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School CP - 1979
The City, Toronto, late 1979 (exact date not available)
[original headline missing]
De La Salle College, Toronto
"Parents leave their sons' education to us, so we feel free to use methods a bit different from the norm, to be part of our students' lives seven days a week," explains Brother Edgar Fazackerley, the trim, 57-year-old principal of "Del", as the college at the brow of the Avenue Road hill is affectionately known. "You might say we're Home and School or the PTA carried to the ultimate extreme."
It is this dedication to molding their 1,000-plus grade- and high-school students -- and the insistence on wholehearted participation by the boys themselves -- that decrees the Del staff be Christian Brothers, not the full-fledged priests their own educations and teaching expertise might appear to warrant.
"Teaching and supervisory schedules are so heavy there'd be no time left for parish duties if we were priests," explains Brother Gabriel, 86, veteran of 70 years in the order, 55 of those as a teacher.
How Gabriel could teach for 55 years as a school not yet 50 years of age is explained by the fact that the Christian Brothers -- an order founded three centuries ago this year by French aristocrat Jean-Baptiste de la Salle and currently active (and often persecuted) in more than 60 countries -- established its first Toronto school at Jarvis and Lombard streets back in 1851. Thus Oaklands Del is regarded as only an extension of the old one, not a new and distinct school.
Gene Lockhart, the late Hollywood character actor (his daughter June was Lassie's TV mum) was proud of having been in Del's 1909 commercial course -- first in Canada to teach typewriting -- when the college was at Duke and Frederick streets. Its last major location before Oaklands opened in 1931 was at 69 Bond Street, where many of its famous traditions were developed.
Among these were the school's sprightly paper, the Delescope; its cadet corps; and the celebrated drum-and-bugle bands, up to 125 boys strong, whose glorious blue-and-gold uniforms demolished maidens' inhibitions as easily as their music wowed judges of marching band competitions, including those at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The bands were discontinued at Del in the mid-Seventies when travel costs began outstripping value received. But lately they have begun to return, as few as 22 boys, wearing much less flamboyant raiment, but bands nevertheless.
"Let's face it," says Philip Kortenaar, 15, who plays the flute. "Once bands get into your blood, you just got to play or go bonkers."
But sports and musical comedy, singing and sexy uniforms, though they may represent the stuff of which graduate nostalgia is compounded, do not make an institute of learning. De La Salle has other dimensions.
"Parents probably send their sons to us for the discipline and sense of personal direction we give them, more than for the academic or athletic honors they might attain," explains brother George Morgan, 48, student guidance counselor and a Del grad of '58.
At one time Del educated tads from day one to college entrance. Now super-tight budgets and space permit only minor Grades 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, accommodating 160 boys. Parents of the 862 boys in Grades 11, 12 and 13 -- not all of them Catholics -- ante up $675 per son. It's good value, however. Where Ontario demands a minimum of 27 course credits, Del gave its kids 32 until forced financially to throttle back recently to only 30.
One popular course, Family Life, handles all aspects of Canadian living, even sex, with more maturity than many university courses elsewhere. Religion, added on each day, is not rote catechism but a sensitive exploration of the Catholic ethos and the reasons for it.
Until 1960 Dell was also famous as a boarding school, though the live-ins never numbered more than 60 or 70. Many were from Latin America but a few were from other parts of Canada and others, like Pierre Salinger -- later press secretary to the first Catholic American president, John F. Kennedy -- came to Del from the U.S. The school now has about 75 students from Hong Kong, but they all live with relatives or in communal apartments.
Another practice almost unique to Del was spanking even grown boys for such transgressions as blaspheming, defacing school property or reading skin magazines. CFRB's Bill Deegan remembers the punishments as regular happenings, "and good for us, too." Major Fred Tilston, who won the Victoria Cross in World War II, considered the wallopings as "normal, but more painful than usual" parts of the Del curriculum. So did Mike Wadsworth, who later went from Del scrimmages to the Argos and thence into law. Hugh Bruce, another Toronto lawyer, didn't particularly mind the clobberings. "But what got me," he remembers, "was that while the brother was laying it on hard enough to leave permanent scars, he'd be praying for even more strength to make sure I got the message!"
Today relations are much more relaxed, though some brothers still use wooden paddles -- humorously inscribed "Board of Education" or "That Old Del Spirit" -- to remind boys who is boss, and make liberal use of the "D-Tention" for youngsters who don't pay proper "A-Tention." Few boys mind this, or even the two-teacher posses who round them up from wherever they may be (pinball parlor, lurid movie or, in the case of one Chinese student seeing snow the first time, from a distant park) and supervise their detentions. But to a boy the students detest the continuing punishment: having to wear school blazers, green for grade school, navy blue for the upper forms.
"Nobody else has to wear them, not even UCC," grumbled one crowd of a dozen boys. "We take them off the moment we leave the grounds."
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