I went to General Panet High School on the army base in Petawawa, Ontario. Although the school building is gone now, there are still reunions every five years. In honour of the reunion scheduled for this year in May, I submit this excerpt from my book “Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story.” After a move from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and a few summer weeks of playing in the beautiful, deadly Petawawa river, it was first week in high school. Illustration by Nathan Frechette.
I was sitting in class when the announcement came over the PA system. Still shy with my new teenage classmates all a year older than me, the boys looked like men, broadshouldered and tall, and the girls like young women wearing tight jeans, tank tops, and eyeliner. Although fifteen myself now, I was still skinny and of course wore no makeup; I could probably still pass for twelve. This day I was wearing my Molson Ukrainian T-shirt with Lee jeans and North Star runners. “All new students, please report to the gym.” The teacher pointed at me and a few others, and we obediently left class. No teachers greeted us at the gym. I was ushered up steps to the hardwood stage by older students, to stand confused with other kids behind the heavy velvet curtains in the wings. It was hot and musty and I started to sweat. What was going on?