The Day my Teacher Took me to “Hooker Harvey’s”

“Class! I have an announcement! We are going to do something different for this week’s spelling quiz!” A buzz rippled across the grade 2 class. “Quiet! Quiet everyone!” Mlle. Koma paused, her arms folded across her chest and waited us out. She never shouted. She never had to. She was one of those teachers that commanded through silence. And we all, except Timothy Gray, loved her.

“Now, for those of you who score 100% on this week’s test, don’t bring lunch on Friday. The winners will be going out with me to…” She paused for effect… “To Harvey’s!” The cacophony of 25 kids cheering and banging on their desks went on for a full two minutes, despite Mlle. Koma’s arm folded look. When it finally died down, the bell rang for recess. Perfectly timed.

Hooker Harvey's

Image: Eyeweekly.com

“Who cares? It’s just dumb old Hooker Harvey’s!” Timothy proclaimed in the school yard, as a group of us huddled together and worked on our words. Timothy probably had a learning disability and a touch of ADD, or at least he would have if he had been born a generation later. In my day, he was a fidget and a class disturber, at times spending more time at the office than in the classroom. We ignored his comment but only in part because we were studying intently; not one of us knew what he meant by ‘Hooker’ and not one of us was going to admit that to Timothy Gray, only to be mercilessly teased for the rest of the year. “Isn’t anyone going to play Red Rover?” he whined to our backs. We didn’t flinch. With single minded determination, we were preparing for this test.

I don’t think prior to that moment, or at any point since, I had ever studied as hard as I did for that test. I read all the words again and again; I used them in sentences so that I would remember them better; I got my Mom to quiz me. Five times. I was ready and I was going to win. Because going out to a fast food restaurant, back then and at the age of 7, was a BIG deal. It was up there with McDonald’s birthday parties; bubble gum; puffy and scratch and sniff stickers. The things that matter when you are 7.

I don’t remember taking the test but I do remember having difficulty sleeping the night that followed it because the next day would be the big announcement. I wanted to win so badly I could taste it. That and the cheeseburger that I was planning to order.

“Okay class, settle down, settle down. I won’t read the names until I have quiet.” Silence took over as 24 pairs of eyes stared at Mlle. Koma. “Now you all did remarkably well on this test, much better than usual, but there were four of you who scored 100%…” She scanned the room and I hoped that her lingering on me for a moment was a sign. “The winners of lunch with me at Harvey’s tomorrow are…” and she said my name. I didn’t even hear the other names after that. I had won! I would be going with Mlle. Koma to have lunch, like a real lunch outing. Like an adult. I started planning my outfit.

The next morning dragged on and on. I was sure I could hear the big clock on the wall ticking more slowly than it ever had including on the last day of school before Christmas vacation. But finally the bell rang for lunch. Never had a cheeseburger tasted so good. It was like the symbol of freedom, or growing up, or something. We all sat together, each with our burgers and a carton of milk. I don’t remember the fries, but I assume there were fries. And I don’t remember the hookers, though knowing what I know now about that particular part of Toronto and that restaurant, there might have been some, even on a Friday at lunch. But to the four of us and Mlle. Koma, there was no one else. We sat for the whole hour with her as she told us about her wedding plans, an event that the whole class was going to be invited to. My friend Mara, who as it turned out had been one of the other winners, had said: “Maybe you could serve cheeseburgers!” Mlle. Koma just laughed, but not in a mean way. “Maybe!” she replied, looking around her at the plastic seating and dirty floors. “I’ll definitely think about it.”

When I think about that day in the context of the world we live in today, a teacher taking her grade 2 students to lunch as a prize for doing good work would be unheard of. A teacher taking her grade 2 students to lunch at a fast food restaurant would be cause for her to lose her job. And throw in a couple of hookers? We could be talking capital offence. The world is a different place now: parents, teachers, law enforcement all have different roles to play than they did when I was 7. Kids today will have different experiences with their role models and peers; some better and some worse. But I’ll bet nobody else will ever be able to say that they had lunch with their teacher at Hooker Harvey’s.

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