Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Memories and Information

Hi Marty, a couple of comments on two recent postings: (1) Re Normand's article on Aubrey Mattingly/Stittsville--the correct spelling ,according to the Goulbourn Historical Society is and always has been STITTSVILLE named in honour of the first settler and postmaster Jackson Stitt. We moved to Stittsville in 1971and while the CPR was still running through the centre of town ,the water tower had been torn down but the train station cum hotel was and still is a downtown heritage building. 

The last train went through in the early '80's and the road bed is now a part of the Trans Canada trail. (2) Thanks to Bob Hawkins for the link re Weredale Boys Home which brought back a lot of memories. When reading through the comments of former residents though I thought that I would add my two cents to perhaps balance off some of the negative impressions of the postings on the link. That must be prefaced by the fact that I can only speak for the 4-1/2 years I was there. My Dad died in May of 1952 and Jim and I went into the"Home" in Sept 1953. 

There is no doubt that Weredale was a tough place and Jim and I were very fortunate that we had some guardian angels there when we arrived, to look out for us until we found our sea legs. A year earlier Ralph and Gerald Robertson and Herbie Simons, who we had grown up with in the Park, as they were foster children of the Saunders family(Parker Ave), had entered Weredale and so with a year of seasoning they were able to teach us the ropes as we eased into our new life.


As was typical of most institutions of that ilk and era, discipline was first and foremost , rote was the common form of operation and abuses did occur. In the main however the administration and staff were generally tough but fair and if one followed the rules then life with its restrictions and regimentation was liveable. As with everything else in life though much of what we become is dependent on where we come from and how we react to our environment . In the main Weredale was a safe if not necessarily nurturing haven for most of the 150 residents who arrived there with a wide variety of unpleasant histories and upbringings. In spite of that beginning however there were a lot of success stories and ,I personally know Weredale old boys who became Accountants, orthodontists, Social Workers and Lawyers,automobile mechanics and magazine editors.


In the city we attended schools under the control of the Westmount School Board (one of the best systems in the city of Montreal). In the main residence we had a swimming pool, gym ,an outdoor rink in the winter which became a ball diamond in the spring and fall,albeit with an asphalt surface ,which prevented any sliding into home plate, a scout troop ,which went on overnight outings on the West Island in the winter , a library, games rooms with pool table and ping pong(oops table tennis) tables, a model train room which would be the envy of many hobbyists and movies every Fri night.


In the summer we  school children( some of the residents were working full time) spent the full summer at a camp on Lac L'achigan north of St Jerome where we learned to boat ,swim ,canoe, sail , shoot rifles, outdoor camping and nature craft. In addition there was a hierarchical  system where if one showed leadership abilities he could progress from ordinary camper to hut leader, to counsellor -in -training to counsellor and instructor in the various activities. 

While at school during the regular season we were generally on a tight schedule -leave for school at 8:20 after an inspection to see that our boots were shined, face washed ,hair combed, clean shirt and tie and pants, come home for lunch and then check in after school no later than 4:00 pm unless we had special dispensation.  I personally sang in the school glee club, played on  school teams in soccer , volleyball, hockey and football and was allowed to check in late after practice or games with no hassle.


I didn't live in a cocoon when I was there and I was certainly aware that bullying and some physical abuse did occur but in a situation like Weredale ,quick fists,fast feet, street smarts and the discernment to know when to  use any or all of the above was usually enough to keep out of trouble. If I had my druthers I most certainly would have preferred that my Dad had not died and that I would have spent those 4-1/2 years in Greenfield Park however as one wise man once said " when you life hands you a lemon make lemonade". JMcC

Thanks John McC.

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