High school memories

I was asked back to Ernest Manning, my old high school, to speak to a few hundred of the best high school amateur wrestlers from all over Alberta. I pulled up in front and found myself swimming in a million memories.

Walking in the front doors just the sight of the old Griffin fountain immediately made me think of a girl who had a crush on me in grade eleven. I couldn’t help but smile at the memory of her slamming a packed icy snowball into my face and down the back of my neck. She ran off giggling and I was starting to get tired of her routine so I chased her down, picked her up and dropped her right into that old fountain!

I enjoyed watching her come up for air - until Mr. Vicorey jerked me by the arm saying, “I didn’t think you’d do it!”

He took me ‘round the corner and I concluded that I was in a heap of trouble. I was picturing how I was going to explain this to my dad when Mr. Vicorey anxiously looked around and told me. “I won’t say anything if you don’t say anything. Just get a mop and clean that mess up!” Needless to say she didn’t throw any more snowballs at me after that!

One of my favorite classes was commercial art.

One day I found myself in the art supply room with my friend Danny Bickell, in which there were a bunch of felt covered mannequins. Of course, it didn’t take long before we were both using them to practice every wrestling move we could think of. My art teacher, Mr. Hutton, a tenacious little Scotsman, came looking for us and he didn’t appreciate the spike piledrivers being done to his prized dummies! He took us out in the hallway and ordered the two of us to stand with our backs against the lockers, his last words being, “Don’t let me catch you lying down!”

No sooner did he walk back into the classroom that my buddy Dan, who was never very good at following orders, asked me to show him a few wrestling moves. So, we started wrestling away but every now and then I’d look to make sure that Mr. Hutton was nowhere around.

I like to think that Dan and I had ourselves a nice little ring a ding dong dandy! I remember pretending to bang Dan’s head on the lockers and him crumbling to the floor pretending to be out cold!

Then I told him that I wanted to practice my stomps and to put his hands by his sides. I stepped back just in time to see Mr. Hutton calmly approaching with his head down, whistling. I quickly spun around and pressed my back against the locker like a perfect angel ... while Dan lay sprawled at my feet! Mr. Hutton, who could be a bit of a grump on his best days, couldn’t believe his eyes, seeing this flagrant challenge to his authority! I still have marks on the insides of my cheeks from biting down so hard to stop myself from laughing! You snooze, you lose!

It’s hard to say what the most valuable lessons I got out of my days at Ernest Manning were. Maybe I was going to end up a pro wrestler either way, no matter what.

As I told the gathering of students and wrestlers, I have numerous trophies and championship belt buckles but there is nothing that means more to me than my amateur wrestling city championship medal, which is framed and hangs in a place of honor in my house.

My closing words at Ernest Manning on Friday were a thought from author Mark Helprin, “The one thing you’ll discover is that life is based less than you think on what you’ve learned and much more than you think on what you have inside you right from the beginning.”