"Ive got three all
English teachers," the familiar voice announces. "At the Galt Collegiate, there
was a wonderful man named Frank Ferguson," says Peter Gzowski. "He had a huge
impact on me and hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of other kids.
"Mr. Ferguson, as I called him all his life, had a great gift of illumination. He
so obviously loved the works he taught that you would put your own natural aversion to
Shakespeare aside and say, If he can get this enthusiastic it must be
Gzowski calls Ferguson the Mister Chips of the GCI: "People liked him. He had a
wonderful, joyful air."
Ferguson did something unusual for a teacher he was a CCF candidate. Gzowski
remembers that this shocked a number of people, including his stepfather, who thought
these "radical socialists" shouldnt be allowed in the school.
Fergusons political activism didnt come up in the classroom. "He just
talked about the writers we were studying," Gzowski reports.
Ferguson also taught composition. "I could write a bit then," says Gzowski,
"Im a librarians kid. I guess I was already interested in many of these
things and he continued to fan the flames."
Gzowski enjoyed receiving notes from Ferguson. "When I started to appear on the
radio I would get these wonderful, erudite, funny, and occasionally scolding, hand-written
letters done in fountain pen on small white stationery from Mr. Ferguson. Frank Ferguson
he had retired he would sign himself. That was the time I figured out his
first name," Gzowski adds.
Helen Rudick also taught English at Galt CI. "She had a naughty turn of mind,
which was a great delight," chuckles Gzowski. "She really used to like
embarrassing the boys, and she would go out of her way to make sure there were double
entendres. And I know that she took great delight in watching us giggle and blush and
think it was so funny."
In Grade 11 Gzowski transferred to Ridley, an independent school for boys in St.
Catharines. There he encountered Jim Pringle, who came from Atikokan and had been a
commando during the war. "This was a guy who had really served in the war," says
Gzowski. "I dont remember the literature he taught, but he was an inspiration
"Some of the darkness of his years in the war would show," remembers Gzowski.
"He was occasionally quite morose but also very sharp and quite a pleasure to be
"What I remember most," says Gzowski, "was an essay in which I thought I
would demonstrate my huge literary gifts. I wrote a kind of stream of consciousness piece,
and he just kicked the living Jesus out of it. I got a failing mark and all these caustic
comments. Of course he was right. It was a great lesson. I was something of a star in the
composition class, and when I got 30, or whatever it was, it was quite a moment. It was
very good for me. What it meant to me was dont be pretentious. Dont try to be
something that youre not.
"I think its what great teachers do, which is not be afraid to kick the
pretence out of you. Because he obviously had some hope that I would go into the word
business," concludes Peter Gzowski.