Linda Hutsell-Manning

Novels Plays Poems Stories

The Front Road School West

A New Beginning

On a hot day early in July 1963, I sit nervously on a straight-backed chair in a narrow, airless foyer of the Cold Springs Hall. I'm waiting to be interviewed for a Hamilton Township teaching position in a one room school between Cobourg and Port Hope. Two Cobourg town school interviews have been unsuccessful, it seems to me, because after Teachers' College graduation, I chose not to pursue teaching. My interviewers inferred I was out of touch with current teaching methods and therefore, not a suitable candidate.

My confidence is at a low ebb and I am sure this position is my last chance. Before applying for this job, I had no idea one room schools still existed, especially in southern Ontario. Teacher's College, a one year course with only minimal classroom teaching has given me no practical preparation for such a job. I don't care.

I need to teach two years out of five in order to obtain my permanent teaching certificate and, as I have spent over two years travelling with my husband as his job moved, I know time is of the essence. The most practical plan is to live in our home town, Cobourg, and stay with my kind mother-in-law, Rosemonde Manning who has offered to look after my now one-year-old son, Bruce. This job interview is my last chance at teaching in the area.

When I hear my name called, I stand, determined to be calm. The not too spacious Board Room is in dark panelled wood, a long table down its centre. Seated around, looking weathered, some still in their barn clothes, are the Hamilton Township Board Members.

          "Mrs. Manning?" a man at the end of the table asks, a bit gruffly it seems to me.

          "Sit down, sit down," someone else adds.

          I sit in the end chair, acutely aware of six or is it seven sets of middle-aged male eyes scrutinizing me.

          "I see you graduated from Toronto Teachers' College in 1961," the man at the end begins.

          "Yes," I manage before my throat constricts. I know what the next question will be.

          "And you didn't teach for the next two years as you went with your husband, James, to Northern Quebec," another man adds.

          I nod, feeling my face reddening. The town schools did not take kindly to this information, rather they seemed to hold it against me as some deficiency in my moral character.

          "That would be Russell Manning's son?" another pipes up.

          I nod again.  

          "And what would this husband of yours be doing in the wilds of northern Quebec?" another Board Member asks.

          I can't help but wonder what this has to do with my teaching ability but dutifully reply. "He was installing computers in Military Bases on the Pine Tree Defence Line," I say.

          They seem impressed by this, nodding and making notes. I am beginning to feel a little like Alice and I know I have not fallen down a rabbit hole.

          "Do you have any experience in a one room school?"

          "Not directly," I reply, "but I did attend Baltimore Public School from grade six to eight and was in the senior room of the two room school there."

          "Miss Hogg," another man barked out, slapping his knee. "Now there was a cracker-jack of a teacher."

          "She taught in this very school," another adds.

          "She did that. 1957, I think it was," someone else offers.

          More note scribbling. At this point, I want the interview to end. I can't see what this has to do with my suitability as a teacher for this school.

          There is a momentary lull and I consider, for a second or two, jumping up and bolting. Am I so unsuitable that they are asking random general questions, nothing about how I would handle a given discipline situation or what approach I would take to a particular subject.

          "Mrs. Manning?" The man closest to me is staring, tapping his index finger on the table. "Didn't you tap dance at the Baltimore Community Centre?"

          I nod, feeling my throat tighten again. This is beyond ridiculous. "A long time ago," I manage to say. "The Judy Welch School of Dance."

          "You were real good," someone else offers.

          More scribbling.

          I wait, feeling sweat running down my back, inside my Playtex girdle and, I'm sure, staining under my arms.

          The man at the end of the table stands up. "That will be all," he says. "Thank you Mrs. Manning."

        By the time I am in the car and on the highway, tears blur my vision. I blink furiously and pound the steering wheel. I don't want to teach anyway. I'll find something else. Another job. Who needs teaching?

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