Cartierville School in Montreal
A May 2017 CBC interactive webpage is entitled: “Montreal is 375 years old, but how old are its buildings?”
A May 17, 2017 Montreal Gazette article is entitled: “Montreal’s history did not start 375 years ago.”
A browser search for Cartierville School didn’t turn up a lot of information when I conducted a search for it on March 1, 2014. The purpose of this post is to say a few words about the school, which I attended in the mid-1950s. If you have recollections to add, it will be great to hear from you.
Many recollections have been added (see Comments below) since I wrote the original version of this text on March 1, 2014. We owe many thanks to each person who has taken the time to write. Your comments add so much value to the picture that emerges, in our minds, of Cartierville School in the 1950s.
Do you have any photos of Cartierville School? If you do, it would be great to post some as jpeg files.
We welcome additional photos
We owe many thanks to Eric Karbin for sending us the photo we have included at this post. It will be great to add additional photos from those years to the post. If you have a photo but no scanner, you can get the photo scanned at a copy shop or photo store, and have it sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as a jpeg file. Graeme Decarie recently arranged to send me a jpeg file using this procedure. It’s a great way to share photos with a wider audience.
A map of Cartierville can be found here. The neighbourhood, which is part of the borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, is currently bordered by O’Brien Boulevard, Autoroute Chomedey, Riviere-des-Prairies, and by the southern commuter train line.
I attended Grade 4 at Cartierville School. I may have attended an earlier grade as well.
Years after my attendance at Cartierville School, I had the opportunity to teach Grade 4 classes at Munden Park Public School in Mississauga, Ontario. When I began teaching that grade, several teachers told me that Grade 4 is a great age level to be working with. The kids, I was told, are still excited about learning and still have a great deal of respect for teachers. A corollary message was that in the grades that follow, a certain degree of cynicism arises in students.
I did much enjoy working with Grade 4 students. In recent years, I’ve been making presentations to Grade 4 students, in the community where I live and elsewhere. I’ve also made presentations to other age groups. I would say that I enjoy making presentations to students of all ages, these days.
Friendships are a key part of elementary school experiences
Anyway, one of the other things that teachers told me, when I began to teach Grade 4, was that “Everybody remembers being in Grade 4. It’s a really memorable year for students.”
I taught Grade 4 for several years. I noticed that students at the end of the Grade 4 school year tended to see things in ways that were different, as compared to when the school year began. That was among the most significant things that I learned. They also communicated to me how important recess was, and how important their friendships were.
Another thing that I learned about from my years as a teacher, a career that began in the mid-1970s, concerned the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Toward the end of my career, I found the work pretty stressful, which may come as a surprise to people who have not worked in schools. For some teachers, at particular stages of their careers, it can be stressful. Once I embarked upon the practice of mindfulness meditation, I found the stress level gradually ceased to be an overriding source of concern for me – in teaching and in other aspects of life. The practice of mindfulness underlines for me, as well, that our only access to history – in the personal or wider sense – is through the here and now, through the present moment.
People often remember Grade 4
I remember Grade 4 at Cartierville School really well. I remember the classroom, and the hallway outside of it. I remember some of the things that went on inside the room.
Our teacher was Mrs. Shields. I remember her well. I estimate she would have been born around 1905. She once took me aside and expressed concern about how I was doing in math. I didn’t do well in math then, or since – although with hard work, and good instruction, I know I can make some progress. Years later, a neuropsychological assessment of my brain functioning, organized for other purposes, indicated that dealing with spatial perception and mathematics may be not as easy for me as it is for some other people. Fortunately, there were some other aspects of my neurological profile that were sufficiently robust, so that my lack of innate flair for mathematics could be placed into some kind of context.
I think I was at the school in some earlier grade as well, because I had another teacher before Mrs. Shields, so far as I can remember. I recall these early morning walks down a long hallway or series of hallways to our classroom. We would stand in rows, waiting to go into the room. This was at the start of the Baby Boom. There were large numbers of students. As well, there was a church or some building across the street from the school. It may have been where assemblies were held, or it served some other purpose, such as a venue for a visit by Clarence Nash from California.
Clarence Nash was the voice of Donald Duck
One time, before Grade 4, I believe, Clarence Nash, who was born in 1904, came to visit the school. As a Feb. 22, 1985 New York Times obituary explains, Clarence (Ducky) Nash “was the only voice of Donald Duck in more than 150 cartoons and movies over five decades.” Well, that was a memorable visit. He did his Donald Duck routine and the kids all had a good time. Live entertainment is a unique experience. When he left, he and his entourage drove away in a row of little Nash Motor cars. This was the smaller version of the Nash car. “Nice cars,” I thought. “Quite a sight. Must have cost a few dollars to buy those.” They got inside the cars and drove away. The picture stays in mind: The voice of Donald Duck, the vexatious, celebrated, bad-tempered little bird, driving down the road.
Shortcut through the music room
I recall – and this must have been before Grade 4 – that I used to sometimes take a shortcut through a music room to get to some other part of the school building – maybe to get to or from where the bus came in, or to or from the building across the street, where some of our school activities were held.
One time, the music teacher, or some other teacher, stopped me while I was taking my shortcut and began to scream at me for taking the shortcut. It was quite a sight, I thought, a teacher standing there screaming at a kid. “Wow, that’s quite a production,” I thought. Until that time, it had been my understanding that it was fine for students to take this particular shortcut.
I think that after that, I found some other way to get to my destination. Another time, I saw the same teacher talking to colleague, looking toward me and pointing to my shoes, which happened to be a little scruffy. Fortunately, I didn’t have many dealings with that teacher – and most of the teachers who worked with me were great to work with. I felt at ease around most of them.
In retrospect, I experience an empathy for the screaming teacher that I would not have had as a child. What drove her emotions? I estimate she would have been born around 1915. What experiences did she have as a child? What constellation of social forces and life circumstances came together to produce such a performer? I also retain empathy for the child – and children – she was screaming at.
We had lunch and gym in a basement room, as I vaguely recall. I remember the lunch would include Campbell’s soup sometimes. In those days, I had the ability, as young kids sometimes do, to do a forward summersault, flipping over from a standing position and landing again on my feet. I don’t recall if I only practised these in gym class, or at other times as well, such as lunchtime.
I’ve seen toddlers similarly doing remarkable things, making good use of their size, flexibility, and agility. One trick involves a situation where a toddler is standing straight one second, and in the next second the feet are thrown straight up in front, so the legs are horizontal. A split second later, the child is sitting on the floor, feet spread out in front. Except for a gymnast standing on a mat, I can’t picture too many adults who can perform that feat. The key difference is a matter of physics related to body size and agility. Young children learn so many things through the sheer pleasure of unstructured playtime activities.
It’s also been my observation that toddlers are exceptionally agile at rolling sideways down a grassy hill. One picture that stays in mind, from more recent years, is the sight of three or four toddlers rolling sideways down a hill together, laughing and conversing as they rotate.
These topics reminds me that, as a March 4, 2014 Education Week article notes, there’s a lot to be said for viewing recess as an essential part of early childhood experiences.
I also much enjoyed playing tackle football at recess. Some of the touchdowns that were scored, in seemingly impossible circumstances, such as when the buttons are torn off a player’s shirt but he still eludes a field of tacklers, became the stuff of schoolyard legends. Kids would sometimes still be talking about them years later.
One time, I came to visit the school, a year or several years after Grade 4, and I realized at once that kids were still talking about a particular play that I had participated in. Tackle football in a schoolyard can be a lot of fun. One of the Grade 4 classmates I played with at recess – he was often the quarterback – later played as a professional football player.
In the winter at recess time, during those years, I would sometimes practise a judo move with my friends. In this move, you manoeuvre your opponent so he loses balance, after which you quickly flip the person over your hip, after which he falls flat on his back in the snow. With a little practice, a person can become very adept at this move.
I was very skinny, pretty well as I’ve been ever since. I didn’t eat my lunch very often. Sandwiches would be left inside my desk or wherever else I thought would be good place to leave them. They would accumulate and take on a petrified quality.
In those days I began to deal with the fact that I stuttered. I began to stutter at the age of six. By Grade 4, I began to realize that speaking out in class was difficult for me in a way that wasn’t difficult for other kids. It wasn’t until I was 41 years old that I was able to achieve control over my stuttering. Until recent years, for several decades, much of my volunteer work was devoted to the efforts of the Canadian Stuttering Association and other organizations engaged in public education about stuttering.
Some recesses were devoted to snowball fights
At recess, we used to have epic snowball fights. When I taught in Mississauga and Toronto, the throwing of snowballs at recess time was forbidden. But at Cartierville School, you could throw as many as you wanted. Because I was a younger student, my self-chosen task was typically to slowly and carefully prepare the “perfect” snowball for one of the older students, an all-round athlete named Norman Alamo, who had a powerful throwing arm and was regarded with awe by the younger students. The snowball fights, as I remember them, were in the nature of artillery duels, conducted over a considerable distance between two opposing teams. People didn’t stand around throwing snowballs at each other at short distances, so far as I can recall.
The school had trees and a large playground, located on a bit of slope ending on the north side at Gouin Boulevard, which ran alongside the Rivière des Prairies.
At least one of the students in my class lived in a big estate house, not far to the west of the school, on a large property that extended from Gouin Boulevard to the Rivière des Prairies. His name might have been Alex McGougald or some similar name. I recall he was character, and had a great sense of humour. In those days I knew of at least one other student who appeared to live somewhere else, in a shack without running water.
I also remember a student named Howard Gilbert or a similar name. If I recall correctly, he went on a big vacation with his family and his return was an event that we all talked about. As well, I remember Sally, who sat next to me in class. We had some great conversations. Sally’s eyes would light up, she would shake her hands in excitement, moving her forearms quickly back and forth, and would share with me things that were on her mind. That was a fun class.
I lost touch with these students, when I went to another school. I would enjoy catching up with news from or about them, which would now be close to sixty years later.
Davy Crockett and Maurice Richard
For part of the time that I was a student at Cartierville School, we travelled by bus. There were also times, perhaps before the bus routine was in place, where I walked to school – walking several kilometres – along a creek that ran not far from our house and that emptied into the Rivière des Prairies. Part of the route to the school involved jumping across the creek to get to the pathway that would be leading to the school. One time, when jumping the creek, I fell and cut my leg. The scar across my shin, from that occasion, remains in evidence even now. The creek is long gone.
On the bus, during the time of the “Davy Crockett” craze, the students would sing the verses of the Ballad of Davy Crockett. In retrospect, I would say that Walt Disney had a pretty strong hold on children’s minds in those days.
Howard A. Hight has asked me recently if I remember Mrs. Jackson, the grade 7 teacher at Cartierville Elementary School. The answer is that I don’t, as I was there only until Grade 4. After that I was elsewhere.
Howard’s question prompted me to recollect another thing that I recall from Cartierville School. I remember that the Maurice Richard Riot at the Montreal Forum on March 17, 1955 might have occurred when I was at the school. I may have heard people talking about it in the hallway. There was talk about streetcars being overturned, as I recall. I heard vivid, animated descriptions of the riot. I was interested to learn, years later, that this was an important event in Quebec’s history. It was, as well, a narrative that Walt Disney didn’t participate in, at least not directly.
Hungarian uprising of 1956
The news of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, which I learned of through newspapers and CBC radio, and local conversations, had an even stronger impression on me. By 1956, if I recall correctly, I may have been in Grade 5 at Morrison Elementary School. Grade 6 may have been at Laurentide Elementary School, and for Grade 7 I think I was back at Morrison, followed by Grade 8 at the High School of Montreal. After that, I began classes at Malcolm Campbell High School.
My sense is that, as young a child, I had just recently taken on the human form and was getting to know a bit about the nature of this earthly existence. A person at that age has a certain sense of wonder, a feeling of the promise of life. Early childhood has always been an age that I could relate to. It’s the reason, years later, that I choose teaching as my profession. I would add that, as a child in school, the idea that one day I would find myself standing in front of a class, in the role of teacher, would never, under any circumstances, have occurred to me. There were times in those years when I couldn’t get out any words at all. It would have been beyond a person’s capacity to imagine that I would, in my adult years, become a teacher.
I’ve added additional comments in a subsequent post.
An Aug. 4, 2015 mesquartiers.wordpress.com article is entitled: “TOP 15 DES PLUS BEAUX PARCS RIVERAINS À MONTRÉAL!”
A February 2017 Longreads post is entitled: “A Brief History of Disney.”
In the comments below, Tom Kuchlein has noted (Oct. 7, 2021) that he has a photo of the Cartierville School 1959-60 hockey team. I’ve devoted a separate post to the photo and to the great comments about Cartierville School that Tom Kuchlein has shared (please see Comments section below).