When I was 14 my parents sent me off to rural BRIERCREST - a religious boarding school which catered to hard-to-mange kids, along with missionaries children. You may well wonder why "lovely, compliant, Dorothy" was exiled? I think my parents feared that I was in danger of losing my faith, and worried that I would succumb to the temptations of the city. Briercrest Bible Institute was situated out on the bald prairie on the site of a former Royal Canadian Air Force base near the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
You can imagine how lonely I was, crying in my room at night, while daily leading raucous laughter in the dining hall. For three long years, I survived the strict constraints of BBI by developing 2 useful personae: Dorothy the Clown and Dorothy the rebel. Away from my vigilant parents, at least I had the FREEDOM to shape my own coping strategies.
In the dining hall Dorothy the Clown made inane jokes about the dreadful food and the outrageous faculty. This did not cause smiles on "said faculty's" faces! I was called to the Dean's office. Many times. Here's our Latin teacher being admired by a strapping hunk just returned from the 2nd world war! We students had great fun imagining the dynamics between them :)
Punishments were not only severe, but in my view, STUPID! You started out with 200 merits. Each rule infraction caused a few demerits - until you used them all up. If you went to class with a run in your nylon stockings you were forced to clean the scummy shower stalls. My mind could not grasp the sense in that! In protest I took a nail and made lace of my stockings before striding off to class.
Then there was The Ghost of Humphrey Davies, ancient and dead BBI founder. Our high school dorm room walls didn't go all the way up to the ceiling, so after lights out at 10pm I would climb up on the top bunk and peer over into the hallway. If the nite supervisor wasn't on patrol I'd lower my voice to a menacing gravelly whisper and say, "This is the ghost of Humphrey Davies".
It doesn't seem all that funny now, or even BAD, but I got many demerits and several weeks of kitchen duty where other sinners like myself peeled huge tubs of potatoes and carrots!
Because Briercrest was on the old RCAF base it had two long paved runways far out onto the prairie. We were not allowed to go there. On one occasion I was discovered dancing the highland fling on the runway and suffered a pile of demerits. My biggest sin, though we were never caught, was planning and executing asecret 15th birthday party for myself. Girls from 3 different dorms set their clocks for 2am and we all crept out with our peanut butter and banana sandwiches and cokes, and met under the ONE big tree about a 1/4 mile from campus.
I didn't care all that much about my classes, 3 years of Latin for example . . . but I enjoyed working on the year book and had a bit of a crush on tall Gordon Fletcher, front, centre, middle >>
But I LOVED THE MUSIC. MUSIC was in the air, truly. Our perfectionist choir director, whipped us into shape for our Sunday radio broadcast. We always opened with the robust gospel song; "We have heard the joyful sound . . . '
I studied voice with this >> cute guy - and even made a 78 rpm recording for my parents. One of the songs on it was: "Sometimes when my faith would falter, and no sunlight I can see . . . etc." I sang earnestly and with deep passion.
Every year BBI hosted a huge missionary conference in the vast gymnasium on campus. Missionaries from around the world, often in costume, told of the millions of heathen suffering from lack of our message of hope. Our 60-voice choir sang "Follow, I will follow Thee my Lord . . ." I remember a giant wave of emotion pulling many of us to commit our lives to foreign missionary service. I imagined myself in New Guinea or South America.
We kids were just kids, like anywhere, I suppose, but without any drugs, movies, electronics, TV. We had a lot of fun.
Here's our high school girls hockey team which lasted until the faculty felt it was unladylike and probably too violent. That's me on the left front row. My roommate Babs is just behind me.
Looking back I see how very YOUNG we were! These 14 year old boys in my class seem so tender and innocent, but take my word for it, they were anything but. My sort-of boy friend was Bryan St. George, in the back centre with the blond brush cut.
And here's a blurry little pic of friend Doug teaching me to shoot cans off a fence.
Its hard to believe I EVER held a gun in my totally pacifistic hands!
In the summer if I didn't go back to the city to work in my father's bookstore, I went with my friend Joyce to her family farm. They were Ukranian folks who served lots of delicious homemade sour cream on everything.
Here I'm pitching hay >>> or pretending to -
Then one day at the end of my third year grim Miss Neufeld, Dean of Women, called me in and stated in a flat voice, "You have exhausted your merits!
"But", she added, "Its not so much that - it is your ATTITUDE! . . . I'm sorry Miss Anderson, but you will not be welcomed back to Briercrest!'
I don't know why I'm sharing these Briercrest memories from 65 years ago - with their mix of outer independence and inner lonliness.
Next time I'll take you back to the big city and then on to the next step in the journey. Stay tuned!
It is so clear now that each event, place, person, and situation played a necessary role in my journey to wholeness.