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Freedom of summer fast becomes back-to-school

During my childhood summers on The Commons, August’s arrival always brought with it the knowledge that summer vacation was drawing to a close. Back-to-school advertisements began to appear in The Picton Gazette and The Times, as a reminder that I would soon be returning to classes. It was a bittersweet time.

While I had enjoyed the freedom of summer vacation, I had also begun to miss my classmates. Games of Cowboys and Indians and afternoons of playing lady dress-up had lost their edge and boredom was beginning to set in. When mother casually mentioned that it was time for a visit to Eaton’s Department Store to buy my back-to-school clothes, I found myself looking forward to this shopping trip.

Coat sweaters and short-sleeved pullovers were high fashion during my days in elementary school and Eaton’s carried a fine selection of both. Mother would carefully select half-a-dozen sweaters that she considered suitable, then ask me to choose the ones we should buy. The selection process was always the highlight of our shopping excursions.

Once we had purchased two or three sweaters, a pleated skirt or a jumper, and one or two blouses, we moved on to the Maher Shoe Store. Here, Mr. Stevenson brought out the latest in fall footwear for our inspection. Penny loafers, saddle shoes, and Mary Janes were among the popular fashions of the day. It was important to give careful thought to my choice, for the shoes I selected would be worn from September until June. Mother always bought summer sandals or moccasins for me, just before the end of the school year.

Once my back-to-school wardrobe had been assembled, mother would then make an appointment for me at the Royal Beauty Salon, where I would receive an industrial strength permanent wave. It was important to give my “perm” time to relax before the start of classes. Even with considerable lead time, my curls always were exceptionally tight, on the first day of school.

In the milestone year when I entered high school, mother added one more important purchase to our shopping list – the ringbinder. Before the advent of backpacks, notebooks for each subject were carried in large, three-ring binders that closed with heavy duty zippers. Because the ringbinder was the mark of a serious student who had attained secondary school status, I looked forward to owning one. Mother took me to Wright’s Drug Store where I chose a light tan, leather ringbinder with ample room for all of my notebooks, pens and pencils.

Excitement always mounted, as the first day of school neared. Although the weather was far too warm for the woollen sweaters that had been bought for our return to classes, most of us insisted on wearing them anyway. Usually, after two or three days of extreme discomfort, we would hang our new finery back in the closet, until we felt a decided nip in the air that signalled the arrival of fall.

Our return to classes was a highly anticipated event, for we knew we would have a new teacher and new classmates. Before Camp Picton closed, a number of children from Prince Edward Heights, attended classes at Queen Elizabeth School. Among them was a beautiful blonde named Sandra who stole my boyfriend, Bruce, when we were students in Mr. Laundry’s grade seven class. Although she insists to the present day that they were “just friends”, I have never believed her story.

Bruce was a handsome lad whose smile captured the hearts of several of his female classmates. Jilted by this pre-pubescent Romeo, today, I take delight in imagining that he is rotund and bald, but still using his killer smile, in a vain attempt to seduce blue-haired females at senior citizens’ dinners.

When I was a child, the magical words “back-to-school” signalled summer’s end and the beginning of new adventures. Perhaps, this is why September remains my favourite month of the year.

Filed Under: Margaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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