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Tribute to Eric Kelly - Principal

I first met Eric Kelly when I entered John Oliver High School in September l938 at the "ripe" young age of l3, and he became my Social Studies teacher. Mr. Kelly must have been only 28 years old at the time, having graduated with his MA degree only short years before, so he was undoubtedly my youngest teacher.

As such he related well to the age group of my fellow students and me. For instance he was the only teacher to tell us the occasional joke - harmless, clean ones. I still remember one: What did one bar of soap say to another? Answer: "Can I hold your palm, olive?" The reply was: "Not on your life, boy!" We all would groan at his jokes, and he would give out an exasperated sigh and a slight grin , all put on, I'm sure. However I told them to my 6 children and still tell them to my 7 grandchildren.

Apart from academic matters, Eric was well known for two things: his ear-piercing whistle if the class became a little too unruly, and his unerring accuracy in firing a piece of chalk at anyone who was misbehaving. Whereas students conferred nicknames on other teachers (but not in their presence, of course), such as Jake, Monty, Jingles, Pansy, Mushy Mac and Hank, Eric was always Mr. Kelly to us.

I disappointed him only once, I believe. This was when I was appointed a judge for a pre-War class debate between two groups of students on the benefits of Fascism to Italy. My verdict was that the pro-Fascism side had won, but he disagreed. He was probably right, but I felt sorry for the head of the "pro-Fascism" team, as he had to present a non-popular point of view, and because he was not nearly as good a student as the head of the anti-Fascism side, so needed encouragement, I felt. Mr. Kelly and I were of different religions, but we respected those differences. And , based on his religious convictions, he was always scrupulously fair with his students.

Most of the things he taught had a lasting impression on me, including an appreciation of the Rubaiyat by the l3th Century Persian poet Omar Khayyam (please excuse any spelling errors), which began with "Awake, for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that sets the stars to flight". I later memorized many stanzas.

When I visited JO a few years ago, after an absence of many years in Eastern Canada and abroad, and met John Chalk, then (and now?) the principal, I was delighted to learn that Mr. Kelly had become the principal many years back.

I am very pleased that there will be a celebration in Eric's honor on September l7, and I regret very much that my wife and I will not be present, as we have to return to Ottawa on September l4, our flight having been delayed because of air terrorism in the United States. But I join the others in wishing Mr. Kelly improved health and much happiness in his much deserved retirement.

I am typing this on my son's computer, as I do not have e-mail yet. (The typing I learned at JO in Miss Clendenning's class. However my address is 2l90 Tawney Road, Ottawa ON, KlG lC5. Tel. 6l3-733-6640 , if anyone, particularly Mr. Kelly, wants to contact me.

Jack MacKinnon - Grad 1942