Miss Cole

Sewing for me, triggers a lot of memories. Some lovely times with my mom and a few very vivid images of my grade 7 Home Economics teacher… Miss Cole.

Home Economics with Miss Cole was about sewing, cooking and even learning how to plan a budget.

Anyway, Miss Cole, at the time, seemed ancient to me. She was unlike any person that I really knew. So different.

Well, then again, there were the White twins.

They dressed in identical matching outfits with matching patent leather purses carried on the same arm and matching spray-net hair-dos.

But back to Miss Cole.

She was referred to around town as one of the Cole sisters, a spinster and a very conservative lady. She had pretty high standards for us girls and was somewhat put off by the fashion style of the time,although not completely fazed by it.

But first let me situate you in the actual times…

In those days, the school staff organized contests for best posture,

I can still see Norah McGuire walking around the halls balancing books on her head to help secure her win.

The girls came in one entrance to the school and the boys came in another. There was a playground for the girls and one for the boys.

The strange thing was that this was middle school, a school for grade 7 and grade 8 students. All of us were coming from elementary schools with mixed playgrounds.

But once here at Senior Public, the sexes were delegated to the east and west sides of the school. The north side was out of bounds and the entrance for staff and parents was located on the south side.

Pretty serious stuff! Anyway, Miss Cole, seemed like an oddity to me.

Her clothing was very old-fashioned, she was often seen wearing an apron around the school and appeared completely ignorant to all the comments that fed off of her strange attire.

I was not sure how she was going to teach me anything.

I had already developed an interest in cooking.

Although in those days, the foodie revolution was a movement still waiting to be born.

Between the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child I was already busy mixing up heavy sauces and experimenting with ingredients in our fridge to see what went with what.

I also came to her Home Economics class with a preconceived idea of who she was.

Miss Cole lived in a really big old house with her sister, not far from my own home.

I sort of felt sorry for her.

Her house seemed so quiet all the time, not a lot of action really.

They had a big Pontiac in the driveway that seemed to get a lot of use on Sundays. Miss Cole was the driver…I think…. and her sister would sit in the back seat.

Anyway, there was always one driving and another sitting straight and tall in the back.

So the first day when I walked into class and realized that Miss Cole was my Home Economics teacher….well, I was a bit stunned.

There were a lot of giggles in the room as the girls settled in to what seemed to them the most ridiculous of courses.

First up was a cooking class on making pudding.

I was paired up with Debbie Smith who I barely knew but certainly had every desire to befriend at the earliest possible moment. We chatted and moaned over the whole affair while unintentionally burning our pudding.

Of course that made us instant celebrities around the school given the objective by most to hijack this class at all cost.

But Miss Cole merely spoke to us about the importance of stirring, regulating temperature and keeping our noses active.

Secretly I admired her calm.

Over the course of the year, we embroidered our initials on tea towels, learned how to sew in a straight line and were even given the option to embroider flowers on our coveted bell bottom jeans.

And by the end of the year, I knew how to sew.

And I was pretty good.

I had made a quilted coat that I hung on to for several years after that. My bell bottom jeans were covered in flowers from waistline to the bottom hem, although I do believe my mother was responsible for that.

I learned how to use our sewing machine which made the receiving of my own Kenmore model many years later, all that more special.

And I can still hear Miss Cole saying…. “girls, find some old material that has still got some life to it and re-purpose it.”

So, Miss Cole, I am not re-purposing old material these days but I am still learning and I owe some of that to you.

Here’s to burnt pudding, embroidered bell bottoms and great teachers.