Gee, but it's hard when one lowers one's guard to the vultures.
They began tearing down the old school next to our home last week. It was an ugly scene. The first part to be destroyed dated from 1875, when it was known as the St Marys Collegiate Institute. Built in the Italian Renaissance style, it was an impressive structure for so small a town. As the town grew, so did the school, with each extension less attractive than the last. An argument can be made that the devastation began long before the excavators showed up.
My wife put it best in a letter published earlier this year in our local newspaper:
Where were its advocates when the destruction started and the first of its many abysmal additions took form? Each a tumorous growth, defacing and deforming the once elegant building into a grotesque lump of bricks, as a mass it attracts no sympathy. The final insults now come through acts of vandalism committed by clueless, aimless, aggressive teens. But then, why should they care about this school when preceding generations did not? Children learn by example.The building spent its last days as Arthur Meighen Public School, named in honour of the prime minister who had been educated within its walls. The nicest thing I can think to say about Meighen is that he considered Shakespeare the greatest Englishman of history. Meighen was a better speechwriter than politician, which is to say that he demonstrated real talent in putting words on paper but was otherwise a bastard. Fellow Collegiate alumnus Rev Dr Charles Gordon recognized him as such. Of course, we Canadians know Gordon as "Ralph Connor," the novelist who one hundred years ago dominated bestseller lists.
I lie. We don't remember the man – not even in St Marys.
The father of David Donnell, recipient of the 1983 Governor General's Award for Poetry, taught at the Collegiate. Fellow poet Ingrid Ruthig was a student during the years it was known as North Ward Public School. My daughter, Astrid, attended in its final days as Arthur Meighen.
Last week I saw a roof constructed in the nineteenth-century by local carpenters destroyed by a monster machine from the United States. I saw joists cut from trees that had grown in the time of Lord Simcoe being smashed to bits.
I turned away as a woman shed a tear at the loss.
Shame on me?
Shame on this town.