New Photo Stories

My birthday in 1983 (from the class of 1985)

This is the interior of a card given to me by what was then my Grade 11 advanced math class.  This was one of the first classes to find out when my birthday was, but, before they graduated, they passed the information on to other classes.  I wish I could find more of the cards.    They would often bring a cake to class.  I have two limited edition prints in my living room, which were  birthday presents, one from the class of 1988 and one from the class of 1992.  Several classes took me out to dinner, at least once on my birthday, but more often at the end of the year.  

A Hans Sipma photograph and a painting by Dutch artist Vermeer

I have recently posted several photographs on this page taken by Hans Sipma, who later became a distinguished professional photographer.  His talent as a photographer was evident in his teenage years.  Here is a photo of Jean Marie Arcand at the ditto machine (spirit duplicator) in the Dominion City School.  Beside is a painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.  Note the play of the light in the two images!

Mr. Arcand was my French teacher for two and a half years, starting in January of my Grade 10 year.  What happened to him after he left Dominion City?  Is he still alive?

In my high school days Hans, Robert Artes and I produced the monthly publication, called The Observer, which, for a time, became the school newspaper.  Al Braemer later joined us as the sports reporter.  The primitive duplicating facilities available to us meant that we could not publish photographs, but Hans often contributed drawings instead.

SJR Math Competitions 1993

We did particularly well in mathematics contests in the year 1993.  That was the year that Ka Ping Yee won gold at the International Mathematical Olympiad.  But we had many other students doing extremely well.  We achieved critical mass.  It is so much easier for students to be enthusiastic and excited if they are surrounded by others who are enthusiastic and excited.  This is part of the phenomenon I discuss in my book in the chapter called Magic in the Classroom.  The school placed this ad in the Free Press to announce the results for the year.  

I always enjoy having visits from former students!  Students seldom take pictures, but the late Keith Kim seemed to take pictures everywhere he went.   This picture was taken in my living room during a visit at some time in the late 1990s or early 2000s.  It shows David Cantor, Alison Saunders, Keith (all from the SJR class of 1988) and myself.  Who took the picture?  It might have been Nic Hesse using Keith’s camera, since Nic sometimes came along with the other three. Or was it a taken with a self timer?  It was always Keith who would send me the pictures after each visit.  


David completed a law degree, but later became a rabbi in the United States, Alison works for the Canadian Diplomatic Services, and Nic is an engineer living in the United Kingdom.  Keith first qualified as a pharmacist and then completed medical school before his tragic death in 2007. 


I have quite a few wonderful visits from former students every year.  Sometimes it is by individuals and sometimes small groups.  I wish I had more pictures to share!

Dominion City 1964

Readers of my book might like to see what  Dominion City looked like in the 1960s.  I thank Hans Sipma for providing these excellent panoramic pictures made from pictures taken at the top of the United Grain Growers Elevator.   The colour picture is the town centre.  The b&w picture shows most of the village .  It is a very large file that might not display well on this website.  My family lived in the railway station which can clearly be seen beside the tracks.  My father was the station agent and telegrapher.   Across the tracks from the station there is a road that runs perpendicular to the tracks.  This road led to the school.  From the station to the school was only a two or three minute walk.  This scene would look very different today.  The station and the elevators are long gone.  The large white building on the left was the hotel, which burned down a few years ago. Across the street from the hotel is the cafe which was known at various times as Matt's, Pete's, Eve's and originally as The Montreal Cafe.  It, too, is gone.

Math Awards at SJR 1992

We always had a lot of awards to distribute.  We entered a lot of contests and our students did very well.  It often took half an hour or more to give out all the certificates, medals, pins and plaques that the students had won.   It simply took too much time to do at a general prize giving, so we often held a special math prize event of our own, sometimes in the evening and sometimes on a Saturday.  Parents were invited.  These pictures are from the 1991 event, held outside behind Thompson House.  I am reading out the names of the winners.  Mark Bredin, Don Johnson, Patricia Colp  and Sherri Burroughs are handing the appropriate prize to headmaster Mitch McGuigan who presents it to the student.

I remember these math awards as very happy events!  

Dominion City School Pics 1962-65 from Hans Sipma

Hans has just sent me a delightful folder of school pictures taken in 1962-65.  They feature drama practices, Freshie Day, Hallowe'en, sports day, recess time, and lunchtime for the out of town students and more.  I have randomly picked out a dozen of them to share right away.  Put the cursor over the picture and click on the arrows to move from picture to picture.  I will post more of these later, and perhaps post some of these again with more detailed stories. Hans's pictures cover my Grade 12 year and the two years following that.  

The past is indeed like a foreign country.  Two things struck me when I saw these pictures.  The rites that went with Freshie Day would be considered to be hazing today and would be banned even though it was all very gentle.   The other picture that is shocking to today's viewers would be the picture of the school on the morning after Hallowe'en.

In my book I mention that there were three of us who formed an informal photography club, saving our money to get better equipment.  The other two were Hans and Robert Artes.  Robert had great equipment on loan from his father.  Hans and I managed to get our first 35 mm cameras at much the same time.  Hans went on from there to become a highly regarded professional photographer.

Sunday School picnic, Dominion City, about 1961. I think it is John Markowski, myself, Harry Hancox, Robert Goossen and Hans Sipma.  If I have misidentified anyone let me know!   The teacher was Mrs Hassock.

Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Suess!!  So many of my former students remember me reciting this in class!  It was something I would do on a restless period when not much learning could take place – perhaps the last period before early dismissal for the spring break.  I did it many times at SJR, at Gordon Bell, at Snow Lake and I even remember reciting it for the Grade Nines in the spring of 1965 when I taught in Dominion City.


But I was astonished to get a message on Facebook from the former Sandra Waddell who remembers me reciting in Mrs. McVicar’s room in 1958 when I was in Grade 7 and she was in Grade 8.  Somehow I happened to tell Mrs. McVicar that I knew the poem from memory.  “Could you recite it for us?” she said, and I did. I was 12 years old at the time, and had known the poem for a little over a year.  It was the first time I recited it in public.


How did I happen to memorize it?  It was my father’s idea.  He grew up small towns at a time when there was no group entertainment provided, unless people made their own.  Variety concerts were a big thing, and usually included a recitation.  My father was able to recite the longer poems by Robert Service, and I remember him doing so at the annual St. Patrick’s Concert in Dominion City.  That concert, which lasted into the late 1950s, must have been one of the last local variety shows in the province!


I first read Horton Hatches the Egg in the summer of 1955, reading from a borrowed copy  of Children’s Digest which had republished the poem for its readers.  I was fascinated by it.  My mother, who was learning how to touch type, typed out the text for me before returning the magazine.  My father suggested that I memorize it.


I was not quite ten years old at the time, and this was a daunting task.  I learned about twenty lines before I abandoned it.  But a little over a year later I still knew those twenty lines, and decided to finish the job.  A year after that I got to recite it to Mrs. McVicar’s Grade 7 and 8 class, and Sandra remembered that. She also remembers my father reciting The Cremation of Sam Magee, which inspired her to memorize the poem herself.

In my book I have a discussion on memorization, and how it has vanished from the world today. It was not always thus.  The great epics of Homer were once passed down from generation to generation by memory, long before they were written down.  

In my book I discuss some of the high school teachers I had in Dominion City so  long ago.  Here are four of them.  

Standing outside in casual dress is Nestor Hochglaube who taught me math, physics and chemistry in Grade Eleven.  He thrilled us with stories of his past He was a child survivor of the Holocaust having spent his childhood years hidden in a Catholic orphanage in Belgium.  After the war his family moved to Israel and later to Montreal.

The classroom picture shows Michael  Kosjar with some students in the Grade 9 room.  This is a nice picture of the classroom showing the embossed tin ceiling.  He taught me math, physics and chemistry for the first term in my Grade 12 year.  Note the windows are on the left hand side as they once were in all classrooms.  The reason for that is explained in my book.

Eugene Yarmie  (the head and shoulders picture) taught me those subjects in 2nd and 3rd  terms 

The teacher standing with a book is Jean Marie Arcand who taught me French.  He arrived at the school in January of my Grade 10 year and was my French teacher for the next 2 1/2 years.

Our high school teachers were very young.  Most were in their 20s.

I would have liked to include Arnold Saper, Frank Fiorentino and Henry Martens  in this collection but I do not have any pictures.  Arnold Saper's obituary can be found at SAPER ARNOLD - Obituaries - Winnipeg Free Press Passages

I have separate Photo Stories entries for Gabe Girard and Viara McVicar.  

In my book I describe how I became a high school teacher for two months in the spring of 1965 when I was only 19 years old.  I taught in the high school that I had graduated from two years previously, in Dominion City.  In November of that year, when I was back at universiy, I received this telegram from principal Gabe Giard, inviting me to the graduation for the Grade 12s I had taught.  Why was graduation in November?  Grad had to wait until all exam results were available, and that included the August supplementary exams where students who failed in June had a second chance.  I did attend and took this picture.  This was the second year that graduation was just for Grade 12.  The old Junior Matriculation (which allowed students to go to university out of Grade 11) had been discontinued in 1964. There were 16 students that year taking either  a full or partial grade 12, but only these six  passed all the required examinations.

Telegrams!  When did anybody last communicate that way?  My father was a railway station agent and telegrapher.  It would have been he who used Morse code to send this message from Dominion City to Winnipeg.  Why didn't Gabe just make a long distance phone call?  We didn't have phones in the rooms in Tache Hall.  "The past is like a foreign country.  They do things differently there."

End of the school year, 1999.  Sherri Burroughs and I joined some about-to-graduate students going to the Bridge Drive In for ice cream.   That was the year that all 18 students taking the university linear algebra class had a final grade of A+.   

Snow Lake staff picture, 1968.  This was a very youthful staff.  The median age was 22.  Some of the elementary school teachers were still in their teens,   having taken a one year teacher training program after Grade 12.  Principal Ray LeNeal is standing at the right. Two of us later ended up teaching at SJR.   Murray Colp and I are in the back row a little to the right of centre. .  When this picture was taken Murray was 23 and I was either 22 or 23.  There  are only three people here who are older than 36.  One is the caretaker (Mr. Doak) at the left hand side of the back row.  Can you spot the other two?

The floors in the new wing of the Snow Lake School were off-white vinyl tiles.  Dress shoes could leave dark scuff marks.  To make things easier for Mr. Doak we insisted that students wear soft soled running shoes.  So I started my teaching career with instructions to check student footware to make sure they were not wearing dress shoes.  Years later, at SJR, I was supposed to check footware to make sure that students WERE wearing dress shoes and NOT wearing soft soled running shoes. Different places, different rules!

Party Time at SJR!

There were two kinds of classroom parties: birthday and  victory.  Some years, on my birthday, the class would show up with a birthday cake and stage a birthday party for me.  Sometimes to celebrate some victory or other (usually a math contest) we would have a party.  In later years these were pizza parties held in my classroom at lunch time.   There are six party pictures here from the 1990s.  Put the cursor on the one that is showing,  Arrows will emerge directing you to the other five. 

The first classroom  victory party was in 1979.  Maurice Arpin, in Grade 12,  brought a cake he had baked himself flavoured with Grand Marinier!   For the next few years, any time we had a victory party he would come back to the school bringing a cake with him.  I have very fond memories of that class of '79.   

In the 1970s the Manitoba Association of Mathematics Teachers ran a Junior High mathematics contest.  It was discontinued in 1982 when the Canadian wide Pascal contest started.  These are the Gordon Bell winners from 1975.  From left to right Jimmy Cha, Brian Schmid and  Jim DuVal.  The mathematics on the blackboard behind them was one of the questions on the paper that year.  

Don Johnson and I were colleagues for 22 years.  We met while I was  teaching at Gordon Bell .  He encouraged me to come to SJR.   This page from the 1997 yearbook was my tribute to him when he retired.  He had been at the school for 29 years, which by coincidence was the same length of time I had been there when I retired seven years later.

The advanced Grade 9 math class at SJR in 1992-93.  This is the class that graduated in 1996.  It was one of the classes that I taught for five years in a row.  It is hard to believe that they are now all in their 40s!

My first official teaching position was in Snow Lake, Manitoba starting in September 1967.  One of my university friends (Murray Colp)  and I were both starting our teaching careers there.  Murray's father volunteered to drive both of us to Snow Lake , which was much more convenient than taking the bus.  We arrived after dark and witnessed a spectacular show of Northern Lights.  They were not easy to photograph.  This was my attempt.  It is a colour slide on Ektochrome film.    The slide was disappointingly dark.  But now, 55 years later, having just scanned it and lightened it a little with photo software, I am  more pleased with it than I was at the time.

School started that year after Labour Day, preceded by  a very busy summer.  I wrote the last exam of my fourth year university on May 4th.  A day or two after that I boarded a CPR train called the Expo Special but took it only as far as Toronto where I got off to spend a week visiting grandparents and other relatives in Brampton and Toronto.  Then back to Winnipeg to start my teacher training on May 15th.  The twelve week course ended around August 15th.  That was followed by a trip to Montreal to take in Expo 67, getting back to Winnipeg in time  to head up to Snow Lake during the Labour Day week-end.

This was my Grade 9 math class in 1968-69, the second of the two years I spent in Snow Lake.  Grade 9s were divided into two classes called 9F and 9N.  The students in 9F were the ones who were taking French and the students in 9N were not taking French.   There were 26 students in 9F, by far the largest class I had ever taught.  The year before my largest class had been 10G with 16 students.  9F and 9N together had almost 50 students.  By contrast in Grade 12, 12U and 12G together had  12 students.  It was a time and a place where most students did not finish high school.

It us shocking to realize that the youngest of these students turned 67 this year (2022).  One or two of them, who had repeated a grade along the way, would be even older. 

Winters in Snow Lake started in mid October and lasted through most of April.  But the spring was spectacular when it finally arrived.  May was a gorgeous month!  I remember finding trails and pathways through the woods leading to abandoned campsites and dilapidated cabins.  In was an intoxicating spring, despite the blackfly bites.  It was crushingly disappointing in early June to get a freak snowfall.  I took this picture before it melted.  The picture was taken to show the snow, but now I recognize it as my best picture of the school.  the white building is the elementary wing attached to a newer building for the high school.  The high school, which opened in January 1967  was built in  the era when classroom windows were either very small or nonexistent.  They were thought to be a distraction.  The white elementary wing was built in the era when windows were considered to be the main source of light.  Fortunately times have changed and windows are back again.  The newest classrooms at SJR (built after I retired) have one wall of floor to ceiling glass.  How I would have loved to teach in such a room!

This picture shows two Canadian flags.  One is just in front of the high school and the other is in front of the post office. The Maple Leaf flag was only four years old when this was taken in June of 1969.  The size and shape of the parked cars speak of a bygone era.

I have fond memories of Wekusko Park,  just a few miles from Snow Lake.  Some of my fellow teachers and I had many picnics there in the spring and the fall.  After the school year ended in June of 1969 the seven students from 12U took Murray Colp and I there for a farewell send off.  That was the class where I discovered what I later wrote about in my book as Magic in the Classroom.

But the park was closed in winter.  Some of us wondered what the scenery looked like at that time of year.  So we parked by the side of the road and waded through deep snow.  In some places the drifts were up to my waist.  It wasn't far but it was a gruelling trek.  I took these two pictures on Ektochrome film .  One is Wekusko Falls on the Grass River, and the other, facing the opposite direction, is the Grass River.