Old Eights: in touch and intact after 45 years

June 15, 2008

On November 22, 1963, Principal Beulah Knapp signed six documents which created the Old Eights. Others will no doubt recall the date as that of the Kennedy assassination, but for Jackalyn Brady, Rod Croskery, James Forrester, Nancy Jane Genge, Donald Goodfellow and David Roberts, receipt of that Westport Public School graduation diploma granted admission to a most exclusive club, and we members have grown to appreciate its distinction.

Jackalyn and your scribe retired from teaching careers with the Upper Canada Board of Education. Jackie then joined the Westport Town Council, while I contented myself with the renovation of a stone house, acres of little trees, and miscellaneous scribbles.

Don retired from the Lupin Mine in Northwest Territories where he had worked as a maintenance planner for Echo Bay Mines – would you believe he commuted from Westport throughout his career? He told me once their schedule involved two weeks on, two weeks off, and workers were flown to Edmonton for their leave. Don found that for a bit more per trip he could switch for a ticket to Ottawa, so he came home instead. Apparently his co-workers used to commute from as far away as Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

Following the publication of the carefully-researched In the Shadow of Detroit: Gordon M. McGregor, Ford of Canada, and Motoropolis, David retired two years ago from his position as an editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography at the University of Toronto.

Jim’s currently Head of Library Systems & Technical Services at the Ontario College of Art. Nancy Jane is a veteran operating room nurse at Hotel Dieu and the Kingston General Hospital. Both admit that they are on the glide path to retirement, hoping for a smooth landing when they touch down. I don’t know if our comments at Saturday’s dinner will be of much help in this regard. The concept of the glide path seemed to bring out the black humour in everyone, but they can count on our support: we’ve been through it.

Jim, Stephanie, and elder daughter Corin hosted this year’s annual lunch at the family home on the shore of the Otonabee River in Lakefield. In this sumptuous location we gathered to exercise our digital cameras, accost passers-by from our chairs on the lawn, swap yarns, look at albums, and generally renew acquaintances.

Once we got past the inevitable animal stories, banter moved on to the Forrester family’s propensity to save everything in albums. An old photo of Chick Garvin’s service station reminded me of the time Johnny Bennett touched off some fumes in the tank of my dad’s pickup truck and blew himself out of the grease pit and through the doors of the garage. As I recall (Don confirmed it) Johnny wasn’t seriously hurt in the blast, though the truck needed a new gas tank and the garage doors never recovered.

In a group rant we discovered that automated phone messages have reached a new level of aggravation. Dave reported that a Rexall pharmacy in Scarborough has set up an automatic system which calls clients each day to remind them to take their pills. This produced no end of variations: “Good evening, Mr. Croskery. You have five days to live unless you renew your prescription. Please press (1) if you would like to order more pills, or press (2) to speak to a funeral director for alternate arrangements.”

Jackie and David swapped gambling stories on cruises. Apparently both succumbed to peer pressure and made a bet or two. Jackie turned her winnings into a bottle of champagne, and on another cruise David took his $112 in Bingo profits and ran back to the railing to watch the islands rise from the sea as they cruised the Patagonian coast line.

Jim and Stephanie wheeled out some fresh photos of Newfoundland fjords. Just back from visits to New Zealand and Alberta, Corin’s passionate concern about pollution in the Alberta Tar Sands project bumped up against local concerns about uranium mining and the current environmental initiative in New Zealand to reduce greenhouse gas production from flatulent sheep. The fun of retirement is that none of us, except possibly Corin, has any need to resolve such problems over dinner.

Now that she and her dad are at the cottage while her kids renovate the house in Kingston, Nancy Jane is free to enjoy her long daily swims in the pleasant waters of the Little Rideau instead of Lake Ontario.

As an enthusiastic member of the Westport Arts Council, Jackie made sure I warned readers to set aside time for Music Westport, on August 16th. Stages at Foley House, The Cove, and the lawn of Doctor Stevens’s house will feature a variety of blues, jazz and folk artists, with The Abrams Family headlining.

Stephanie and Corin Ford Forrester have a busy summer ahead with a variety of shows of their artwork. You may catch up with their schedules at http://www.stephaniefordforrester.ca (art quilts) and www.corinfordforrester.com (photos).

Amid all of this erudite conversation, this year we actually produced a resolution:

We, the above-named, hereby claim to be the largest “Old Eight” group in existence. We’re happy to make this claim if it brings forth any other graduating classes who have kept in touch.

If you are out there, intact and in contact, please post a comment below this article at https://rodcroskery.wordpress.com

As this is the forty-fifth anniversary of our graduation, we feel quite smug in our assurance that we’re the oldest and/or the largest intact grade-eight-graduation group around, but we look forward to hearing from other interesting associations which have stood the test of time.

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One Response to “Old Eights: in touch and intact after 45 years”

  1. Josh Maxwell Says:

    Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!


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