||My Feller Memories|
Most assuredly memory can be a fickle ally, subject to all
types of distortions.
Charles G. Zug III
young, but oh so serious; with more than a little dab of brylcreem!
As will become obvious from what follows, my Feller experiences, had a profound influence on me and continue to be firmly entrenched, often in frightening detail, somewhere in the recesses of my overcrowded brain. I have already presented my disclaimer in the introduction, but it likely is a good idea to keep the above quote in mind as you read through this semi-organized collection of musings that was first presented in bits and pieces starting almost 3 years ago. I haven't updated things much, so some of it may be puzzling, especially since some of the context for what I wrote has disappeared from other sites. I keep promising myself that I'll go back and really organize this, and likely some day I will, but not now...
I've been reminiscing about Feller quite a lot since rediscovering so many of my old classmates on-line. One of the main things that I've come to realize is that I clearly think of us as being much closer than mere classmates. I suppose it must have something to do with living in each other's pockets for all those years, sharing the uniquely peculiar Feller experience. For those who actually lived in the dorms together the whole time, it must have been almost like having an extra set of siblings, I guess for me it's at least like having a couple of hundred very close cousins (like being a Masseau or a Paradis in Grande Ligne?). Anyway, I make my living these days by being an observer of strange and wonderful biological phenomena but I certainly got my start observing the extraordinary existence that was life at Feller, halfway through the 20th century.
I think that the notion that most of us had a bit of an inferiority complex is rather accurate. How could we help but wonder what was wrong with us, to end up at a place as outlandish as Feller. In retrospect, it seemed as if the students at Feller were all problem kids of one stripe or another. Many were products of 'broken' (sorry for the pre-pc terminology) homes, with parents unable or unwilling to deal with a growing child 'left over' from a previous marriage. Feller was by far the cheapest dumping ground close to Montreal and many semi-abandoned kids ended up there. I vividly remember the Boxing Day that one of my sister’s class mates ran away from home and came back to Feller because he couldn't deal with his stepmother. After almost 40 years I still recall how upset I was to hear that his father called the school to make sure that he was there safely, but ultimately didn't come to get him. Little wonder that so many of the students thought of Feller as home, although in my case it was home, wasn't it? In any case, I think I understand why my parents always tried to cut kids some slack and to provide some semblance of a home life for the more homesick ones. Although I guess that this may be true for most teachers at boarding schools, since they tend to fill a role that is even more in loco parentis than those at public schools (certainly the loco part fit a lot of the Feller teachers).
What with the children of divorce; the borderline juvenile delinquents
that the judge gave two alternatives, Shawbridge or Feller; the slightly less
severe discipline problems and the [preADHD] academic underachievers that the
public schools of the 50s and 60s did not know how to deal with, it made for not
quite the 'elite' found at boarding schools such as Stanstead.
Sure, we probably did have more than our fair share of students who
academically weren’t the brightest bulbs, but I remember many of the
kids as being rather clever; just not bookish.
Certainly, the creative energy that was expended in achieving amorous
rendez-vous and playing mind games on the teachers, and the quality of the
entertainment at variety nights gave lie to the notion that as a group we were
I plan to write more about student pranks and related matters in a future installment, but first, on to the truly bizarre, the faculty!
As many others have indicated, eccentric (well, let's be honest, wacky) teachers were not rare. But before I continue, I feel obliged to say that the class and faculty lists provided by Rick Lambert and Andy McCullough revealed some rather large gaps in my memory. This spurred me to look back more carefully over my old issues of l'Echo and I discovered that many of the teachers apparently had qualifications that weren't always obvious to me as I sat in their classes. On the other hand, there is no denying that the salaries that Feller was able to pay were pitiful (my mother more than doubled her salary and in fact made somewhat more than my parent's combined Feller salaries, when they moved in the Fall of 1965 and she taught at Sutton High School). I think that many of the teachers had run out of options or were not able to find positions elsewhere, so even for the faculty, Feller was often the place of last resort. On top of this, I suspect there must have been some strange planetary convergence focused on Grande Ligne in the 50s and 60s. What else could explain the bizarre behaviour of both students and teachers that together created the Feller we all seem to remember. Either that or there was something in the water...
Now there's a thought. Who can forget that sulfurous, achingly hard suspension pumped up from the nether regions. Today they could bottle Feller water and make a fortune selling it to yuppies as health giving, artesian mineral water. Back when we were drinking it, we recognized it for the putrid swill that it was. But I digress...