As I have said earlier, Gloucester High School had a pretty diverse population compared to other schools in the area, with students from both rural and suburban backgrounds, both French and English, with some students going out to work after 2 years, others preparing for jobs in their fields after Grade 12, and more, like Linda and Charlie, aiming for university after Grade 13. It had a reputation as one of the most liberal (permissive) schools in the area- it certainly was one of the newest. A few controversial issues made the Ottawa newspapers in 1967, and were also discussed in the school newspaper, which was one of those issues!
The student leaders came from the academic group- they were there for five years- and were mostly English-speaking — and as the school grew, various initiatives developed in this era of student involvement. In the Centennial year a school newspaper called ‘The Courier’ was started by a student, Henry Makow, who had had an syndicated advice column in one of the Ottawa papers when he was younger- advice by a kid about kids- and who used his experience to produce a weekly professional 4-page newspaper that covered school activities and interests, with news, features, sports, editorials, and ads from local businesses, with bylines of the reporters under the headlines. (This, of course, is why I saved a dozen copies of the paper- either featuring the byline ‘Linda Costain’, or a cut-out gap in the page of an article written by me interesting enough to send to Grannie in one of Cyn’s letters!)
The 60s were a time of youth protests- 1968 was coming- and in the previous school year, students had been suspended for having long hair (boys) or short skirts (girls). The front page of the first newspaper has an article on a Grade 11 Physics class conducting an experiment to see how high above the knee the skirts of the girls in the class were- no doubt ammunition for the headline article which explained about the formation of the Dress Court designed to have the student committee create rules about student dress, and then deal with cases brought before them. (The second issue discusses the first cases brought before the court, of 2 boys whose hair was too long… The third reports that the Dress Committee is possibly unconstitutional, the fourth has an editorial about it- possibly the administration supported this court to get out of having to handle the issue!)
But articles cover things of concern such as alcohol, teen marriage, and glue-sniffing, as well as news about student government, car and bus accidents, fashion, and the possibility of driver education.
The back page was devoted to Sports and the generally sad performances of the school sports teams: Headline, October 8, 1966: ‘Dreary Day, Dreary Game’. To be fair, we were a new school, football certainly wasn’t as important in Canadian high schools as in America, but our basketball and volleyball teams did seem to get beaten regularly in the first term as well, although later in the year wins were recorded. Boys soccer, which hardly seemed to exist in Canada then, was more successful for Gloucester: in spite of having to lend the opposing school 2 valuable players since “Rideau had an inadequate number”, Gloucester shut out the other school 3-0 and were rewarded with pizzas made by the Home Ec. class. However, the sports reporters (who all played various games as well as reporting on them) castigated the rest of the school for lack of participation in intramural noon activities- a thing that must have become more difficult when the student population doubled within the next 2 years, and the lunchtime periods had to be staggered.
As the school year went on, other school activities were lauded in the school newspaper- the hosting of a mobile Blood Donor Clinic, the Debate Tourney in a nearby town, the collection of $1000 worth of non-perishable food for the Christmas hampers, the Winter Carnival week at the end of January (toboggan races at noon Tuesday, biggest snowball competition Thursday, sleigh ride Friday evening, and a Polynesian dance Saturday night, presumably to erase the chilly impression the snowy activities made!) The participation of the school team on the quiz show ‘Reach For the Top’ was covered, and the exciting news reported that the Gloucester Township’s Centennial Project of a swimming pool next to the school would be available for classes the following year. The publication of a Theatre Extra! edition in February when the school’s production of ‘A Man For All Seasons’ was adjudicated for the city drama festival shared both praise and critical comments; and various successful fund-raising events were described through the year – car washes, endurance efforts, and a weekend work day in April, when students could be hired for any task in home and garden- a disgusting porridge pot remains in my mind from when my partner and I were sent to a local home to wash dishes, windows, and floors in a spring-cleaning spree.
The school newspaper editorials addressed concerns of the day- which also popped up in the Ottawa newspapers, the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Journal- the privileges allowed the Grade 13 students- a lounge to relax in, freedom to leave the school grounds, skip classes, miss school days- and possibly to be extended to Honour Students; 2 editorials written by Henry Makow, the child of immigrant parents, on the effect of war, past and present (and the Vietnam War was on the minds of teens in the 60s, even though male Canadians didn’t have the draft hanging over them)- ‘The World We Inherit’ by ‘The World We Hand On: What Youth Can Do’; which were followed by a guest editorial written by a French Grade 12 student about the discrimination between the English-speaking and French-speaking students, who suggested the students start improving the world they lived in right there in G.H.S. (This prejudice in the school between the English and French students is what I remember most clearly about Gloucester. We had marvellous teachers of French, who exposed us to the music of Quebec and the culture of French literature even though our success at speaking the language was not that great; we had classmates with whom we shared our work and culture (swear words included), but the division was palpable.) At least the issues were raised in the newspaper, if not resolved.
Of course one bit of news in the January 13, 1967 issue of ‘The Courier’ was destined to attract attention: students wanted to buy a subscription to the magazine ‘Playboy’ for the school library. That was quickly picked up by the local papers and discussed at the higher levels of the education system, although the decision on whether to allow it seemed to being left to the school principal- and yeah, I don’t remember what happened…
The regular demands of the school year carried on: classes, homework, written exams three times a year, and the marks that resulted. Linda and Charlie and their friends participated in what interested them, bought ice cream sandwiches in the cafeteria to augment their bag lunches, and did well in classes, being promoted in June to Grades 11 and 12.
But the focus of the Centennial year was Expo 67 in Canada, and for the Costains, their trip to England. It would be an exciting summer, now that the school year was over.