“LOVE AND YE SHALL BE LOVED”
Upon graduating from the University of Toronto, one of Nancy Margaret
Lewis’ earlier jobs was in the steno pool at the Bank of Commerce in
“I was a
junior secretary to one or two of the bank’s junior executives. One day,
this ‘hot shot’ Harry Malmqist (who was doing personnel assessments)
perched on the corner of my desk and asked: ‘Have you ever thought of
being a teacher?’ When I said no, he replied he thought I’d make a good
“Within a day
or two I’d handed in my resignation, made an application for O.C.E. and
that was that. It was just the time. Our lives revolve on such tiny
fulcrums sometimes and that was the time and place for me.
Malmqist hadn’t made that comment to me, I don’t know what direction my
life would have taken, but I doubt I’d have gone into teaching.
two places I thought I’d like to teach. One was Kitchener, the other was
London. I’d heard good things about both places. Those were the days
when lots and lots of jobs were open. You’d buy a special edition of the
Globe, and there’d be pages of job offers for teachers.
interviews I attended were held at the Park Plaza Hotel. I got myself
togged up pretty smartly, I thought, and looking very professional. Me
in my gray dress with a little red pillbox hat, red shoes and gloves.
Something I would never, NEVER do now!
several principals at the hotel, all from different schools. You just
went in, had your interview and that was that. Mr. Armstrong called me,
if not that same night, then the very next one. There was no time lapse
at all. It was just a done deal.
with Mr. Armstrong was extremely pleasant. He was a prince of a person.
I think he had a great deal to do with the general tone of Beck. He was
a gentleman, and I had tremendous respect for Mr. Armstrong. I never
called him Tom. I wouldn’t have thought of it, any more than I’d have
called Mr. Langford ‘Fred’!
“I found both
men compassionate. They were thoroughly fine, kind men.
“When I came
to Beck, I succeeded Mary Cameron and moved into her classroom. Before
very long, I copied Mr. Langford and put a rocking chair in my room. It
just seemed like the absolutely right thing to have in a classroom. I
had that rocking chair until it became a rickety old thing and ended up
in a nursery at L.G.T.
would remember that rocking chair. I very seldom sat in it while
teaching, but I did occasionally, perhaps, when I was reading something.
The chair was just there for anybody to use. I think it presented a sort
of ambiance, a feeling about the room.
it was borrowed when they were having a shop display. Not that it was
made in the shop, but they just seemed to want it.
after school, students would come in with a question, such as explaining
the difference between a gerund and an infinitive or ‘What was Lady
Macbeth really thinking when she said that’? I knew pretty well that
wasn’t the main reason for coming in, and I rocked kids on my lap.
“By the time
I left Beck, the rocking chair had pretty well collapsed. One of my
going away gifts was another rocking chair with the Beck crest painted
on the back! From where I’m sitting as we talk, I can take about six
steps and go and sit in it.
“At first, I
didn’t take it into my Lucas classroom. I was all set to, but three or
four girls at Lucas took me aside and very gently and graciously
suggested that I not rush it.
singing auditoriums were well known all over the place. We had visitors
coming in just to see what it was about. We used to exchange visits with
a secondary school in Ottawa. I think Carl Chapman had the connection
there. Our singers and band would go down there, and theirs would come
“One time a
visiting band was playing the oldies but the goodies, Glenn Miller type
of music. I could NOT keep my cotton pickin’ feet quiet! I was
practically dancing out in the aisle, when a visitor --maybe from the
band?-- came down, and we danced together! He was feeling exactly the
same way, and we just tootled up and down the aisle together.
Churchill died in January 1965. I was living with Mrs. Adam. When I came
home from work, Mrs. Adam was knitting. I told her how much I’d like to
attend Churchill’s memorial service. Without dropping a stitch, she
said: ‘Why don’t you go then, dear?’
morning, I marched into Carl’s office and told him my plan. He nearly
fell off his chair but agreed to let me go. I had traveller’s cheques
left over from the previous summer’s trip to London, England and called
the hotel where I had stayed.
day, a Friday, I flew to England and arrived at my London hotel before
my room was made! I spent a day walking around and went to where the
funeral barge was tied up. The next morning, I got up real early and
joined another zillion mourners. All these people were friendly,
exhilarating and very civilized. We stood and watched the entire funeral
procession and also saw Lord Louis Mountbatten in his position of honor.
returned two days later, I was on the same flight as Canada's Prime
Minister, Lester B. Pearson. Of course, he was in first class, and I
Colwill and I had a lovely trip together. It must have been in 1970. We
went over to Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps with a group. My first
overseas trip was in 1959 with Edna Durrant.
flew a plane in the First World War. He said it was possible to fly
upside down and not realize you were doing it. I don’t remember how, but
I can remember his telling us that.
being in Mr. Armstrong’s office when occasionally he’d reminisce about
his war experiences. I believe he also flew in the First World War. Once
in a while when he was in one of his sharing moods, I’d sit in his
office and listen. I was always interested in what he said.
“I think when
Mr. Armstrong retired, among his gifts was a kitten.
Wilda Graber a folding bike. She put it together and rode it down the
aisle. That was all part of the Beck family. That’s the way we did it.
No stress. No strain. There was such a tremendous amount of affection in
that school. Affection, respect and in some cases, love. Respect came
first, and the love came later.
Langford, as head of the English department, would come in and sit in on
class, he gave me very helpful suggestions. I found his suggestions
uniformly positive and very, very encouraging. I must admit, I was
always under some stress when I knew I was being ‘inspected’, but I
think that’s natural.
had a very quiet voice. He may have had throat problems. He used a mike
in his room. He was a gentle, gentle man.
Bert Bartley and Geoff Milburn hollering from one end of the hall to the
other. They could both be heard at great distances.
memory of George Ramage is that he was a very pleasant person.
genuinely scared of Harvey Stewart and with good reason. He could pick
up a person sitting in a chair and heave the chair unceremoniously. One
time at a Beck show with strictly local, homegrown Beck talent, some of
Harvey’s Phys Ed boys covered their bodies with gold paint. They struck
‘Grecian’ poses and would hold their position and freeze in it.
was the world’s worst ‘punner’. Our classroom doors, 310 and 311, opened
toward each other. Between classes, Paul would start punning. I just
leaned over and groaned at some of his ‘Croppian’ puns. He really was
exceptional at quoting Shakespeare. No question about that. When his
first wife died, he had a lonely time until his second wife came into
the picture. He was a good father to his children. His daughter used to
pack his lunch for him, and when she did, she’d slip a little note in
for her dad, which touched him very much.
“In the late
fifties, I was supervising for one of the grade thirteen departmental
exams and needed an immediate ‘relief’ break. We seemed to be a little
short of teachers. They were spread all over the school. When I looked
out the door, Cap Rainsbury was quietly pushing a broom down the hall. I
motioned to him, and explained my problem. He came in the room and stood
quietly. I don’t suppose anyone realized about the changing of the
guard. I went, came back and felt great.
known about it, I’m sure it would’ve caused a great ‘kerfuffle’;
however, back then, you just did things and didn’t think about it. You
didn’t have to fill everything out in triplicate.
standing out in the most foul weather cheering our teams on. You just
did. When the Glee Club was going off to another city, I got up in the
middle of the night and waved the kids off in the dark, along with a few
parents. I did the same at Lucas.
parents were supportive too. They showed up in the morning and cooked
breakfast when these kids went places. It wasn’t just the teachers who
were supportive. It was the parents too. The whole connection was very
“I started at
Beck in 1956 and went through to 1981. Beck was my first school and
would’ve been my ONLY school if it hadn’t shut down. I spent my final
four years at Lucas.
“I LOVE Beck.
I’ll always love Beck. I went in to teaching with a lot of stars in my
eyes, a LOT of stars, and I still had quite a number of stars in my eyes
when I retired. That says it all.”
raconteur, full of warmth, spontaneity and the joy of living, thus
explaining her devoted legions of admirers!
who do not know, Nan has been very happily married to Gordon Linton for
the past eight years. They live near Ilderton. She is looking forward to
seeing everyone at the Reunion.***