|FTLComm - Langbank - Wednesday, February 6, 2002
Fifty years seems like a long time when you say it, but in my memory it seems only a short while ago. We had moved from Kelso the previous summer and this new school year was a disturbing thing. New people to meet and make new friends, the school was bigger and though I adored my teacher, she was disappointed with my reading and was insisting that I sound out words and this was not a popular concept with me.
Langbank school in 1952 was a two room village school with grades one to seven in one room and eight to twelve in the other. The principal was a stern round lady who could peel paint with her scowl and I was truly terrified of her. My teacher was a storybook character, absolutely stunning, honey blond hair and fabulous horned rimmed glasses that with changeable frames so that each day of the week her glasses were different. She wore an endless set of big flowing bright coloured dresses that made her tall frame even more impressive. But besides me having a terrible crush on her she was nice to me, she accepted me, the new kid, I think that was because she could always count on me for an answer, right or wrong I was always willing to offer an opinion.
This was a school at which we began each day by singing "God Save The King" and the Union Jack hung on the wall with a portrait of the King and Queen. Our king wasn't some remote British monarch, he was the King of our country and in 1952 only seven years since the end of the war, we were told that we were all British first and Canadian second. My mother talked of the glimpse she had got of the royal couple when they came through on the train in 1939 and as an avid radio listener his voice, so cultured and precise was as recognisable as James M. Minnify or Lorne Green.
It was shortly after recess fifty years ago today that Mrs. McKillop came into our room with a pale look on her stern face and spoke into the ear of Glades Hill and then she explained to us all that the King was dead. God Save the Queen.
We were shocked, every penny had the man's likeness and he was not old. Little did we know that he had been struggling with Lung cancer for years and had fought hard to stay alive for more than a year. The picture of him on this page was taken in 1947 but that was how we thought of him, alive and well.
The room was silent and I immediately shot up my hand and asked the teacher that shouldn't we drop the flag to half mast. I sat only one row away from the East windows and the flag pole was right there twenty feet outside. She thought that was a great idea, conferred with Mrs. McKillop and then asked if I would like to go and look after it. This was a really big deal for a grade three kid and I knew, as did she, that I would screw up and the flag would end up in the snow. So Billy Brown went with me and there may have been an older kid who went outside with us to bring it down and help us tie the rope with the flag now half way down the pole. It was a mild winter day, with a little cloud and a breeze from the South West that held out the flag but we all had gone outside without our jackets, the wind made us cold but digging a coat out of the cloak room was something that in our excitement to do our part would just be to much of a delay. As we tied it in place, they tied it, I stood by, I looked up at the windows above us and the whole classroom of students looked out at us with their sad faces.
The king was a good guy, everyone said so, and it was a sad moment, lowering the flag was all we could do.
|Timothy W. Shire|