Tuesday, March 22, 2016

School Days at St. Mary's RC School..... 1950's in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario.......

I've been waiting for some time to do this post, but a photo of the original St. Mary's School had eluded me for quite some time.  Thanks to facebook friend Keiran Patrick, I now have a photo of the original school.  This building was originally built as an army barracks for the WWI years and also was used during the WWII era as well.  There were two buildings built, one set further back on the eastern end of the property and was later used as St. Mary's School (not sure the exact year), and the other building closer to the Selkirk and Victoria corner was an "old folks" home as we called it then named The Fort William Manor.  The red markings on the current overhead photo below shows the approximate position of the two buildings.  St. Mary's built a newer school in the early 1960's on the same property and removed the two old barracks buildings.  When St. Mary's finally closed, the building was vacant for a few years and later became (and still is) The Nu-Wave School of Hair Design.

Here is the Google Maps photo showing approximately where the two old buildings were.  Victoria Ave. runs along the bottom and Selkirk St. runs up and down along the right side of the photo.

This class photo is from the 1952/53 School year.  It is grade 2 and 3.  I actually remember lining up for these pictures.  Most of my years in St. Mary's were double grade classes, and if you were in the lower grade and a little on the ball, you could pick up some extra learning from the advanced side of the classroom.  As noted in the photo yours truly is the second from the left on the top row.  If you click on this photo and all the others, you can zoom in and see that I had a couple of front teeth missing.....likely because I was such a sweet tooth and still am.   However, it was the typical age to begin to grow our adult teen....and as the year progressed most kids had a few front teeth missing. As noted in the names, Bill Hay, the 6th kid from the left in the front row, lives right across the street from me today.....so many of us didn't end up too far from each other over 60 years later here in our home town we now call Thunder Bay.

The Fun with Dick and Jane books were typical readers in the first 6 of our elementary school years.  
As you know I try to add an old car or vehicle of some sort to each of my blog posts and this one is no exception.  Here you see Baby Sally driving her cute little green pedal car(her being a little older in the third pane at the top with a bit newer one) in a few of the pictures in this collage.  Dick, Jane and Sally's parents had a typical looking late 1940's vehicle to drive as well...do you remember what their pet's names were????  Answer at the bottom of this post.  Click on all photos to enlarge them. 
.....now I would never admit this was my Grade 3 report card but as you can see the name was removed to protect the innocent..... We had two teachers that year, Mrs. Connolly and Mrs. Begin.  All my grade school teachers were great, especially Mrs. Begin as you will read about as you scroll way down below.


This next picture is our grades 5 and 6 class.  In that particular year, I was in the senior class and had to listen to all the lessons all over again that I had done the year before.   In this picture, I was the handsome guy third from the right in the back row.  I always seemed to be in the back row....guess it was my height.  If you are in any of these photos, please make comments to this blog post or at least on my facebook page.  Also, if you know anyone in this photo that isn't named, let me know and we can add them.  Mrs. Marigold was also an excellent teacher.

In those days there was no such thing as Junior High School....you went to the same elementary school from grades 1-8.  This is our grade 7 and 8 class and I do recall when these pictures came back that Mrs. Marigold was so upset because she didn't remember to remove here feathered hat.....we teased her about that all year.  Yours truly at the back again just to the right of Mrs. Marigold with the halo around his head....LOL.  Again in Grade 8, I was in the senior class and had to listen to Grade 7 stuff all year.
Look how low the classrooms were....In the 6th grade, I could touch the ceiling, and the lighting was very limited.  In today's standards, it was not a very healthy environment for learning, but we did fine.

Here's a clipping from our Field Day after graduating from the 8th grade in 1958.  My dad took the day off work to volunteer for this.
Unlike today with the fancy graduation from grade 6 and then again from grade 8, we attended all years at the same school and had a nice field day at the end of the 8th grade school year, and for the whole school as well.

As mentioned above, one of my favourite teachers was Thelma Begin.  The most incredible thing about her is that she had a wooden leg....YES a REAL WOODEN leg.  She would even take it off and show it to us.  There was a monthly publication from "The Fraternity of the Wooden Leg" called "Courage".
The article in "Courage" is a must read to see how important this wonderful lady was to us, and co-incidentally she was also my good friend Roger Rickard's aunt.  I write about Roger's cool Christmases in these blog pages.  Click once or twice on all these to be able to read them.

All Roman Catholic Schools in Fort William and Port Arthur were always connected to a Parish, and St. Mary's was part and parcel of St. Patrick's Church and Cathedral.  St. Pat's was and is located on the South/West corner of Archibald and Donald St.  Here's the then and now photo of this corner.  As you scroll down, you will see why these pictures were added.

Nearing the end of our Grade 1 year, we celebrated our First Holy Communion with our sister school St. Stanislaus which was located on Miles St. east.  That building still exists today.  It's too bad we don't have all the names so, if you are here, let me know.  Yours truly again in the back row 2nd from the left.....I was a chunky monkey until about mid year in grade 2....LOL.  
Funny but for whatever reason a have a great recollection to this day of posing for these photos.  It's odd that we remember stuff like that but can't remember what we had for dinner yesterday....LOL again.

The little girls even got their chance.....they all looked like little brides with the veils.....all adorable.  It was different times from today but great times to remember.  Help us to fill in some blanks.

REMEMBER AND ENJOY...................................

A final thank you to all the wonderful teachers who put up with us kids in those days and for all the people who took such wonderful photos for us to remember our roots.  Thanks once more to Keiran Patrick for his photo of the original St. Mary's building.      thanks, Dave
PS....answer from the Dick and Jane question      SPOT AND PUFF.