Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Gathering Point

Do you remember where you were when Paul Henderson scored the winning goal in the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series?

I remember where I was.

I was sitting on the cold floor of the auditorium, which doubled as a gymnasium, at Century Public School. There were a few classes, huddled around a TV set that had poor reception. I wasn't a hockey fan—had never been interested—but it was an excuse to get out of class.

When the final horn sounded on that eighth game, the auditorium rang out in cheers. Teachers high-fived. Students threw up their young arms. History had been made.

The auditorium/gymnasium was where we gathered for our Christmas concerts, where we sang carols loud and clear. Our principal, Mr. Gordon, would personally select the students who would be in the choir: we would stand and sing "Oh, Canada!" at our desks, and Mr. Gordon would walk around the room, stopping behind each student to listen. If he liked your voice, he would gently tap you on the shoulder before moving on to the next student.

Not to brag but I was always selected.

In grade 5, we learned how to square dance in Mr. Fulcher's class. Up on the stage, I got a little too close to the edge and almost fell off. Years before then, after a rehearsal for a class play, I hopped off the stage instead of taking the stairs, as we were always told to do. I sprained my ankle and spent two weeks on crutches.

As a kid in elementary school, the gymnasium/auditorium seemed massive. Visiting it last weekend, it seemed as though it had shrunk, as though the walks had closed in on themselves. The floor had been refinished, was now an off-white linoleum-like surface. I remembered it to have a wooden surface in my days: class photos in front of the stage seem to support that memory.

Standing in that room, as empty as it was, I could see rows of small kids, sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking up at the stage, where Mr. Gordon, with his white, short-sleeved button shirt, dark, polyester slacks, his dark hair Brylcreemed and combed back with a perfect part to the side, long, thin sideburns, stood in front of the microphone, trying to get their attention so that he could deliver an important message.

"Shh... shh. Listening. Listening. Shh... "

It worked every time.

The spacious room where I saw hockey history is forever ingrained in my mind, remains an unforgotten piece of my history.

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