When One Door Closes

As many of you know, I am a municipal reporter and columnist. For the newspaper this week I combined the two elements in my column, and though this may seem a local story, it is one that is played out across the years and across the miles:

Stone One-room School (c.1820)

Stone One-room School (c.1820) (Photo credit: origamidon)

INTRO

            “At the Board meeting of November 20, 2012, the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) approved the closure of the Ruthven Public School effective June 30, 2013 and declared the school surplus to the needs of the Board.”

            The above paragraph was included in a notice to the Town of Kingsville in April along with the announcement that the GECDSB was issuing a proposal to offer the property for sale at a fair market value to a number of organizations. Yes, that is a door you hear closing.

WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES

            School closings are hard. They are hard on the children who called the Ruthven Public School their school. They are hard on the teachers and staff who taught and worked at the school. They are hard on the community. And they are hard as they close a door never to be opened again.

            The saying “when one door closes another one opens” is trite but true. The students from Ruthven will be transferred to other schools, the majority to Jack Miner, and I am here to say that the transition will work. How do I know? Because many many years ago my school was closed and I was transferred to Jack Miner Public School (at the time it was Gosfield South Public School). The difference was I went from a one room school house to what we referred to as the “big school”. The transition for the Ruthven students should not be as daunting.

            At the time I was transferred a lot of the one room school houses in the area were closed so I was not the only deer caught in the headlights of a big change. At my school, six grades were taught in one room, while the grades ones and twos were taught in the boys’ and girls’ rooms—the rooms that housed our coats and bathrooms. We were civilized though—the bathrooms were closed off from the main part of the boys’ and girls’ rooms—so the six and seven year olds were not being taught how to read with Dick and Jane, Puff and Spot in the presence of the toilets.

            I remember my first day at the “big school”. I had to take a bus to get to the school which was a scary adventure in itself. Then when I arrived at the school there was some confusion as to where to go. The newbies had not been introduced to the new school beforehand (which on reflection would have been a really really good idea). When things were sorted out, I found myself sitting in a classroom of about 30 kids all the same age. We were pretty well all ten years old, and in my class many of us were like fish out of water—joining kids whose home school was Gosfield South. I guess we were somewhat of a foreign entity, and I heard rumours later that our intelligence was in question as no one was certain if the kids coming from the one room schools were up to speed.  Speaking on behalf of my cohorts— we were.

            I do not remember the transition taking long. I liked my new school, and my teacher went to my church so that was comforting. There were quite a few of us in the same boat so it seemed to go pretty smoothly. There were a lot of advantages to going to a bigger school though I missed some of the community feel of my little school. To this day I do not regret the opportunity afforded us.

            Kids are resilient. They cope because they have to—and what is at first strange and weird becomes normal. I feel badly for the students who may no longer be able to walk to school, and be “hugged” by their tightknit community, but speaking from experience, adopting a new school is not insurmountable. Economics govern and we may see some other closures and adaptations in the future. I know if my kids were affected I would be concerned—but moms and dads, students and teachers: consider this a new and exciting adventure. It is the only way to at first, muddle through; second: assimilate; and, third: enjoy the ride.

CONCLUSION

            I leave you with these words from Anna Quindlen, from her book, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life”: “I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and today is the only guarantee you get.” Enjoy your summer vacation knowing a new “today” is awaiting you.

Do you have a similar story?

My Little Town – Paul Simon Revisited

MV Jiimaan leaves port at Kingsville for Pelee...

MV Jiimaan leaves port at Kingsville for Pelee Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was published in a newspaper called The Daytripper that is distributed in southwestern Ontario. Written in answer to the question: ‘What makes your town worth a daytrip”, it will give you a little glimpse into my hometown. When I was younger, I sang along with Paul Simon and agreed with his despair in living in a small town. I no longer have angst about small town living—having married a hometown boy and raised my sons here. I have lived in the town “proper” for the last 32 years. Without further ado:

~ An Appealing Town ~

“You may no longer hear the strains of “The Mettawas Waltz” from the former Mettawas Hotel that once made Kingsville famous, but the town is one of the most picturesque in the area.  Despite the fact that whiskey magnate and owner of the Mettawas, Hiram Walker, pulled up stakes from the town long ago, it has grown and flourished.  And it is no wonder:  located on the shores of Lake Erie, it is a quaint, yet modern mini metropolis that has not lost its small town feel.

Coat of arms of the town of Kingsville, Ontario.

Coat of arms  Town of Kingsville, Ontario. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A town is more than its location. While we vie for the title of southernmost town in Ontario with some of our neighbours, it is in our community spirit that we excel. I know this because I attend and cover the Town Council meetings for the local newspaper. The people of Kingsville love their town and want it to grow, while at the same time not risk losing its appealing charm. In fact, our logo a few years back dubbed us the Port of Appeal.

Council meetings in our happily amalgamated town can be quite lively, especially if it concerns something the residents are passionate about.  Preservation of our historic homes and buildings has taken a front seat since people started to become aware that some of our heritage buildings were being razed without proper notice. One very shining example of a community project is our Train Station, restored to its former glory, and currently open to the public in its reincarnation as a restaurant.  We have a state-of-the-art library in the town core (one of three within the municipal town limits), located in a refurbished building that was sitting empty. Its former home, a Carnegie building, is being considered for new life as a possible Arts and Visitors Centre, instead of being a target for the wrecking ball. (Since this was written, the Carnegie has been beautifully refurbished and is not only an Arts and Visitors Centre but also our Tourist Information Centre.)

We have it all—small shops, restaurants galore, specialty stores, as well as big markets and large retailers. They all fit neatly into the puzzle that is our town.  While the town proper is a hub of activity, our municipality of Kingsville boasts fertile farmland, a fishing industry, and manufacturing. Amalgamation gave Kingsville a big bonus–the villages of Cottam and Ruthven, which each have their own unique attractions.

I have lived in this area all of my life, except for a sojourn in the big city of Windsor for post-secondary education (for seven short years). For the first twenty years of my life I was a “country girl” and grew up in a close knit community (with amalgamation, my old community is now part of the municipality of Kingsville) where school and church were the centres of social activities, and a trip to town was always something to look forward to. For the last —-ahem, number of years I have lived in an older area of the town proper. Having resided in both the rural and urban areas of Kingsville, I have come to the conclusion that it is the people of the municipality that makes this area special. I think it must be something in the water. And it is not just the fish.

Kingsville has beautiful Lakeside Park with rolling hills just right for winter tobogganing, stately trees to picnic under, and a Pavilion that hosts all kinds of activities year round. It is most notably home to the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary, and just a few minutes away are the historical John R. Park Homestead, and a gem that is truly a well-kept secret that must be revealed: the Canadian Transportation Museum and Village. With wineries galore, (at least 13 and growing within 20 miles) Kingsville is a destination truly worthy of any daytrip!”

So, if you are ever in my area, drop by my “little town”—it is only about 30 miles from the Windsor/Detroit border. We do not care what anyone else says—we are the southernmost point in Canada. As Christmas approaches, the town is lit up with snowflakes on our main streets, and we have the Fantasy of Lights in Lakeside Park.

Are you a big city dweller, small town girl or boy, or do you enjoy country life? What does your town do for Christmas?