Did you ever hear wonderful news that you couldn’t believe? For me, leaving Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia for the very last time seemed like a distant dream. Forty-two years ago, that dream came true. Sadly, I didn’t realize it then. Had I done so, it would have been the happiest day of my childhood.
I had heard certain administrators at the school talk of students being reintegrated into the public system but I never dreamt I’d be so fortunate. In fact, this excerpt from Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) shows how unreal that possibility seemed at the time.
One evening, as we were leaving the Dining Hall, Mrs. Corrigan surprised us with a visit. Mr. Thynne instructed everybody to wait outside at the bottom of the steps while she announced something very important from the landing.
“I have good news for a few of you. Some of you children won’t be coming back in September. Instead, you’ll be attending public school near your homes.”
Our principal began listing names as my attention wandered. I doubted that I would be among those privileged students. Suddenly, she mentioned my name. That jolted me back to reality. Could that honestly happen to me? Was I actually going to be in a regular school again next autumn? It seemed too good to be true. As I feared being hurt if the administrators arbitrarily changed their minds, I restrained my hopes and dismissed such an unbelievable promise.
I would have likewise taken the minor mishaps of travel in stride had I known that I would never again set foot in that place I so passionately despised. Here’s how my last day at the institution went.
After all the tedious school activities were over, it was time to pack our belongings. Along with my suitcases, I decided I would bring a shopping bag filled with whatever would not fit in my luggage.
When we arrived at the airport, some of my possessions fell out of the bag at the precise moment when everybody was leaving the bus. As I felt around under the seats, Mr. Thynne said, “You’re holding us up. Why did you have to bring so much stuff anyway?” I managed to escape the bus with my luggage intact. Behind me I could hear the rest of the boys murmuring about how my accident made them late.
Apart from that mishap, my home coming was uneventful. The hard times were behind me for the moment and I knew I could relax for two glorious months.
I’m pleased to say that i not only was enrolled in a public school much closer to my home but I graduated high school in 1975. This proved to me that I could have gone all the way through the local school system had somebody provided me with a blackboard reader and magnifying glass. This would have saved the British Columbia taxpayers thousands of dollars too.
I’m delighted that many disabled children are now educated locally and some are even home-schooled. Very few students need to be torn from their families and sent off to distant asylums for long periods of time. Instead of tearful farewells, most of these fortunate kids know they’ll be home for lunch or after classes end that day.
Please check out the http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison site for more information regarding my memoirs and writing.
Deliverance from Jericho abounds with vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Please visit http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com for more information about my writing.