I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Entwistle School lately. You know, skulking in the hallways, scaring the children, stuff like that. I’m kidding! About six months ago, the Entwistle Public Library was consolidated with the Entwistle School Library, thus moving the library into the school. This has many benefits over the old library. The Entwistle Public Library used to be open really odd hours: 6-8 on Wednesday night and 10-12 on Saturday morning. That was it. But now, it’s open whenever the school’s open! Plus, no offence to the little old ladies who used to run the Entwistle Library, but now that it’s in the school, we have a real, competent librarian working…one who knows how to order in good books from the bigger libraries. And, since these were the kind of changes I’d been lobbying for over the past decade or so, I figured it was time to start supporting my local library again.
It’s kind of weird going back to the school now that I’m so big and old. I never went back when I finished grade 9 and moved onto high school. It’s amazing how much it’s changed. I’d linger by the old trophy cases, seeing if I can find my name on all those academic awards I worked so hard to get. Didn’t find my name. My name plates appear to have been pried off to make way for future generations. And, try as I might, I could not find the cup that went to the house with the most points.
What’s that, you say? The house with the most points? Did Mark go to Hogwarts when he was boy? No, I’m no wizard. Long before it was popularized in Harry Potter, Entwistle School was divided into houses. It was drilled into me on my very first day of the first grade. As soon as you walked through the front door, you were greeted with a massive board telling you about the four houses and how many points each one had. And each one was named for a colour: Red, Blue, Green, and Gold.
There was no magic sorting hat with these houses. We were all divided up by the principal, who kept the master list in his office. This was all explained to me on the first day. It was with pride that I was told my house was Gold. That was the same one as my brother! To this day, I’m certain that we were divided up alphabetically.
I had been in the first grade for about a month when we had our first and only meeting. The order of business: develop a house rallying cry. It was a rather intense situation for a 6-year old. Here I was, crammed in the little tiny junior high science lab, with people from all walks of life: my fellow first graders, the o-so-cool fourth graders, and those scary-as-hell junior high kids. One of those junior high kids stood at the front of the room and introduced himself as the house captain. There, in that room, we hammered out a slogan…a mission statement…a rallying cry…”Gold is Bold!” For the rest of the school year, I knew that the house was everything.
As we were told, throughout the year, we could do things to get points for our houses. Of course, I was never clear on what those things were. The big one, though, where houses were made and broken, was at the school track meet. I’m sure every school has a track and field day. Every event won points for our house. And the day ended with big “all-school” relay race. The teams represented each house. A first grader would pass the baton to a second grader, and then to a third grader, and so on and such forth until the ninth graders ended it. It was the only time of the year that the houses were in direct competition with each other.
The second grade was even more exciting than the first. When we were choosing who would represent the class in the relay race team, someone actually said I was pretty fast and chose me! So, me and the other two fastest kids went outside, ran a quick little footrace, and I came in dead last, and thus didn’t make the relay team. Oh, well.
And then…grade three. The school was under new management. And I guess the houses weren’t as important to the new principal. There was no grand meeting at the start of the year to organize the house. I never met the house captain. And the board at the front of the school that kept track of all the points? Gone.
And just like that it seemed like the houses were gone. Don’t get me wrong, they still existed in a somewhat diminished form. They needed some way to split the school into teams on track and field day…and that became increasingly important as the physical-fitness-nut principal added an autumn track and filed day and a winter track and field day. But, without the meeting at the start of the year, there was nothing to make it feel like a team. It became so meaningless.
In about grade four, I was shuffled over to Green. In junior high, I heard a rumour from a friend of a friend that I was now in Blue. With so many students having moved out and joined over the years, I was one of the few who still remembered about the houses…and what that trophy meant at the big awards assembly at the end of the year. With the summer track and field day being just a few weeks before the awards assembly, it had become nothing more than an award to the winning team.
And that was my last experience with the houses. I was at the awards assembly for grade nine…my last awards assembly ever. As I was watching my greatest rival walk away with every academic award, my homeroom teacher came up and tapped me on the shoulder. See, since there was such poor management of the houses at this point, no one knew who the house captain was for Green…if there even was a house captain. So, I’d just been arbitrarily chosen as the Green house leader, and got to accept the house cup on behalf of Green.
But that was it. A rather unceremonious end to what started as the most ceremonious part of my elementary/junior high experience. This all came back to me as I walked through the halls of Entwistle School as I went to pick up my latest library books. When my whole school experience started the whole concept of the house was drilled into me, but it was all but forgotten by the end of it. But I don’t care. I still remember it. AS I walked down those hallowed halls of learning, I sometimes stopped and listened really carefully, and I could still here those words: “Gold is Bold.”