------ Return to Gordon Head -----
In September of 1958 I showed up at my new school, Gordon Head. I had done a practicum in 1956 at the school building I attended as a child. But now, it was gone. The new Gordon Head Elementary with a small gymnasium was located on Kenmore Avenue. It is there I reported for duty with Dan Parfitt as Principal. He and I were the only males on staff. My social shyness continued and I spent little time in the staffroom. Still, a wonderful new vista opened up for me. The children were often well known to me as members of families I grew up with. Sharon, Wendy and Ian Vantreight and Eileen Smith from the Vantreight connection. Younger siblings of my High School class, Craig Lawrence, Stan Gibb, and Howard Singleton. They were all familiar and many others were too. I had come home.|
The school was virgin territory. It had no inter-school sports, no inter-house sports, no theatre program. I was in charge, nobody else volunteered. I was single and devoted. I established my personal fiefdom. I, unfortunately, was the operant pronoun.
I established a house system that survives to this day. Various house sports were played throughout the year. I did everything. We entered inter-school sports. We played soccer and softball at Majestic Park and basketball in our gym. Then, there was a new theatre program on a stage that had never been used before. We rehearsed, costumed and performed at the Victoria Drama Festival.
The parents and children were very supportive of my efforts. Still, in retrospect, I was unaware of the the alienation I was quickly developing with school and district staff. In my enthusiasm, I stomped all over informal closely guarded district cliques often ones that I did not know existed. I made no friends by nearly winning the District Soccer Championship. But it was basketball that did me in. Gordon Head's team was exceptional. We practised many evenings in the school gym. No one could touch us. Now, I was not a member of the athletic elite, never a high school star. I received a phone call. My name was put forward for Zone Representative in the Sports' Association. I went to the meeting to accept and at the last minute they ran one of their friends against me and I lost, It was a setup. They silently laughed me out of the place. I have never understood how my profession continues to constantly boast of the good it does when I have witnessed its parsimonious humbuggery for many decades. Sometimes the biggest bullies in a school are among the teachers themselves.
Shortly after my humiliation, the most successful young "jock", a former Vic High Totem, who was also a principal, showed up with his team. He took over. Spinning a basketball on his finger he more or less told me to get lost. Well, we thumped his team. He even stopped the game to lecture my boys about fair play. He told my team to back off and let his team score. This upset my team and they joined me in celebrating the shit-kicking we were dishing out. The next thing I know, I was joined by my principal, Dan Parfitt who informed me that the asshole was important. He had political power and that I should go easy. I put all my young subs on the floor and in the excitement they played over their heads and the shit-kicking continued. I rejoiced. I had successfuly made an enemy for life.
With righteous zeal, I forged ahead on all fronts. The theatre program grew. Other staff left me alone, So, I gathered a group of my own, volunteers. All of them were English war brides. My mother was first in line followed by Dorothy McKilligan who was a pro from the working class London stage. Sophie Gibb was a cockney seamstress with solid creative skills. Dorothy and Soph were school parents which cemented my popularity with the parent community. Being war brides, the three women shared in common the all to real stigma of being interlopers in a foreign land.
Being a "trooper" Dorothy McKilligan taught me more about theatre than I ever learned by going to school. Still, I ran afoul of the established drama groups. I was not aware of established protocols. Certain plays had stature and were performed over and over again. I was still inspired by "off the wall" stuff. My first effort In the Drama Festival was a play called "Imagination". The children received awards for their performances. However, the adjudicator, a member of the "in crowd", called the play trash and admonished my choice. The next year my choice was "The King Who Couldn't Quite!" members of the cast were chosen as best actor and actress. The play was deemed silly and of no educational value. Oops!
--- Puss in Boots ---
Then I met Tony Burton who directed at another school. His work with children was impressive. He simply blew me out of the water. Tony also was an Englishman. He was trained and had worked in the English reparatory theatre. For years he was known as the "Panto King" at the local Langham Court Theatre an enclave for the "in crowd" He introduced me to an English playwright, Nicholas Stuart Gray. and my troubles with play selection were over. My theatre group capped my stay at Gordon Head in 1962 with "The Marvellous Story of Puss in Boots" where a full-sized Puss appeared suddenly on stage like magic.|
During my tenure at Gordon Head, I had a very busy life. I attended university in the evenings and went to Summer School. I worked part-time to make ends meet while I continued to work on the race car in the evenings and nights when I wasn't in class. Then, I addressed my non-existent romantic life. As I could sing, and play guitar chords, I sat in occasionally with a band. All the other members were better musicians than I would ever be and I soon found out that girls went home with everyone else but the band. They didn't wait for the guy who was packing away the instruments. With my friends I then took to "Cruising the Block!" on weekend evenings. Frank Morris called it "Checking the Stock!" Driving around and around a block in downtown Victoria was not a behaviour approved for young male teachers. But the race track crowd weren't approved of either. However, it finally paid off when I was "Checking the Stock" with Charlie Andrews in 1960. That night I met my future wife.
1960 was also the year that the race car dominated. We won the points championship and gained the honour of wearing number one on the car for the 1961 season. We moved up to the new modified division. Although I refused to recognize it, I was soon "Out of my depth". It was Grant King who taught me a life lesson. He simply said, "I build race cars. You teach school." It took a while for it to sink in but now it resonates. I was a teacher not a race car builder, not a folk singer, not a hockey player, not a boxer. You are what you do. So, Do it well!
Hugh Mooney was principal at Gordon Head when a building expansion took place. Hugh was an RCAF veteran who was shot down and spent time as a POW. Gordon Head was his first principalship. He quickly set about making his mark upon the school. I guess I was in the way. Anyway he seemed to be pleased to tell me that while the addition was being built the gym would be needed for a classroom. That would effectively put an end to house sports, basketball, and the theatre program. I finally persuaded him to allow me to make the gym my classroom. House sports continued as the children and I parked the classroom on the stage every noon hour and put it back on the floor for the afternoon only to stow it again at 3 o'clock. Parents lauded me for my effort. Hugh did not. He taught me a lot. But my determination to continue my initiatives was too much. I had to go.
I applied to the district for the Gordon Head Vice-principalship that came open due to the increase in school size. I thought I deserved it. I didn't get it. Instead, I was appointed First Assistant at Craigflower Elementary. My days at Gordon Head were over.
the operant pronoun, here, is "my" the singular. My character flaw: I had used the assistance of others but once again I had failed to truly include them. The same flaw that alienated my friends with the race car was in play. An informal politician I was not. It hurt a lot when I looked for admiration and only saw disapproval. My disparagers among the professional staff clucked away because I wouldn't behave in a manner that was acceptable to them.|