EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, November 11, 2010

'Hinge students' at Chapleau High School participated in locked door rebellion during exciting days at new school in 1966, Tom Corston recalled, as planning begins for 90th anniversary reunion in 2012

CHS gym class on field 1960s
Tom Corston referrred to those who attended both the "old" and "new" Chapleau High School as "hinge students" as he recalled the exciting days in 1966 as the school moved from Pine Street to its present location on the hill.

Writing in the souvenir newspaper published for the 75th anniversary in 1997, Tom says they were exciting days moving from the old to the new.

"We were leaving behind a venerable building that we were aware held valuable memories for our elders. Their initials were well carved into many an old desk and their portraits hung on every available wall space.

"But the old building had become overcrowded and a firetrap." Tom recalled classes being held in the converted basement gymnasium, "freezing in gym shorts out on the back field on cold autumn days because we had no gym; and learning of all things in the 60s to fox-trot. as part of gym class, in the dusty basement of the old town hall."

Tom reminded me of a decade earlier when we learned to waltz at dances in the old high school basement when Dr. Karl A. Hackstetter was a teacher at the old high school... He had returned as principal for three years just before the new school opened.... and it appears that the fox-trot became the dance of choice.

When I received a message from Graham Bertrand advising that a meeting is planned for November 24 in the council chambers of the civic centre in Chapleau at seven p.m. to start organizing the 90th anniversary celebration of Chapleau High School in 2012, Tom's article came to mind and I contacted him about using parts of it in a column. Tom, who is now the Anglican Bishop of Moosonee, replied quickly, "Just fine."

1967 reunion Margaret Rose, Alex in centre
In 1982 and 1997, CHS marked its 60th and 75th anniversaries respectively with hugely successful celebrations, and if the positive reaction on a Facebook page is any indication, the 90th will be quite a party too. Margaret Rose Fortin and Alex Babin were the co-chairs of both reunions.

Tom wrote that the new school was "indeed, beautiful. We who were among its first residents, were so very proud. It required a bit of a longer walk for most of us, in a day before school buses, but it had fully equipped labs, bright classrooms with big windows, a library, a beautiful gymnasium and shiny floors, kept so diligently by a custodial staff to three from the one elderly janitor who cared for the old school.

"Suddenly a great change for us, as well, was that we were all assigned a locker and no longer just a hook upon which to hang our coats."

Tom outlined some of the rules at the new school, some of which were the usual, but he noted that girls had to wear dresses and boys dress pants and no jeans. That rule was not changed until a vote by students in the 1970s several years after I had returned to teach at CHS, and I recall that although a the dress code was changed the results were closer than I thought they would be.

But the rule that led to a student rebellion was the one where students had to stay outside the school during the lunch hour, except for bus students.

Tom shared the story of the student rebellion at CHS:

"We had become frustrated with a rule and with those who were our masters. As i remember it, it was a cold winter day and we had to wait outside the new building during rhe lunch hour. After all, we could never be let loose to have the run of the new building while the staff was off for lunch.

"We were cold and disgruntled. We pounded on the door but to no avail. Then it started small but the rabble rousers among us began to agitate and and before long we were a crazed mob of unruly demonstrators, the likes that CHS had never seen before

"We rebelled! And when the doors were finally opened we moved as a yelling, unruly mob into the new gym not even taking off our shoes.

"We went on strike. We held a sit-in and we sang and we shouted and refused to return to class.... We were strong . We spoke with one voice. It was heady stuff. No one could control us or change our minds."

But, as Tom reported, things changed quickly. The rebels were doing well until the school principal Bill Mair returned from lunch, walked into the gym, and "with one great yell sent us all scattering. It had all lasted 20 minutes and the rule stood!"

However, there was one very significant change at CHS during Tom's time there in 1968 when he was president of the student council -- the new school colours.

"Students had become disgruntled with the old school colours of green, white amd red. .. The opinion was that a new school needed new colours..."

Although some graduates of the school were a bit disgruntled about changing the colours, finally a decision was made and the chosen colours became dark blue and light blue.

"It was a drastic change and some of our parents disagreed, " Tom wrote. "But we were undaunted in our choice. It was ours -- we liked the new colours , and liked even more the stamp we were able to put on our new building and on the history we were making."

Tom also noted that ot her members of the school colours committee included Joan Whitney, David Stevens, Clem Pilon, Marjorie McCrea, Gordie Welch and Gerry Bowland.

Thanks for the memories Tom of those years over 30 years ago when you were a student at CHS. As plans evolve for the celebration of the 90th anniversary in 2012, out of the mothballs of memory will come more stories from all those who have been part of Chapleau High School. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

As plans evolve and more information on the 90th becomes available, I will post it.

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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