Friday, 16 May 2014

Company Town Pretensions

The small city I grew up in could be termed a 'company' town.  It had flourished mostly because of the presence of the Bowater's Pulp and Paper Mill. I'm not sure exactly why but such communities usually wind up with the inevitable perceived layers to their society mostly having to do with which area of town you lived and that in turn often reflected what your father did.  This unfortunate aspect to life there happily missed me completely; it is only in looking back that I can pinpoint certain things and know they served as subtle examples of the supposed strata and the difficulty in bridging it.
I remember one not very subtle example.  In grade seven, Protestant children were brought from all areas of the city to attend one common junior high school.  There were four classes of about forty children per class all in grade seven.  We were not mixed up though and each remained in the same class we had entered the school in.  This meant that I got to stay with the same children I had basically gone to school all my life with.  None of the classes mixed for music or phys. ed or art either, and we each had designated areas of the playground to use during recess and lunch break.   
That year all grade sevens took part in group i.q. tests.  We had forgotten about doing that when one day our teacher told us she had an announcement to make. She reminded us of the i.q. tests we had taken many months before and with a big smile she told us the student who scored the highest of all the grade sevens in the school was in our class.  We all glanced at Derek. He was the one who always came first in class; myself and another girl usually jockeyed for second and third place.  I can just imagine our teacher's pride in the staffroom for this fact meant that it was not a lawyer's, doctor's, or manager's child who was first.  If it was Derek, it meant the son of a taxi driver had the highest i.q. 
I look back and contemplate all this with much bemusement.  Oh and Derek became a lawyer, by the way.