Port Dover Public School

Remembering the now gone
Port Dover Public School …
A personal, historical perspective with a confession
about a school day when the principal used ‘the strap’

The former Port Dover Public School on Main Street was opposite Alma Street.

Our family arrived in Port Dover around 1960. My dad had been hired by Don Ivey at the Summer Garden and we needed a place to call home.
My parents settled on a two-storey brick home, one house north of Greenock, on Main. It was a lucky choice as we became neighbours of Tom and Dorothy Butler. They acclimatized our misfit family as to all things “Port Dover”.
Also, we were only half a block from the Public School. We later moved to a cottage behind our booth, “Scotties/Family Centre/Knechtel Foods”. Longer walk.
The P.D.P.S. was a stately brick building with huge playgrounds. It still had a designated and separate “Girls” and “Boys” entrance but by the time I got there it was no longer enforced.
Early on, it always confused me as to why those engraved signs were there. At first bell, we would all line-up as per class, file in, seat, rise for the anthem and wait for the morning announcements. I always wanted that job. They were usually boring, but sometimes they got heated up a bit.
Skip a few years. We are playing outside before the first bell. By then I was on the coveted “Seniors” side of the school. One day a fight of sorts ensued … not sure of the cause, but my buddy Rick Wamsley pushed my other buddy, Jeff Knister. I stuck my foot out, sort of, and Jeff hit the deck.
The patrolling teachers swarmed us, and gathered up the culprits, but, they missed me. I sheepishly returned to my classroom feeling both guilty, and a bit left out. When the morning announcements came on, it was the usual, this and that, and don’t forget this or that, and then have a nice day.
But it didn’t end there.
The PA system was left on and there was other business to deal with. The principal, “Sooooo … who started this mishap in the yard?” The prisoners, my friends, “Not me!”, and “Not me!”. The principal “Annnd … Jeff, how did you come to fall on the ground? Did you just throw yourself down?” Prisoner #1, “I don’t know!” Prisoner #2, “I don’t know!” (Boy with his head down on his desk in the classroom … “Well, I know”).
The principal “Well then, I guess we’ll have to take care of this right now! Put out your hands!” WHACK! WHACK! Prisoner #1, “OUCH!” Prisoner #2, “OUCH!” Me. “Oh, boy?!”
To this day, I really believe the principal didn’t accidentally leave the PA on. The behaviour on the school yard changed dramatically after that. By the way, I didn’t ever tell my friends about my “foot trip,” so keep it in the vault.
One thing I really enjoyed about school, was the sports, and I was a top athlete. You probably don’t know this, but I won Jr. Boys Field Day Champion in grade 3. Well, I actually was tied with Donnie Creek.
They would add up points for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes. I won in skilled categories such as “The Three Legged Race”, “The Potato Sack Race”, and I think “The Balloon Distant Kick”. (As you already are aware, I was good with my feet).
Donnie won for Mickey Mouse things like, “The 100 Yard Dash”, “The Long Jump”, and “The Triple Jump”. Totally unfair, eh?
Anyways, I got my first trophy, and I still have it! It towered almost three inches, but that’s when it still had its base. I think I owe Donnie a bottle of champagne.
Another, much anticipated school sporting event, was the tri-school skating competition. Port Dover Public, Doverwood Public, and St. Cecilia’s. This was for bragging rights. We would make the trek to “The Old Barn” (for new residents, the old arena where the fire hall is now), full of bravado to defend the pride of our schools.
There were many events, but one of the premier ones was “The Couples Race”. Boy and Girl, holding cross-handed grips for a lap around the ice surface. Now this was serious business, and contestants “vetted” their partners. Perhaps the best girl skater was Sheila Parker.
She was a member of the famous Parker Family figure skating team. There were 6, 8, or 10 of them, I’m not sure. They would travel all over Ontario, doing their synchronized routines to the delight of the crowds. Their signature routine was performed to the song, “Pick’in Your Nose In Tillsonburg”, a ballad about the tobacco industry and priming.
They would skate in crazy fast patterns and then suddenly stop in unison when the refrain came up, “Pick’in your nose in Tillsonburg!”, stick out one skate and twirl their fingers around their nostrils. This was small town cabaret at its finest.
Sheila had her choice of any partner, but for some reason picked me. Now, as a hockey player I was pretty fast, but I felt I was not worthy. We lined up for the start, the gun went off, and we flew down the first stretch, mostly because Sheila was dragging me.
We got to the first turn, well ahead of the pack, and headed to the second turn, and home stretch. Things were looking good … I thought, I may get through this. Then disaster struck.
Figure skaters like Sheila skate straight ahead, gracefully like a Killdeer running down the beach. I skated as a hockey player … bow-legged, somewhat like a warthog in the jungle.
On the second turn, our skates crossed and I went sliding into the boards like a Korean speed skater. I think Sheila didn’t even notice at first, until she realized how fast she was going now, free of her warthog.
I’ll never forget the feeling … laying against the boards, and watching our competitors race past me. When they crossed the finish line, Sheila had already got her skates off. Just kidding, she came back to help me up, like the true partner she was. But she didn’t pick me as a partner the next year.
The other thing I liked about public school was walking to and from school. Our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours, taxi drivers (though I think my brother got a few rides this way), etc., didn’t drive, or pick us up at school … we walked. It was easy at first, living half a block away, but more difficult when we moved to the Beach.
One perk I had was hanging out with Brad Snow. His family had a home on my route, and I would often stop there. His dad, Don, who later became one of my hockey coaches, would build a rink in their backyard. His mom Pat would hand us snacks. This is where I received my first sex education lesson … give me a minute to explain … one day I walked into Mrs. Snow’s kitchen and she was reading the Maple Leaf. That’s not unusual, but she had it sitting on her tummy, hands free! I thought she had been eating too much, but later I found out that Blair and Brian Snow started out life as a stand-up desk. That was lesson #1.
My next lesson was provided by their “Weiner Dog”, Sam. Every time I walked into their kitchen he would jump up on me and start dancing with my leg! Mrs. Snow would yell at him, “SAM! Get Off of Peter!!” I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. After all Sam just wanted to dance and he seemed to really like me?! A few years later, well, I understood.
The Snows named their boys Brad, Brooke, and the twins, Blair and Brian. At first I thought they had a thing for “Bs”. But one day it dawned on me, after I came to appreciate the cleverness of Don and Pat. They were preparing their sons for the future so that whenever they had to initial a form, traffic ticket, permit, or report card, they could just initial it, “B.S.”


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