Sinclair Laird Elementary School was where I went to school after coming to Canada from Greece at age 7. It was where I learned to speak proper English. It was also where I became a true Greek -Canadian. I learned many life lessons here, some not so easy or nice. I was teased and bullied for my sticking out like a sore thumb and for being so sensitive. Two years in, in fourth grade, I’d completely lost my accent and was competing in spelling bees representing my school. I was in Ms. Stokes’ choir and I remember singing at an old folks’ home for Christmas. Even back then, I appreciated the look in the eyes of the seniors. I still have the image of a Mrs. Wyndham in my mind. Clear as day. The delight she got out of it.
I remember my naivete. I hadn’t learned what the N word meant until grade 5. I was at something called free flow, where students taught younger students how to read better. We’d sit on the floor in pairs during class hours and let our ‘pupil ‘, as Ms. McMahon said, choose the book they wanted to read. This was done 2 pairs at a time. I remember the teacher asking who wanted to volunteer for free flow and ‘Steve’ putting up his hand. Steve was not an advanced student, to say the least. Yet there he was raising his arm in the air like he wanted it to grow an inch. The teacher picked the 2 of us and we went to meet the 3rd-graders. Steve picked the book he and the little blonde girl were going to read. Ms. McMahon smiled at me and introduced me to Wayne, a Jamaican boy. Steve had taught me a tune that had stuck to my head that was popular with the tough boys; those cool boys you wanted to hang out with for some reason. It was a tune that included the N word. Steve, a stupid and violent boy, looked at Wayne and then at me. He asked me where I’d learnt that song and I said from him. He reddened, smiled, and told Wayne that the N people are really fast and can even climb trees. Wayne looked unaffected. He smiled and shook his head. Steve looked at me and rubbed his right fist in his left palm. He was going to ‘give me the beats’. The bell soon rang and Wayne told me not to listen to Steve. I only found out the next day why Steve wanted to beat me up. He wasn’t in school. In fact, he’d missed school for a week. He never gave me the beats. But a lot of kids were shaking their heads after finding out what had happened with the only black boy in the school. Some patted me on the back but most told me I was an N lover.
I know Wayne to this day.
The park connected to the school on the north side made the school span for a whole city block. It was going to be bought by a Montessori school and eliminate the green space. The citizens in the area petitioned it away. Sinclair Laird is the only English school in the area. When I was there, there were a few more. It has survived the insurgency of the Quebec government into slowly eliminating English -language schools out of any immigrant area. Although this failed development had nothing to do with this, it’s important that a community landmark defining the lives of former and current residents of Park Extension stay intact and untouched.
EDIT: 10/16 /2016. Here are pics of the area to have been dimolished . For those who remember a bit in the past , at least in my time , the park was just grass and a baseball diamond where we would use it primarily for soccer baseball . If anyone has a pic of it back then , I’d love to add them on here .