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Life's Turning-Points

Life's Turning-Points

Old Feb 21st 2023, 3:30 am
  #211  
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
... In my early teens I was sent to boarding school. I saw and learned much about life and I was soon "wise" (about rather too much). we were a mixed back of Canadian and some American students and we talked a lot about so many things. After two years I "lost" my religious faith and no longer wanted to be restricted by the constraints of a religious education, Boarding school life taught me to be cautious about people and not rely on surface smiles and what I saw rather than what really was going on. Another important lesson was that when things I didn't really understand were taking place it was best for me to step back and not leap in to participate. Also to rely on common sense and listen to my gut feelings about many things. Useful advice for my later adult life...
This snippet interests me more than the rest of your post, JD. I was sent to boarding school 250 miles from home when I was 11, and left aged 17. In later years my Mum asked me if I resented being sent away, and I was able to say "NO, not at all". It was one of my early Life's Turning Points.

Brought up in the bush, I was educated by Queensland's Primary Correspondence School - lessons sent out once a week on the train, read and taught by Mum, and returned to the State capital by train the following week. The PCS trusted the mothers not to cheat, and gave us marks (A, B or C) to tell them how we were getting on. The State's Education Department promised the parents in the district that it would send out a teacher if they would provide a school. So at the age of seven, I was one of twelve kids given into the care of a 17-year-old boy freshly graduated from the Teachers Training School in the City. The schoolroom was ridiculously basic - 12 kids aged four to seven, with no windows and no paper (to begin with), only slates and those narrow chalk-things. It was three miles from my home; I - and my young brother, later - rode a bike there and back, and in the rainy season rode a decrepit old horse that I had to catch and saddle at each end.

Boarding school in the City introduced me to the outside world. At age eleven, I was in one of six classes of thirty boys each - the youngest and the smallest. I was a clever child, and ahead of most of my fellows. No problems there! Sad to say, I peaked at about age twelve; after then, I relied on luck for any success...
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Old Feb 21st 2023, 12:33 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Gordon's saga of his boarding school years is interesting. My own boarding school years were not as isolated as his, but in many ways I see common thread in what he wrote and my own years in an "educational lockup", as I once called it.

I was sent out at 14 after completing Year 10 in my home town school. A scholarship came my way and my parents decided a boarding school was what I needed to "set me right". I didn't want to go, but they insisted. "Saving my soul" was the main argument in their reasoning. A year or two in a Catholic school would see to it that I didn't stray from the right path.

My boarding school was about 30 miles from my home town, in a small rural community in the back-blocks of eastern Canada. We students often made bad jokes about how we were "stuck between No Place and Nowhere" or "ten miles behind God's back", but this humor was mostly a cover for the isolation and the loneliness we felt.

My college had a reasonable reputation but its plus-point was that it was affordable to working families and it imposed a rigorous discipline firmly based on Catholic values. In the '60s my parents had hopes of my eventually being a teacher in a good Catholic school or that most coveted of callings, a parish priest - an uncle on my dad's side was was one and two aunts were nuns, so there was a great religiosity in my upbringing.

I was there for Years 11 and 12 and part of a pre-college study year then called 'Elements' - the latter was only "part" as after two years in that lock-up I succeeded in a scheme to have myself expelled after informing the Prefect of Religion that I had lost my faith. He notified my parents that it was best I leave and so one day I was trapped, the next day I was free. This Prefect was a religious absolutist in religious matters and at times a tyrant (tho' I have to say, not a bully or violent) who clung almost fiercely to a sort of circa 1900 Catholicism. I disliked him many years but I now accept that he was typically of his time and place. (In the 1970s he left the Order to marry and teach in provincial schools and eventually retired and died 15 years ago, so he too had his "moment".)

My time there was a "mix" of some passably good times but with many downsides. Unlike many there I wasn't a toxic teen from a problem family, sent away from home to be sorted out by good doses of discipline and religion, so I didn't fit invert well. I was unpopular with the school athletes as I wasn't a team player and I failed dismally even at solo sports like tennis. Much of my leisure was spent in the library reading, writing and researching, all of which branded me as a "gearbox" to most students. A few called me "Fifi" and there were hints that I wasn't a man's man, which annoyed me at first until I opted to ignore it all. In time my tormentors moved on to other victims and I was left alone. I made a few friends with other "aliens" and my school life slowly improved.

Academically, I excelled in history and languages (excepting Latin) but I failed at Maths, Trigonometry, Geometry and all the other "metrics". Low marks in Latin and Maths meant my score dropped to just below the middle of the student pack. I barely made passing marks, which bothered me at first, until I decided that chasing after marks was useless competition and I didn't care for status point-scoring. So I settled into studying what I enjoyed, the Humanities, and I did so well at these that I usually passed with marks from high 60s to mid 70s, more than good enough. So yes, I "got by".

To this day I'm of two minds about the worth of areligious education. I still believe it has its place, maybe more in its time, now much less so. If one opts for a career with the Vatican, well and good. But in the real world, what? The academic side was so-so and I I didn't learn much that was later of much use to me in my future careers. Latin I could never get my brain around. I failed it two years in a row until a kind Christian Brother let me off the hook and gave me a '61' (one point above the fail-pass mark), which saved me. I suspect he probably wanted to be rid of me as I asked too many irrelevant questions about languages (usually comparing French or English with Latin) which often interrupted the curriculum, so I was quite a burden in his classes.

As for the religious part, as a 14 year old I had religious doubts. In the '60s such an education meant compulsory attendance at mass every day, Sunday evening vespers and extra time in chapel on religious feast days, no meat on Friday, Lent, and all the rest of what it was like to be Catholic pre-Second Vatican Council which so changed the Catholic church in the mid-1960s. For all that, and oddly, I enjoyed the ceremony of mass, if less so the endless sermons by the Prefect of Discipline, an intelligent priest well versed in Philosophy and Theology but lacking in social skills, high-minded and arrogant in his soutane and in mostly incapable of dealing with adolescent boys. All the religious staff were well educated but most didn't care to show any personal interest in the students (probably to protect themselves from "accusations"). Apart from one delightful lady from France who was a most excellent French teacher, ours was an all-male environment, which only isolated us from life outside the college and with little or no good for our future lives as adults in the real world, but 60 years ago that was The Way It Was.

Discipline was imposed with an iron hand and infractions of the strict code of conduct meant odd punishments like isolation - I experienced this a few times and enjoyed it as it meant being away from the communal dormitories which I loathed - my parents insisted I had to be "socialized" to get on with others of my age, and refused to pay the extra fees for a private or shared room which would have given me the privacy I craved and needed. This "solitary confinement" was meant as a punishment but ironically it was what I most wanted, to be left alone. I acted up and made scenes, I was called in for discipline and confined in what the other students dreaded and called The Slammer. My own room, yes! This punishments lasted for up to two weeks and I was like a pig in you know what, the only downer was having to be up at 5.00 AM for prayer and then mass with the religious staff.

I was an only child for ten years until my brother "accidentally" popped up, so I was (and still am) independent for my age and I disliked the regimentation and blind obeisance to what I saw as silly rules, but I knew to give in and do as I was told.

Out of classes and when not in the chapel or at prayer, the religious staff were not especially interested in us as human beings and mostly left us alone, which was good and bad. In so many ways we lacked the mentorship many of us hadn't had at home and needed. Peer pressure was everywhere and some bullying of weaker students did happen. I could stand up for myself so the bullies left me alone. I also protected some of my friends, which again got me a bad name as an "anti team player".

There were positives. For the first time in my young life I was removed from an insular environment of family and small town insularity and exposed to a great mix of students from all over Canada and the USA. One in five of us didn't fit in anywhere and we were regarded as "aliens" and mostly shunned, so we spent our free time together and found we had many intellectual and cultural pursuits in common. I loved writing and I was mad about photography and we set up informal study sessions of these and other pastimes. Books I'd heard about but not usually available to teens were shared. In 1962-3 I was reading DH Lawrence (Lady Chatterly's Lover) which I found romantic and liked, also Fanny Hill and the diaries of the Marquis De Sades, both of which I found boring. school library had an extensive Index of books available only to the religious staff. I made friends with the intelligent and open-minded Christian Brother who managed the library and I was made his assistant, so many an Index book livened up my after-hours reading. Psychiatry and psychology interested me and this library had many modern books and I was soon into Freud, Adler and Jung, heavy (and heady) subject matter for a 15-year old.

All this made me clever and wise beyond my years and also prone to questioning what I saw around me, which many adults didn't like. In class we had a few teachers who did their best to inspire the 'minority' of us who liked reading and study and I learned much from them also.

At age 17 I was sent back to the college for a third year, pre-university. The study curriculum was uninspiring and I couldn't see how it would get into a good college or university to study education. I also no longer cared for the religious studies and decided I wanted out. During the Christmas 1964 home break I tried to discuss all this with my parents but they didn't want to know. Mom made it worse for me insisting that "we have to save your soul" which was their attitude to anything and everything religious. I was out on a limb and I knew I had to resolve this myself. The obvious step was to somehow get expelled.

When I was sent home Dad internalized it all and never talked about it again. Mom was obsessed with What The Neighbors Say and didn'tspeak to me for two months. I found myself work as a trainee news reporter on the princely salary of CDN $35 a week which was measly even in 1965, but to me it meant freedom and I took it. As they say, the rest is history...

I continued my studies part-time and eventually attained a Bachelor of Education, which I've never really used. the college no longer exists in name, a few years after I left it closed and became part of another university.

As for my religious faith, well, it didn't entirely go away. I sort of put it on hold for a long time, but now and then it manages to escape and resurfaces, usually when I've been faced with life matters calling for a decision based on principle. But that's another story and to be saved for another time, a different post.

And to sum up, what? A few things I learned in that boarding school did serve me well in my later careers. Two dedicated teachers encouraged me in my writing and I went on to a satisfying career in journalism, editing and publishing for 20 years before I moved into other fields, first media marketing, project consulting and eventually interior design.

Certainly I would have enjoyed my studies more without the religion rammed down our throats, but that was how things were then. We now live in a more realistic and reasonable age where many religious schools are renowned for their high quality of education. At a cost. If my family had been able to afford it, I could have studied at one of several far better Catholic colleges in eastern Canada (there were several) where the study curriculums were more mainstream and less emphasis was given to attendance at mass or compulsory confession.

The greatest gains I got from the two and a half years of my "incarceration" were in observing and learning from the students and our teachers. Priests and Christian Brothers were and still are well educated and dedicated to their calling in religious life. Some of them inspired me to look to greater things. I disliked Latin and I mostly failed it, but now to my surprise, I find it useful in learning the origins of words, and it inspired me to read the history of Rome and the Roman Empire. So long-term I gained much from my time in a boarding school.

The wheel of karma rotates and from what seems bad can come good. Or it may all be about perception of same.

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Old Feb 22nd 2023, 11:53 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
Gordon's saga of his boarding school years is interesting. My own boarding school years were not as isolated as his, but in many ways I see common thread in what he wrote and my own years in an "educational lockup", as I once called it.

I was sent out at 14 after completing Year 10 in my home town school. A scholarship came my way and my parents decided a boarding school was what I needed to "set me right". I didn't want to go, but they insisted. "Saving my soul" was the main argument in their reasoning. A year or two in a Catholic school would see to it that I didn't stray from the right path... My boarding school was about 30 miles from my home town, in a small rural community in the back-blocks of eastern Canada. We students often made bad jokes about how we were "stuck between No Place and Nowhere" or "ten miles behind God's back", but this humor was mostly a cover for the isolation and the loneliness we felt.

My college had a reasonable reputation but its plus-point was that it was affordable to working families and it imposed a rigorous discipline firmly based on Catholic values. In the '60s my parents had hopes of my eventually being a teacher in a good Catholic school or that most coveted of callings, a parish priest - an uncle on my dad's side was was one and two aunts were nuns, so there was a great religiosity in my upbringing.
Good God! It sounds like hell on earth! You're lucky to have come out of it sane! My six years of boarding were at a Church of England school in Brisbane, the State's capital. I remember crying myself to sleep the first night - aged eleven, and never away from home with strangers before, but I was fine after that. One early event worked for me, and that was acquiring an exotic nickname: "Pablo the Mexican". (The story is worth telling, but not just now.) Even the teachers who couldn't be bothered learning every boy's name, took to calling me Pablo. A friend of mine from those school days still calls me that online, and shouted it out to me when we bumped into each other in London seven years after his leaving the school. (I told that story in "The Rest of the World" BE Forum, in the abandoned "Small World" thread. Check it out if you're interested enough. Graham and I have had two small-world experiences: the other one was in the middle of Isfahan, Iran, in '64. He introduced me to his travelling companion as Pablo, then, too!)

As I said above somewhere, going to boarding school was one of my Life's Turning Points, because it gave me the valuable ability to cope with strangers. One needs that ability if hitch-hiking ever becomes a factor in one's life. Aged 23, I hitched around Scandinavia for three months. Later, Linda and I hitched around the Middle East for another three months, leaving the car in Ankara because we reckoned its supply-line was getting too long. Those six years at "Churchie" taught me well. I was a very shy child, and still am shy, at base. But it's thanks to boarding school that I can "fake it" when social mores require!
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Old Feb 23rd 2023, 1:39 am
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Gordon, I would not have called it (then or now) "hell on earth" but some aspects of it were close to that. Boarding school made me question the unbending religious dogma I'd had crammed into my brain as a child. It also forcibly pushed me into a situation where I had to learn to think for myself and sort out my own values. All that, at age 13. I didn't cry when I found myself in a dormitory full of strange, macho teens, many of whom were problem kids who had been sent to school to sort them out and install some discipline into their heads. In eastern Canada in the early '60s you were either a school athlete, a James Dean type of "rebel", or an "alien". Whether one of these three, you also had to "fit in" and lower yourself to being one of a mob, which I found unacceptable as somehow I had grown into a thinking boy in a family's "values" were basically what the gossips of the parish dictated and any deviation from what passed for the "norm" was immediately reported to the parish priests by the local biddies. My parents were terrified of what the neighbors thought and said and my Mom especially overreacted to any criticism from her family or friends by racing home and immediately accusing her children of wrongdoing and demanding change, however unreasonable that was. So in that sense I was both a "rebel" and an "alien" as I didn't conform.

Being of mixed parentage, I had friends who were Anglicans, or "C of E" as we derisively called it then - the term "Pretty dogs" was reserved for the Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians who were a minority in the town anyway, they didn't count for anything and knew it so they kept pretty much to their own. I recall at age eight or nine informing my parents that I wanted to convert to Anglicanism as those families I knew were well-adjusted and happy. You can well imagine how that went over in a French Catholic household dominated by a French Canadian father who always ran to his mother (my grandparents lived next door to us and kept a watchful eye on us and our doings) for advice on everything.

Among many other things - notably a love of reading, an enjoyment of good literature, a realization that I could learn a great deal from good books, and like you the ability to mix with and talk to strangers from other cultures, made me even more independent. During my first summer break (in 1963) I told my family that I wanted to travel for a month. Dad arranged a rail ticket for me to Montreal where he had a sister and on to Sudbury, Ontario where three of my Mom's brothers lived. I made many stops on the way and explored Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa with an impromptu visit to Toronto for two days where I had my first experience of staying overnight in a hotel (of sorts), the YMCA on College Street, a stone's throw from Yonge Street (I believe it's no longer there but as I've not been back to "TO" for many years, I've no idea where it moved to or even if it still exists. I went exploring on foot every day, walked for miles and shot many rolls of B&W negatives (I still have many of these in my film archive) with the pride and joy of my teen years, my Yeshiva D TLR camera. Back in Montreal I sought out the central city YMCA there and stayed well past my intended departure point, which meant my rail ticket had expired and by then I was rather short of ready cash, so I hopped on a bus to Edmundston, New Brunswick and then hitch-hiked to Moncton (I never told my family this as the shock of learning her son would do such a terrible thing would have killed my Mom) and on to my family home in Shediac Cape. It was all a great adventure for me and it gave me a taste for spending time on the road and visiting and learning about other cultures.

In 1964 I went further afield, first to Montreal, then down to Hartford, Connecticut where I had an aunt and across to Boston where family kindly put me up in their posh colonial home in Waltham. I thought these people were truly cultured. My uncle was an architectural draftsman, my aunt (by marriage) had her own secretarial business (she gave me my first typewriter, a 1930s Remington portable) and their only son had been a Navy man in Japan and was studying to be an architect. They lived the life I saw on American TV and craved. Back home in the boring life of a small town parish, I rebelled and the first seeds of doubt about my ingrained religious beliefs and the (so I thought then) dubious backwoods education I was being given began to grow in my mind. Fast forward six months to 1965 and I had managed to get myself sent home (more or less "honorably expelled", in a way) from that restrictive boarding school and I was free at last! If one could call it that, I was earning all of CDN $35 for a 50 hour work week (I had other means to earn extra money from my photography and writing, which I did, after a few months I had my own car, a secondhand Peugeot, also a photo darkroom and another camera) and once again left to my own devices to learn my job on the job, without much guidance other than criticism of my writing from a neurotic city editor who lacked the social skills to deal effectively with his staff and I suspect had anxiety attacks from stress. Learn I did. I quickly deduced who were the best writers in the newsroom and quickly attached myself to them, to the point that I believe I made their lives a misery with my constant questions. I had a good nose for news and even then (as now, ha!) I could write reams of copy with a only very little information to go on. I was filling entire pages with lengthy news stories and features for the weekend pages. There wasn't much talent in that newsroom and in those days an active bias against anyone or anything French - by then I had been branded "French with an English name" and a few bigots made it their business to target me. I fought back, which made me even more unpopular.

After 12 months of this editorial drudgery I decided I'd learned all I could there. By chance I saw an ad in a Montreal newspaper from a news service agency in France looking for English speaking and writing staff to work in Marseille, applied and to my great surprise I got the job, so I left. I've already written about y time in France in BE, so I will move on.

After returning to Canada in late 1966 I went back to reporting with two other daily newspapers "NB", in fast succession, and left to initially work on an English "throwaway" weekly retail paper in Montreal, then Expo '67 as a promotion officer on the English PR desk. My time at Expo greatly changed my life in every way and it was thus at age 20 that I finally made the break from my small-time roots, my religious upbringing, my third-rate boarding school education, two years of drudgery in small newsrooms, and all other aspects of life in a rural backwater - the city where I worked then was known and derided in Canada as "the sphincter of the Maritimes". and while it has changed with the passing of time as late as 2011 when I was there I found it still had many of its lunch bucket traditions.

For me, from my time in France and my adventurous life and work in Montreal I had "graduated" to big city life and culture. The French girls in Quebec were far more advanced in thinking and living than their Acadian counterparts, all marriage-minded small town belles I'd dated in my teens, who mostly saw themselves as On The Shelf and destined to spinsterhood for life if they weren't Going Steady at 15 and engaged to be married by seventeen. I thrived in the new social environment and at age 20 I began to see the world in terms somewhat larger than to be married, have children, buy a house, stay in one job for many decades, spend all my weekends mowing lawns and gardening and escaping from it all for two weeks every July or August. Not that I'm against any of that - I've done many of that, but as a lifelong advocation it just wasn't and to this day isn't for me.

(Interesting to note that five girls of the seven or eight local gals I dated in my teens were married by 19 or 20 and divorced by 35, but that's entirely another story,) At 16 and 17 I had a bad reputation in my home town by dating casually and not wanting to commit to lifelong wedlock after two Saturday dances at the parish hall. I also had my own car which made me an object of suspicion with all the mothers. But that's entirely another story and to be saved for a future post.)

After Expo I went back to newspaper reporting and sub-editing but life experience had changed me and I knew that drudgery in a newsroom full of bitter, cynical, middle aged or older, mostly alcoholic hack writers who had failed in their life and knew it, wasn't for me. I did a few business things and in 1970 I moved on to Toronto to a TV promotion job which kept me enthused and learning until 1973 when I left to explore the world.

So in all, I take to the view that life is really an endlessly (that is until It all ends and we float on to another avatar or whatever happens or doesn't happen) a karmic wheel of a sort, bad experiences happen but the wheel moves on and bad eventually becomes good if we keep an open mind and learn from all our experiences, whatever they are and however they happen.

Sometimes I think, what would have happened if I had followed my family's well-meant advice in the '60s, bought a small house in Shediac Cape, married, settled there and had a family? Would I eventually have made it to the top of the heap as the chief editor of a regional daily newspaper or the news editor of a radio station? Most likely not. My insistence on looking more deeply into things and questioning what I saw as unfair or wrong, would have hindered me in such a small-minded environment as New Brunswick was then.

Yet in a mysterious way my religious education was the first door (of many) for me to open in the progression of my life.My family mostly forced me into it, but somehow I took matters in my own hand and grew from it Those two and a half years started something which I was fortunate enough to act on. Religious fundamentalism can be inherently conservative and dogmatic, Insular and myopic small town values were rife in Atlantic Canada at that time, the churches and priests and pastors controlled everyone and everything. I was out of place and I realized it. I had to leave if I wanted to live a life that suited me best. So I moved on, to other cities in Canada, then the USA, Asia and eventually Australia where I now live. It was by far the best thing I did.
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Old Feb 23rd 2023, 11:01 am
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Boarding school (8 - 13) - pretty close to "hell on earth".
Found out recently, much to my annoyance, was that my Stepfather, who sent me there had been thoroughly miserable when he had attended the same school many years before.
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Old Feb 24th 2023, 2:27 am
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Expatrick, some were, a few were not. Christian boarding schools in the 1960s functioned with rigorously enforced discipline but also some slackness in certain areas, notably (in my school's case) how students used their free time. we were encouraged to pursue our interests, be they sports, reading, crafts or hobbies - I was keen on photography and two priests who were avoid photo shooters actually assisted me in setting up a small group, as well as making the school's photo darkroom available to me. As a volunteer worker in the library I was given free access to the Index shelves and so I was able to read books not usually available to even adult Catholics. So there were positive spin-offs.

Many of my fellow students also "lost" their faith but due to parental pressures, went on playing Let's Pretend. After leaving the school most gave up religion entirely and became atheists. I went a somewhat different direction. As I was keenly interested din other religions, I read up on Buddhism and Hinduism and eventually decided that, for myself, I liked what we called The Pomp And Circumstance of the masses and other religious ceremonies, but I eally no longer cared about most of my religious beliefs - it didn't bother me whether or not there was a God, or a heaven or hell, or whether I would be doomed to eternal flames if I didn't go to mass on Sundays or avoided confession or told dirty jokes in the school recreation room. I did accept that there were certain "rules" to be followed to keep social relations nice and easy and oil the smooth flow of what could easily have become a dreary and confined day to day existence in a system based on (so I thought) silly rules and regulations. Now, decades later, I can understand why these R&Rs were put in place (to keep us unruly teens all under control) and I recognize the need to follow them even if I quite dislike them. So the world goes. No person is an island unto themselves and if I was to survive in the hard and harsh world out there, I had to do certain things and not do other certain things.

I was rather a spoiled child until my brother came along and I usually always had my way at home. I knew how to intimidate my parents who often gave in to me to avoid arguments with me. This lasted for about a year until I grew up a bit and changed after I understood and accepted that boarding school had changed me - by teaching me that I was not the only person in he universe and I had to consider others in my actions. As Gordon has written, it also taught me to deal with people in personal and social situations, as well as independence and self-reliance. This is not to say I didn't make mistakes in my late teens and early adulthood - in fact I made ag great many and some could have had serious consequences, even legal, if I had been caught. Fortunately, I wasn't, and I was a fast learner so I "grew" from my errors and I survived, as we all do.

Something you said resonated with me. I believe it's common for parents of those past generations who grew up in overly religious home environments with restrictions such as were the norm in the period 1900-1960s, to be prone to repeating the miseries of their own childhoods.

I don't know why this is - education maybe a factor as in my parents' time schools rigidly controlled, teachers could be bullies (and some even sadistic), the curriculum was elementary and confined to the three basic Rs. No importance was given to critical thinking or preparing the students to face life in the often brutal real world.

In my case, attendance at Friday mass and supervised confession in the parish church were fixed regulations of our school. Anyone who rebelled had their parents threatened with failing them in that year or even expulsion. Many adults in my town guided their lives by the dictates of a priest. Sermons at Sunday masses were often about sexual misdeeds and threats of divine retribution for same.

All this changed with lightning speed after 1965 when the old priest was finally retired at age 80. In less than a a year the main altar in our church had been moved and rotated so the celebrant faced the congregation, statues of the holy trinity and saints were removed (they are now all in the town museum), and the traditional Latin masses had given way to celebrations in French and English. In 1966 we had a rock n' roll mass, which rather horrified me at that time but now amuses me. As the French say, plus ca change, though at the time Napoleon's warning dictum seemed more apt - "acres moi le deluge" (apologies, my MacBook doesn't convert to a French keyboard, or if it does I've yet to find it).

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Old Feb 24th 2023, 10:23 am
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50

Something you said resonated with me. I believe it's common for parents of those past generations who grew up in overly religious home environments with restrictions such as were the norm in the period 1900-1960s, to be prone to repeating the miseries of their own childhoods.
Mine was not a religious school as such, although religious observance was practiced twice daily, 7 days a week. My stepfather was a scientist and convinced atheist!


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Old Feb 24th 2023, 3:56 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

From the (admittedly little) research I've done, it would seem that religious boarding schools are now rather something of a past phenomenon in Canada. I couldn't find any recent posts of web sites for almost all the Catholic colleges I remembered from the 1960s.

Yet in Australia they are still commonplace. Many country towns have at least one. Where we live there is nearby from us, one of the largest BSs in Victoria state. This establishment also has a day student enrollment, which means that every school day two dozen or more charter buses turn our street into a huge parking lot of multi-wheeled behemoths parked with their engines and air-conditioners on at full blast, turning the air Technicolors with noxious diesel fumes.

Two of our Aussie friends sent their sons (the daughters seem to escape this "punishment") to boarding schools. They were problem kids and their parents had great hopes that the regimented life, the enforced discipline and focus on education and classes and studies, would make something of them. Both came out of it much more independent but sadly, also more rebellious.than when they went in. Which rather reminded me of myself, half a century earlier. The school fees were in the range of $10,000-$15,000+ (in fact +++) a year for each student. One became a plasterer and is now employed full-time and so I'm told, earning more than his Dad. The other caused a series of family calamities and disasters before abruptly cutting and running from the town, he is now in Melbourne, on unemployment benefits, and living the life of Riley. I will point out that these two "situations" are entirely anecdotal as they involve only two of many BS students - I'm sure many who were incarcerated in these places have done well, notably many of our state and federal politicians, but then I rather thing they may not be a positive recommendation in itself...

To sum all this up, I believe I gained more from my years in boarding school than I lost in not finishing my high school education locally. This said, I do wish I hadn't lost two years and more of my teen life locked up in those dismal surrounds, but I like to think I made the best of that time. And I survived it.

I'm quite "written out" about my boarding school years. It's time for me to retire from this thread (if only for a short break), as I'm now in Bali for the next two weeks and I want to concentrate on looking for a small house or villa to rent. So I will be absent from these pages for a while.
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Old Feb 26th 2023, 7:19 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
... Sometimes I think, what would have happened if I had followed my family's well-meant advice in the '60s, bought a small house in Shediac Cape, married, settled there and had a family? Would I eventually have made it to the top of the heap as the chief editor of a regional daily newspaper or the news editor of a radio station? Most likely not. My insistence on looking more deeply into things and questioning what I saw as unfair or wrong, would have hindered me in such a small-minded environment as New Brunswick was then....

... I was out of place and I realized it. I had to leave if I wanted to live a life that suited me best. So I moved on, to other cities in Canada, then the USA, Asia and eventually Australia where I now live. It was by far the best thing I did.
The year before I left Australia "to see the world" I fell madly in love with the most beautiful girl in the world (really!), and I very nearly persuaded myself to give up my lifelong plan to go overseas for a couple of years. As it happened, I hit England in the exciting '60s, and they wrecked all my plans. Suddenly, the rest of the world opened up before me, and - as I've said here before - I never did make it home. A few years ago, through a mutual friend, I made telephone contact with that most beautiful girl, and I have to say she was wise to let me go! Well, we both were. You can't argue with 50+ years of marriage, wherever you're based.
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Old Feb 28th 2023, 5:03 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
... Being of mixed parentage, I had friends who were Anglicans, or "C of E" as we derisively called it then - the term "Pretty dogs" was reserved for the Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians who were a minority in the town anyway, they didn't count for anything and knew it so they kept pretty much to their own. I recall at age eight or nine informing my parents that I wanted to convert to Anglicanism as those families I knew were well-adjusted and happy. You can well imagine how that went over in a French Catholic household dominated by a French Canadian father who always ran to his mother (my grandparents lived next door to us and kept a watchful eye on us and our doings) for advice on everything....
I can identify with your "mixed parentage"! My dad was brought up RC, though he had left that behind by the time he married. His mother was still a faithful church-goer, though, and subject to a certain amount of punishment for allowing her son to leave. A visiting bishop once asked her - after the service - if her son was "still living with that woman" That woman had three children, by then, all of whom were brought up in the C of E. Mum (the "that woman") would rather we boys each marry a mass murderer than a Catholic. Our hometown - Toowoomba, Queensland - was not exactly a hotbed of religious contention, but I don't think any of us kids ever mixed with what Dad called (not at all bitterly) "left-footers".****

When I visited my Irish forebears' home village in Ireland, decades later, the RC priest there was really horrified to learn of the animosity. He pointed to the Church of Ireland (Protestant) church and said "your ancestors [RC] would have helped build that church".

**** Where did that nickname come from, I wonder...
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Old Mar 3rd 2023, 1:23 am
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
I can identify with your "mixed parentage"! My dad was brought up RC, though he had left that behind by the time he married. His mother was still a faithful church-goer, though, and subject to a certain amount of punishment for allowing her son to leave. A visiting bishop once asked her - after the service - if her son was "still living with that woman" That woman had three children, by then, all of whom were brought up in the C of E. Mum (the "that woman") would rather we boys each marry a mass murderer than a Catholic. Our hometown - Toowoomba, Queensland - was not exactly a hotbed of religious contention, but I don't think any of us kids ever mixed with what Dad called (not at all bitterly) "left-footers".****

When I visited my Irish forebears' home village in Ireland, decades later, the RC priest there was really horrified to learn of the animosity. He pointed to the Church of Ireland (Protestant) church and said "your ancestors [RC] would have helped build that church".

**** Where did that nickname come from, I wonder...
This could have been me. New Brunswick (the one in Canada, not New Jersey) in the '60s was a Baptist stronghold with Catholics - often derisively called "cattle hicks" by the Protties) most definitely on the back fence. The Anglicans were sensible enough get on well with everyone and keep their nasty jibes to themselves. Given my "mixed" blood I usually made friends with the C of E kids and I was always welcome in their homes and often even invited to dinner on Saturday night, but then I was known in the town to be "odd" anyway, so I could get away with that.

My early education (Years 1 to 4) was in Montreal, in bilingual public schools, and I spoke both English and French at home anyway so my education was vastly different from that in religious schools. When we moved to New Brunswick in 1956. Dad wisely overrode the cautions of my Mom's French family and had me sent to school in Moncton, 20 miles from home. I went by public bus every day but we students were always in groups and accompanied by a parent. So I was educated in a different way from the local boys.

In Year 7 it all changed, there was an economic recession in Canada and Dad was unemployed for a year. I was sent to the local parish school where I faced some bullying for being "different". Shediac had a small English school I was transferred to that for a year until I "acclimatized", a wise move. When times got better I was sent to Moncton again, by then I had matured a little and adjusted and I coped. All this made me more independent and self-reliant. It also motivated me to get out of a small-town environment and away where more opportunities lay, socially and for careers.

Then in 1962 my parents sent me to boarding school which again meant many new changes.

My school friends from Baptist families still held to rigid codes of conducts as dictated by Old Testament teachings. Their parents seemed to live in a world of 1800s attitudes and social mores. Gossip was rife and many women in the parish spent much time on the phone, collecting and sharing juicy stories about this one and that one. Comments such as "tool of the Devil" and "unspeakable vices" were often heard. Church sermons often condemned anything to do with erotica, Adulterers could not be stoned in public, but many verbal stones were thrown at them, even from the pulpits. People of my grandparents' age held to ideas more appropriate to the 1760s, and I often thought if they had their way "sinners" would again be put into stocks and shamed in public with passersby pelting them with rotten fruit.

I left the Maritimes (as the Atlantic provinces were then called, and may still be now) in 1967 to live first in Montreal and then Toronto. In the '70s I left Canada, initially for the USA and eventually to Australia.

In 1960s Canada wherever one lived (excepting Quebec and of course British Columbia, that haven of political socialism and apostasy, was widely regarded as the earthly manifestation of the Devil's Empire - in 1966 when I told my family I would be driving to BC, Mom phoned the parish priest to be counseled as to how to deal with my rebellion against all things she cherished and lived for. (He told her to meditate and pray, which greatly amused me.) By then I had rejected anything to do with religion and churches so I was seen as Beyond Hope and many parents had warned their daughters to avoid anything to do with me.

Mom long held to the illusion that I would return to what she saw as The Only Way and The Light. (I never did.)

Socially, in the parishes, the churches put on some (rather boring) social activities. Up til the mid-'60s most Catholic priests in New Brunswick were anti-dance so we teens didn't get to gyrate to the Devil's Noise, rock n' roll. This was the polite era of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. Slowly, things began to change. By 1967 a few local gals were brave (or brazen) enough to wear miniskirts and "short shorts" - Shediac had its annual summer lobster festival and we were used to tourists and open displays of female flesh on the beaches and even in the Main Street were nothing new. In nearby Shediac Cape and most other small communities in New Brunswick, everyone seemed to live in 1867.

1970s Australia was more laid back, with what I thought was a free-and-easy attitude to social mores. Religion had its place but not like in Canada. The concept of "live and let live" was openly practiced. For all these libertarian ways I recall some bias. In Paddington (Sydney) where I lived, a few Festival Of Light fundamentalists regularly picketed our local church for letting homosexuals meet socially there. The concepts of Sexual Equality and Same Sex Marriage in Australia seemed to belong to a distant planet.

Overall life in 'Ozzy' was and still is more relaxed. The secretaries in the offices all lived with their boyfriend and many managers and even executives openly had affairs with female staff. We all drank together in the pub after work and nobody thought anything of the boss racing off the receptionist. All this still goes on but much more discreetly now than it did then. In a way I miss the openness, but the social quality is far better than it was.

In our Victorian country town now, the different religions often meet and work together. The priest and ministers are involved in the community as citizens, not preachers of godly doctrine. We have a mix of Christians, Hindus and Muslims, and of course many heathens who have renounced it all, now known as "freethinkers" if indeed anyone bothers to even ponder such outdated words. There is some bias, mostly among the lesser educated (and a few tertiary graduates who really should know better), but Live and Let Live is generally the way, and as a society we are all better for it.

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Old Mar 3rd 2023, 3:37 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
.... Live and Let Live is generally the way, and as a society we are all better for it.
Here in the US Bible Belt, (NC, in my case) many churches are suffering declining attendance, and it was reported just a few days ago that there are churches vacant and for sale across the state. *** There are of course many reasons, but the covid pandemic seems to have provoked a sharp drop in church attendance - the lockdown period broke some people of the habit of attending church, and the behaviour of some churches/ members who very publicly "placed their trust in God", over application of basic medical science to reduce the likelihood of infection/ transmission was also a turn off for others. ​​​​​​​*** ​​​​​​​The bible belt might be behind the UK in secularization, but IMO we are unreversably on the same slippery slope. The signs are numerous, with NC losing its last entirely dry county in 2021, and referendums on towns and cities allowing sales of alcohol always receiving approval.

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Old Mar 4th 2023, 2:51 am
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Pubs and churches are in decline in many country towns in Australia. During Covid we lost three of our pubs, one had by far the best lunch in town and is greatly missed, the others were mostly beer over (in 2020 at one bar I was actually told in one (now closed) place, "mate, woyn drinkers are all poofters!") were hangouts for the local 'pisspots' who sat all day in their lifelong designated places, nursing one beer every three hours and yarning about all the silly things they have been chewing over since the 1960s. The owners eventually gave up and shut their doors. So not at all missed. All our bottle shops thrived.

Our country towns can be bastions of conservatism, but in Australia this doesn't often extend to religion or religious beliefs. An old tradition of live and let live still exists and we are always surprised at how tolerant our local neighbors can be, even if the principle of "don't ask, don't tell" - maybe better translated as "kiss but don't tell" exists. We have gay and trans neighbors, two Muslim families have moved in, and a Hindu couple have recently bought a property up the street from us. So things are changing and new ideas are slowly filtering in. All good. Who knows, we may soon even have a mosque or a temple...

Yet the churches here are are an odd situation. Most here were built in the 1800s when religion and religious beliefs (now mostly outdated) still held more sway in the country towns and the parishioners could be easily persuaded to part with a lot of money for an imposing edifice,, usually in the most dominant position in the town and vying against the other godly places to be first and foremost in the pecking order. Our Catholic Church attracts at most 50 at Sunday mass with the average age of attendees being over 70. Weekday masses are now a thing of the past. In a way it's sad, for a long time the churches were the social centers and if a town had the good fortune to be 'blessed' with a pastoror parish priest who wasn't overly dogmatic, many good and positive things got done and the entire community gained from it. Now priests tend to be Asians or Africans who are well educated and sociable and fit in well, but the older parishioners tend to be racially conservative and an element of racism creeps into the local gossip. Our ministers are equally social and mostly Anglo-Saxons so they integrate more easily.

For what they are our local churches fill a social if not a religious need in our town, and we hope they will continue to keep their doors open. However, modern times being as they are, sadly one by one they are closing in rural Australia and being sold off. Inevitably, well-cashed-up city slickers buy and move in, more or less permanently until they get bored with all this bucolic bliss and move on. It took us a few years to be even noticed, forget being accepted by the community at large, tho most now know us by sight in not by name and now and then I'm greeted on the Main Street when I go out shopping.

A few bit city movers-in have made the effort to be friendly to locals, but sadly most don't. Recently one of the 'burby housewives upset the manager of our IGA by throwing a hissy when she discovered her cat's preferred brand of wet food wasn't available. She unwisely uttered a few arch comments such as, "well, what do you expect him to eat, your overpriced pate?" which offended the staff and it was bluntly "suggested" that in future he would best take her custom to a Cole's or Woolworth's (coincidentally both in a neighboring town some 30 kilometers distant). I doubt we will see much of her or her 'hubby' in future...

Most big city people here came as tree changers but have lost interest and now flit in and out. We see them mostly on weekends when they socialize with their urban friends, throw large, noisy parties, drink far too much and fill up our streets with their station wagons and SUVs. Also a few crisis situations where their kids raced around at high speed in their imported jalopies and had collisions with parked local cars. Such antics and big-city attitudes greatly annoy the locals who value their peace and quiet and the unchanging continuity of small town life.

As for Covid, most locals here were quickly vaccinated as soon as these were available, but we have our share of 'unbelievers' who loudly proclaimed their refusal to be vaccinated, citing various reasons mostly from crackpot web sites. One neighbor has a pitchfork mentality and told everyone "what if I get dementia in twenty years' time?" to which our neighbor commented, "why wait twenty years?" A few were rather too vocal that they "have a right" to not be given the Covid jab, and were "invited" by the local shops to take their business elsewhere. So we no longer see them in town. Two we knew who had good relationships with locals are now single and they too are making themselves scarce. As annoying as a few were at times, they did liven things in our town and we do miss them.

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Old Mar 4th 2023, 1:58 pm
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

Originally Posted by JDWoowoo50
For what they are our local churches fill a social if not a religious need in our town, and we hope they will continue to keep their doors open.
When Linda and I were set to marry in Toronto in 1966, neither of us was a church-goer. But we reckoned it would be more romantic to marry in a church than a registry-office. So we asked the parson at St Paul's church if he would do the honours. He said he would, but only if we were members of his congregation, which meant turning up for three services! So we did that, and married in the church's chapel, with only twenty others there. And it was romantic!
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Default Re: Life's Turning-Points

In 1966 my first wife - the Canadian one - insisted on a church wedding, more to please her family and impress her friends than any other reason, and I went along with it, mostly to get away from my domineering French relations who did their best to control our family situation. Hers (she had five sisters who all competed with one another for the best in everything) went the whole hog, expensive dress, a fortune in flowers, the 'right' venue for our reception, et al. fortunately, custom has or had it at the time that her family paid for it all, which they did, and turned out en masse, even a great-grandmother, a feisty old thing who drove herself to the church and the venue in a 1930s Packard and home again at the wheel after drank all the men under the table at the reception. She was one family member I always had deep respect for...

Our marriage lasted 18 months. We were both too immature for such commitment, she had ideas of being 'domestic' with a compliant husband who went to work on weekdays and then spent all the weekend doing work around the 'perfect' home we had to have.I had no idea at all about life or what I wanted out of it. My goal had been to escape from my family and their controlling behavior, but I quickly realized I had exchanged one bad situation for one almost like it.

We also communicated badly. After a few of my silences in response to her loud vocalizing about all my faults and what was wrong with "us", crockery started flying around the kitchen and I packed up and (in a classic wrong move on my part) went home to my parents. Cue an endless chorus of "we told you so!" from my mom and all my aunts. So I went back, left again, repeated this behavior, and realized I was as much at fault for the problems we had in our marriage.

In a sense we were both early proponents of the then-rare but now-prevalent philosophy of "it's all about me".

A year later we had somehow managed to sort out things and we realized we basically did not want to be married to each other - but our families did everything to keep us together. Finally, we resolved on a plan. Without informing anyone on either side, we flew the coop for two weeks to a remote location - nobody knew where we were, which so upset her mother that she reported us as 'missing' to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and we were sought out by two uniformed officers in full Canuck regalia, who realized what was going on and left after apologizing to us for the intrusion.

When we returned home we convened a family meeting and announced we were separating, which went over like a led balloon. In the end we both left, me to Montreal and she to her friends in Vancouver. Two years later she divorced me (amicably) and married her childhood boyfriend, who had given up everything to travel across Canada to be with her. They were together for 45 years until he passed away. She went last year. We were good friends throughout, all the more so as he was a renowned wine seller and connoisseur and when I visited Canada I was a guest in their home and well feted with exquisite vintages.

My second marriage, not quite as brief as the first, was in Australia in 1977. In some ways it was even worse than the first, for different but essentially the same reasons this may sound strange but it makes perfect sense to me, even if it's too long to explain in one post. We met at an alfresco party in Bondi Beach and immediately it was Love At First sight for both. Within weeks we were co-habiting and three months later we married, this time in a civil ceremony at Sydney Town Hall. Yes, another whirlwind romance made legal in haste.

Of course came the time to repent at leisure. In our three years together (off and on, several times) we made all the usual endless mistakes two mismatched people do. I was new to Australia and didn't understand the culture. She wanted a 'trophy' husband and to her a globetrotting Canadian who was a rather well-known and socially popular newspaper journalist, was a prime catch. We both wanted to go on socializing with our past circles of friends who wouldn't have fitted well, which caused more problems. For (mostly) work reasons I was often invited to gala receptions and ritzy parties but I went alone, which rankled her no end. She responded with corrosive passive-aggressive behavior and I reacted by staying away from home (at one point I even rented a small studio apartment two streets from our 'terrace' in Darlinghurst (oh, how I wish I still owned this place!), and after our seemingly endless fights at home I would escape to my own digs, which made things even worse. I was accused of keeping a "floozy" (I wasn't), holding wild drink parties and even orgies (how I wish, but again no).

Naturally, it didn't work out. After a year we realized she was unhappy but basically she did not know what she wanted, as for me I had repeated most of my usual mistakes and our situation was doomed. We both wanted out, for all the usual security reasons neither was prepared to make the first move. By 1980 we saw the light and after a trial separation we parted, at first with all the usual recriminations, but eventually as friends. We are good friends and we both have new partners, she has had several and in my case I happily 'free-wheeled' for 17 years until by sheer chance and completely unexpected, my path crossed that of my present life partner (Chinese from Malaysia). For me it was third time lucky...

The wheel of karma sometimes turns in strange directions. But the important thing is that it turns, and out of what is seemingly a problem, bad, even disastrous, comes good. If one has an open mind and is willing to learn, usually the hard and most difficult way,. Learning is the way.
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