ROGER T. MACAULAY
“SEVEN GOLDEN YEARS”
“In June 1957 after seven years at Beck, I was going to Wheable as head of the English Department. Mr. Armstrong asked me if I’d like to say goodbye to the school. I said: “Yes, I would” which meant I’d get up and say goodbye in the next auditorium.
“I forget now whether I was announcing I was leaving or not. I think the word had leaked out. I was standing there talking to them all, explaining how it was and how we had many things going for us, like winning a championship and so on. Then the staff I’d had to work with…well, Mr. Langford, my boss, was a very special man.
“Now, he was white-haired. At that time, I was in my late twenties, and I was already getting white hair. When I was in high school, I plucked some white hair out of my sideburns. Then I decided I’d better cut that out, because that’s a losing game. After a while, you haven’t anything left.
“I said I liked Mr. Langford so much, and I admired him so much, and I had learned so much from him that I just decided to grow my hair the same colour as his.
“Of course, Fred just loved that.”
During his seven-year tenure at SABCI, Roger T. Macaulay taught English and Physical Education. When the principal, who made the timetables, filled in the time slot, Roger also taught History
Even in public school in Guelph, Roger liked reading, and he read a lot. By the time he started high school, he’d already read most what he was to take both there and at college, including classics like Dickens. From public school right through to McMaster, English was his best subject. Not only did he major in it, he became editor of “The Muse”, the quarterly literary publication.
“There was no question I was going to do something with English. It played such a big role in my life. After four years at university and a look at the available jobs, teaching was a natural choice.”
An athlete at high school and in university, he took Phys Ed because he could have another subject in which to specialize. He especially liked basketball and knew how to approach it.
Don Getty, who used to be premier of Alberta, told Roger once when he came east that he used to play basketball to stay in shape between football seasons. One night, Don was sitting watching the team ahead of him finishing up. After the game was over, Don went up to a redhead and said: “You’re from London, aren’t you?”
The redhead, Jimmy Forest, was blown out that the quarterback of the Edmonton Eskimos came over to him and replied: “Yes, Mr. Getty, I am! How did you know that?”
Don added: “And you played for Roger Macaulay, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did! How did you know?”
“I watched you shoot, and I said: ‘There’s only one person that teaches a guy to shoot like that!’ I knew right away you were going to do some scoring. That was Roger’s shot, and there was no doubt about it.”
After teaching at Kirkland Lake for two years, Roger was on his Phys Ed specialist course with Ernie McTavish. Ernie said: “Boy, could I use you in London coaching basketball!”
Another choice was going to Guelph, but when his wife Betty and he talked it over, they decided against his returning to his old high school, opting for London instead. McTavish wanted Roger at South, but Central’s principal interrupted the process and got Roger to his school. Within two years at Central, he’d coached the senior basketball team to a championship and was very happy there.
In his second year at Central, he was teaching “…a great bunch of students and loving it” when he was called to the main office. They wanted him to go to Beck for the next year.
“What?” exclaimed Roger. “I’m having a great time here!”
Beck had a situation in which a teacher -- Mary Cameron -- was taking a year off for health reasons. Roger was informed his qualifications would cover her part of the program very nicely, and off he went.
Before his first year (1950-51) at Beck was out, Mr. Johnson, the principal, approached Roger.
“I’ve been asked to talk to you about next year. I know the arrangement is you’ll go back to Central, but I’d really like you to stay here.”
“Oh boy,” replied Roger. “I’ve got a problem, because I love both these schools, but Beck is unbelievable.” Then he added: “I’ll stay here.”
“Great, oh great!” enthused Mr. Johnson.
That was it, and Roger stayed another six years.
What made Beck so unbelievable?
“I liked the staff, and I liked the kids, but the school spirit was phenomenal.
The staff, we all knew we had a special school. Somebody said: “Let’s not analyze it. Let’s not fix it. Let’s just enjoy it.” It was amazing.
“The school spirit at Beck was VERY strong, as strong as any I’ve seen anywhere. That’s why I called my years at Beck my “Seven Golden Years”. I liked the atmosphere. I liked the staff, and I liked the kids. Everybody was relaxed, friendly and generous.
“The kids weren’t all driving cars and that sort of thing. They were involved in the programs. They didn’t just come to games. They came to watch us practice. It was remarkable. The kids spoke to me as if I was their best friend, and they didn’t just do it with me. They did it with all the teachers.
“People like Fred Langford and his wife Ottes, Bert Bartley; the list goes on. They were all special. They really worked to see the students succeeded. The point is, they were respectful of the students. We all knew we had something special.
“I tried to explain it to someone who wasn’t from London and said we had five-part harmony singing. Staff and students just sitting and singing. The whole school! Nobody was left out. The custodians could come in and sing if they wanted.
“We had something going on. The staff sat with the students. They weren’t separate. Where does a staff and its students sit together and sing five-part harmony? You’re good. You’re really good. You love doing it. You pat each other on the back. You just feel good about it. There was nothing mean or bad. I don’t think we had a detention room.
(A gentle reminder of Harvey Stewart and 201.)
“Oh, then we had one. I don’t think it was too busy. Now, Harvey, people inevitably say: ‘There was tough old Harvey,’ but I knew Harvey. He laughed. When he frowned and said something was really tough, he also turned and winked or laughed.
“He wasn’t mean or anything else. He was just firm. He came from farther back. He was one of the old style teachers, no doubt about that.”
In the fifties, many teachers also handled extracurricular activities. Roger’s were the English Club, Cheerleaders and the London Coaching Association.
“When my fourth son arrived in 1954, the girls at Beck were very angry with me. Because the word was out that Mrs. Macaulay was pregnant and with three boys already, they felt Mrs. Macaulay deserved a girl.
“They kept telling me: “You make sure it’s a girl!” I’d say: “What can I do?” and they’d say: “You’re a part of the whole thing. You’re the father, da, de da, de da!”
“It became kind of a game, really, but when Tom was born…! Mr. Armstrong announced ‘Mr. Macaulay isn’t coming in today’, and he thought the roof was coming in. Kids started pounding their desks and banging their feet. There was an uproar. “Is it girl? Is it a girl?” they wanted to know.
“Boy,” said Mr. Armstrong and then he didn’t believe what happened. The whole school went quiet.
“Mr. Macaulay blew it,” they said. “It’s another boy!”
“That’s when I said: “No, no, no. I’m going to get the basketball team first and that takes five guys. THEN I’m going to start on the cheerleaders.”
“They really meant it. “You shouldn’t have all boys or all girls. You should have a mixture.” They felt really sorry for Mrs. Macaulay. It used to be where they’d walk by every day and say: “Hi, sir, how are you today?” but now they’d walk by and look the other way.
“It was cute. I was out of favor for a while.”
During what became his last year at Beck, there was that little matter of the All-Ontario Basketball Championship.
Roger and the senior basketball team spent five days a week together, working and practicing for two or more hours a day. They played anybody who was good and travelled all over. Anything to hone their skills and improve the team.
“You start out in your own league. All the towns and cities around you form a league themselves. Big cities --London, Toronto and Windsor-- have an AAA team.
“After you beat the AAA teams around you, you play the WOSSA (Western Ontario Secondary School Association) teams. We beat Windsor to win the WOSSA championship.
“From there, we advanced to the All-Ontario championship, which we won in 1957. I’ll never forget it.”
Roger was the head of the English Department at Wheable. When he left, he became an Ontario High School Inspector. Although being an inspector was “…a wonderful experience…” he quit after two years. With four sons, the oldest of whom was seven, he decided to stay at home instead of in hotels while inspecting high schools in places like Thunder Bay and Ottawa.
When Roger went back to Wheable, this time he was the principal, an impressive feat considering he’d never been a vice-principal.
“I always maintained the coaching and the intimacy with the team played a big role in my becoming a principal. The reason being that when I walked into a classroom, I saw thirty-five individual people, not a room full of blobs.”
After a year at Wheable, the Board asked him to go to South where they had ‘…a lot of problems.’ Roger had a fascinating four years at South where “…I was lucky enough to turn the school around”. His task completed, he was asked to be Superintendent at the Education Centre with the Board.
“The minute I retired from the Board in 1984, I was on a committee with Terry Clifford (who was an MP in Ottawa and had been my Science coordinator), Tom Gosnell (who was on City Council) and the Dean of the Business school.
“We dreamed up a project on student learning. ‘Canadian Youth Self Help’ we called it. We sent a proposal in to Ottawa, and they sent us back an acceptance and a million and a half dollars.
“So, these guys said: ‘Rog, you’re the only one without a job. We’re all working. You’re going to have to run this thing,’ and I did, for two years.
“We did really well, and the government thought it was wonderful, so they closed us down and started another one in Niagara Falls.
“After that, I got on different committees for different reasons. The next one was the ‘Over 55’. That was a little thing from a telephone booth that was trying to help older, unemployed workers get jobs. The guy that created ‘Over 55’ decided it was time for him to give it up and asked me to take it over. I did, for just over seven and a half years. I had a great time getting these people together, getting these people employment.”
Through the years, Roger served on many other committees (see his “Curriculum Vitae”). On the personal side, Roger and Betty played several golf courses all over the world. They loved all the courses, but St. Andrews was THE classic. It was the first golf course and has been going for over a hundred years. “Just looking at it was a thrill.”
First-class family man, teacher, educator and organizer. An excellent resumé, Roger T. Macaulay!
Copyright Carol Lowe July 7, 2004
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