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‘Lettuce heeah the wud of Gud’

In a blur of classes, exams and metal locker doors slamming, certain teacher moments stand out in my mind’s eye.

Mr. Patterson was our math teacher. He was the toughest man any of us had ever met.  It was rumoured that he was the first person to hit the beach on D-Day.  We liked him but all the usual whispering, note passing and smart remarks stopped at his classroom door.

One morning a few minutes into the period a large cherry bomb detonated at the back of the room. I know you think you can picture the scene: students jumping to their feet, some crying out in surprise or terror, a teacher checking to see if anyone is hurt as he evacuates the classroom.

Not what happened.  As the acrid smoke drifted forward no one moved, screamed or turned around.

We were much more afraid of Mr. Patterson than we were of a mere explosion!

After a nano pause, Mr. Patterson continued with the lesson. Just before the bell rang he asked if anyone in our group was responsible for the explosion. We probably all shook our heads in unison.

He said class dismissed and we left.

Our French teacher was Ms. Mitchell. She spent each summer in the France she adored and she really wanted us to appreciate French culture.  She worked all one weekend preparing escargots with garlic sauce, enough for all her classes. She injured herself doing so and had to wear a sling for two weeks.

Leaside High had a chaplain.  He had an imposing British accent that made pronouncements above  heavily padded shoulders of beautiful Saville Row suits. Five days a week for five years, after the morning announcements, we heard, “Lettuce heeah the wud of Gud,” followed by the Lord’s Prayer. One magical morning he got to the third line and there was silence. He had forgotten the words!

In our class there were squeaks of laughter extinguished by a scowl from our teacher, but then the sound of laughter could be heard all down the hall.

Our biology teacher was Mr. Threapleton — three without the e, apple without the p, ton. I know I have spelled it correctly because if we made a mistake he deducted marks.

He taught from a wheeled chair behind a long lab desk on a raised platform. He sat with his head propped up by his arm. He often fell asleep.

If he needed to point something out on the blackboard he would pull himself along in the chair with quick sudden movements.   I regret that it was in his other class that he miscalculated a quick sudden movement and shot off the platform in the chair. He went down like a three without the e, apple without the p ton of bricks.

For those of us who needed Latin to replace math, Miss Pallet was our teacher.

Before each exam she made us recite in Latin the Gladiator’s Oath: We who are about to die salute you. Then she would give a throaty giggle. When she taught us about the Roman cruelties in the Coliseum she giggled.

On the last day of Grade 13 we gave her a piece of Wedgewood featuring classical figures. She loved it and started to talk to us about past students.

We learned that each tree along the walk at the Eglinton entrance to the school was planted in memory of a student killed in World War II.  No one had ever told us that.  I came in that door every day.

Four of the boys killed had been in her class. We watched in alarm as this seemingly indestructible teacher cried in front of us.

It gave us a sense of being a part of something substantial as we left the school for the last time.

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