Sports In McGill Grade School-1947-50

By Keith Gibson

September 1947 was an exciting time for some of us, still wet behind the ears,  super hero athletes.  We were finally out of that two story building that housed those wretched children in the K-5 grades and were now in the “new building”, for grades 6,7 and 8.  We had endured 6 years of physical conditioning on various exercise setups on the playground.  There were the “tricky bars”, “slippery slide”, swings and the brutal “gliders”.  The gliders were metal hand grips that were suspended on a chain attached to the top of a tall pipe pole.  Each grip had three handles spaced about 6 inches above each other.  The bottom one was for the shortest kids.  One grabbed ahold and then ran around the pole.  At the desired speed you could lift your feet and “glide” around the pole like a twirling slingshot.  If your hand slipped you crashed into the dirt and rocks.  The entire playground was constructed on dirt and rocks to condition us to cuts and abrasions, usually on a daily basis.

With such superb conditioning we felt ready for football.   However, that was short lived as  we were rudely introduced to the “new building” version of free for all football.

There was a huge level cement pad in front of the school, with a large sloping dirt and rock area stretching down toward the ball park.  The object of the game was to have someone kick or throw a football from the pad to a crowd of heathens.  There  was a vicious scramble for the ball, resulting in several  cuts and loss of skin.  The bigger and older thugs showed no mercy on us newcomers.

The magic moment finally arrived when some of our names were posted on a list and told to report to the basement of the wood working shop below the “new building” to get our uniforms.  The shop has been replaced with the school bus barn.

The uniform consisted of a thin leather “helmet” with broken chin strap, tan colored heavy canvas pants with pockets in the front of the thighs to slide a fiberglass curved pad.  The pants only reached to the knees.  The rest of the leg was bare down to the shoes and socks we normally wore.   The bare shins were an ideal place to cushion your fall, on the rocks, when blocked or tackled.  Any severe bleeding was cured with a handful of dirt.  Probably not the thing to do now days.  There were some soft hip pads sewn into the pants. The shoulder pads were not much help.  The shirts were tourn.  The whole get up, was, in my opinion, used by the very first McGill team in 1912.

We had to play on the old dirt and rock field below the school.  The new park with grass was not put in until 1949.    My 1950 graduating class was the last one to play on that dirt field.

Basketball was another sport I liked.  We used the gym at the Clubhouse.   We rode our bikes from the school to the gym after school was out.  The backboards were on the wall and so you had to be very careful doing a layup or crash into the wall.  The side boundary line was about one foot from the wall, so not much room there either.  The large windows were protected by heavy screen wire.

The track team wore their basketball uniforms.  There were only 5-6 of us.  We had a pole fault area south of the school.  It had a wooden box for the pole to slide into.  The vaulting pole was from the Cononelos furniture store.  It was used to roll up carpet with.   The bar was another such pole.  We landed in a small amount of sawdust furnished by KCC.  It was softer than landing on the dirt, but not by very much.

We weren’t the greatest athletes, but at least we new the rules and how to play and had 3 years of experience to offer the WPHS athletic department when we entered there as freshmen.