Cowansville Main Street from Ville de Cowansville– Bank of Montreal on the right with the pillars.
Another in the series of life in the Eastern Townships as a child….
Today I had to do some Bank of Montreal research for a story I wrote about Lanark County. It is pretty easy for me to get lost in time when I do this and certain words bring back flashbacks of my past childhood even though I am really not looking for any more memories these days.
I know Cowansville’s first bank was the Eastern Townships Bank which later turned into the CIBC- but I never banked there- nor did my family. In fact, I can’t even remember what it looked like inside- but, the Bank of Montreal on Cowansville’s Main Street will haunt me for life.
It wasn’t a fancy place, but I still remember some of the graduates from Cowansville High School that worked there. I can still see their poufed hair, cardigans and smiles while I deposited my 5 cents here and there as a child. But it isn’t the memories of fashion, money and Main Street that still haunt me. It is the manager’s office that sat on the right as you walked in the door that I remember, because I sat there once for a whole hour sweating out of fear.
It began innocently enough- Scholastic Books had hit Cowansville High School and I had been picked by my class teacher to look after the orders. September’s order went in flawlessly and so did October and November– things couldn’t go wrong- or could they?
In December I had $19.00 of cold hard cash from my fellow students and things began to go downhill. It was the Christmas season and somehow the book money gradually got spent dollar by dollar and the order never got sent in. I consider myself a pretty honest person, and maybe I am confessing everything now because the end is near– but when I told someone the story yesterday they thought it was funny. Well, it wasn’t at the time.
Week after week went by and so did the dollars. A couple went for a hot chicken sandwich lunch at Le Patio restaurant when I was short of lunch money. A few went to the Princess Theatre to see Beach Blanket Bingo as I was an avid fan of the old teen beach movies and still am. But each and every single night I woke up in fright because I didn’t know what to do. In reality I knew the impossibility of the situation and even Magic Tom from CFCF-TV couldn’t replace those dollars for me. If I had been smart I would have immediately told my father the whole story, but I always seemed to be in the dog house with him so I remained silent.
In January my teacher asked me if I had heard from Scholastic Books and I lied and said no. She insisted that I must write a letter to the company inquiring about the late pending order, and I did. Actually, I typed out a fake reply from Scholastic saying they had received the money and the order would be shipped shortly. It was the beginning of what we would call today alternative facts. The teacher read the letter out loud to the class and I remember fellow student *Bobby Perkins looking at me telling me not to worry. You have to know what a sympathetic student Bobby was to understand how the guilt increased ten fold after his kind words.
At recess I was asked to show the letter to the principal and he insisted I must go to the Bank of Montreal after school to see if my Dad’s cheque had been cashed. I knew that my Dad had not written a cheque, and I knew that Scholastic had not sent that letter, but like an idiot I sat in the manager’s office. I remember feeling like I was slowly sinking down to the depths of hell on that leather chair. With my head down and sensing immediate doom looming the manager tried to call my father. My father was a busy man and they were not able to reach him- so once again I was off the hook.
The next day as more students in my class asked about the pending Scholastic order I thought I was going to be sick. To make matters worse my teacher asked me to stay after class. I knew what was coming–but little did I know what I had done that had given her the first clue that I had been trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.
The teacher told me she knew that I had been lying because of one specific reason. What was that I wondered? Well, it seems that I had spelled the word Scholastic wrong on the header of the letter I had typed up. The jig was finally up and I was relieved. I went home and what I should have done weeks ago I did that night. I confessed to my father and he immediately wrote a cheque to Scholastic and the book were received a week later.
That summer I typed out invoice after invoice every single day on one of those awful old typewriters at his electrical store to pay back the money I had so stupidly taken. My fellow students never found out what happened and today after I read page after page of Bank of Montreal history I knew it was time to come clean. Fifty one years later I would like to apologize to my fellow students at Cowansville High School. May I mention the name of Bobby Perkins once again? That kid should have become a lawyer– as one gentle look from him would get anyone to confess.
The moral of this story–you can try to be perfect all you want. Just remember there is someone out there that knows and remembers the bulls%*t behind the lies. Thank you to the late Mrs. Donna Luce for being so kind– there is not a day I do not remember you.
*Bob–Bobby Perkins Loved the story Linda …… I didn’t become that lawyer (PhD in Chemistry), but had 40 years teaching experience making students uneasy with my calm manner and stare.
Donna (Parsons) Luce–1922 – 2015- teacher extraordinaire of Cowansville High School
Passed peacefully at Maison Knowlton House on October 17, 2015. Wife of the late John Luce, sister of the late Angus Parsons, June O’Hara, Betty Cunningham, and the late Graydon Parsons. Beloved mother of the late Heather Mizener (Nelson), Carol Fleming (Samuel), James Luce (Agnes), Cathy Luce (Réal). Loving grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of twelve. She leaves to mourn many friends, nieces and nephews.
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun