Ray Smit on Labour Day weekend disappointment

You might think that on the last day of summer we boys would make the most of our last fleeting moments of freedom.

When I was little, the gloomiest day of the year was Labour Day. You might think that on the last day of summer we boys would make the most of our last fleeting moments of freedom. But somehow we couldn’t manage it. After breakfast we’d all gather on the curb and speak in anguished tones about essays, mean teachers and tests.

My parents had a different outlook. For them the first day of school was a day to rejoice. As Edgar W. Howe once said: “If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.” While we lamented our fate, they were quietly celebrating the return of daytime tranquility.

Of course, even worse than our parents’ happiness was the attitude of the turncoats: the teacher’s pets. The worst offender on my street was a girl who looked remarkably like Margaret on Dennis the Menace. Each Labour Day she’d smugly inform us that she was “happy to go back to school.” The traitor! She was one grade ahead of me and always shook her head sadly when I asked what my new grade would be like. “You’ll never pass, Ray. You’re just not smart enough.” That would send me into paroxysms of panic that proved her point.

Until I was nine, we lived in a pretty tough neighbourhood in Toronto. I often wondered if they sold bully franchises. I’m pretty sure the kid who stole my lunch money had to pay a royalty fee.

The first day of school was always hard. I remember in Grade 7 the teacher gave us a quick rundown on what we’d be learning. When he asked if there were any questions, one of the girls raised her hand and inquired, “When’s the first day of Christmas vacation?” The teacher was duly annoyed but she was our hero. She was the only eleven-year old brave enough to say what we are all thinking. That same year there was a big change in our routine. Instead of having one teacher all day long we had different teachers for different subjects. The history teacher was especially intimidating. He should have taught religion because he had a penchant for surprise tests and most of us prayed, trying to answer questions without having studied. Still I didn’t feel too bad about messing up. As Aunt Bee once said on the Andy Griffith Show, “History is hard. There’s so much more of it these days!”

This year the teachers are on strike. Now, I don’t know about today’s kids, but when our teachers went on strike in 1974 we were delighted. Extra days off!

There were just two flies in the ointment. Firstly, our English teacher would phone regularly with essays for us to do while he was away. He was a daunting character so nobody dared ask him how come we had to work while he was on the picket line. Secondly, after about a month, one of the teacher’s pets started her own picket line demanding that we go back to school. She was on the front page of the local paper as an example to the rest of us. A few days later a deal was done and our freedom ended. I’m sure she believed that she’d singlehandedly ended the strike.

The worst thing about going back to school is being reminded of it by adults who seem to take pleasure in rubbing it in. I must admit sometimes I’m tempted to ask my friends’ kids if they’re happy to be going back to school. Maybe that’s unkind. But as Will Rogers once said, “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.”

Ray Smit is the author of The Trouble With Tapioca now avaiable at Amazon.com. His columns appear every other Thursday.

He can be contacted at Raymondsmit@shaw.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Robbie Burns to be celebrated across Parksville Qualicum Beach

Legions host suppers and celebrations in trio of communities

Naked Naturals has tentative deal for $2.5M purchase of town-owned in Qualicum Beach

Business plan includes a new grocery store, 32 units of rental housing and parking

Council passes resolution regarding construction of roundabout in Qualicum Beach

Town hopes to get additional funds from a Beautification Grant

Johns talks grants, veteran housing pilot with Qualicum Beach council

MP says he will help push for funding at the federal level

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

Most Read