Jerry Bone, VHS 1952 Asking the Zen Questions

Portrait of me painting figures that are painting me. A Zen question for Islay Ferguson: Who started painting first?

Jerry Bone, VHS 1952    Asking the Zen Questions

by Jerry Bone, VHS 1952

I’m just turning 89, and remember back to the friends, the bungling incompetence with the opposite sex, and other growing up groans and giggles at Vic High. It was more than just a school; it was my home.

 My story begins in Sydney, Nova Scotia, when my mother and father split in 1946. Wanting to get as far away from him as she could and still live in Canada, she took my older brother and I on a train trip that after 7 days delivered us to Victoria. There I was registered in Central Junior High. While the music teacher was testing students to find those suitable to form a choir, the band master dropped into the room, focused on me, and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: to blow a shiny instrument. So I wound up playing a tuba and a sousaphone (I did realize the latter would leave me with my left shoulder an inch and a half lower than the right). The following year a new band master, Mr. Grant, took over the baton, and I became the ‘base’ which supported the band. While in junior high, I also had occasions to take part in plays. All of this made me comfortable on stage, a condition which became useful later in life. Having no income other than that which covered absolute necessities, I would mow lawns in summer to get pocket money.

When the time came, I was slated to go to a high school close to home. But my friends were going to Vic High and I wanted to go with them. Luckily Mr. Grant didn’t want to lose me in the band so persuaded Vic High Principal Smith to make it possible for me to attend there. Although it took me two busses to get to school, I settled into my new routine. I had trouble studying during study hall periods, so having had a taste of theatre, I used the spare periods to take drama with Mr. Wayne. He not only taught me drama, but found occasional (non-paying) roles for me in legitimate theater.

Mr. Wayne seemed to understand my financial situation, for one day he offered me a part-time job playing records for a couple who were ice dancers. Things went well for four or five weeks until I witnessed the man’s feet fly up and his head hit the ice. After he was taken away on a stretcher, I was informed my services were no longer required. Mr. Wayne also taught me how to run the movie projector and I became the school’s projectionist. I also took care of setting up and dismantling the PA system, which led me to becoming a timekeeper at basketball games. I remember timekeeping when the Harlem Globe Trotters ran circles around home team.

Before spring break, Mr. Wayne asked me if I would like a job in the cafeteria during the teachers’ Summer School. So while my mates were playing tennis, I washed dishes in a little room next to the serving station in the cafeteria and would amuse myself by singing. One day a head popped in the door and asked me if I would like to take singing lessons. The choir teacher, Miss Hopgood, had heard me through the wall. She swept aside my statement that l couldn’t afford them and offered her services for free. Thinking, “why not?”, I began studying under her during the new school year and soon found myself singing solo on stage at assemblies.

The next year, my summer job was changed to stockroom attendant where I doled out art supplies, took care of supplying, tracking and retrieving maps and other paraphernalia for history class, science lab, sports equipment, etc. I was also projectionist for lectures, set up and controlled the PA setups, moved and set up tables and chairs when needed, and acted as a general gofer. That fall Miss Hopgood had me singing on local radio. With the band, drama and singing, my belief that “All the world’s a stage” culminated at Vic High’s 75th anniversary where I began on stage with the band, then left it to show a short film. I changed into gym gear and joined a gymnastic presentation, changed back into uniform to play with the band again, changed again to play in a short skit, changed into kilt, tam and sporran to sing a solo Scottish song while dancing a variation of the sword dance, then went back to the band for the finale.

In the summer before my final year my summer workload increased and I was given two assistants. In my final year, I was a member of the band that took first in the band competition, was part of a brass quintet that also took first (I was complemented on my tuba solo) and I came first in folk song category. Then came graduation. In the fall, despite the fact I was no longer at Vic High, Miss Hopgood asked me to return to sing once more at the first school assembly. So in a final farewell, I sang to those teachers who gave me confidence to stand on a stage, a love for history, science and reading, but particularly those who directed me towards the joys of music, from Bach to Brubeck.

If anyone has the slightest interest, here is an outline of the rest of my life…the truncated version.

Using money saved from summer jobs, I went to Vic. College.  2 years of Arts & Science, went broke. Navigator R.C.A.F., Korean war over.  Civi-street in Winnipeg,  accounting clerk, night courses CPA, tedious, bored to tears, quit. Worked batching, trucking concrete in bush camp in what became Thompson, Man.  Used money to take Architecture at U. of Manitoba. First year there, met Marj who was taking double honours math. In second year, she dropped into single honours so she could take a course in Abnormal Psychology. She later married me, so she must have found I wasn’t dangerous. To continue, went broke, went to Teachers College, Teaching Certificate, teaching Art, married Marj. As I was teaching Art, thought IMasters. With Canada Council Grant, guaranteed a student bursary, we turned our assets into cash and headed to U. California, San Jose.  One and a half years later, with M.A (Art) in hand and baby in tow we returned to Manitoba to find the teaching job market for Art teachers had closed up. Because of a couple of courses I took in Architecture, I got a job teaching shops in Shilo, Man. But because it was a military base under the Federal Government, I was paid top scale. I made it!!

Later, two daughters entering school and a wife with an honour’s degree in math climbing the walls, considered situation, decided she should get a job, took a 25% cut in salary so she could work in Winnipeg for Great West Life. I took care of the kids and used the rest of the day to make art. As I was breaking the norm for men staying at home while wives worked, she was working her way up the scale to become head of the Computer Systems Section. When she insisted on being recognized as a manager, she broke the barrier against women progressing beyond secretary. In doing so, she paved the way for other women to become managers and company directors.


While this was happening, my art work was spreading from Victoria to Halifax and from the Cortez-Alleman collection in Mexico to a log cabin north of The Pas, Man. I retired in 2004 and took up painting as one of my hobbies. Presently I am completing the last painting, called“Santa”, in a series called: My Life in a Calendar on My Mother’s Kitchen Wall.

Above, I am posed in front of May. If you are interested in what else I have done, Google jerryboneartist, select Facebook reference.