Thursday, July 25, 2013

High School Reunion and a visit to the Eastern Townships-part one summer vacation

North Hatley
 I am still trying to decide if this entry belongs on this blog or my travel blog!  I kind of think that to qualify for the travel blog one needs to do the blog when you are actually there, but due to some technical difficulties that didn't happen this time.  I also took the lazy way out and posted bits and pieces on facebook.  So here begins the saga...
First I wouldn't recommend taking the Red-Eye special to Montreal after teaching the last week of school and then getting in a car in a raging rain storm.  I found myself falling asleep as I finally escaped the rain and was speeding down a relatively deserted autoroute on my way to Lennoxville.

Fortunately when I began to veer into the right lane I did wake up and stayed awake until I made it to
just as river goes into Lake Massawippi 
the dorm at Bishop's where I was staying.

The Eastern Townships are very pretty and one of the prettiest towns is North Hatley.  My father's ancesters were early settlers in this area and I lived in the house my grandfather built until I was almost eight and went to first and second grade in North Hatley.  When I was in second grade we moved to a nearby town, Waterville.  Waterville is also pretty but the kind of place that gets left off maps!  The next town is Compton, birthplace of Louis St. Laurent, former prime minister, so it gets on maps.

favorite corner of North Hatley
I spent grades three to nine at Compton Waterville Intermediate School, a school with about 120 kids.  There was also a French Catholic school.  Anyway when we finished ninth grade we had to go to Lennoxville to finish grades ten and eleven. So here I was on my way to a Lennoxville High School reunion.  I also ended up going to university in Lennoxville as well and that was my destination, Bishop's where two main events of the reunion were taking place, and where I was staying in the dorm.     I was looking forward to a nap but needless to say, I couldn't get into my room until four o'clock so just had to go shopping at the Hatley outlet where of course I ran into friends originally from Lennoxville but now fellow BCers.

a bit of the Bishops' campus
After a bit of wandering around downtown Lennoxville, I finally checked into my residence room (no updating in 45 years I can assure you and of course, on the third floor with no elevator, and I promptly went to sleep.  When I awoke I thought that the meet and greet and already begun and I raced to get changed.  With umbrella in hand I walked over to the Student Union Building but a couple of people I didn't recognize and who didn't seem overly friendly told me that the festivities didn't begin until seven so I had a few minutes to kill.  I decided to check out more of the campus as I hadn't been there in years. Here are a few pictures-you can see why when I went to visit Oxford I felt a sense of deja vu.

It started pouring rain and it was seven o'clock and from a nearby porch I could see people arriving so I decided to brave the reunion.  It was busy and crowded.  I looked around the room and didn't recognize anyone and I was struck that everyone looked old!  Later I had the realization that the youngest person attending the reunion was probably 61!  I fetched myself a glass of wine and found a perch at an empty table.  Soon people I hadn't seen in years recognized me and soon it was a really nice experience, making my trek seem worthwhile!  There was much laughter how the lettering on the name tags needed to be in bigger print!

The next day I slept in, not surprisingly and missed breakfast at the nearby dining room.  The campus seemed busy with families there with kids involved in summer sports camps.  Later this summer Sherbrooke and Lennoxville are hosting the Canada Games and Bishops is one of the sites that will be being used.  Hungry I set off for Tim Hortons as I knew they also had free internet.  The place was abuzz with discussion of the reunion. I hadn't really planned to go to the memorial service at my old high school but seeing as I was near I decided to go.  I had to admire how the committee had done so much research as to who was no longer alive.  There was even a bagpiper!  Next I toured around our old school with several of my former classmates.  The rooms seemed so much smaller and it was funny how much we started to remember...I only went to school there for two years but some of my friends had spent from grades one to eleven in that building though they remembered how you couldn't go into the high school wing if you were in elementary and vice versa.

The house my grandfather built
I spent the afternoon going to Waterville where I lived from the age of eight in a house we sold after my dad had a massive stroke about 25 years later.  I visited my childhood friend, Nancy, and had planned for a swim until a massive thunderstorm descended.  Later I took a picture of the farm I lived in until I was eight and spent a bit of time at a favorite store in North Hatley before going to visit my cousin Ken and his wife Maryse who live on the same property Ken has lived his whole life.  Then I was back in Lennoxville for more festivities.

It was very convenient staying in the residence as it was just steps away from the pub where the dinner and dance were to take place.  There weren't as many people as the night before but it was still very well attended and again fun catching up with old friends.  A grad who worked for the local radio station was on the committee and here is a link to hear a few interviews with other grads.  My friend, Steven, got the award for coming the farthest as for the last six years he had been teaching in China.  Well there was the inevitable class picture of course so here you go! I think our class actually had the most grads return!

view going down King Hill in Sherbrooke
Sunday there was a brunch but since it wasn't until 10 or so and I woke up early I decided to drive into the city of Sherbrooke and have a look.  Although I moved away from this area when I was 21 and moved to British Columbia when I was 29 I have returned many many times especially when my parents and then my aunt were alive but often in Sherbrooke I was just buzzing from point A to B so a Sunday early morning is a good time to go exploring.  I think I had forgotten how steep King Hill was for instance.  I also remember doing my driving test there and never having to parallel park, something I quickly had to learn to do in Montreal!  Much stays the same-the gorgeous old houses, but much has changed...

Howardene in Sherbrooke
The final event was the brunch at the local legion hall.  And it was delicious and a nice note to finish on.  I think the organizers were really pleased with how everything had gone as well they should have. I enjoyed visiting with people I hadn't seen in years and others that I try to see regularly.  And we all have this bit of shared history.  I recently read an article that I thought was quite helpful in explaining the history and changes that have occurred in this area in Quebec.  I have to admit that as a high school student I loved where I was from but I yearned to leave and explore the world and I have been fortunate to do so.

view from the Littles' cottage
 I ended my trip by spending the afternoon and early evening visiting my cousin, Bud, and his wife, Marion at their cottage.  This is also where I spent my teenage summers as we had a cottage there that we sold them.  Later they sold that cottage and bought one by the lake.  They also own a lovely house in the town of Ayers Cliff that they have restored.  I have so many fond memories of Lake Massawippi, the lake that runs between North Hatley and Ayers Cliff.  And jumping in that lake seemed the real start to summer!

I initially thought I would write about my whole trip in one entry but that didn't really work out.  I promise to be more succinct in my next entries!  And what does this have to do with later literacy?  I actually think that I received quite a good early education in all my schools-North Hatley, Waterville, Lennoxville.  I also learned lots of life lessons growing up in small communities.  Recently I was chatting with a friend about her reservations about full day kindergarten for her not quite five year old.  My kindergarten was a small family farm on a road where I knew every family.  My summer days were endless...

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