It was because of school patrol. When I was in fifth grade at Connaught School in Calgary, I got to be a Junior School Patrol. It was just Junior because the fifth graders were considered to just be in training to be a real School Patrol once graduated into grade six. You got to wear a shield badge on your School Patrol belt, showing that you were there to shield the little kids from danger while crossing the road. You had to be in grade six to be chosen as the School Patrol Captain or one of the Lieutenants. The Captain got to wear a golden shield and the Lieutenants wore silver shields. At Connaught School the Captain was a boy named Lance. He was the smartest boy in the whole school and good looking. The Lieutenants were all girls. This is what a School Patrol looked like:
You had to come to school a bit early so you could stand at your corner and walk out into the street with your hand held stop sign to make cars stop when the little kids needed to cross the street. It was an important job, so little kids wouldn’t get killed. But nobody stood on McIntosh and Brazier Street, in Winnipeg. It wasn’t because there was no School Patrol assigned. McIntosh and Brazier was Alan Peron’s post.
Alan Peron lived right across the street from our house at 248 McIntosh. It was the same distance to school from his house as it was from mine. But Alan Peron could never get out of bed in time to make it to his post before the kids had to cross the street to the school. The post was unguarded. I don’t think anybody got killed there, but it could have happened, even though there were very few cars that drove through that intersection. A car could have driven over a kid and squished him like roadkill, like a squirrel or a cat that cars just drive over and over again until all that is left on the pavement is a bloody stain and bits of hair.
One day our teacher, Mr. Ewart, said to the class, we need a patrol for McIntosh and Brazier, are there any volunteers. Being an experienced School Patrol, I, of course, put my hand up. I was chosen and the next day I had my School Patrol belt, a stop sign and I stood faithfully on the corner.
Alan Peron took exception to me having taken his job. But I had nothing against Alan, I was simply chosen because he had been continuously derelict in his duty. He didn’t care. He stood on the corner and berated me, called me a thief and a wagon burner. Eventually I’d had enough. I told Alan that as soon as I was off duty that I would fight him. He pretended to be a tough gangster kind of kid and threatened that he would beat me to a pulp. So after School Patrol duty, on the corner of McIntosh and Brazier, we fought.
I wasn’t a big kid, back then, but Alan Peron was smaller than me. He was short and skinny and had gangster hair that he probably spent lots of time combing. We wrestled a bit but then I stepped back and put myself in a boxing stance. Alan rushed me to wrestle more and just then I smashed him right in the face. He had a large nose, for a small kid. I caught it flush. He yelped, his eyes watered. He couldn’t see me clearly and so he just flailed. This is how he looked:
By then the Evil Sister, on her way home from the Junior High Lord Selkirk, came upon the corner. She yelled at us. Called us stupid for fighting and ordered us to stop. I wasn’t ready to stop. I had taken enough taunting from Alan Peron that I figured he deserved a good beating and since he was no good at boxing, I had the upper hand. But just then, the priest that lived in the house right at the corner of McIntosh and Brazier, came rushing out, grabbed Alan and me around our necks and banged our heads together. He ordered us to stop fighting and we had to listen to him because he was a priest (a priest having similar authority to a policeman). He made us shake hands.
We parted and walked home, each on our own side of the street. Alan walked home with his friend Leonard Belisle and I walked with the Evil Sister, her cackling in my ear the whole time.
But Alan still had hard feelings, even though I clearly beat him up. He continued to taunt me. The next day I went across the street to his house, to fight him again, but his friend Leonard Belisle intervened. Leonard was bigger and stronger than Alan and decided he would fight in Alan’s place. We wrestled. Leonard rammed me, pushing me backward through a hedgerow. I fell to the ground and smashed the back of my head on the sidewalk and the fight was over. Leonard stopped fighting. Maybe he thought he killed me.
After that Alan and Leonard and I became best friends. Alan and I hung out together all the time and Leonard even let me borrow his hockey equipment when our team got to play an indoor hockey game. After I got to know Alan, I could tell that he was just like me, except his family was even poorer than mine. And even though they were poorer, when I’d call on Alan to walk to school, his mom would always give me something nice to eat, like a brownie or a piece of warm bread.
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