Thursday, 9 January 2014

STALAG JERICHO

Most of you folks reading this haven't had the sort of childhood I did so I'll explain. When I was seven years old, the government sent me 500 miles from home to a residential school for deaf and blind students. I was only allowed to return home at Christmas and summer, as well as three Easter holidays. Others who lived nearer could go home more often and the Vancouver students could attend classes like regular school children did.

Though it offended our supervisors and teachers, we called it a prison camp. In many ways, it was like one. Nobody was allowed to leave the grounds except when escorted by a supervisor or teacher. Our parcels from home were confiscated and any treats in them were shared out sparingly to all the kids. Worse yet, some supervisors kept money and treats from our "care packages" from home without telling us.

In January of 1970, a directive came down from the administration building that coffee and tea weren't to be served in the dining hall anymore. No explanation was given to us for this arbitrary decision either.

Naturally, us older boys were incensed by this dictate. One snowy day after school, Geoffrey walked up to me as I sat on my bed and said, "I've got some tea and sugar and cream. Would you like to have some after the night nurse wakes me up to go to the bathroom?"

I heartily agreed with him. Then he went around to the two boys in our bedroom and made the same offer. Nobody refused his generous proposal.

Once the night nurse left our bedroom at midnight and all was quiet, we crept from our beds to the bathroom. After running the hot water tap for a minute, we all filled our cups. Geoffrey then dunked a tea bag in each one a few times, much as we had seen prisoners of war do on TV. As soon as we crept back to our room, we added the sugar and cream.

That tea tasted wonderful to us. Added to the pleasure of its flavour and warmth was the knowledge that we got away with drinking it.

Our clandestine tea party continued night after night for a few weeks. No adult suspected we had engaged in a proscribed activity, making us feel all the more proud of our rule defiance.

Without warning, another edict was handed down from on high allowing us older boys to have tea and coffee with our meals once more. Again, no explanation was given to us by our supervisors or the dining hall staff for this change. Though we stopped having tea after midnight, I never forgot how we bucked the authorities in "Stalag Jericho."

I told this story, and other tales of mischief, in my second memoir called Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School. Read more about it, and my memoir about house rabbits, at the Bruce Atchison's books page.

I also have a new paperback out called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Read more about this astonishing story of God's wondrous providence at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.