Mr. Manzer was the principal, and also our math teacher. He called all the girls by their last names… except me. He called me Norma. If he was late getting to the beginning of a class, I would have everyone started doing whatever was assigned on the blackboard.
That year “Pop” Leonard, our music teacher decided to stage an operetta. It was the “Wishing Well.” We auditioned for parts… we had to sing Brahm’s Lullaby… and I got the lead role of Mary. We made our own costumes. Mine was a full red skirt, a long sleeved white blouse and a red, square-necked vest laced up the front.
Nora Alexander and Joan Flowerdew (who played the part of a boy) both had principle roles in the operetta as well.
One of the songs went like this…
Mary, my own macushla, My Irish colleen fair,
Cheeks with the tint of roses,
Mary with auburn hair.
Mr. Leonard wrote a “descant” part for one of the songs, and the chorus sang one part while I sang the descant (harmony, but he called it descant). It really was quite beautiful… wish I could remember it.
We had two performances at the Langley Theater. One in the afternoon for the whole school, and an evening performance for the public. What a thrill to be called back for encores! … and the lead characters were presented with flowers… roses, no less! How I wish there were pictures from that production. Mom and dad even got to it.
The Operetta was performed on a Thursday, about six weeks before the end of Grade 12. On Friday we went back to school and were trying to catch up on any lessons we might have missed because of rehearsals.
That evening the School Principal, Mr. Manzer, and the Royal Bank Manager, Mr. Shanks, came to our house. The bank was short of staff, and Mr. Manzer had recommended me (and Nora Alexander) If I wanted to go to work at the bank come in the next morning, which I did, and was put to work. Mr. Manzer promised us our graduation Certificates, but when we went back to get them, he went back on his word.
There was to be a new principal in the fall, and he was there being shown the ropes. I don’t know if that had anything to do with our not getting what we had been promised.
Many years later on the advice of my cousin, Gordon Leonard, who had been a teacher, I wrote to Victoria. The records for that year were missing. They phoned me and asked me a lot of questions, and I could name off the teachers that had been there. Eventually they did give me my graduation certificate that I had worked so hard for. The school had asked me to write exams for a scholarship to go to university, but even if I had got the scholarship I couldn’t have gone as the folks could not afford to pay for me to stay in Vancouver, nor the transportation to and fro… so I was quite happy to accept the job at the bank. And then I was able to help out at home. My salary… $58.00 a month… take home pay $54.00. I eventually worked up to $1200 per year, the highest salary a female employee could make. We could still get a cost of living bonus now and again. We worked half a day on Saturdays.
That was about the time we tried to get a new high school. The one I went to was on Fraser Highway. We had the band sitting on the flat bed of a truck leading the procession, while the whole school walked behind… down through town and back. I was part of the band, so didn’t have to walk.
A lot of noon hours a group of us would walk into town… about a mile, and get some kind of a snack. Quite often it was a coconut (cost five cents!) and would crack it open and sit around eating coconut!