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Remember that wonderful sense of freedom on the last Friday in June?

When I was a child, growing up on The Commons (Hill Street), I counted off my birthdays with mounting impatience. I longed to be like my older sister Mary who went off to work at the Picton business office of Bell Canada each day. She had an interesting job, a car of her own, fashionable clothes and and a whirlwind social life. I was just a school girl forced to remain indoors on beautiful spring evenings, to study for my final examinations.

Much as I disliked studying, I realized that final exams meant summer vacation was only a few short weeks away. With its arrival, my classmates and I would have two, glorious months of freedom. When we had written our exams, review work would begin, another sign that the golden days of summer were just around the corner.

Our classes at Mary Street School and later, Queen Elizabeth School, continued throughout the final week of June. On the last Friday before the end of the month, we would receive our report cards and summer vacation officially would begin. That final Friday was always a suspense-filled day. For reasons understood only by the board of education, we were required to attend classes in the morning, go home for lunch, then return for the sole purpose of receiving our final report cards.Once they had been given out, class was dismissed for the summer months.

I often wondered why our report cards were not handed out, just before we were dismisssed at noon. There would have been no need for us to make the long trek back to school, only to be sent home, again, 15 minutes later.

The handing out of report cards was a highly anticipated event. Poised on the edge of our seats, one by one we arose to walk to the front of the classroom, as our names were called out in alphabetical order. With the results of our final examinations at last in our hands, excitedly we began to compare notes. The names of those with the highest class standings were swiftly revealed and usually came as no surprise. Membership in the 75 percent club was a coveted honour and those who attained it had been diligent scholars throughout the entire school year.

The first day of our vacation always felt much like any other Saturday. It was not until Monday morning that we experienced the heady sense of freedom synonymous with summer holidays. Determined not to waste time, my best friend, Margo Publow, and I enthusiastically planned our days. Together, we rode our hobby horses across The Commons, or pedalled our bicycles through the streets of town. My bike was named Bonnie, while Margo called hers Jean. We decorated our handlebars with plastic streamers and, sometimes, clipped folded pieces of cardboard to the spokes of our wheels with clothespins, to create a loud clicking noise as we cycled.

When we tired of shoot-outs in the Old West, sometimes we played Lady Dress-Up. Decked out in secondhand finery supplied by our mothers, we imagined ourselves stylish young women about town. Eventually, we decided that it was time for us to choose careers.

After deliberating briefly, it was agreed that we should open a lemonade stand in Queen Elizabeth Park. My mother hand-squeezed a pitcher of lemonade, then poured in into thermos bottles so that we could transport it to the park. She also equipped us with an alarm clock set to ring at dinnertime. We would then know when it was time to close up shop and come home. This added touch did little to strengthen our credibility as young entrepreneurs. One afternoon of dismal sales was enough to convince us that we needed to investigate other lines of employment.

Throughout the endless summers of our childhood, Margo and I shared many adventures. In later years, she would observe that our biggest worry in those carefree, long ago days was remembering to come home in time for dinner.

Our magical summers ended when we graduated from Queen Elizabeth School and became students at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute. That year, Margo found a summer job at Lipson’s Department Store, while I was hired as a clerk at East End Grocery. Although we still looked forward to summer vacation never again did we know the wonderful sense of freedom that once came to us each year, on the last Friday in June.

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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