In the Shadow of the Red Brick Building Excerpt

One evening, after supper, all the seniors were in the TV room watching Montreal play hockey against Chicago. It was an exciting game and all the chairs were set up in front of the TV in the recreation room. The lights were turned off so it was dark in there. It was an engrossing game for us all. I sat in the very front of the group with my feet propped up, just loving the game and cheering on Montreal.

All the guys were yelling and screaming at the TV and I was soaking up the game with the play of Worsley, Cournoyer, Savard, Mahovlich, Richard, Beliveau and all the Montreal greats. Being in the very front of the TV, I was immersed in the game and not really aware of anything happening around me.

Suddenly I just heard a voice in the dim lit room amidst the TV glow. “What are you doing here?” I just turned to look and was punched so hard I was knocked to the floor. I was dazed, on my knees and hands with my head spinning. As I looked up I was back handed very hard on the side of my face. My head turned from the slap and I could see I was the only one in the room. All the rows of chairs that were behind me were now empty. It was Brother Francis. He was a balding middle-aged brother, who had previously been at Sechelt Residential School, I believe. He was my supervisor. He then yelled, “Get up!” I was still groggy. When I stood up, he pushed me forward. “Get to my office,” he screamed.

As I walked into his office, he went to his desk where he opened a drawer. Pulling out a strap he said, “Put up your arms, you are getting 10 straps on each arm!” I put them up in disbelief and was hit on the forearms with this strap that was 18” x 2.5” inches wide. Initially the strapping stung as he used it like a whip. My forearms and hands were beginning to get hot. They then became numb. As he finished, he yelled loudly, “get to study!” I walked over to my cupboard and tried to grab my books but couldn’t because my hands and fingers were useless. They weren’t able to move from the strapping.

My eyes were tearing from the pain. Thankfully one of the fellas was there next to the TV room so I asked him to tuck my books under my arm. Then I walked to the study room, where all the guys were at the tables, studying quietly with their books. I just sat for the duration of study since I couldn’t turn the pages of my books.

My arms, down to my hands and fingers, were frozen for over six hours before I could use them at all. They were still very sore, paralyzed and burning from the strapping I received.

To this day, it is hard to believe that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I had no infractions at all, but I was severely punished by this Catholic brother for being late for study. My hands and arms remained in a painful state for some time. I couldn’t even use the bathroom.