make-up of kids. More than 1/3 were Jewish. N.D,G. was sort of a weigh station on the road to more success for their parents before they moved to Hampstead or Cote St. Luc. Some kids were immigrants from Europe. Others were temporary until their dads got transferred somewhere else. The overall flavour of the times was Waspy. Don’t rock the boat kind of thing. There was only one black family in the neighbourhood.
My parents passed along a life-long non-belief in religion and over the years I have found it interesting about how much I knew about hymns and the bible from classes at Willingdon when I was but a young lad. It didn’t take apparently. "Swing low, sweet charriot..."
I remember the fads. Bolo-bats, yo-yos, hula hoops, Davey Crockett coon skin hats. Playing Stando against the wall with an Indian rubber ball and kickball or British Bulldog out in the concrete playground. Double Dutch and girls skipping rope and a few boys joining in. Getting cleaned out of my hockey cards by sly guys who could throw “leaners” with their tossing card heavily wrapped in scotch tape.
I learned from my report cards that I wasn’t great at control in speech and action. I could never figure out how I got F’s in things like art, geography, and history when I always was interested in those subjects. I even got failing grades in gym. I think they kind of had it in for me. Gym?
I never showed up on the last day of school not wanting to be humiliated by being one of the few to fail. I got a friend to pick up my report card and was very relieved to see I had passed. The reality of it was more like they were glad to see the last of me and were willing to overlook my grades.
Several years ago a gal I went to Willingdon School with contacted me through a website called Classmates. We had one phone conversation and e-mailed back and forth for a year or two. I kind of pride myself in my memory a bit and asked her if she could help me out in creating a list of people who had been in our classes back then. The gal’s name was Rhona Cossman. She died of cancer in Montreal about 2 years ago.
Here is the list and it is dedicated to Rhona. Apologies for any spelling errors.

Girls…Draper Avenue Entrance
Nina Benedict, Shelley Unger, Naomi Weizz, Heather Lee, Donna Cohen, Liz Martin, Maureen Mullins, Peggy McKay, Christine Hardy, Barbara Afrin, Wendy Chisnall, Bernice Dyer, Gaye Epps, Philippa Bubbas, Rhona Cossman, Anna-Lou Roness, Cathy Marks, Wendy Heyberd, Lillian Bartha, Heather McMillan, Veronica Fletchman, Rita-Jane Lebowitz, Bonnie Pomerantz, Susan Ringwood, Isabel Bennett, Cheryl Fraser, Myrna Daniels, Margie Leiberman, Christine Hardy, Francoise Roth, Karen Bolton, Gloria Soloman, Nancy Little,Joyce Millard.
Boys…Royal Avenue Entrance

Teddy Rutherford, Malcolm Loucks, Doug Storey, Ian Banville, Alan Simmons, Pat Kell, Michael Julius, Harvey Stark, Alan Livingstone, George Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Bobby Thompson, Harvey Biggs, Mark Bernstein, Alan Marks, Geoff Shorrock, Mike Agnew, Doug Feltmate, Louis Yacknin, Murray MacBride, Laurence Levin, Harold Potter, Craig Penfold, John Hutton, Jimmy Fraser, John Robinson, Hugh Mowatt, David Magill, Neil Stein, Shelly Dorfman, Ross Lapper, Miles Hitchmo, Carl Bestersine, Joe Angeles, Herve Dupoe, Jimmy De St. Croix, Martin Dow, Barry Sternthal, Donnie Moore, Don Moore #2, Jay Simpson, Dalton Brown, Andrew Campbell, David Bates, John Haas, Gabor Keitner, Hilliard Abromowitz, Andy Elliott, Wayne Simmons, Charles Dexter, Ian Banville, Jimmy Surridge, Gary Siroka, Julian Smith, Morris Beirbriar, Chuck Wiseman, Drew Brown, Anderson Charters, Greg Small, John Pichnej, Ken Hutchison, Murray MacFarlane, Allan Black.
Apologies to those we didn’t remember.
Kindergarten: Miss Reynolds, Mrs. Cram
Grade 1: Mrs. Laroque
Grade 2: Miss McNabb
Grade 3: Miss Cooperman
Grade 4: Miss Jones
Grade 5: Mrs. Ramus
Grade 6: Miss Reaper
Grade 7: Mrs. Miller
Gym teachers: Miss Helyer, Mrs. Mackay
Principals: Mr. Perrie, Mr. Almond, Mr. Pitcairn
School janitor: Mr. Hunter. Once a year he would toss off all the balls that made it up on the roof of Willingdon School.
Tip of the hat to: Elmer the safety elephant
I don't want any trouble!


  1. Hello Colin, I believe the student you refer to as: John Pitney is probably John Pichnej, my brother. I heard stories about you from my brother.
    Regards, Greg Pichnej

  2. The student's name of: John Pitney is probably John Pichnej, my brother. I was in the same class as Doug Storey and Don Moore at various times too. I remember hearing stories about you from my brother, John Pichnej.

    Regards, Greg Pichnej

  3. Great memories. I remember Rhona and her sisters Cheryl & Norma as our parents were great friends. So many things I had forgotten about growing up in NDG, Willingdon, West Hill, Cote St Luc BBQ, the wooden floors in the Kresge's in Snowdon and vacations in Plattsburgh. Thx for the memories

  4. Omg I go there now I'm graduating soon so cool that's it's been there for so long 2013

  5. I also had Mrs. Miller,and I gave her quite a workout in the late 70`s.I`m still very proud of that !!It turns out,my classmate John Moore,is a popular talk radio host here in Toronto.I actually called in one day,when I heard him speaking about Mrs.Miller..we laughed over how I sent her over the edge,with my antics at the Christmas assembly..

  6. I remember the Mr. Perrie you are referring to, he was known to me as Dad. I went to Rosedale Elementary(grades k-6), Montreal West High School(Grades 7-10) and West Hill High School(Grade 11 & 11)

  7. I remember him giving me the strap. Other than that he seemed OK.

  8. Christine Sazie-Stewart2 October 2014 at 08:00

    I only had Mrs Miller for 1 class in grade 7 (1969); a Religion class. We all thought that she was ancient then but lo and behold, when I did a student teaching stint at Willingdon in 1978, she was still there!! As an "equal", she was charming and insisted that I call her Kay, something I could never do! As a teacher myself, I must point out, in her defense, that for some kids, she was really effective and was sought out in the 70's by some living in other parts of Montreal. I also contacted John Moore and told him that she had moved to Lethbridge AB to live near her beloved son Doug. She passed away at age 92 and Moore wrote a eulogy of sorts in the paper. You can find it by doing an archival search.

  9. Your memory of Mrs. Miller and mine are quite different. I couldn't stand her. Pompous, insecure, with a streak of meanness is how I remember her. She also owned a light blue Cadillac that she drove to school. for whatever that's worth. What decent teacher would ever pair off 13 year olds for a daytime school dance in the gym and leave behind in the classroom several others who hadn't committed any transgression?

  10. My memories of Mrs. Miller as a child were awful because she made us work in English. We had homework every night and had to breakdown ten words with definitions and three sentences. As I grew older and went through high school and college I realized what a great favor she did for me. She is one of the most effective teachers I have ever had and one to which I owe much.

  11. I remember the front of that report card...with the 2 silhouettes of children...I went to Rosedale School at that time