THE G.A.A. BANQUET
Sue Rueckwald, Kitchener - formerly Sue McTavish SABCI 1966-1971
By far the most anticipated event of the school year was that time-honoured tradition, that celebration of the years’ athletic endeavours, the Girls’ Athletic Association Banquet. Sir Adam Beck was abuzz for weeks ahead as the preparations were made to make the evening a success. The fact that it was a ladies only affair ensured that there would be no food thrown and no intentional burping. Those activities were reserved for the B.A.A. Banquet, a decidedly different affair.
Even the ever-gracious cafeteria ladies were swept up in the excitement and lent their expertise to the planning and preparation of the dinner. If it was roast beef, mashed potatoes and peas last year then it would be chicken, mashed potatoes and peas this year. As long as there was no shortage of gravy, you could count on the meal being a success. It was as simple as that!
Even at the hefty sum of $3.25 a plate the tickets were snapped up by teachers, athletes and any girl who just wanted an excuse to get a new dress. Because the banquet was always held on the third Thursday in May, decorations were a very simple matter. A day before the banquet, the call went out for lilacs to beautify the literally spartan cafeteria. And oh how they came! It seemed that any student, male or female, with access to a lilac bush brought freshly cut sprigs of all shades to the cafeteria the morning of the banquet. They came in cardboard boxes, they came in paper bags, they came in armloads and even already bouquetted in mason jars. What a beautiful fragrance filled the corridors, from the kitchen to the dungeon to the boys change room. There would be no need for deodorant this night!
The most challenging part of organising this event was coming up with a guest speaker who would inspire us, entertain us and most of all - be dirt cheap. If the budget had allowed, we might have secured the likes of ski champion Nancy Green or the cute as a button Bobby Orr. However, 35 Canadian dollars did buy us the amusing and talented Merle Tingley, editorial cartoonist for the London Free Press, who wowed us with his caricatures of some of the more prominent attendees. As he captured in charcoal and embellished the more distinctive facial features of girls’ phys ed head, Mrs. Hutchinson, we were not sure if it would be altogether proper or polite to fall over laughing at such a fancy dinner - but we did anyway!
One year local hairstylist, William of Vienna, was invited to showcase some of the new hairstyles that would be trend-setting in 1968. As time was somewhat limited, rather than doing a live make-over, he brought along an assortment of wigs to be modelled by unsuspecting volunteers. Now, this would have been the only day in the whole school year that I would have fussed with my hair - I had it teased and poofed and glued into place with enough hairspray to create my own personal hole in the ozone layer. So, you can imagine my distress as I was coerced into sitting on a lonely chair in front of the head table while Herr William scrunched a streaked, greyish bouffant wig over my stiffened and sticky brown locks. While William encouraged me to “smile, Dahling, it really is you”, I was mortified to hear gasps from the audience and murmurings that I looked “just like my mother”!
Once the entertainment portion of the evening was completed and the dishes cleared away the tension in the room became excruciatingly palpable because the main event was about to begin. One by one, our beloved coaches addressed the audience, some nervously, some with humorous anecdotes but all very generous with their praise. There was the lovely Miss Dimich; the funny and vivacious Mrs. Ruddle; the nervous Mrs. Hutchinson; the Home Ec teacher-turned-volleyball coach, Mrs. Patterson; the wacky Wendy Weaver and the petite and cerebral Miss Stauth. As the names were read out, girls of all shapes popped out of their seats, hurdled over fellow athletes to the accompanying sounds of snapping garter belts. To receive the prized green and white felt award bars, some girls would make many trips to the podium, some only one and others none at all. But what was truly amazing was that there was as much affirmation for the girl awarded for being the faithful timekeeper as there was for the girl who was team captain. There were no MVP awards because each girl was equally valued by her coaches and team mates.
The entertainment may have varied and the faces would have changed somewhat from year to year but what remained a constant was the sense of pride in our school, pride in our achievements and a sense of celebration. The GAA Banquet was just one of many events that helped to preserve the traditions of the very unique Sir Adam Beck Collegiate.
Copyright 10 June 2004 Sue Rueckwald, Kitchener - formerly Sue McTavish SABCI 1966-1971
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