A portrait of the author as a young woman (second from right, front row).

The Editor’s Desk: A trip back in time

A photograph from the distant past conjures up memories.

Who says there’s no such thing as time travel?

Last week a Facebook friend—who I knew as Lynn Michele Nixon, way back in the day when we were best friends in Elementary school—tagged me in a picture, and when I clicked on it I was immediately transported back across more than four decades.

The picture shows the grade 4/5 class of Harry Eburne Elementary School in Richmond in 1973, and there I am, sitting in the front row, second from the right. The picture in in black-and-white, but as soon as I saw it I remembered the dress I was wearing, which was a floral print in shades of orange and green. Funny how I can remember that, when these days I find myself in the garage wondering what I went down there for. I also note that I am not wearing my glasses, which had already been a part of my life for several years by that time. Vanity?

Most of the girls are sitting in the front row, feet together, hands demurely clasped in our laps. Only two girls are wearing pants; the rest of us are in dresses or skirts, and I recall that when I began attending Eburne in Grade 1 in 1969, girls were not allowed to wear pants: it was skirts or dresses only, with socks in spring and fall and leotards (for warmth) in winter. Thank goodness it was Richmond and not Prince George (and the rules had clearly been relaxed by the time I was in Grade 4 in 1972/73).

The “no pants for girls” rule was not the only sign (in hindsight) of what we would now call gender discrimination. There was a huge playing field behind the school, with baseball diamonds and soccer posts, but that was for the boys. The girls were—at least in my early years there—confined to a narrow strip of grass at the front of the school, and a concrete path beside the building that had hopscotch squares painted on it.

The school, which closed in 1982, had no gymnasium. Gym classes (such as they were) took place in an empty classroom, where we could do nothing more vigorous than calisthenics, play jacks, and take part in games that involved throwing nothing heavier than small beanbags, in case we broke a window. The desks were wooden, joined together on runners in rows of five or six, and had sloping lids which lifted and a space for ink bottles. The bottles were long since gone, but their ghosts lingered in the shape of the blue stains around the holes.

Most of the athletic activity took place outside, on the playing fields or lawn or in a large covered space at one end of the building, where we girls would play skipping games. Those long-ago skipping rhymes linger in my memory: “Christopher Columbus / Sailed the ocean blue / In fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two” and “Cinderella / Dressed in yella / Went upstairs / To kiss her fella”). We also—boys and girls—played marbles there, a sport at which I was singularly untalented.

The path many of us took to get to the school had a bridge across a wide ditch, where we tried to catch frogs and salamanders. We all walked to school, usually without parents; older siblings looked out for younger ones. There was no full-time principal; Mrs. Martin, the Grade 1 teacher, took on most of those responsibilities. The only time we saw the (male) principal seemed to be when one of the students needed disciplining, in which case they were taken to the furnace room — a gloomy, vaguely creepy place that we all steered clear of — and given the strap.

Two of the fresh-faced children in that picture—bright and eager, their whole lives in front of them—have since passed on. Judging by the comments from my former classmates that the picture generated, they are not forgotten, nor am I the only person with fond memories of those long-vanished days at Harry Eburne.

Of course there’s such a thing as time travel; we do it all the time, if only in our own minds. Thank goodness we have that capability.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

RCMP looks for tips after break-in at School District 74 works yard

Thieves cut locks into the compound overnight on Dec. 12 and stolle two drills

TNRD recycling workshop answers a lot of questions

Residents learned about changes to recycling, a planned new Eco-depot in the area, and more

Winning Aboriginal Enterprises team from 1990 gets back together on the ice

Team members reconvened to play again, and make a touching presentation to Leslie Edmonds

2018 in review part one: Economic impact of 2017 wildfires more than $30 million in region

Plus success for a local model, a poster controversy, a new doctor, and much more.

Cache Creek mayor Santo Talarico stresses need for collaboration

‘If the area is a success, Cache Creek will be a success’

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Rescued B.C. cat with misshapen legs in need of forever home – with carpet

Mirielle was born with misshapen back legs and after a tough life on the streets, is looking for a forever home.

Most Read