Starting School in Vancouver

Summer seemed to end too quickly for me. Dad had driven Kim and I up to our new school so that we could see how to get there. It was only one long block south of the Motel, although it seemed farther back then.

I remember walking to our new school on the first day, trundling down the middle of a clean, smooth side-street named Arlington Street, which dead-ended right behind the Mountain View Motel. In fact, a little twenty-foot dirt path led from right next to our unit, up onto Arlington Street. It was nice that we weren’t all that far from school.

Kim and I ambled down the middle of Arlington, with the hot sun beaming down on our heads. I saw houses with dewy, green lawns and well-trimmed hedges on either side of us. It was very pretty, very quiet and even a bit surreal – like walking down an abandoned airport runway. We talked a little, but mostly walked in silence. I was nervous and uncertain about this new school. I think I felt like I was walking into the unknown.

Off to one side, a border collie barked at us from behind little white fence. It had a strange, broken voice, as if it had laryngitis or something.

Our new school was called “Dr. H. N. MacCorkindale Elementary”. It was very different from St. Paul’s, the private Anglican church school we had gone to back in Esquimalt. MacCorkindale was modern – a product of the late 60s and the first school in Vancouver to be designed on the “open area” classroom concept. It was bright, accessible and new.

MacCorkindale_Library_LO
The Library at Dr. H. R. N. MacCorkindale Elementary.

I noticed right away how different the school’s design was, and how it made me even feel a little different about myself. The school was all on the ground level, and had funny little courtyards in the middle, with small potted plants. There were lots of windows in the hallways, but almost none inside the large, communal classrooms. I suspect that this was designed to reduce daydreaming – a particular weakness of mine.

MacCorkindale_Grade_6_Class_LO
A Grade 6 class.

The school taught grades Kindergarten through Grade 7. Grades one through seven were organized into four large rooms called Areas. Area A had Grades 1 and 2, Area B had Grades 3 and 4, Area C (mine) had Grade 5, and Area D had Grades 6 and 7. Kim was going into Grade 1 in Area A, and I was going into Grade 5 in Area C. My Area contained three classes, all of which were in Grade 5.

Unlike the regimented, disciplined attitude at St. Paul’s (which was, after all, run by the Anglican church), MacCorkindale felt open and cooperative. Each morning of Grade 5 in Area C started with an assembly. All the kids would sit on the carpet around the three teacher’s chairs while the teachers would read some school announcements or news from the morning paper. Sometimes there would also be a sort of show and tell.

On Wednesday mornings, our Teachers, Mrs. Atkinson, Ms. McCormick and Mr. Mullen, would hand out song sheets and we would all sing along to songs on the record player. I liked singing, but these songs were quite different from what I had been used to singing at St. Paul’s. These were not Anglican hymns, but Top 40 pop tunes such as “Saturday Night” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, or “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John. It was lively, melodic and fun – a heck of a lot better than some solemn religious odes to an unseen Almighty.

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The memoir and family history of E. John Love