I read in the Etobicoke paper that my old high school, a place called Scarlett Heights, is closing. I’m betting developers will replace it with some kind of housing development. I guess it was a good high school. I mean, I think I got a good education there, or at least a good enough education to propel me into university. My older sister and brother went to school there too.
I don’t feel a lot of connection to the place though, unlike some folks who hang out to this day with the same group of friends with whom they went to high school. I’m in touch with a couple people from that time but mostly they are names and faces lost in my past.
What I mostly recall about those years is that I started going out to galleries and museums to look at art. This was of course pre-internet and my exposure to paintings was seeing works by our contemporary Canadian painters. I recall being fascinated by paintings I saw by John Meredith and Gordon Raynor and Ronald Bloore and Claude Breeze and Doug Morton and many more. I wanted to make paintings too. My high school art teacher, a wonderfully eccentric fellow, was very encouraging. My parents were encouraging too. They wanted me to get a university education and they were OK with me studying art, although I was reminded many times that a good job would be OK too.
We lived in central Etobicoke in a bungalow on a nice street. It was a safe and clean, mostly boring and not particularly diverse community. The high school was close to the middle school and I walked to both. There was a plaza across the street from the school, where some of the high school kids hung out. It was a dream of our parents to raise their kids in a community like this one in central Etobicoke.
I remember there was a Texaco station on the corner across from the school and late one night there was a murder there, an honest-to-God hit. It was one of two murders in the area that rocked the community. The other one was the killing of two young women who were followed home from an airport bar and murdered. We weren’t supposed to have serious crime in our neighbourhood. It was, after all, the suburbs.
I haven’t been back in the old neighbourhood in a long time. Obviously the demographics there have changed if there aren’t enough students to fill the school. Students currently attending Scarlett Heights will start attending a re-named Kipling Collegiate, quite a distance away. I hadn’t heard anything about my old high school for many years until our former mayor Rob Ford started his public meltdown. It turns out he and his brother attended the same school as me, a few years later. Apparently as mayor he still enjoyed visiting the place, and my old school made the news.
Do you feel connected to your old high school?