Our school field trip to see a limo

I remember many of my primary school field trips when my twin brother and I attended Bessborough School from 1965 to 1973. There were of course trips to the Ontario Science Centre and the Royal Ontario Museum. I seem to recall more than one visit to Black Creek Pioneer Village where we learned how to churn butter among other antiquated skills. I’m quite sure we even took that short walk to see the fire station on McRae, not to mention the Leaside Public Library just one short block down Crandall Road. I’m sure there was a fall trip to a pumpkin farm that undoubtedly included a hayride on a wagon pulled by a tractor. Oh, and who could forget hitting a local sugar bush to witness the miraculous journey from sap to syrup?

But there’s one field trip that stands out from many of the others. It was Oct. 22, 1969. I was nine years old, and coincidently, so was my twin brother, Tim. We were in Grade 5. Two days earlier it had been a balmy 11ºC, about the seasonal norm for late October. And a few days after it was 10ºC. But as luck would have it, on Oct. 22, 1969, the temperature plummeted to -4ºC. I should also mention that it actually snowed that day. And this particular field trip involved walking and waiting… outside. It was all very exciting, but man, were we cold by the end.

I forget whether it was in the morning or afternoon – after all it was 55 years ago. But I do remember the walk from Bessborough along Hanna Road to Leaside High School. Given the frigid temperatures and snow, you might think that when we arrived, we’d be warmly welcomed inside for hot chocolate and Pop Tarts. Not so much. In fact, we had to stand outside in the cold, lining the driveway, waiting. Some were bopping up and down in eager anticipation of the special guest soon to arrive. I was probably bopping up and down for the sole purpose of elevating my body temperature, which at the time was in steep decline.

Not wanting to be late, we had arrived in very good time. I think we were an hour early and as such, had secured a prime spot on the driveway. Right across from us were arrayed the students of Northlea. There was a great rivalry between our two schools, so it was risky lining us up directly across from the road from them. I mean, we weren’t exactly the Sharks and the Jets, but there were some nervous teachers praying the special guest would arrive soon. But we behaved ourselves. It helped that we’d all been given little Canadian flags to distract us.

Finally, the motorcade turned off Hanna and into the Leaside High School driveway. There were police officers on motorcycles in front of a long black limousine, with two more motorcycles in behind. By that stage, I’d lost all feeling in my legs and I was clapping my hands – not so much for our celebrity visitor, but to try to restore blood circulation in my fingers. I waved my little flag with passion.

As the limo moved past us, the only part of our special guest I could see was his hand waving in the window. The limo pulled up to the top of the driveway and stopped. Then the rear door opened. Through the snow, I watched as none other than Prince Phillip emerged wearing a suit, but no coat, hat, or gloves. He smiled our way and waved before turning to dash up the steps to the open doors, no doubt anticipating the warmth that beckoned.

And that was it. As soon as the doors closed, our intrepid teachers and the parents who joined us on the field trip announced we were immediately starting the great arctic trek back along Hanna to Bessborough School. Looking back, I may remember more about his limo than I do about him, but by all accounts, Prince Phillip was lovely and gracious during his visit to present some impressive Leaside High School students with the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. That was the day royalty came to Leaside.

For Ted DeWelles’ Heritage take on this story see: https://leasidelife.com/fast-times-at-leaside-high-the-day-prince-philip-came-to-town.

About Terry Fallis 88 Articles
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of nine national bestsellers, all published by McClelland & Stewart. His most recent, A New Season, is now in bookstores. www.terryfallis.com.