When I was twelve years old my parents sent me away to boarding school in Edmonton. It was at great sacrifice for them and for the family because with my many siblings needing attention and money spent on them, investing as much as they did in me was surely a hardship. The parish paid for my tuition and that sort of thing, but my parents still had to dish out lots of cash for my expenses like hockey equipment, clothes, outings and sundry other things. Attending Collège St-Jean was a privilege because I got a very good classical education in French and English and I can still speak French more or less fluently to this day because of it. I doubt if I would have gone to university later without this early experience.
I was a student at the Collège St-Jean on the south side of Edmonton for 4 years starting in 1959. I went for a fifth year but couldn’t handle it and came home after a couple of weeks. I was a bit of a psychological mess. I’m sure I badgered my parents to attend this boarding school over a thousand kilometres from home because all of my friends were going too. In fact, there were 40 of us boys from BC attending the College in the early 60s. As I said, it was a privilege attending the College, but it was not all fun and games. The testosterone alone was choking as was the odor in the dorm. We played a lot of sports and not all of us were careful with our personal grooming…and that’s putting it gently.
The first 2 years I attended the College I slept in a dorm with 124 other guys 12 to 15 years of age. Five rows of bunk beds were the main feature of this building along with a narrow washroom/shower room containing probably 5 or 6 shower stalls and as many toilets along with a whole row of sinks where we would wash, brush our teeth and admire ourselves in the mirrors. This is how I remember the dorm:
This is how I remember my relationship with the priests who ran the school:
Well, that’s a little unfair because some of the priests at the College were caring and respectful men. Some were less so and some were downright violent, not that my friends and I didn’t deserve a little chastisement from time to time. In fact, at times we were not the best examples of good behaviour. In fact, we were often little shits. I won’t go into detail but I’m sure we deserved any punishment we got.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to look back on my College days with some degree of objectivity. It was a very emotional time but that’s the way it is for teens.