Monklands High School Memories

Peter Tagieff (Class of '68)

Must say my days at MHS were not terribly productive as I really wanted to stay at Westmount High but due to a family move and a spot of trouble I had to change schools. Actually was under the impression that I had enrolled at West Hill HS as that is where I had intended to go to school and play football for them. Who would have thought that a High School located on West Hill Ave was not called West Hill HS?  Took me four days to realize my mistake and was denied a transfer request by the then Football Coach Ross Firth. He was adamant that I had to play for him and I was  equally adamant that I would not play for a person such as him (this was a bit of feud that had carried over from my oldest brother dealing with Mr Firth will he was attending the High School of Montreal and Mr Firth was coaching at Verdun High). Needless to say that I was a very unhappy student whilst at MHS. Certainly my saving graces were Mrs Rohr and Mrs Beck who convinced me to make the most of my opportunities at MHS - would dearly love to pass on my thank yous to them. 

Jim Leworthy (Class of  '60)

I came across your pages about Monklands this evening. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned teacher R. M. (Bob) Kouri (French and my classroom, grade 10).  He was quite a character.  In the '90s, after he'd retired from teaching, he worked with a company where I was a Vice-President.  I was his 'boss' and, due to cutbacks, had to terminate him - we joked about it as being every student's dream. He really fired up the spirit in our class.  We made up words to the  Mickey Mouse theme and sang it when he entered the class many mornings  (R-O-B-E-R-T  K-O-U-R-I etc).  We even draped his name, outside, across  the full length of the class windows. My personal funniest classroom experience with him was one hot day when he walked into the class and accused me of sitting in the nude (contrary to the dress code,  it appeared that I didn't have a tie).  I said I did - he made me stand
up and let me get away with the clip-on tie that I had on my trouser pocket saying that the dress code didn't specify where I had to wear  it.  He 'clarified' that, in future, it was to be around the neck. He was a great teacher and motivator! 

There was a fellow named Basil Bark at Monklands after I'd left. Hiis picture is in the '63 annual holding the football in the team  picture.  My sister knows him but I didn't personally.  He may be of  interest in your personality section.  His story is  here  He played for the Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders and is a founding  partner of the Forzani Group which has the following retail operations:  Sport Chek, Sport Mart, Coast Mountain and National Sports. It is also  franchisor of 160 stores under the banners Sports Experts, Intersport, Atmosphere, RnR, Tech Shop, Econosports and Nevada Bob's.  (In the  article, his first wife's surname is misspelled as Talaisy - it should  be Palaisy - a '63 MHS grad).

Pat Beaven (Class of '66)

My years at Monklands are an incredible memory for so many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it was there that I fell totally and unconditionally in love with theatre!  I was fortunate to be in a school where Drama Club was an important activity, and the productions well-regarded around the high school drama circuit.  From the very first time I auditioned for Mrs. Rohr (and truthfully, I had never HEARD the word "audition" at that point; they were "try-outs" as I recall!), I was hooked.  I was an understudy in my first show ("Time Out for Ginger"), which meant that I had to attend every rehearsal, write down every stage direction, with little or no hope of ever actually getting on stage.  Did I care?  Not really ... those afternoons and evenings, those Saturday mornings, spent crouched in the darkness of the auditorium, watching, learning, soaking it all in, just feeling 'part' of something growing and exciting beyond belief ... were blissfully satisfying.  Mrs. Rohr's direction (seemed she knew so much!), her insistence on commitment, her quest for just the right move, the perfect inflection, her own obvious love of the whole process instilled something burning in me, something that would not be ignored!  Next year I was on stage!  And never looked back. After leaving high school, I went the usual route of progressing to work in community theatre (we called it 'little theatre' in those days!), then regional and summer theatre across Ontario, on to film and TV work - all the usual Canadian stuff: Night Heat, Street Legal, The Edison Twins, King of Kensington, Neon Rider, Degrassi Junior High, etc., etc., etc.  I'm still acting and have also been teaching drama for the past five years - privately, for the school board, and in after school programs, for children from the age of four, teens, adults, right up to the over-60's!  And it all started at Monklands, with Mrs. Rohr, to whom I owe an incredible debt of gratitude.  I'm glad I looked her up and got a chance to thank her before she passed away.

Larry Maler (Class of '73)

Here's a memory I have of Monklands:  History was not a course of which I was fond in high school.  My favourite history teacher, however was Mr. Novosel.  Part of his attraction was his charming East-European accent, and part of it was his world-view.  He was a staunch anti-communist, having served hard time in the political prisons of the Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito.  I remember that whenever Mr. Novosel had to say something about the hard life of ordinary people in historical times, he would strike a bored pose and intone, "Yes, yes, de peasants ver oppressed, suppressed, depressed, and all dese tra-la-las."  History was made tolerable to an eighth-grader because of his wonderful delivery of the subject.  And today, as an adult, I actually like reading history.

Keith Mitchell (MHS 1956-1958)

A Scottish Homecoming To Monklands High School That Was

During 1956-1958 I was a student at Monklands High School during the period my father and I lived in two flats in Montreal, one at Randall Avenue and the other at Melrose Avenue. Sad to say, my time at Monklands is now one of extremely fractured and faded memories, as I ended up being shifted around quite a bit as a young boy. I had spent most of the previous four years in what used to be called Shawinigan Falls, (now just plain Shawinigan), with a few months in Edinburgh on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. On finally leaving Montreal in the summer of 1958, I returned to permanent residency in my native country of Scotland.

 Over the passing years I have from time to time thought about my life in Canada, but it was not until last year, that thanks to the Internet, I began to do a bit of research into the places I used to know in the Province of Quebec. With the aid of Google maps, for example, I was able to see images of the area of NDG, including the streets and approximate areas where I used to live and play, but for a long time I had great trouble trying to pin down where Monklands High used to be, as the name refused to come up on the map. I soon found out why! Eventually, thanks to the hard work put into "The Lost Schools of English Montreal" website put together by Dr Christopher Milligan and  Wes Cross, I discovered a great deal to interest me, about the history and final demise of my old school at West Hill Avenue. I was particularly pleased to see a copy of the 1958 issue of the Banner, the existence of which I didn't even know about. It was here that one little memory problem was solved, when the photo of one of my teachers, Mr W Jamieson jumped out at me. I had for some reason always thought his name was "Harrison." Just goes to show the tricks the mind can play on you. Then I saw the photo of Mr W R Elliott, and his image instantly jogged a memory cord within me. Sad to say, I was unable to recognise anyone else, which although perhaps understandable, I find truly strange! Thanks to Chris, I also discovered that during 1957-58, I was actually in Grade 9, something I had totally forgotten about. It is quite amazing how little things like that can catch up with you in some very uncanny ways!

 As mentioned above, my basic memories of school-life are indeed very limited. However, I do remember taking part in one of the Sports Days, although in what capacity I have no idea, except that it might have been in a race of some sort. I also recollect making a small, black painted coffee type table in metal work. I can still recall exactly how it looked, but it was really most annoying that I was unable to take it back to Scotland with me. Wonder if someone still has it there in Montreal! Then there was a concert of some kind I took part in. I remember being up on the stage of the main hall with many other students, but what we were celebrating is now a complete mystery to me. I do remember being very unhappy that my father was not there to see me take part.

 And so a time in my life came when I decided to make something of an adventure and explore some of my old haunts in Canada. The opportunity to do this arose after my daughter Diane moved from Scotland to work at the Britannia Mining Museum in "Beautiful British Columbia." So my wife Helen and I decided to make a real safari of it and visit Shawinigan and Montreal before taking the famous train journeys on The Canadian and Rocky Mountaineer.

 At the beginning of May this year (2009), Helen and I flew from Glasgow Airport and I "girded up my loins" as the old saying goes, more particularly because having flown the Herring Pond as it is sometimes known over here, some six times, I regret to say that I am now one of those folk that tends to get a little nervous when getting on a plane. That said, we arrived in Toronto in the early evening, and bright and early next morning we caught the first flight up to Montreal. There we met Diane, along with a rented car and she then drove us up to Shawinigan where we had a really good day in beautifully hot and bright sunshine, going round the old High School there. This was made all the more perfect with the help of a new friend we had made while making enquiries about our trip. We had a fantastic time going around the school; even sitting in seats I had seen or sat in over 50 years previous. Then it was back to Montreal in the evening. It was late when we got back, but after a meal we strolled up to Rue St Catherine, but a lot had changed since I had lived in the city. However, next morning we drove through the busy traffic to NDG with our SatNav and Google maps in hand. Very quickly I found myself looking at the flat we stayed in at Melrose Avenue. On the whole it did not seem to have changed very much except that the trees had grown a great deal, which I suppose is only natural! After a quick photo-shoot, we drove down to Randall Avenue, and unless the house numbering system has been changed since the 1950's, I did find the very basement flat my father and I lived in. In driving around the area, I got the overall impression that the area had changed very little in many ways, and for nostalgic reasons I found that quite heartening. By following the map, I was able to recreate my daily walk to and from Monklands High School; although on this occasion we got there by car. We slowly drove up Avenue Randall to Avenue Somerled, then into Avenue Borden and up onto Rue De Terrebonne, where I got my first glimpse of what had been my old school. I must say I did find it rather odd calling all the streets by their French names, when as I recall, we always used to call them by their English designations. On this occasion we drove up Avenue Madison finally swinging round into Avenue West Hill. Luckily we were able to park quite easily, and both Helen and Diane patiently let me wander amongst my memories as I inspected the outside architecture of the Monklands High School that was. To begin with I walked up the centre steps, and nosily peered inside the glass doors. It somehow seemed very strange not to be able to walk inside and go up to the old classrooms I used to attend, but there you go – that's life, or progress I suppose they call it nowadays. After posing to have my photo taken, I walked very slowly around the whole building, hoping that perhaps a few new memories might return, but although I tried extremely hard, very little new came back to me. Looking at the flats which now stand where the Sports Ground once stood, almost seemed surreal to me, but then I forced myself to realize that a lot of water had passed under the bridge since I had last stood on this spot. I then met up with Helen and Diane again who were standing patiently waiting by the car in Avenue Benny. And so after a bit of hesitation, we set off looking for a little park I used to play in, the name of which I now discovered for the first time. It was in fact Parc Trenholme, but its name was really irrelevant on this occasion. So as we drove up Boulevard Cavendish, I caught one more glimpse of the school, now a little smaller, standing on the other side of Parc Benny. We managed to stop the car, and I got one last photograph for my memory collection. And so it was off to downtown Montreal, a rail trip to Toronto - and all things pointing west.

 I am grateful for the opportunity of thanking Chris and Wes for all their hard work on the website, and for allowing me to pass on my experiences to other alumni members of this part of Montreal's English speaking heritage. I would be delighted to reminisce with any students of Monklands, particularly those who were students there between 1956 and 1958.