Fire Drills, Loud Bells and a Whole Lot of Noise — Learning How Not to Burn in School


The fire bells at Cowansville HIgh School were so loud they could be heard as far as Harry’s Pool Room on South Street, which was just a skip and a jump over the Yamaska River. That must have been such a bonus for all those playing pool during the lunch hour!

Of course that first bell in the morning was five minutes before 9 and you had to run like heck to get to the new section in the basement playrooms. Mr. Douglas (who seemed like he was 7 ft 2 in those days) slowly did his inspection between the rows like a drill sergeant. I swear if you took a breath Mr. Douglas might flash that evil eye, or finger point a detention.

The absolute worst was Miss Parsons, who would not think twice in sending you to the office. If I remember correctly there were always at least a half a dozen bodies sitting by the office as we marched up to our classrooms waiting to see the Principal.
sweThis is Hamilton Hunter, posing in a nifty sweater for his school photo. Hamilton (1919 – 1934) was born in Carleton Place and later moved to Smiths Falls when his father was transferred due to the CPR shops being relocated.

No one was ever silent during those drills, even though our teachers tried their best!  They expected us to walk out single file. Get real people! Everyone would walk/run like their tail was on fire. Arms must be folded, and one person was chosen to give up their life. They had to check the classrooms and make sure everyone was out of the building. If it had been a real fire, whoever had been hauled out of line and made to stand facing the wall for talking probably would have ended up being fried-chicken.


The most common reaction to when that emergency bell rang wasn’t fear  it was more like an eruption of cheers throughout the building.  It didn’t really matter if it was a fire or a drill, or some student delinquent pulling the alarm — the result was the same. It was a reprieve from whatever you were doing, being asked questions you didn’t know the answer to — or better yet, a test.

1952                                              1952 Victoria Public School- student list below

Once that alarm rang, you knew you were probably all headed outside to catch a few rays and some social time with your friends.  There was no doubt that fire drills were always more appreciated in the warmer months than having to don a winter coat. As we got older. the teacher, upon hearing the fire alarm would announce that it was a fire alarm not a signal to fire up your freedom of speech outside. But who ever listened?

Grade 1 1952/53 — Class photo
Teacher Miss Craig
Pupils – Not in order

Joey Mailey
Liz Hendry
Wendy Thorpe
Jennifer Mayhew
Linda Coburn
Geraldine Devlin
Carol Lancaster
Lynn Lancaster
Glenn Ford

Rick Moffat
Liz Barker
Sandra Thompson
Heather Crampton
Diane Dugdale
Sandra Sherrard
Bob Wilson
Michael Doyle
Graham Wylie
Jim Stewart”

 Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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