It was 60 years ago, a June evening in 1956. Fifty-one of us from New Glasgow High School’s two Grade 12 classes were summoned to the graduation stage. It was the finish line we had sought to reach since the day we first walked into our grade one classes. For us, the three o’clock bell was ringing for the last time.
Most of us had spent four years at the home of the green and white on Albert Street because the junior high next door was still in the construction phase when we entered grade nine. Some students, those from outlying districts like Pictou Landing and Abercrombie, spent the ninth grade at the West Side School, reaching our high school hallways the next year.
Those were four wonderful years, among the best of our lives, a fact we may not have fully accepted until later. NGHS was a great place, with a very experienced and helpful teaching staff. We were lucky to be there. Those were innocent days, before bomb threats, guns and knives in schoolyards, before the arrival of many of the problems now plaguing our schools and communities.
It’s fun thinking back 60 years – yes, six whole decades – to recall how many in our class went on to university, whether pre-planned or last-minute decisions. It’s fun, too, to see how many careers took detours from original goals, and how many stayed on course forever and a day.
I’ve been thinking of those high school years because this Friday we are having our 60th reunion. I keep wondering how many of us, in 1956, could have imaged we’d be holding another get-together so far into the future. It’s been a long, long time since Marcia Campbell gave the class prophesy and Ted Margeson, the valedictorian, declared the graduates were getting the rewards of 12 years’ work, but realizing they had reached the end of happy associations.
Many of us wandered from our roots, living in other parts of the province and beyond. I’m sure, wherever we strayed, we kept our Pictou County upbringings in our minds and hearts. New Glasgow – and Pictou County – was a marvellous place to grow up.
It feels good to return, once more, for what may be our last time together, considering our teenage years were two generations ago. But oh how the old hometown has changed since we received our diplomas.
New Glasgow High itself – gone. The elementary schools we attended, Temperance Street, Brown, Acadia Street and West Side – all gone. McCarrons, the primary high school hangout downtown – gone. The Royals Sweets, where we bought comic books, sports and other magazines – gone. The Roseland and Academy, the theatres where we spent so many Saturday afternoons – both gone. New Glasgow Stadium, later renamed after our athletic director, John (Brother) MacDonald, where we spent so many occasions – gone. The Coffee Pot, Woolworths, the Met, Zellers, Thompson and Sutherlands, Goodmans – all gone.
Yes, our hometown has changed. But with a good number of us still able to get to our 60th reunion, the memories remain.
We can still think of our teachers in grade 12 – principal L.M. Rhodenizer, Margaret Sylvester, Anne and Iona Olding, Verna Horne, Wilfred Burchell, Don Archibald and Bill Fraser.
And, of course, we can still recall those in the two classes contributed to school life.
There were Fraser MacLean, president of the students council and captain of the hockey team; Faye Mackie, vice-president of the council and a star on the women’s soccer and basketball teams; Ronnie Stuart, council treasurer; Judy Stewart, secretary; George Harper, rugby player and cadet major of the cadet corps; Chuck MacCabe, officer cadet; Robert MacClure, officer cadet and rugby player; Marcia Campbell, editor-in-chief of the yearbook, Anita Christensen, assistant editor.
There were Harry Stirling, goaltender on the hockey team; Gary MacGregor, rugby player and captain of the basketball team; Ted Margeson, rugby; Heather McAlpine, soccer and tumbler; Marilyn Lockhart and Helen MacLeod, soccer and basketball; Madelyn Wadden, Lillian Martell and Elsie Felderhof, soccer; Jerry Oliver, rugby; Maureen Richard and Olive Reddick, tumbling.
Graduating among those who used the “girls door” were Beverly Black, Dorothy Collis, Marilyn Dee, Sandra Dobson, Emily Gero, Joan Harries, Marie Holmes, Judy MacCulloch, Mabel MacLeod, Betty Mason, Viola Nash, Joan O’Brien, Pearl Reddick, Pat Rose, Ada Ross and Carolyn Walsh.
Those who entered and left by the “boys door” included Don Crooks, Francis Dobson, Ted Donelan, Alan Fraser, Ian Fraser, Hobson Love, Joe MacDonald, Alan MacKay, Tom MacPherson, Vance Maxwell, Don Swallow, Aubrey Webster, Richard Lee. Oh yes, and Hugh Townsend.
As I looked back on 1955-56, I realized, once more, that nothing seems to ignite memories – good memories – quicker than names. The names of old friends, old acquaintances, old classmates.
The overall assessment of that year? Perhaps the remarks by Mr. Rhodenizer – I still should attach the “mister” — at our graduation ceremony summed it up best. That night he said he had known no more co-operative class (than ours) and the students had learned quickly the things they had to do for themselves.
He noted that several students had already won scholarships and, in non-academic activities, the school had the most proficient cadet corps in Eastern Command, won the rugby championship and was runner-up in hockey.
A pretty good grading mark.
By the time we reached Grade 12, I was into my third year as a sports reporter with The Evening News. The fact my career enters its 63rd year this fall certainly underlines the truth that high school was a long, long time ago.
Maybe Friday night, for a last time, we’ll stand and shout: “Give a cheer, give a cheer, for the boys who drink the beer, in the cellars of New Glasgow High.”
It still sounds good.