Mike Holmes remembers Louise Brown and Brian Pearcy
The famous contractor and star of TV’s Holmes on Homes says he didn’t have much interest in school, preferring to tag along with his dad, a jack of all trades. But two teachers recognized him as a leader and nudged him into the spotlight.
As a preschooler, Mike Holmes took toys apart, fascinated by the way things worked. By the time he was 12, he was helping his father and number-one mentor with electrical and plumbing jobs.
Nonetheless, at Queen Alexandra Middle School on Broadview Avenue in Toronto, he did encounter two truly memorable individuals. Not his shop teachers, mind you, but his homeroom teacher Louise Brown and music teacher Brian Pearcy, who somehow conned him into performing in their musicals.
“They made a huge difference,” Holmes says.
Brown did the writing, made the props, created the programs, sold the tickets, and above all, let her kids out of class for rehearsal. Pearcy put the musical end together.
When Holmes was in Grade 7, they laid on Bop Shu Bop, a version of Grease, and cast Mike as Pop, the owner of the soda shop. Rumour has it that someone has photos of Mike in his “godawful wig,” but no one is talking. He was “willing and pliable,” remembers Pearcy. “He suffered it wonderfully.”
The next year they did Oliver! – one of Mike’s most vivid memories. “Getting me to sing was quite something. I played the Dodger. It was a hit. We did seven shows.”
The Artful Dodger is the most cunning of the young pickpockets in the Charles Dickens novel on which the musical is based.
“He took naturally to the part and did extremely well,” says Pearcy, but not because he was like the Dodger. Pearcy and Brown both say that Holmes was a kid with a strong sense of right and wrong.
“He was a good leader in class,” remembers Pearcy. “He had a sense of propriety. You could see it even then.”
According to Holmes, his teachers did not steer him into his career, but they did shape him. He describes them as “good people” who cared about him and taught him to be responsible. Pearcy, he says, had “the knack.”
“He treated me with respect. Tough love – that’s what I call it.
“Miss Brown was even tougher,” he says with admiration. “There was no excuse for not handing in your homework. No yelling. No screaming. No playing, unless she said it was okay to play. If she raised her voice, everyone shut up. She was a powerful person.”
The two teachers, both retired, remember Holmes clearly.
“He had a smile that lit up the room. He was quite shy but had real sparkle,” says Brown. “I taught for 35 years, which means thousands of kids went through my door, but as soon as I saw him on TV, I said to Brian, ‘Hey, that’s our Mike!’”
Holmes was a big attraction at the Queen Alexandra reunion last spring.
“There had been a newspaper article on him two or three days before,” says Pearcy. “We cut out the story and, as the school secretary put it, we made a little shrine. When he came to the school he was very gracious.”
Brown agrees. “It was wonderful to see him.”
She adds that anytime she mentions to someone that she taught Mike Holmes, the reaction among women is always the same. They all say, “I love him.”
It’s the overalls.
“You wouldn’t have thought this kid would end up on TV all over the world,” she muses. “But we say we gave him his start in show biz.”
Mike Holmes is the host of Holmes on Homes, the number one show on HGTV since 2004. He is the author of Make It Right, a book that shows that renovation doesn’t have to be a nightmare that costs twice as much and takes twice as long as expected.
The Holmes Foundation
After a rescue mission on a particularly disastrous home renovation, Mike Holmes set up a charitable foundation to help improve home renovation and construction in Canada.
The foundation partners with schools, governments and businesses to raise the profile of the skilled trades, persuade young people to pursue the trades, and encourage employers to hire more apprentices.
Starting in the 2007–08 school year, the foundation is offering Make It Right scholarships for students in residential construction programs at Canadian colleges.
Information is available at www.holmesonhomes.com.