Writing conversation : Report from Regis

Regi

Catharine writes :

I was fortunate indeed to be in Kingston, Ontario, for the magnificent, multi-generational celebration of Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School’s 175th anniversary.

My husband Neil McKenty taught there as a young Jesuit in the early ’50s. The 1954 annual yearbook shows him right in his element surrounded by the keen members of the highly-acclaimed Regi Debate Society, at ease in the book-lined, tall-shelved school library.  There’s Joe Coyle the president and Ed Koen, the vice-president, with their team who have just won a prize from Radio station CKWS (Neil had won his first oratorical contest at age nine back in his hometown of Hastings, see story here.)

“I can still visualize Neil after all these years.” Ed remembers.

He was a pretty commanding personality in the classroom. He taught us to articulate; there was no mumbling or slurring your words, no sloppy diction. I can still hear him pronouncing the word ‘Squirrel’, exaggerating each syllable, until you could practically see the little critter scampering across the room.”

“I was a bit introverted, quite shy – having grown up on a farm 12 miles north of Kingston and gone to a one-room wooden schoolhouse. Imagine the impact coming to Regi with its cosmopolitan student body from all over North, Central and South America, Mexico and China. Our football quarterback, Palyeo Gutierrez was later shot with all his family in the Cuban revolution.”

“Neil understood where I was coming from and encouraged, pushed me along. I can still remember the excitement of the Debating Society trip to Hastings, the small town where Neil had grown up. I think we stayed at the rectory.”

“There were some real characters among the students, wild-oat types sent by their harried parents to shape up. Jesuit discipline for those 40 years when they took over the school was pretty strict. Some of the wilder students considered it much like a penitentiary. Any noise after lights out in the dorm immediately resulted in two hours on your knees out on the hard floor of that drafty corridor.”

“Neil taught English and History. When I was still in grade 12, he encouraged me and others to have a shot at preparing for and trying one of the tough Grade 13 exams, to lighten our load in that last year and he spent hours tutoring us to get us through. I also remember one day when he was briefly out of the classroom, a fellow sitting near me got fed up with the mess of old notes in the wooden drawer of his school-desk and set fire to it. The whole drawer went wildly up in flames, so he simply picked it up and calmly chucked it out of the nearest window – luckily there were no repercussions that time!”

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