We were I believe the first class to begin classes in grade seven at the new High School. That would have been in 1961 and that year the high school took students who were in grades seven to eleven. We were very excited because there were so many new facilities that we’d never had before. There was a large gym at one end of the building which also served as an auditorium. The stage had wings on either side where performers could stand without being seen. We used it for choir rehearsals under the direction of Mr. Vernon Hiscock who was also the principal, for the Kiwanis music festival and for various other performances.
But one of the most contoversial areas of the school was the washroom/changeroom adjacent to the gym. We were appalled that there were showers there. The shower heads were all in one huge room with no cubicles. When the girls saw those they were very upset. Who was going to shower in front of a whole group of girls? Not one of us was comfortable with that idea. And we went to our first gym class fully expecting to be told that we had to have a shower before returning to class. But happily nothing happened. The next class was the same. And the next. In fact, in the five years I went to that school I never saw water coming from one of those shower heads. I wonder if they ever were used.
Up on the third floor of the school and down on one end of the corridor there was a small room that was on the front of the building. In it was a piano. Since I had studied piano for most of my school years I would go there after school and play a few tunes. I really don’t know if anyone else ever used it but I enjoyed it even though we had our own piano at home.
And there were also the labs. The first time we ever saw one was in that new building. And it was there that we learned to record experiments , perform them and wonder at the logic of chemistry and physics.
The second floor housed the library. That was something new to us. And it was a very attractive room where a full class could sit comfortably at tables and chairs. Wooden shelves lined the walls creating a studious atmosphere. It ressembled the librairies of great houses in the old movies; no modern metal shelving and file cabinets; wood everywhere and proper filing drawers. Several years later I acted as a librarian of sorts in that very room. And I took it on myself to systematically read through some of the old classics – War and Peace , Anna Karanina and Dante’s Inferno. There was no full time librarian while I was there but the classroom teacher handled the signing out of books. There may have been a teacher who had time assigned to take care of classifying, and managing the clerical affairs of the library but I was not aware of it as a student.
And there were the classrooms. The grade elevens were on the ground floor and as you went up to the third floor the grades were lower. Each grade had three classes except for grade eleven. In grade eleven there were the general students and those who would matriculate. Some of the courses were different. Matriculating students were the ones studying to go to university.
The school was well run and there did not seem to be any bullying like you see today. Of course drugs were unheard of back then and even smoking was not widespread amongst the young people even though most of our fathers did. At that time there was a stigma attached to women who smoked. There were probably a few students who grabbed a puff behind the building but we were mostly unaware of it. Occasionally someone would get into a fight and that would bring everyone running to get a good look. We all knew the “bad” boys but by today’s standards they were merely a little rough. And the outbreaks were rare.
On rainy or snowy days we would not go outside during recess. Instead we would go into the corridor where we walked in a circle that encompassed the entire corridor. We would join up with a partner and walk round and round for the whole fifteen minutes. There was always the fear that our friend would be sick and there would be no one to walk with. On each floor there was a prefect who kept an eye on the students. This job was relegated to the senior students, a select few in grade eleven and the job was taken very seriously. It was an honour to be a prefect. And each of us wore a little pin to announce our right to police the floor and grounds.
We also had academic medals at Grand Falls Academy. You started working for them at the age of nine in grade four. There was a bronze medal that would be given every student who maintained a 75 percent average for three consecutive years, a silver medal for 75 percent for six years and a gold medal for the same nine year average. The successful students were presented publicly with those medals in an assembly where certificates of achievement were also given. There were awards for proficiency, most improved , highest achievers , and there were scholarships. Academic achievement was highly valued and we worked towards the attainment of as many of these golden carrots as we could. Of course that is my perspective. There were other students who perhaps set their sites on the non academic accolades that were attached to sports.
And there were plenty of teams to join. I played with the volleyball team and I can say quite truthfully I was the worst player there. My game generally consisted of sitting on the bench. If I could have spiked a ball just once in the time I played I would have felt like an Olympic gold medalist. But I could barely make a serve. I think I made the team because there were not enough people interested and they needed a spare. But I did get the chance to go to Corner Brook for a weekend and experience the fun of travelling with a team on a bus, staying in a billet and just clowning around.
I wish I could fill in more details about the various sports teams but it was not my forte so someone else may want to blog on that.
We had classes from 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning at which time we went home for lunch. Most of us walked since there was no where in the town that was very distant from the school. I don’t know what the children from Botwood Highway did. Lunch lasted an hour and a half. Then we began classes at 1:30 and were dismissed at 3:30 . Some people had to stay in for detentions if they had broken any of the rules during the day. Detentions were generally from 15 to 30 minutes duration.
We wore uniforms of grey skirts or pants, white blouses or shirts , and a grey sweater or navy blue blazer. We were permitted to choose our own style. So the girls would try to get the prettiest grey skirt they could find. In the last month of school before summer break we were given a break from the uniforms perhaps because they were too warm for that time of the year.
The school is boarded up and abandoned now. One day it will disappear altogether and exist only in our memories. And when we go it will be forgotten. The old school buildings on High Street have disappeared also. If anyone has any pictures of these places I would love to see them. If you have any memories to share I would like to hear them. Thank you in advance.