The Ride Home


I may add more to this story as details come back to me. As I told a friend tonight, these rides home all seemed alike to me so it’s difficult to recall specific details of any one ride. It just boils down to a large chunk of bad memories during, as adults called them, “the best years of your life” and may add to the explanation of my tendency to go inward as much as I do, seeking a refuge-like higher power.

These many years later it is difficult to separate the good days from bad – my lasting impression is that they were all bad – as I recall the bullying I endured on the school bus ride home from school each day.

The trip took about thirty-five minutes, depending on whether or not we had to stop for a ship going under the seaway lift-bridge, from Ormstown to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. There were a couple of stops leaving Ormstown, as we dropped kids at the end of their laneways, but most of us disembarked at close to our respective homes in Valleyfield.

The bullying included being squeezed in my seat by Debbie, a large-size girl who hugged me with head-locks and peppered me with mocking kisses. The older guys in the back (the smokers) taunted me about my dental work (“Give us a smile Kenny!”), often leading to a wedgie, and they took particular interest in me when, on rare occasions, I brought my tuba home. Now this was not the wraparound sousaphone seen in marching bands but rather an upper torso-sized model which I perched between my legs. Since my repertoire was limited, particularly without music, the most frequent request I could play from memory was the big bear’s theme from A & W root beer commercials of that time. It was a big hit, ridicule misinterpreted as appreciation notwithstanding.

Arriving at my stop, at the corner of Boulevard du Havre and Simpson Street, the gang would count down as I got off the bus and, with all sorts of relief and adrenaline coursing through my veins, raced down the block to my house. It was great to get home where, after a brief snack and a chat with Mom, if she wasn’t teaching piano in the living room, I would immediately start packing my newspaper carrier bags with the afternoon’s Montreal Star, destined for the forty or so customers on my route. Although I was sure one or two of the buildings I entered were haunted I mostly enjoyed a very good relationship with my customers, my good manners and conscientiousness appreciated by people who were much older than the trouble-makers on that bus.

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