How many people can say they attended their 60th high school reunion? According to Peter White, one of the principal organizers of Leaside High’s 60th, 20 members of the class of 1957 can make that boast after attending a luncheon at Fantasy Farm in June.
Sandwiches and cake were just a small part of the affair. The main items on the menu were memories and laughter.
Most remembered high school as being full of rules and regulations, a stricter regime than teens face today. There was always lots of homework in their eight classes, but they never considered not doing it, as they would be embarrassed in class if they had not completed it. There were higher expectations to be on their best behaviour in class as well.
The women complained about having to wear uniforms of tunics and bloomers four days a week, in theory to eliminate any competition and obvious class distinctions among the girls. Marie Allen Plummer, who was sporting her monogrammed LHS blazer, added that, by the time they reached Grade 12, the uniform had changed to grey skirts and white blouses. Apparently, the boys were never bound by a dress code.
The reunion-goers had nothing but praise for their teachers. Many recalled English teacher Miss Smedley and Dr. Maura, who taught Latin and English. The young language teacher, Sarka Spinkova, came in early and gave up part of her lunch period to teach German to a handful of students.
All of this teaching excellence started with Norman McLeod, the first principal of the school, immortalized by the most famous ’57 grad, Margaret Atwood, with his nickname “Chrome Dome” in her novel Cat’s Eye. While Ms. Atwood did not attend the reunion, many of her classmates mentioned her and her description of the “Scottish high school” in the novel.
In fact, Dame Flora McLeod, chieftain of the McLeod clan from the Isle of Skye, visited LHS on several occasions to preside over assemblies featuring kilts and bagpipes. To this day, the yearbook is called the “Clan Call,” pipers pipe in the graduates at commencement and the school has the Gaelic motto “Seas Gu Dileas,” meaning “Stand Faithfully.”
Many of the graduates remembered with fondness their extracurricular activities as well. Evelyn Wharram directed three choirs with what Sally Herbert White described as a “magical command.” She was so successful that, after winning the Kiwanis Festival three years in a row, they received a “permanent shield” for excellence. There were also more informal groups such as a band called the “Parkhurst Pterodactyls,” led by John Cowan and Al Pounsett, who played at school dances. Those Friday night dances with jive and rock and roll music provided by student disc jockeys were extremely popular.
The footballs games also rank high in their memories. One of the most memorable occurred during Hurricane Hazel when the new gym was flooded. Basketball, volleyball and hockey were other popular sports, as was shooting practice in the rifle range on the bottom floor, a leftover from the ’40s.
As Jackie Hough Williams said, “Leaside was the most wonderful place to go.” Students felt safe in the school and neighbourhood, and valued being part of a close-knit community, a feeling which lives on today.
Sally White appreciated the fact that students were expected to head to university as that motivated her to become a teacher.
This special class have been getting together every five years since their 50th reunion, and are looking forward to #65. Long may they meet, reminisce and “Stand Faithfully.”