School was an interesting place for me as a kid.
Prior to CFB Namao, school had always been an interesting and fun place.
School however became a place of torment for me in the days after the CFB Namao affair.
CFB Griesbach was no better. Even my teacher noted in one of her reports that the other kids had made me their scapegoat and that I had been ostracized by them.
In November of 1981 Alberta Social Services was in called in by our teachers and principal to deal with me and my brother as Captain Terry Totzke didn’t seem to be making any progress.
When I became involved with Alberta Social Services I had been deemed to be far too emotionally disturbed and that I should be institutionalized in a psychiatric facility. For whatever reason both my father and Totzke never seemed to make much off an effort. I am still of the opinion that the Canadian Forces were doing everything in their power to keep a lid on the Captan McRae child sexual abuse scandal and the fear of Totzke was that if I went into civilian care of any kind that I would start talking about what happened on CFB Namao and that this would cause problems for the Canadian Forces.
In the spring of 1982 my father agreed to place me into the Westfield Program in Edmonton. This required me taking a bus from on the base over to the public school that hosted the program. And what was even better is that this was the proverbial “short bus”. What more could a kid living on a military base ask for than to take the “short bus” to school. I guess social services thought that having the bus pick me up over by the motor pool building instead of from right in front of my PMQ would shield me from embarrassment . But considering that the parking lot by the motor pool was visible to half the PMQs on the lower half of the base, everyone knew who it was that was taking the “short bus”. At least I didn’t have to wear a helmet. And no, I didn’t lick the windows either.
But riding the “short bus” was pretty well the end of any type of friendship that I had on the base as no one wanted to associate with the “weirdo” and the “retard”.
Even my stepmother had referred to me as a “retard” one day and said that it was my fault for going to a school for “retards”. I would have to say that my family’s involvement with Alberta Social Services and Canadian Armed Forces social worker Captain Terry Totzke was causing a lot of stress for both my father who knew what had happened on CFB Namao, and Sue, my stepmother, who probably has never been told about the events of CFB Namao.
As I would learn in 2011, the Westfield program wasn’t for boys who were attracted to other boys as I had been told by both Totzke and my father. Nope, it was for emotionally disturbed children. Children who couldn’t attend regular school because they were emotionally and behaviourally challenged.
To attend this program, the parents of the children had to agree to sign foster care paperwork. I honestly don’t think that Richard realized what he signed as evidenced by what he told Captain Terry Totzke on January 28th, 1983. I now understand that a lot of Richard’s life was spent flying from one catastrophe to another with no real idea of what was going on and no idea of how to take control, always expecting someone else to solve his problems.
Looking back at this time in my life I would have to say that my having developed major depression and severe anxiety isolated me from the other kids.
Throw into that mix that I really didn’t like being touched. Being touched from behind would send me into a panic. Which when you’re dealing with a bunch of 11 year old kids is just guaranteed to bring more touching. But just the feeling of anyone touching my body anywhere would freak me out.
It was noted in one of my psychiatric evaluations that I would often twist and contort my body to avoid being touched.
Also, around this time I had started to develop a very bad habit of wetting the bed. And it was determined in my household that if I didn’t shower before going to school that the embarrassment would make me stop wetting the bed.
Yeah, there were a lot of stupid people with a lot of stupid ideas back then.
At the time I really liked to be left alone to read books. This might explain why even to this day have no issues with reading manuals for equipment
When my father got his posting to Toronto in January of 1983, one of the promises that he made was that I would be placed at the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto for psychiatric care. Well, this didn’t happen.
I was dumped into good old fashioned public school. CFB Downsview, unlike other bases I had lived on, didn’t have schools on base for military children. We all went to public school at local schools off base.
One of the first things the school board had to do was to separate my brother and I and send us to different public schools due to intense sibling rivalry. Near the end of my involvement with Alberta Social Services it was noted that Richard and Sue refused to talk to each other and instead Richard and Sue would talk to each other using my brother and I as the intermediaries. I guess that had really set my brother and I against each other.
Then the school board came to the conclusion that I was having great difficulties making friends and relating to my peers. I soon found myself moved into a class for “special” children. This was Mrs. Bowen’s class. The nice thing about this class is Mrs. Bowen had a small Scottish Terrier named Misty that she brought to school everyday.
Another problem that I had at home with Richard was that he was absolutely useless for help with homework. Asking Richard for help with homework was akin to pulling the pin on a hand grenade and then holding on to it.
Asking Richard for help with homework would often induce one of his “rage out” sessions where fists or back hands would go flying, and then 30 minutes later he wouldn’t “remember” ever having hit you. But then the next day Richard would be all apologetic for maybe getting a little too carried away.
Junior high school was a completely different experience from grade school that I was totally unprepared for. Boys were supposed to have girlfriends. Boys were also supposed to hang out with other boys and talk about cars, and sports, and girls, and women.
For grade 7 I went to Elia Junior High on Sentinel Road. This was about a 40 minute walk to and from school. I could have easily gotten a student bus pass and taken the bus, but Richard wasn’t going to pay for a bus pass.
Again, I was placed into a homeroom for “trouble kids”. Pretty sure this teacher was Marv Schneider.
I had zero interest in cars, I had even less interest in sports. And anything sex related caused me great anxiety as I was fresh out of Captain Totzke’s care. Anything sex related just brought me right back to the sessions with Captain Totzke. And I still couldn’t form friends.
Kids who like to be left alone in junior high school tend to get beat up a lot. Especially if you’re severely depressed and suffer from anxiety.
My grade 7 music teacher, Mrs. Donskov, considered me to be an underprivileged kid from an underprivileged family. She had arranged for me to borrow a bass guitar and an amplifier that she was willing to drop off at my home every Friday night and pick up every Monday morning. My father blew up at her. So, Mrs. Donskov then decided that if my father didn’t want me playing music in the house that maybe he’d sign me up for drumming instruction with a local drum school. Again, more yelling on the phone when she called him to propose her idea.
When I asked my father why he wouldn’t let me play the bass guitar in the PMQ he blathered on about “military housing rules” and how we weren’t allowed to have amplified noises like that. This of course was complete bullshit. I knew of at least four other base brats living in the same PMQ patch that played electric guitar in their house and one who had a drum set in the basement.
Richard was like that though. He would always blame his rash decisions on something else that was out of his control. See, he wouldn’t mind me playing bass guitar in the house, but the military wouldn’t allow it. This to him sounds much better than him admitting that his untreated depression led him to being easily annoyed by noises or anything else that disturbed his thoughts.
At the end of the grade 7 school year I requested a transfer to Pierre Laporte Junior High as it would only be a ten minute walk from the base to the school.
Pierre Laporte was no better than Elia, but at least I wasn’t in a special ed program. And I didn’t need a bus pass, walking to school was simple.
Same thing though, no interest in cars, no interest in sports, no interest in girls or women means that you got a lot of beatings for being a fag or a queer.
I got beat up so many times at Pierre Laporte. And it was almost always the same clique of kids. G.P., S., R.K., R.A., and a few others that hung around with these four.
Mr. Richard Ford was the music teacher at this school. He realized that I had a knack for rhythm and tempo and that I picked up working with MIDI based synthesizers and Apple Mac MIDI software. I also seemed to have a fairly decent ear for mixing, so I became the official mixer for most of the school performances.
Mr. Ford knew the owner of a PA rental shop on Wilson Ave. and he managed to get me a part time job working there after school rewinding voice coils on speakers and fixing equipment.
My father blew up at Mr. Ford on more than one occasion. Once was when Mr. Ford called my father to suggest that my father buy me a keyboard. The second time was when my Mr. Ford called my father to suggest that my father buy me an Apple Mac or and Apple IIc so that I could get into MIDI sequencing. The third time my father blew up at Mr. Ford was when one of Mr. Ford’s other students had to give a recital at the North York Board of Education auditorium. She was going to play the piano in real time and I programmed the accompaniment tracks to accompany her on the piano. My father at the time was working out of an office in the Federal Government building at 4900 Yonge Street. This was literally 2 blocks away from where the recital was going on. Mr. Ford suggested that I call my father and see if my father wanted to come and attend the recital. I told Mr. Ford that I was afraid to. Mr. Ford asked me for my father’s work number. Mr. Ford then called my father. My father blew up at him for disturbing him at work and for taking me off school property without checking with him first.
I put together a 5mw Helium Neon laser for science class. My science teacher, Mr. Jonathan Bowles of course was very impressed. Not only with the laser itself, but with the description of how a laser works, and the fact that I had interfaced the laser with a video game call VECTREX and could use the laser to play X-Y graphics on any large surface. Mr. Bowles was certain this could get me into the National Science Fair in Ottawa. He called my father. My father blew up.
When I got home from school that day I got a lecture from Richard about how he was sick and goddamned tired of my school teachers calling him up and harassing him with stupid bullshit. He told me that I was to stop showing off in school, that I was to go to school, shut my damn mouth, stare at the chalk board, and only speak if I am spoken to.
The only high grades I had that year were of course music and science. All of my other grades were just barely a pass.
That summer my father asked me what my plans were for the new school year. Was I going to go to grade 9 or was I going to go get a job. If I didn’t go back to school in September, I had to get a job and I was also going to start paying him $200.00 a month for the rent of my bedroom in the basement.
Richard had joined the Royal Canadian Navy with a grade 8 / grade 9 education in 1963 that he obtained in a single room school house in Fort McMurray, AB. So I guess that his way of thinking was that I could simply leave school and luck into employment that would look after me for life, just like the Canadian Forces had looked after him. But this was the summer of 1987, not 1963. Grade 8 wasn’t going to get you anywhere.
Richard made an offer. He said that if I did go back to school in September that he would sign me up for driver training with Young Drivers of Canada on my birthday in September when I turned 16. That turned out to be another of Richard’s many lies.
I did return to school that September.
On the day of my birthday in September after school I went to the DMV and picked up the paperwork for my learner’s permit. I then went to the Young Driver’s office on Wilson Ave and picked up the enrolment paperwork. I then went home and waited for Richard to come home. I gave Richard the paperwork. He looked at it and asked me what this was for. I said that you had promised that you’d let me get my learner’s permit and the Young Driver’s course. He said that I misunderstood him, that he said that he’d check with his insurance company first to see if my driver’s licence would affect his rates. He said that he wanted to let me get my learner’s permit, but that his insurance company said that his rates would go up if he did that. And this was supposedly true even if I didn’t drive his car. Again, another “Richard Lie(tm)”.
I left school not too long after this. I started working full time. And by early 1988 I moved out.
I lived on my own until the summer of 1989 when I bumped into Mr. Bowles. He implored me to go back to school and finish school. He said that my brain was too big to waste on menial labour. He suggested that I could attend A.I.S.P. over at Avondale and that it would be perfect for someone like me who didn’t fit into regular school too well and didn’t have much in the way of support at home.
I got word from Mr. Bowles that he along with Mr. Ford and Mr. Aitken had written letters on my behalf to the administrators of A.I.S.P.. A couple of weeks later I received word that I had been accepted into the program. I went over an met the staff at A.I.S.P. and we formulated a plan. I would take grade 9 and grade 10 in the first year, and then I would take grade 11 and grade 12 in the second year.
A.I.S.P. stood for “The Alternative and Independent Study Program”. It occupied the second floor of an elementary school. It also had an enrolment of close to 300 students. You couldn’t get 300 students on the second floor of this school if you tried. You’d basically go to this school and receive your assignments. Then you were expected to hand your assignments in by the dead line. There really weren’t classrooms to speak of, but you were more than welcome to sit in on lessons. You could also drop into local high schools and attend classes there if you wanted to. The school didn’t have a library. If you needed books you either went to the North York Public Library or you dropped into a local high school and borrowed books from there.
The only problem with Avondale is that I wouldn’t be able to work while going there. And any part-time job I got wouldn’t cover the rent of where I was living. So I went back home and talked to Richard. Richard agreed to let me move back in. I could sleep on the couch in the basement as my former bedroom in the basement had been converted to a new TV room. Richard would also arrange to drive me to his office in the morning and I could walk the remainder of the distance to school. When I got off school I could go wait in the lobby of 4900 Yonge street for a drive back home, but if I missed the drive I’d have to walk home as he was not going to waste his time waiting. Young and Sheppard to Keele and Sheppard isn’s a small distance.
Everything was going fine for the first few months. That was until Richard found me and a group of other kids from A.I.S.P. walking on Yonge towards the North York Public library. As he would always do in his Mustang, he jumped on the brakes, spun the steering wheel, hit the accelerator and dumped the clutch and did a piss poor burnout / half donut across Yonge Street to where I was standing dumbfounded with my classmates. He jumped out of the car and started yelling about not putting up with my bullshit and lies, that he was sick and tired of me not attending school. One of the other kids chimed in that we were in school, that we were going to the library to grab some books. Richard ranted that the fucking school had fucking books and what type of fucking school didn’t have goddamn books.
Richard obviously didn’t comprehend the meaning of “Independent Study” too well.
When I got home that evening after walking from Avondale back to the base it was as pleasant as you could imagine it to be. “You get your fucking ass into a regular school tomorrow or you get the fuck out of my house!”. Again I tried to explain to him what A.I.S.P. was and that I was taking four years of school in two school years and that’s why I couldn’t do this at a regular school. “I don’t fucking understand what the fuck is wrong with you? Why can’t you just be fucking normal? Just take some fucking basket weaving courses and pass the grade, that’s all you have to do”. I quit school again for the last time. I happened into a decent job that was a sixth month contract that had me travelling through the Maritimes. So I satisfied Richard’s demand of moving out of his house.
I got flown home halfway through the job for a two week vacation. I stayed at a local hotel until it was time to fly back. At the end of the contract I had close to $25k in the bank.
I was starting to look for apartments down around the Queen and Spadina area of Toronto. I was kinda hoping to get a job with Active Surplus, or one of the other electronics shops down on Queen.
Somehow I let slip to Richard how much money I had in the bank. He started reminding me how expensive it was for him to raise my brother and I and that I should pay him back for the concert ticket that he had bought for my birthday.
I got a phone call from him one day around the middle of June. He was getting his final posting back to Alberta. He wanted me to move with him so that “we could try to be a family again”. Was I ever stupid. We had never been a family to begin with, so there was no family to “be again”. And no, things didn’t work out any better this time around. If I was a gambling man, I would wager that Richard had told my stepmother that I was going to be going back to school. And no, there was no plan for me to go back to school. Being 19 in grade 9 isn’t a good thing.
In the end I did end up obtaining my grade 12 G.E.D. which is ironic considering that the G.E.D. was created after WWII to allow returning soldiers to finish their education that may have been interrupted when they enlisted to fight in the war.
I knew nothing of the G.E.D. program until I met my mother in 1990. In the summer of 1991 she discovered that I only had my formal grade 8. She found out where to pick up the G.E.D. application and the study materials. So one day after work I went down and picked them up. The next writing session was in about a month. The intake worker said that I could wait for the next session in 6 months. I applied for the session in a month.
Studying wasn’t hard. After all, I didn’t leave school because I found school to be hard. I left school because home life was an absolute unmitigated nightmare.
When you write the G.E.D. you are given a randomized assortment of questions that grade 12 students are required to pass to obtain their final marks. I forget how many question were on the G.E.D.. If I remember correctly is was about 50 questions per subject. The subjects were “Writing Skills”; “Social Studies”; “Science”; “Interpreting Literature and the Arts”; and “Mathematics”.
This is how I did:
An “A”, three “B’s”, and one “C”. Not too shabby for someone like me with only one month to study. So yeah, school obviously wasn’t the problem. It was my home life that was the problem.
The calculation method for the G.E.D. has changed over the years, but back in 1991 it was known as 40 – 45
40 is the lowest possible score you could have in any of the five sections or an average score of 45 on all five subjects. Some questions are worth a point, some questions are worth half-a-point, and some questions are worth more points.
You are being graded against all grade 12 students in the jurisdiction that you take the G.E.D. and your scores are supposed to reflect upon how many graduating students had similar marks to your marks.
Is a G.E.D. the same as a high school diploma? Nope. But in the real world almost all employers, colleges, technical schools will accept a G.E.D. at face value. Some technical schools will require that you undertake a test prior to enrolling in their program that shows that you understand the mathematics at the proper level. I had to do this when I took my power engineering courses. Most universities will also accept the G.E.D. but like technical school, will require some form of additional testing to show that you are competent in the basic areas required for the program.
As far as I know, Richard never completed his grade 12. Yes, he did take some math upgrading courses in Toronto, but I don’t think he ever finished grade 12 or even challenged the G.E.D.
And that folks is my academic experience.
I used to beat myself up a lot when I was younger for not having gone to trade school, or college, or even university. But even if I had done well in school I don’t think those options would have really ever been open to me.
Richard had parlayed his grade 8 education into a 30 year career with the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Armed Forces which saw him travel around the world and visit many ports of call. He flew all over the place with the airforce as was evidenced by his being in Iceland on the day I was admitted to hospital after a bicycle accident in Summerside.
To him, school was nothing more that what he had attended back in the ’50s in Fort McMurray, Alberta. A single room school house. Definitely no computers. Definitely no music programs. Definitely no computer labs. His school was obviously just paying attention to what was written on the blackboard and nothing more.
Why would I need trade school, or college, or university?
The Canadian Armed Forces had taught him mechanical skills, electrical skills, avionics, and had even sent him to Boeing/VERTOL to be trained in the Maintenance Management for the CH-147 Chinook. If the Canadian Forces did this for him, surely they would do the same for me, right.
By the late ’80s grade 8 was no longer sufficient to get into the Canadian Forces. Grade 8 wasn’t sufficient to get into anything really. And by the late ’80s employers were no longer training employees. Employees were expected to show up for the first day of work with degrees and diplomas and 50 years of on the job experience.
Sure was a bitter pill to swallow. But at least I know that I played the cards that were dealt to me to the best of my ability.