My first school picture was taken in October, 1954 when I was only three years old. Without my Mother noticing, I followed my older brother and older sister to school one day because I wanted to go too. It just so happened that was the day a photographer came to take pictures of all the students. I had to sit on some thick books in order to be tall enough for a good picture. The open book in front of me proved to be an omen of my lifelong passion of reading.
I started school in September, 1956 at the Beaver Brook School, a small, rural, one room school in Beaver Brook, Colchester County, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Because of the very low number of students, the primary class, now called kindergarten, was combined with the grade 1 class. As a result, my progression was accelerated by one year and for all twelve years of school I think I was the youngest student in every grade. This meant my development, particularly physical development, lagged behind my peers.
My first teachers were Mildred Burrows, Mrs. Mantle and Betty Collins. I was generally a good student and there was little of note in these early years. My strength was arithmetic. I was reasonably well behaved but I do remember once getting the strap, a form of punishment common at the time, for fighting on the playground. In those days a parent, in our family always my mother, was required to regularly sign report cards.
Grade 7 was a major transition from a one room school located a short walk from the family farm to a much larger school which was reached with a daily bus drive of about ten miles. For the next two years I attended the Bible Hill Junior High School. Again, mathematics was my best subject but I struggled with spelling and this pattern has remained with me for my entire life. In Grade 8 my standing was 20th in a class of 69.
Also in Grade 8, at the age of 12, for the first time my report card noted a lack of respect for authority. From my perspective today, almost fifty years later, I think there was also a lack of respect toward youth by authority figures. Submission and compliance with their expectations was expected by both teachers and parents. At this young age I resisted.
I still remember the circumstances around receiving a grade of 0 for the entire year in Art class. It was an optional subject and I preferred to have a free period. But my teachers thought an art class would be good for me and ordered me to take it. I did attend but I refused to do any of the assigned work and I refused to answer any of the questions on tests and exams. Today I am more proud than ashamed of the stance I took. I also thought I would not like the music class. This was my first exposure to classical music and, unlike most of the boys in my class, I discovered I enjoyed it.
Grade 9 was another point of significant transition, the beginning of four years at Central Colchester High School in Onslow, Nova Scotia. Again, I was an above average student and ranked 41st in a large class of 219. Mathematics was again my best subject. I did not do well in physical education, gym class, mainly because I was smaller and less coordinated than the other boys. I felt picked on and disrespected by the gym teacher, John Matheson, who was a real jock.
I also hated and did poorly in Industrial Arts. In those days of distinct, gender-based roles, boys took the Industrial Arts class and girls took the Household Arts class. It would not have occurred to most teachers, parents or students at that time that a few boys and a few girls would have been better served had they been allowed to comfortably change places. Grade 9 was also the first year I began to notice that some girls were quite pretty and that I felt an attraction to them.
In Grade 10 I did well academically, ranking 5th in a class of 113. Again I excelled at mathematics and also did very well in science. I barely survived Industrial Arts. Grade 10 was also the first year that I experienced bouts of depression. Grade 11 was much like Grade 10.
I did not do as well in Grade 12 mainly because of less motivation and less effort. I was getting tired of going to school and I wanted to end this phase of my life and move on to college (which never happened). I was only 16 in Grade 12 and well aware that my peers were getting drivers’ licenses and dating girls and that I was doing neither. I continued to have frequent bouts of depression, although my teachers were oblivious to this and I revealed this to only a couple of classmates.
A new subject, called World Problems, quickly became my favorite. For a textbook we were all required to subscribe to Time Magazine. I was one of the more active participants in the class room discussions.
1967-1968 was an exciting time – the Vietnam War, the first heart transplant, hippies and drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the subsequent race riots and, in June 1968, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy who I was sure would be the next President of the United States. I was very aware of all these events and many more as I devoured Time Magazine from cover to cover.
I graduated from high school in 1968 and soon thereafter began my career.