YE OLDE SCHOOL DAYS

Aerial view of Geraldton circa 1950, looking west.

Aerial view of Geraldton circa 1950, looking west. Marian Childs photo.

When I entered high school at age 13, I had not the faintest idea that history mattered. The people that lived and events that happened before I was born, and when I was growing up, had a tremendous impact on my life, but I had no idea. As we grow older, we all become historians.

I have never seen this view before. It is of personal interest because it shows the location of the high school, which I began attending as a Grade 9 student in September 1953, when I arrived in Geraldton.

The high school building in 1953 was originally the public school, a one-storey structure of 4 classrooms. By 1938, the board had added a second storey. In 1940, the Town of Geraldton had appointed a high school board, which proceeded to construct a one-storey building of 2 rooms immediately south of the public school, on the same grounds. The new high school opened on September 3rd with 46 students, Grades 9 to 12. When I started high school in 1953, this building was called “the annex”; it stood empty except when the girls used it for gym classes.

For September 1942, the high school board rented the Ukrainian Hall, a one-storey building which stood on the corner of Hogarth Ave. and First Street East. It became the Junior High School. It had two outdoor privies, and sometime later, chemical toilets. Today it is a two-storey apartment block.

By 1944, the high school board had to rent more space, this time in the T. Eaton Co. building (when I returned in 1970, this was the town office) on the corner of Hogarth Ave. and Main Street. Both school boards began casting about for more classroom space.

In 1946, the school boards acquired two buildings from the Bankfield mine, no longer operating. The smaller bunkhouse (28 by 56 feet) was relocated immediately north of the public school (as you see in the photo) and was named “the public school annex”, having 2 classrooms (the original two-storey public school then had 8 classrooms).

The high school board relocated the two-storey bunkhouse (30 by 90 feet) next to the high school (see the photo), and its original one-storey building subsequently acquired the name “the high school annex”.

Meanwhile, still in 1946, the public school board acquired a 10-acre parcel of land where the public and high schools are currently located. You can see the immense cleared acreage in the photo. The board forged ahead with plans for a new public school building with 16 rooms.

In September 1949, the public school with its 10 rooms had an enrolment of 510 pupils. How everyone managed is not clear. Fortunately, everyone was able to move into the new public school (see the photo) by December.

On January 12, 1950, B.A. Parker Public School was officially opened, with principal “Bert” A. Parker and vice-principal Miss Beatrice Webster. The high school was now installed in the old public school building. When I started high school in 1953, there was no evidence of both the old public school annex (to the north in the photo) and the old two-storey frame building which was formerly a bunkhouse.

Today, the Geraldton Branch of Greenstone Public Library occupies the site of the old two-storey high school that I attended. The Association for Community Living (formerly Beehive Enterprises) is now located on the site of the original two-storey frame high school, formerly a bunkhouse at the old Bankfield gold mine. The old Ukrainian Hall is a two-storey apartment block. The old T. Eaton Co. building was razed, and in later years, a construction supplies business, Got Wood, utilized the site until it relocated recently to the old Errington Arena building. The photo also shows some key landmarks from that era, including the palatial Thunder Bay Hotel on Main Street, the Ball Park residential circle, and the railway station.

A friend (with no connection to Geraldton) sent me this photo with this note: “The photo is actually a post card that my parents sent to me while I was visiting my relatives in Josephine in July 1953.    My parents had gone on a fishing trip from Fort William and accidentally ending up in Geraldton as they just kept driving.   The card is like an actual photo, but made into a postcard.” The photo depicts Geraldton circa 1950.

The geographical reference is to the Josephine Mine townsite (now erased from the landscape) near Wawa. As I said, this photo is new to me, and I am constantly amazed and humbled by the mysterious ways in which history is preserved and cherished.

I’m hoping some readers can share their memories of those old-time buildings now erased from the landscape.

In 1938, the one-storey public school stands in a clearing on the edge of town.  Looking southwest from Main Street.  Greenstone Historical Society photo.

In 1938, the one-storey public school stands in a clearing on the edge of town. Looking southwest from Main Street. Greenstone Historical Society photo.

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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