My public school was more impressive than my private school

I’ve been to several schools in my life (grades 1-4: King’s Road elementary, 5-6: Glenview elementary, 7-8: Maplehurst middle, 9-10: Aldershot secondary, 11-12+OAC: Assumption catholic). Almost all of them were public schools, but the catholic school was semi-private school (it wasn’t private, but it wasn’t a government school either). Surprisingly enough, the public high-school was even better than the private one.

Assumption was a great school; it was newish, clean, and had some more recent technology. Most importantly, as the principal said, because it was semi-private, they don’t have to take any students, so everyone has to be on their best behavior. Because of this, the staff and students were very nice and it went a long way to helping to heal the years of trauma I endured in public school and by the last year, my social-anxiety disorder had improved a lot.

While Assumption had the best people, it didn’t have the best facilities. That honor goes to the public school Aldershot. It may have been older and had terrible staff and students, but the facilities were very impressive for a public school:

  • It had its own swimming pool (in its own wing). That alone puts it ahead of a lot of schools. When I was at Glenview elementary, we even went to Aldershot a few times to swim.
  • Most schools have a “cafegymatorium”, but Aldershot had a dedicated auditorium which was like a movie-theater, and not those tiny new mini-theaters they have today, but the classic large ones with many rows of cushioned seats. I still remember my mother meeting my English teacher there during a parent-teacher meeting.
  • There was a large gymnasium. Most school gyms have a curtain that can cut it into two smaller ones, but the one at Aldershot was so large that it could be cut into three gyms.
  • A lot of schools have a shop and technology lab, but Aldershot had a whole technology wing which included a separate wood-shop, metal-shop, automotive-shop, full electronics-lab, computer-lab, and a tech-lab which duplicated some functionality by containing two separate banks of computers (Amigas for things like Deluxe Paint and Windows PCs for things like CAD and Corel Draw), an electronics lab, a full dark-room, and a video-lab with equipment like Video-Toaster. Then upstairs, there were two more computer labs, one with C64s, and another with IBMs. Remembering all of these blows my mind. 🤯 (Sadly, I only ever used the wood-shop, the big tech-lab, and the IBM lab. One of my few regrets is not getting a chance to take the electronics course in school.)
  • There was a large two-story library. Two-story libraries are usually for post-secondary and private schools; you don’t see them as often in public high-schools. I spent a lot of time in the library reading, especially lunch and breaks.
  • Aldershot had a big, full-function art room. Most high-schools have art rooms that provide most functions, but Aldershot’s was even more stocked with everything from all the supplies we could need (though we still had to buy some things like an art kit and bag, and stuff ¬_¬), and a large kiln.
  • There were actually no less than two science labs. I don’t remember them too well, and when I think of science-class in Aldershot, I usually end up thinking of things from Maplehurst middle-school or Assumption, but I’m sure there were two science labs, one in the middle of the school, and the other out at the end of one of the school’s several wings, beneath the big statue on the outside wall (one time we had to evacuate that lab because of a release of a chemical or smoke or something and had to stand outside until it was clear).

I can’t remember much else of Aldershot’s facilities; other classes like French, English, math, geography and history were in pretty standard classrooms. I suppose the only thing that might have been outstanding about those might be the equipment (I recall using a Texas-Instruments graphing calculator once), but those kinds of classes don’t really need anything fancy. Regardless, the facilities of that public school put a lot of even private schools to shame, let alone other public schools. The staff and students may not have been great, but the school itself was amazing.

Two and half stories of campus tours

Since they were so spread out (and I was young at the time), I didn’t notice them, but I’ve actually been on three campus tours during my school life.

  1. My first campus tour was in early 1989 when I was in sixth grade, my last year of elementary-school. We walked down the street from Glenview to Maplehurst to see the middle-school we’d be going to in several months. Naturally, I felt overwhelmed and nervous walking around amongst those scary older kids. (This is pretty much constant throughout childhood; everybody seems older and intimidating.) The only thing I remember from this tour was when—for some reason—the last thing they showed us was the staff-room. The tour-guide took a long foam thing out of the top-shelf of a closet there and explained that it was a gift from a former student who now works in Hollywood and that the foam thing was a prop from the 1986 remake of The Fly (it looked like one of the creature’s arms/legs, but it was unpainted, so it was probably a spare or defect or something).
  2. The next campus tour I took was just two years later when we went (walked?) up the street from Maplehurst to Aldershot to see the high-school we’d be going to in a few months. Again, walking the halls of the high-school and seeing the big, old pubescent near-adults was quite daunting. I’m sure we got to see the (shockingly impressive, for a public school) facilities, but there are only two things I remember from it:

    • We walked towards the oversized gym down the phys-ed wing hallway whose walls were adorned with awards and photos. The tour-guide stopped at one of the photos (I think it may have been black-and-white), of a kneeling student with a football, wearing a football uniform (I swear he was wearing one of those old-fashion leather helmets 🤔). The guide explained that the photo was of former-student Jim Carey. Yes, the actor. Years later, I tried to look it up, and he did indeed attend Aldershot. If I ever meet him, I have something to discuss. 😀
    • After the tour was over and we returned to Maplehurst, somehow I got split-up from our group and remained behind at Aldershot. It’s been many, many years, but I vaguely recall staying behind for a reason; I think was supposed discuss or ask something of someone at the high-school (I do sort of recall a wait of some sort for the teacher to be free). Anyway, I remember being all alone down in the music wing which felt like an unfinished basement with exposed pipes and feeling nervous and out of my element. I also recall walking down the hall, towards the school-proper and seeing the portraits of various composers hanging from the roof.

    I also recall taking a bus to Central, but almost the only thing I remember about that (other than the dark, unlit hallways) was worrying that a girl from my class that I liked was going there while I was going to Aldershot. 😞

  3. My final campus tour was spring of 1996, in my last year of high-school. (When I was in high-school, we had an extra year after 12th grade called OAC which was discontinued a couple of years later.) There were no universities in Burlington, let alone within walking distance, so we took a bus. Once again, I had a crush on a (different) girl in my class, but going to three different cities to see universities was still exciting. I brought my (non-Sony) walk-man with me along with several tapes and listened to Bryan Adams, Green Day, and a bunch of comedy routines and songs. We went to see three universities (though for the life of me, I can only remember two). On the way, we stopped at a couple of other high-schools to pick up more students for the tours. Not surprisingly, being among all of those literal adults was really something.

    1. First, we went to Guelph to visit the University of Guelph (¬_¬). I only vaguely remember this (maybe I should look it up on Google Maps to jog my memory). I do remember seeing the large, three-story library, and especially the canon in the grass that I think they said is occasionally fired. 😕 I also remember sitting on some stairs in a large foyer/courtyard/mezzanine type of area of a building while we waited for something or other.
    2. Next, we to London to see King’s College (which is a subsidiary of UWO). We saw a few (dark, empty) rooms and stopped in at the cafeteria where we were given lunch. I don’t remember much else, but then, King’s is only a single building (including the dorm). We then went to the main campus of UWO to see the university-proper. (Maybe the “three” places we saw included King’s as a separate one. 🤔) We also saw an off-campus student-residence (I think it was just a building that students often rented 😕). I recall again sitting on stairs waiting, but this one was in the Social-Science building (which I became fairly familiar with later). We also went upstairs in the Social-Science building for some sort of administrative stuff (instead of the Admin-building 🤨). We saw the pool in the Thompson Recreation & Athletic Center at the (then-) edge of campus. We were told to split up into a few groups and explore things of relevance to ourselves. We probably saw a few buildings and facilities, but the thing I remember the best was Alumni Hall because our bus was stopped in front of it and when we were ready to leave, I had to go to the bathroom, as did Rebecca (who happened to be the girl I liked). We were told there’s a bathroom in Alumni Hall and we ducked in to go quickly before heading home. Alumni has a double-door in the middle of the edifice that opens to a hallway that goes to the left and right. We went to the left and saw a sign for the girl’s bathroom. She went in and I had to go to the other side of the building to get to the boy’s bathroom. (Stupid symmetry. 😒) Anyway, we got back to the bus to head home. Later on, every time I was in Alumni, I thought of the bathrooms. 😀

    We dropped off the other students at their respective high-schools and headed back to our own.

The strange thing is that each time I went to the new school, I quickly got accustomed to it and forgot about the tour and stopped thinking of it as the place we went to a few months earlier. Weird. 🤨 I applied to Guelph, Waterloo, and Western and ended up going to Western, and the rest is history.

(In case you’re wondering why it’s only two and half stories, it’s because the first two had something that could be interesting to other people—the prop and Jim Carey—but the last one is only of interest to myself—unless others find my urinary nostalgia interesting.)