Charlie, the Shop teacher

Charlie Reid was a well-loved and respected Industrial Arts (woodwork) teacher at Lake Cowichan High School

Charlie Reid

Charlie Reid

Charlie Reid was a well-loved and respected Industrial Arts (woodwork) teacher at Lake Cowichan High School from 1947 until he took retirement many years later. He died on June 10, 1987 at age 76.

A lasting memory of Charlie, the “shop teacher” took place in the spring of 1977 in the intensive care unit of Cowichan District Hospital. He had arrived by ambulance and was apparently having a heart attack. Above his bed the heart monitor that was attached to him had stopped, alerting the emergency team of nurses and doctors that his heart had stopped beating.

After several minutes of upheaval, loud voices and organized medical chaos, the team managed to revive and stabilize the patient. His heart was once again showing a steady rhythm. Watching the frightening scenario from my bed across the room, I crossed my fingers (for good luck) and silently cheered for Charlie, “the shop teacher.”

The following day, after calming down a bit and waiting until I thought a sufficient amount of time had lapsed (although I had no idea what a sufficient amount of time might be before visiting a person who had just survived a heart attack), I slipped out my bed and tiptoed over to the very peaceful, but very sick, Charlie.

I didn’t know Mr. Reid very well because I never took any of his classes (this was before the days that girls “were allowed” to take Industrial Arts classes) but based on the fact that we were both held captive in the same scary place, we immediately became best friends.

One day, I noticed that my new hospital-bestfriend Charlie was missing from his bed (odd I thought, when just three days prior we had nearly lost him). During a short trek around the ICU to look for Charlie, I noticed a head peeking out from behind a closet door window. I got the distinct impression that it was Charlie.

He appeared to be hiding. Upon closer inspection through the small window, I saw that Charlie and a fellow patient, whose bed was beside Charlie’s, were hiding from the nurses while sharing a cigarette.  With a NO SMOKING rule in effect in the ICU, Charlie and his cohort feared being found out. The fact that they had both survived serious heart attacks in the past few days and were now doing something that could cause another attack, didn’t seem to be of any concern whatsoever to the men.

When he realized that I had seen him, Charlie quietly opened the door, just a crack, and whispered that I shouldn’t tell the nurses what they were up to. And under no circumstances was I to tell his wife Chris!  Although it was a useless effort, I implored the men not to smoke. My advice went through one ear and out the other, for I caught them back at it the next day although they had promised me (under duress) that they would stop. I resisted tattle tailing on Charlie, who by now was my bosom pal, but I secretly hoped that the often-stern no-nonsense ICU nurses would smell the smoke and chastise the men. I later learned that it was a common occurrence in ICU that smokers who had just days before survived heart attacks, could hardly wait until they had the strength to get out of their hospital bed and sneak away for a smoke.

A day or two later Chris, Charlie’s wife, came to visit him. The sweet lady that she was, she had brought a little parcel for me that Charlie had especially asked her to buy. Upon opening the parcel I was stunned to see a very lovely and expensive bottle of perfume; trade name Charlie. As I thanked them Charlie gave me a secret wink as if to say, thanks for not telling on me. Although Charlie and Chris are long since gone, I still to this day think of Charlie when I see a bottle of Charlie perfume in a store.


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