Grade 9 initiation at DHS

This picture dates to the early 1960s. Names of students are not disclosed

Dryden High school had a rich celebration of Grade nine initiation that started in the late 1940s and continued until the late 1980s. It initially started as an event that would foster friendships between seniors and grade 9 students and give the grade nines a sense of belonging to the school. Unfortunately it ended because of activities that, more often than not, intimidated and frightened these new students.

Picture dates to the early 1960s. The sign reads I am a humble frosh in piglatin

During the late 1940s, enrollment at Dryden High School was growing rapidly; new courses were being introduced and the school witnessed the inauguration of many new clubs and associations as well as new extra-curricular activities.

Grade 9 initiation in 1949

During the 1947-1948 school year, a new committee created by Student Council was responsible for Grade nine initiation. The plan was to encourage, or to oblige, the grade nine students to dress bizarrely. The grade nine boys had to wear skirts hemmed above the knee, along with red flannel long underwear. On their heads they wore bonnets and their faces were covered with makeup. Accessories included women’s jewelry and high heeled shoes to complete the outfit. Subsequent years of the late 1940s had the boys wearing a large diaper over their pants along with a soother and a bonnet.

The grade nine girls were dressed as boys. Underneath their clothing they wore men’s underwear. For pants, they wore large overalls and for a shirt they wore a pajama top backwards. Others remember the girls wearing a fedora hat, a plaid shirt, and two different shoes or boots with one shoe larger and the other shoe smaller. Often the girls had several pigtails in their hair, with ribbons of various colours woven into each one. Girls were explicitly told not to wear makeup.

On initiation day, the students were paraded through the other rooms in the school and were greeted with applause and laughter. At lunch time, and with permission from the mayor of Dryden, the student body paraded down King Street with the grade nine students leading and senior students following. Everyone sang the school song. Not one individual remembers feeling intimidated or frightened. All and all it was understood as a fun beginning to one’s high school years. A dance honoring the grade 9s concluded the week’s activities and was held on Friday night at the Youth Center.

Students gather in front of the chicken coop before they parade through town. Notice the cross dressing

The 1950s saw an expansion of the time allotted for initiation as well as the introduction of activities that the grade 9s were obligated to do. Each grade nine student was paired with a senior student and the grade nine student had to meet the senior student at her home where they could be requested to carry her books to and from school, and to and from classes in school. When a grade nine student passed by a senior they were often obliged to bend down on one knee and recite a poem that had something to do with being a humble and lowly frosh. One particular poem that one person clearly remembers reciting to a senior was “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you”. During the two or three days of initiation, it was understood that the senior students could ask the grade nine to do something for them. There had to be however, a stipulation that the request was reasonable. Carrying books, cleaning out a senior’s locker or washing their car were among some of the requests that were made of the grade 9 students.

A few people remember the freshman having to have a number of marbles in their possession. A senior could request to see those marbles at any time. Seniors scattered the marbles on the ground forcing the grade nine student to run and collect them. If the grade nine student was not in possession of the marbles he could be in breach of a more serious crime which resulted in the handing down of more severe punishment. Some examples of more severe punishments included performing push-ups on the ground or having to wear an item of clothing backwards.

Freshman initiation always ended with a school dance at the youth center that was very well attended.

Again, all people who recounted their stories of initiation during the 1950s say that it was all in fun and that they never ever felt intimidated.

The 1960s saw the most elaborate of activities planned for freshman initiation. Many freshmen were required to carry a sign or placard around their neck with the expression “I am a humble frosh” written in English or pig Latin. Others had to wear a cooking onion around their neck. Each grade nine class chose a freshie Prince and Princess. During the Friday of initiation week the grade 9 students were paraded throughout town with Princes and Princesses from each class riding in a convertible car.

On the demand of a senior, a freshman had to get down on one knee and sing the school song or recite a poem. Many freshmen tried to sneak out of school at the end of the day but if they were caught the punishment was worse.

Punishments for grade nine students were definitely one of a kind. Some students were instructed to bring a fishing rod to engage in “fake fishing” in an open manhole on the road.

Many people remember the Kangaroo or Moose court that took place during the Friday night dance in the gym. During Moose court certain freshmen who were not compliant during the week’s activities were charged with very funny infractions and put on trial. As everyone was found guilty during Moose court, the accused had to face their charges in front of the crowd. There were some very imaginative punishments handed out to guilty grade nines. For example, having to push a carrot with one’s nose down the entire length of the dance floor was one punishment recalled clearly by a former student, now an alumni of the school. Another form of punishment was to have a grade nine sit in the lap of another student and feed that person spaghetti using chopsticks.

And there are many other stories about the variety of retributions handed out to grade 9s during Moose court!

A guilty male frosh was brought before the court and made to wear an apron protecting his clothes. A grade nine girl was given two eggs, one that was raw and one that was supposedly hard boiled. The girl had to choose which egg to break over the victim’s head. Later on it was made known that all the eggs were raw and this resulted in an inevitable mess of raw egg being splattered over every victim’s hair and face.

Freshmen marching through town

Other guilty freshmen brought before the court were given a razor and asked to shave a balloon that was covered in shaving cream. If the freshman was not careful, he could easily knick the balloon causing it to explode and covering the freshman with shaving cream.

Cream pies were regularly thrown at grade nines in Moose court. At other times boys were sprayed with heavy perfume.

During the 1960s, the Central Hotel was popular with students after school. Many enjoyed the French fries with gravy and the home made butter tarts. A pool hall was located between the Central Hotel and Wilson’s Business solutions. However, only boys were allowed to frequent the premises. If any girl entered she would be asked to leave. The Bright Spot (located at the present Boffo Bag) was popular with teens on Friday and weekend evenings. After a night at the theatre, or after a dance, many would frequent the Bright Spot for a bite to eat. During Freshie week however, grade nines were not allowed to attend the pool hall, the Central Hotel or the Bright Spot.

Many remember the lively school spirit during the 1960s. Football games were popular, and there were often up to three buses of students who would attend out-of-town games. Often freshman were allowed to attend the games but they were required to sit in a specific location where they could cheer for the senior they were paired with.

One alumni has expressed a very interesting perspective on orientation week. She remembers that the entire week was filled with activities planned by the school. She remembers one day while sitting in the classroom the bell rang and all the students were instructed to meet in the main gym. In the gym, was a dance competition for everyone in the school. Pairs of staff, students and even the secretaries would compete in the dance competition. This former student particularly remembers Mr. Barry Sampson as very good dancer.

Initiation for boys during the late 1940s

Once again, there were no recollections of fear or apprehension by freshmen who attended the high school during the 1960s. It was all in fun.

During the 1970s, the atmosphere during orientation week changed. According to people’s recollections, the school played a lesser role in the planning of orientation week. Rather, orientation activities were improvised by senior students and often without regard for the grade nine student’s feelings. Many were frightened and one person remembers being placed in one of the most embarrassing situations in her life. It was particularly difficult for shy students.

Many of the orientation activities were cruel. Pies were sometimes thrown in the faces of freshmen without warning. Students were forced into lockers and locked inside. Some students had to scrub the hallway with toothbrushes. One individual was forced to eat a raw cooking onion.

Mock weddings between two freshmen were frequent occurrences. Two students had to exchange vows and were married for the day. The person who recounted this remembers only a few seniors in attendance during the “ceremony”. The fact that there were so few seniors attending underpins the fact that the event was not planned and not supported by school council or the school itself.

Others remember being told to crouch down, waddle like a duck and say “quack quack”.

Orientation activities often occurred after school hours and on the school bus rides. A few parents complained of that fact.

Mr. Barry Sampson, a teacher at the high school at the time, mentions that it was difficult at the time to discipline the students because a teacher could only make cautionary disciplinary comments. Many of the activities occurred away from the school thus could not be controlled by the teachers who patrolled the hallways.

By the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the school became involved again with orientation by the creation of the “house system”. All students were divided into four houses, Pine (red), Maple (green), spruce (blue) and birch (yellow). First of all, by dividing the students in smaller groups such as the house system, it would be easier to foster friendships between the students.

The house captains met with the grade 9 students during the first assembly of the year. A female and male representative were chosen to represent the particular house. The freshmen were taught the school song and were told how to dress for freshy days; nerds, cross-dressers and punks were some of the themes at that time.

Throughout the year, student council and the athletic association held events where students participated and collected house points. Activities ranged from dress up days, cake baking contests, making floats for the homecoming parade, intramural sports and other activities. The house team with the most points won a trophy at the end of the year.

Student council and the athletic association organized a number of ice-breaking activities on stage during Moose court. Throughout the week, names of students who were charged with infractions, usually very funny ones, were dropped off at the main office.

Moose court again set the stage for outlandish sentences to be handed out to grade 9 students. Three boys and three girls were brought before the court. The boys were blindfolded and told that they would have to kiss one of the girls. After the boys were blindfolded, their mothers were brought into the gym and the boys ended up kissing their mothers.

Other punishments performed on the Moose court stage involved one student trying to pass a lifesaver to another student using a straw or a toothpick. There were whip cream eating contests where the participants were not allowed to use their hands. Another incident was having students eat a number of marshmallows and wander on the stage saying “I am a chubby bunny”.

One final activity remembered by one alumni was the blindfolding of a number of students who were assigned to be an animal and to wander on the stage mimicking the sound of the animal. At the same time they had to listen to and identify their partner who was the same animal. Once they found each other they were told to kiss their “partner animal” on the cheek.

Grade nine initiation continued until it was cancelled by Principal Rick Victor in 1987. An assembly was held in the gym where Mr. Victor explained that there would be absolutely no initiation of the new students to the school. Many senior students were upset, believing that it was not fair that they had had to endure initiation while the new students were exempt. Without doubt, minor incidents occurred over the following years, but initiation eventually faded as an activity at the school.

Today, one week before classes start in September, there is a day where new students along with their parents visit the school. The students receive their timetables, find their lockers and orient themselves to the school so that they can easily find their classes. Some teachers volunteer that day to help and answer any questions. On that day, and on the first day of school, teachers wear identifiable bright yellow shirts with a blue lettered message reading “ask me anything”. It is hoped that new students feel at ease in asking any question of a teacher as they familiarize themselves with the school.

This picture dates to 1979