Love's Gay Fool. Autobiography of John Alan Lee.


Chapter 3. High School


I graduated from Rawlinson in June of 1947, with the highest grades in the school. The CAS gave me a new bike as a reward. I was too old for camp, unless I wished to train as a counsellor, and I did not. I expected to start the summer holidays by sleeping in. Joe had other plans.

He woke me before he left for work: Get dressed, make a lunch, and find a job. You can put your new bike to good use." I’d never held a job, and a little in shock I set out on my bicycle, seeking Help Wanted signs. No one welcomed a totally inexperienced fourteen-year-old, and I returned home empty-handed. Next day I decided to lie that I was 16 (school-leaving age) and seek fulltime work. I was still "a thin little shrimp" but I talked better than my age.

At Simpson's (a department store) I applied for work as office boy. The interviewer, a man of kind and easy-going manner, asked my age. "Sixteen." A few minutes later he asked my year of birth. Inept at fabrications, I forgot to adjust my birth date by two years. He caught me on it. I fumbled some excuse, and he bought it. Who knows why? There was never the slightest hint of sexual interest, or even of parental interest. He was just a nice man. I was hired.

My job was to deliver paper, pencils and what-not to other departments of the store. This proved an unexpected boon. I might have a distaste for lies, but poverty was sufficient reason for stealing from those who had more than enough. I did not call it stealing, but compensation. My salary was 30 cents an hour, and my whole summer was being consumed by boring work. I righted this imbalance by creating a "home office" in the rec room, stocking it with a year's supplies.

My lunch box carried lunch into the building, and office supplies out. I entered high school with no need to buy pencils, pens, writing paper, note pads, rubber bands, paper clips.... Simpson's gave employees a discount on store purchases, and security guards checked parcels at the exit when we left for home, but none ever asked to check my lunch box.

From that summer on, the Shinamans demanded that I pay a portion of my income as "board." Through high school I worked full-time each summer, and part-time during the school year. I never thought to mention this to my social worker and the CAS remained unaware that the Shinamans were double-dipping.

It didn't matter; where else could David and I live? Running away was a favourite fantasy, but we never acted on it. Social workers reminded us again and again that we were too old to be adopted. "Most want a cute baby. They do not want two grown boys."

Western Tech

In those days a public-school graduate was entitled to attend the local high school, a few minutes' walk from home. But our local school offered no architecture program. For once, it was an advantage to be an orphan. My legal parent was the CAS and I could enrol anywhere in Toronto. I arranged to travel across the city to Western Technical and Commercial.

Western Tech was mainly a school for working-class boys who would never go to college. Boys who swore and farted, created discipline nightmares for teachers, and disdained books and study. Boys who despised English or history; their favourite classes were electrical wiring, machine shop, plumbing, carpentry, auto repair, and gym.

But Western also offered a small Academic Form, a stream of five years for about thirty boys (no girls) working toward university entrance. These students enrolled in a mix of academic and industrial subjects suitable for such professions as architecture. Thus, I was required to study house construction, wiring, plumbing, drafting – skills which would serve me well in adult life.

There was no nonsense about marks being "private" – our marks were posted on the classroom wall for all to see. I still have my Third Form class list, December 1949. At term's end, a proud teacher took it off the bulletin board and gave it to me. I'm at the top of the class, with a stunning (for those days) 83% average. But there’s also one failure: gym/swim. Johnny was hopeless in sports, and terrified of water over his head.

Joining the military cadets was compulsory in the Cold War; I have a photo of myself looking ridiculous in uniform and beret. The gym coach was company commander, and he goaded me on parade as much as in gym. Finally, in my graduating year a fellow student gave me what I needed: the name of a doctor willing to sign a letter: "Johnny Lee suffers incurable psychological trauma." Result: no failures on graduation.

Johnny in high school, age 17.


Three of my high school teachers left a greater imprint than all others. Mr Keene was our Second Form instructor in English. My literary tastes were not impressive: essays on the great contribution Reader's Digest made to popular literacy and the importance of Time Magazine as a source of world news. Nevertheless, Keene diligently fostered my writing skills.

Mr. Stevens was my English teacher in Third Form. To him I owe a poem which became my credo:

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll;
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

My favourite was Mr. MacAulay, history teacher. I relished history and earned the highest mark in every history course. Mr. MacAulay was near retirement, and palled by schoolboys. He approached me to make a secret deal. He would mark my history paper and I would mark all the others, for a few pennies each. Imagine my secret pleasure when papers were returned, and my schoolmates clucked or groaned over their marks. I continued to work for him until his retirement.

Mr. MacAulay was also faculty advisor (and censor) on our school newspaper, The Reporter. Now I could hone journalistic skills on something more challenging than a family newspaper. Already a rebel, I wrote stories to make The Reporter more than a mouthpiece for the school administration. But subjects like "the desperate need for better sex education" were not considered fit for student readers.

We got some sex instruction in our Health and First Aid class, taught by the same macho gym and swim coach. His message was a brew of coarse vulgarity, intended to hold the attention of an all-male working-class audience, and moralistic warnings: "Be careful or you'll be a father before you want to."


Looking ridiculous in compulsory army cadet uniform, 1951. In the background, the shack which served as “art gallery.”

Lonely boy

My high school life was intensely lonely. Classmates' talk was all sports and sex. I invited no classmate to my home, distant from school. When I wasn't studying, working, or at the church, I spent my spare time alone, teaching myself to type.

When a schoolmate seemed friendly, and there were only the two of us, I'd turn our talk to the mysteries of sex. Once I asked a mate how the body knows to shoot out sperm instead of piss, since they both come down the same channel. He roared with laughter and ran off to tell his buddies what a dumb question The Brain just asked.

I sought information about sex from library books, but dared not borrow them at Miss Trotter's branch. Public libraries stocked a few useful books, but the card catalogue always read: "Please request this book at the desk." When I finally I got up the nerve to ask for sex books at other libraries, I found many questions unanswered. How do I know when I'm nearing orgasm? Is masturbation as harmful as the Shinamans suggest? More recent books pooh-poohed the notion that onanism leads to short sight, fatigue, and even mental illness, but none actually encouraged it.

I began masturbating at twelve, but did not reach my first orgasm until fifteen. Three years of exercise without relief may account for the fact that I entered adult life with vigorous sexual muscles, and premature ejaculation has never been a problem!

I discovered that mild restraints and tractions added to my muscular sensations. The one-quart milk bottles of those days were the right circumference for my phallus, and the weight added a delicious tension. Long cardboard mailing tubes provided excellent exercise. While memorizing chemistry formulas or French verbs I would strut about the "rec room" bouncing a tube up and down. These callisthenics continued for three years, and still I had no notion of orgasm. One day in the bath I found that a new soap produced new sensations. By now I could tolerate enormous stimulation, but after many minutes, what a surprise! I was rushing down a steep hill toward an explosion.

Surely I'd broken my plumbing? Could this be meant to happen, this shuddering jolt throughout my body, this projectile of creamy fluid all over the wall? I tenderly wrapped my plaything in cloth and prayed that it would be all right.

Thus began a pernicious merry-go-round that would endure until my third year of university. When I felt horny I would try to suppress the desire, and do something to divert my mind. Wasted seed was strictly forbidden by the Bible.

Eventually I’d succumb to temptation, and jerk off. But first the picture of Jesus above my bed must be turned to face the wall. The pleasure was superlative, but promptly followed by remorse. I fell to my knees in urgent prayer: Wash me with hyssop and make me whiter than snow. (Psalm 51) . I went to communion on Sunday and made special offerings for penance. A few days later, the whole cycle was repeated.

At 18, my auto-erotic pleasures were enhanced by elaborate scenarios, complete with props. I arranged pillows to suggest a woman's body, and mounted. I ran about the empty house naked. Pornography being difficult to obtain, I drew my own dirty pictures, using prints of classic female nudes as my source.

Becoming a man

My relationship with Joe changed. He'd grown accustomed to using his superior strength to cow me into submission. His usual means was a "swat" to the head. If I ducked, he grabbed and held me against the wall for an even harder swat.

At sixteen, I started to sprout and put on weight, partly thanks to Joe. He used his personal connections to help me find work, first on a farm, then in a factory, and labour helped me develop muscles. I never got as heavy as Joe, but he was aging, and moving more slowly.

One day in 1951, Joe told me to do something, and I defiantly refused. He pushed me toward a wall, raising his arm to strike. I drew myself to my full height, now several inches above his, and caught his arm. We glared fiercely at each other. Suddenly I let go of his arm and gave him a furious shove. He fell backwards to the floor. "Don't ever raise your arm to me again" I roared and walked away. He did not follow.

That summer I found a job more suited to my career ambitions: office clerk in a renowned architectural partnership – Mathers and Haldenby. I learned to run a mimeograph and a blueprint machine. The pay was low but I spirited home a variety of materials to support my needs in architectural drafting at Western.

Grade Thirteen

In those days, province-wide high-school graduation examinations were composed in the Ministry. Exactly the same exam was written at precisely the same time in all parts of the province. The exams were marked in the Ministry, not by local teachers. Our fates were in the hands of strangers.

Teachers spent most of Grade 13 "teaching to the exam." They knew what kinds of questions were likely to be on the dread Final and taught students to recognize and respond to these questions. Imagine students' glee if their teacher made wise guesses. Imagine my fright when I faced a totally unfamiliar question in Geometry. I peed in my pants.

This system fostered a major industry, the famous "Cole's Notes." These books contained all Grade 13 final exams in a subject for years back, with demonstrated solutions or essay answers. On the positive side, the system maintained the same high standard of performance in any subject over decades of time and across a whole great province.

In my final year at Western I got a job at Runnymede Public School, sweeping the classrooms and halls after school each day. This was a union job paying a munificent $1.20 per hour. (The library paid 45 cents an hour). I continued with Miss Trotter on Saturdays until she could replace me, but I was delirious about earning real money. I kept the sweeping job during my first year of university.

Summer of 1952 was a turning point. I applied for admission to the School of Architecture, and, as top student at Western, was readily accepted. The Shinamans alternated between pride and resentment over the maturing of their ugly duckling – that subnormal, skinny, pallid eight- year-old of 1941.

That year, as always, the CAS psychologist interviewed Orca: "She respects his IQ, but complains that he is sometimes rude to her friends visiting the home, because he has nothing to say to them and is not interested in carrying on a conversation.” This was absolutely true.

Since there was no work for me at M and H that summer, I found employment in an insurance firm. Once again I lied that I was looking for permanent work. During lunch hours I wandered about, and discovered a Reading Room of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

The Christian Scientists were kind and welcoming people, and their Reading Room a quiet, comfortable oasis. Mary Baker Eddy made a certain sense to me. I was ready for religious conversion, especially a flagrant declaration of independence from the Shinamans and their low-church Orange Order Anglicanism.

Christian Science also appealed because I had developed "the constitution of an ox," rarely missing school or work due to sickness. I used glasses, but Christian Scientists have an easy response to anyone who criticises this contradiction: "Yes, my mortal mind tricks me into thinking my eyes need help, but at least I’m honest enough to wear my error on my face." I entered university as an avid follower of Mary Baker Eddy.


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