The City of Owen Sound is located on the southern shores of Georgian Bay in a valley below the sheer rock cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Owen Sound is characterized by a magnificent harbour and bay, two winding rivers, tree-lined streets, an extensive parks system, and tree-covered hillsides and ravines, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Owen Sound is the largest urban community in Grey and Bruce Counties, which combined represent a primary commercial market of 158,000. Owen Sound is the seat of the County of Grey government, and is the location for a number of regional, provincial and federal government offices. There are twelve elementary schools, three secondary schools, and six private schools in addition to a Georgian College campus.
The downtown, recently refurbished and reminiscent of the 1900s, offers an economy that is balanced and diversified. The Heritage Place Shopping Centre on the east side complements the vibrant, scenic downtown core and other arterial shopping areas.
By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
My arms were full. I had at least eight paper grocery bags, folded and tucked between my arms and my stomach. I only needed four, maybe less. Mom, ever efficient, insisted on sending extra. “There might be some of your fellow classmates who don’t have any,” she explained.
“Or they forgot to bring them,” I added. I knew several of the boys in my class were always conveniently forgetting to do homework or to bring something to class.
“You might also make a mistake in your measurements,” Mom suggested.
I was taken aback. Only slightly, though. I knew mistakes could happen, but I liked to think I was above the error of cutting the paper bag incorrectly.
So, here I was with a healthy supply. More than I would need. I only had four textbooks to cover: Arithmetic, Spelling, Reading and Social Studies. It was an annual ritual: first week of class and we were assigned textbooks and instructed to cover them with carefully folded paper dust covers. It was an attempt to protect the books and preserve them for longer years of service.
“We’re starting with art this morning,” Miss Sanders, our Grade 5 teacher, greeted us after doing the daily attendance check. “As soon as the announcements are finished, we will be covering the textbooks. You may decorate the covers as you wish, appropriately, of course,” she quickly added when a snickering from the boys’ corner caught her attention, “as long as your name and the subject are clear, the rest may decorate as you wish.” And, again, she quickly added, “Like I said, boys, appropriately.” Another evil glare and the snickering settled down to a few grunts and groans.
“Good morning students,” the principal’s voice boomed through the loudspeaker, the usual crackles of static punctuating his morning greeting. “Please stand for the national anthem and the Lord’s Prayer.” We all stood beside our desks, all, that is, except for the few who were exempt due to their religious beliefs. After singing the national anthem and reverently reciting the Lord’s Prayer, we resumed our seats and listened intently to the announcements. There wasn’t much – just the usual about upcoming tryouts for various activities and what afterschool clubs would be offered. I was particularly interested in the reading club and looked forward to signing up in the library after school.
With the closing, “Have a good day,” the principal signed off with a few more crackles of static and the room was ensconced with silence. Only briefly.
“Now class,” Miss Sanders took over. “I hope you all remembered to bring those paper bags.” There were a few grumbles, again from the boys’ corner.
I raised my hand. “Yes, Emily,” Miss Sanders gave me permission to speak.
“I have a few extra bags,” I offered.
Miss Sanders smiled brightly. “Good. Did anyone else think to bring extra bags?” All the girls raised their hands. Miss Sanders exclaimed. “Wonderful. Please have your extras ready and I’ll come around to collect them. You only need four bags for four textbooks.”
With all the extras, everyone had enough, and the process began. Miss Sanders gave the instructions, not that it was needed since we had all done this before – several times. The next hour was spent, cutting up the bags, laying them flat, folding the top and bottom just enough to retain the right depth to cover the book, tucking the ends around the books front and back spine, then added subject, our name, and the fun part, our own artwork.
I drew horses and dogs all over my covers. Of course, they never really looked the same as I envisioned them. I wasn’t much of an artist, but I did love to draw, and I did love horses and dogs. I drew a few horseshoes and dog bones for good measure. At least they looked more realistic. I glanced around at my friends on either side of me. Some of their work displayed great talent. Even the lettering was decorative, whereas mine was plain and bold. Oh well! It was my creation, and I was pleased with my work.
Four textbooks later, with Miss Sanders wandered around the room checking on our progress, we were done. “Okay, class. Let’s put the textbooks neatly in your desks and clean up the paper scraps. It’s almost time for recess.” I was relieved to notice that there were no extra bags left and, most important, I hadn’t made any mistakes in my measuring and cutting. I tidied my corner, satisfied that I had completed my task efficiently and with a good personal touch, too. Art – what a great way to start the day, even if it was only decorating dustcovers for textbooks.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca