Ridgewood 1
by Gil Osgood

Written 19th May 1997

[Some recent posts about Ridgewood by Ernie and Bob have inspired me to begin a new series to share around the campfire. This first installment provides a general description of Ridgewood as I remember it. Corrections or additions are welcome. I anticipate 1 to 3 more installments recalling various events there.] [See Installment 2! and Installment 3!]
Ridgewood had only just been built when the class of 59 started school at Woodstock. Finished sometime in the early 40s, it occupies the wooded ridge that runs down from Landour hill and then rises again to form the promontory on which the College sits. Standing in front of Ridgewood in 1949, when I first saw it, one's first impressions were of grey stone columns and of verandas that ran the full length of the building on both the first and second floors.

The right wing had the kitchen on the ground floor and the study hall/game room on the second floor. This was where we studied every weekday night, starting in third standard and it was also where many of us learned to play ping pong.

The longer left wing had two large dormitory rooms separated by a staff room on each of its two floors. Fifth and sixth standard boys lived on the first floor while second through fourth standard boys occupied the two second story dormitories. There was also a basement under this section that contained a large bathroom and the shower room. There were some high windows in this basement that looked out towards the Hostel. The boilers were fired up twice a week so we could all take showers whether we needed them or not! This early training made a deep impression on me and I remain convinced that daily showers or baths are one of the most flagrant signs of the decay of western civilization! It was here, one memorable evening, standing in line with other naked boys, that Weldon explained to me that the word 'bra', which I knew only as Woodstock slang for brother, had a second altogether different and quite astounding meaning.

The center section of the building was the only part that rose three stories above ground. The first floor was taken up by the dining room and the second floor was the residence of the Ridgewood Supervisor. The third floor (the "attic") was the dormitory for the littlest boys, first standard and younger. There was an attached room where the dorm matron slept and also a bathroom making this the only dorm whose residents didn't have to use the basement facility. Many a young lad had his first experience of the pressures of life here, trying to use the single toilet just before lights out with a line of impatient boys waiting behind him.

In the 40's and 50s there was a playground at the south end of Ridgewood whose main feature was a giant hollow log good for both crawling through and climbing on. I can still see all its bumps and curves and feel the well worn texture of its wood. At the north end of Ridgewood was "the mound", the hillock around which the path up to school wound. The mound was originally simply part of the ridge and only became a mound when the path to Dhobi Ghat was cut through, separating it from the rest of the ridge.

In the 60s a round addition called Alter Ridge was built on the original playground and the mound was leveled to create a new playground. There are probably hundreds of former Woodstock boys whose eyes, like mine, fill with tears when they think of the destruction of what was probably the best place for little boys to play that ever existed. It was great for all sorts of games like tag and hide and go seek and for tree climbing. Its clay soil was perfect for carving paths for toy cars to drive on and for tunneling into although once a cave collapsed and some small boy had to be dragged out by his legs. I can even remember playing gooly dunda on the path to school by its side. This joyful place is gone but the khud that runs from Ridgewood down to Hansen field is still there and hopefully is still full of soft barked rhodedendron trees, well worn trails and happily playing children. [From Gil Osgood]

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