The Passing Scene: Ahh, The Changing Times

I was reading a recent column in the Globe and Mail by Elizabeth Renzetti on the ancient custom, in certain private schools, that dress codes dictate the permissible length of a female student’s skirt – the students often subjected to the embarrassment of having their skirts measured in front of the entire class – including boys who .. well, who knows how they react? It took me back eons to my own early school days in England where, at the age of 11 (or younger) boys and girls were separated in class and at recess. Never shall the twain meet … until years later, disgorged from the system, full of gaucherie and embarrassment when having to socialize and interact with … Girls!

Graham Woods
Graham Woods

At age 11, I attended one ‘mixed’ school – except the girls had one section of the building and school yard, the boys another – but, with great planning, we could see the girls through the windows as they did physical training, and played ball- hockey and netball, making gestures to the window that, probably, could have been obscene, but what would I have known about girls? Sex-Ed? Heaven’s t’Betsy, the word (and I’m whispering here) s-e-x was, seemingly, verboten. But then, a life-shaking event occurred. One day, I couldn’t find a handkerchief (yes, the really olden days) and my mother suggested I look in the top drawer of my father’s dresser where I found a handkerchief and a book, Love, Sex and Marriage. OMG!

I knew, just by glancing at the page that appeared when I cautiously opened it, that this book was verboten stuff! When the time was right, and my parents were out of the house, I cautiously removed the book and, together with my friend Clarkie, took it to one of our secret trees where we climbed, found a perch, and opened LS&M, reading various sections as the pages turned. Our Parents Did This!? And this? It was time for a cigarette before I carefully returned the book to its place of hiding. Around the same time, Clarkie and I sang in the local Anglican church choir and, as was routine, the Vicar suggested that we consider being confirmed into the church. Little did we know.

Before Confirmation, together with others, we met with the Vicar for ‘preparation’ which included, for some reason, talks about puberty and ‘growing up’ and ‘you know, personal things’ which, I think, embarrassed the Vicar more than it did us. When I got home my parents asked me how it went – but quickly changed the subject when I began to share with them (isn’t that such a 2018 expression) those personal things. And – That – Was – That. Those Were the Days, My Friend ….

I suspect today’s parents, anticipating ‘the conversation’, are relieved that the Internet is available – or perhaps ‘the conversation’ doesn’t occur any more. Technology has made ‘the talk’ obsolete. Perhaps parents, unbeknownst to their children, are finding new things on the Internet for themselves. But – the important thing is, it seems, that dress codes are strictly enforced in private schools – even if, in this Internet Age, a short skirt is … is … simply, a short skirt.

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manfred s

If you look carefully at the inscription above the door on the north side of Mansions on George you’ll see a remnant of that ‘past’, a reminder of what was ‘normal’ once. I smile every time I see it.


Now, that be Girls on the north side and Boys on the south side

Rusty Brown

The north side was the GIRLS door and the north half of the schoolyard was theirs. Boys entered through the south door and the south half of the yard was ours. I remember it well. It didn’t seem the least bit unusual back in those quaint times.

evde masaj

süper evde masaj eğitmenleri için bu sitemizi kurduk sizlerden gerekli eğitim desteğini bekliyorum şimdiden teşekkürler

Jason Beatty

Ben de süper bir ev masajı yapmayı çok isterdim ama eşim beni kısa bir tasma üzerinde tutuyor ve ben de onun masajlarından keyif alıyorum. Yine de teşekkürler!


see on naljakas!

Wally Keeler

dress codes? They just make it up as they go. I was suspended from Cobourg District Collegiate Institute West because my hair covered my ears. Cut it or don’t come back. I was being denied an education because of the length of my hair. I cut it. Then let it grow back. The music teacher approaches me in the hall during class changes, puts his finger by my ear and flicks my hair. He asks, “Doesn’t this tickle your ears?” I replied, “Do you ask that of the girls?” The teacher said, “Don’t get smart with me.” I replied, “Then don’t ask stupid questions.” Once again I was suspended for a couple weeks for insolence. It was all very educational for me.


And the Library gets named the C. Gordon King Center after Wally’s principal, the man who bullied Cobourg’s greatest literary figure. Life long trama.

Wally Keeler

Trauma, not trama. I did get an education; it was the one they taught me. They educated me about power, who had it, and who could use it, and do so arbitrarily and capriciously and with impunity. That was no trauma; it was a lesson. I learned it. It prepared me for the real world full of petty bullies and pop-shot alberts. The hostility that school officials demonstrated towards non-conformists, is reflective of society at large.

One of Cobourg’s great literary figure is Richard Green, recipient of Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Poetry. Before him was Susanna Moodie, who landed in Cobourg and resided here; her literature output inspired Margaret Atwood and many others. Archibald Lampman, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia is “generally considered the finest of Canada’s late 19th-century poets in English.” Lampman attended high school in Cobourg.

Albert thinks I am Cobourg’s greatest literary figure only indicates his abysmal ignorance of the many literary figures that have come from or to Cobourg.

Rusty Brown

And now, Alan Bradley, mystery writer known for his Flavia de Luce series and winner of the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association in the UK; the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel; the 2010 Dilys, awarded by the International Mystery Booksellers Association; the Spotted Owl Award, given by the Friends of Mystery, and the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best First Novel. All of the Flavia de Luce books published to date have been New York Times bestsellers,

Curiously, Alan spent much of his early years living on the same stretch of the south side of King Street, east of Division as had Archibald Lampman, decades earlier.

And, yes, our local high school in those days taught mostly submission to authority and arbitrary edicts, in my experience. Half the classroom bullies were the teachers, as I recall.

Wally Keeler

Thanks for that Rusty. I had heard of Bradley, but had no idea of the extent of his accomplishments. Note also that Richard Greene lived in that same stretch of the south side of King east.

Out of the 20 or more teachers at secondary, I can only extol two as being real teachers. The rest enforced dogma, and were rewarded with a plump pension.

Rusty Brown

Alan also wrote a memoir of growing up in Cobourg called “The Shoebox Bible”. The local library – that same C. Gordon King Center – has a copy.

Wally Keeler

They have copies of mine also.

Pamela Jackson

Elizabeth Renzetti is one fine writer, sorry to disagree. Agree with
Graham though about sex ed. at school. In my fine private all-girls
high school the closest we had to sex ed. was a brief discussion on
how rabbits do it.


Dont read silly articles in the Globe by Elizabeth ‘the man hater’. Left wing newspaper !