Battlefield Public School, that is.
My (mostly) beloved elementary school shut it’s doors a few years back, and I read recently in the news that the building and property have since been sold to a developer, with plans to eventually build condos in its place.
There is, of course, controversy over this decision. After all, you don’t name a school “Battlefield” without some historical significance. In this case, the land is a designated Canadian Heritage area, with the site being involved in the Battle of Lundy’s Lane during the War of 1812. Only it turns out that a Heritage designation doesn’t mean all that much, especially when it’s just for a plot of land (the school itself was built in 1970, so holds no historical value). From the current looks of things I appears that they may be keeping the majority of the space as a park, but I’m honestly not sure.
Yesterday I decided to wander over and get some photos of the building before it’s leveled. I’d absolutely love to be able to go inside, but I think all opportunities to do so came and went while I was abroad. Simply wandering around the outside of the building and the yard brought back a wave of memories. For those not familiar, elementary schools in our district typically run from JK/SK thru 8th grade. Meaning, many of the students who attended Battlefield during it’s 40 or so years of operation spent 9-10 years there. I personally started there in the 2nd grade, so I only did 7 years inside. But what an eventful 7 years it was!
I didn’t realize that my childhood school days were all that eventful until I went away to university. I’d occasionally tell an anecdote to which I’d receive looks of shocked horror, and I’d think ‘huh, I guess that wasn’t everyone’s experience…’
My friend Saira has been trying to convince me for years to actually write some of these anecdotes out, and I did find some inspiration to do so while photographing yesterday. As such, I suppose the rest of this post will be a bit of a writing exercise. Proceed with caution…
My go-to Battlefield story tends to be the telling of it’s surroundings. The school yard was, for all intents and purposes, a square. Standing in the centre, facing south, you would have the view above of the back of the school. The double door on the left was for the primary and junior division, with the doors on the right for the senior division.
If you were to turn clockwise to the west, you face uphill, where the school yard property met with Drummond Hill Cemetery. Most headstones dated back to the early 1800s, and it was strange to go back and realize that I remembered most of the names. Upper, Morse, Woolnough, Plato, Skinner, Ker, and dozens more whose names had faded from the stone long before my time. Walking along the west line I came across a collection of small stones. I have a vague recollection of them- They were pressed right up against the chain link fence that separated the land with nothing written on the back. Now that the fence has been removed I could, for the first time, walk to the front where I realized that the small stones were those made for infants.
The proximity to death and tragedy doesn’t occur to you as a child. For us that hill meant high rocks and trees to sit on, a place to toboggan in the winter, and roll down in the summer.
Continuing clockwise, when facing north you’re met with the stone wall and dirty windows of a not-too-classy motel. But, again, this doesn’t mean much when you’re a kid. The limited space between the hotel wall and chain link fence meant that the branches of the trees and bushes that spilled over from the motel were never trimmed or maintained. For us that meant a canopy of leaves and vines extending almost the entire length of the yard. Perfect for hiding, playing, and catching grasshoppers.
Turning east we find the back / parking areas of several establishments, including: Morse & Son Funeral Home, Mints, Main St. Laundromat, and a bar that was open all day. From Morse & Son it became usual fare to see hearses coming and going, being loaded and unloaded. From the rest came an assortment of patrons and activities. Fights, arrests, police cars on site, they were all typical.
Though the main event of the year would come from Mints, an infamous local strip club. The club would hold an annual wild animal show, wherein the dancers would be joined on stage by something of a different kind of exotic: a tiger (type, I couldn’t say). They would keep the tiger in the back parking area, and in an effort to save costs would only purchase 3 rows of fencing to enclose the creature, using our schools chain link fence as the fourth wall. As a result, at recess a teacher would have to go and stand guard to ensure that no children had their hands bitten off
To my knowledge there was no loss of limbs. At least not during my 7 year stint.
Wandering around brought back a hundred long forgotten memories as well:
The time we attempted to do swing dance moves on the “blacktop” which resulted in Mallory being run head-first into the brick wall above. We all laughed at visual, until realizing after a few moments that she hadn’t moved a muscle since hitting the ground. We then moved towards her and realized that there was blood rushing from her head, and a lunch lady was screamed for.
The time Sara lost control of here wheelchair and did a full somersault (chair and all) down the steps on the right. We ran over in a panic, only to find her lying on her side, still strapped in, and laughing hysterically at what had just happened.
There was also a protruding windowsill (from the French room with it’s inexplicable kiln) on the right that the boys would use to climb on the roof of the building. It was also the spot where I got my one, and only (knock-on-wood), bee-sting.
A small group of us use to pretend that we were on spaceship when we played in the space above. The cement block was the bridge, and you’d have to hang on to the metal rings when travelling at lightspeed. The area to the right was the engine room, which was always having problems (of course!), and the small pipe you can see ascending from the metal shield was a para-scope (I guess our spaceship also acted as a submarine from time to time).
Aside from the random blotches of mismatched paint and boards on the windows, the school doesn’t look all that different from the outside. The old doors, railings, and fences are still up. You can see the outlines of the basketball court, baseball diamonds, playground, and beehive. There’s a faded spot where the random paved circle use to be, as well as the utility shed. The metal compost bin is still there, as are most of the trees.
I definitely have a lot of fond memories of that place, and as I mentioned earlier, seeing inside one last time would be a riot. By 8th grade we’d managed to find a ton of “hidden” spaces around the building that I have no doubt would have landed us in a world of trouble if anyone found out. I remember we someone found a way to get into the ceiling of the gym, and would go up there fairly often. Ah, to be young and oblivious to reckless actions! Looking back I feel like I was kind of bad-ass when I was 12.
Okay, fine. Not really.