Barbara A. Martindale- For What It's Worth March 31, 2014
Students at McKinnon Park Secondary School in Caledonia today would be mystified if they were in the high school situation of 1913.
In those days, high school students were in the west part of the old public school, which was located about where the parking lot of the Presbyterian church is today.
Mr. T.J. Hicks came to Caledonia in the fall of 1913 prepared to teach science and some other subjects. He wrote some memories from those days. The other subjects he was prepared to teach were geography, physiography, Canadian history, British history, bookkeeping, boys' physical culture, literature and composition in Forms I and II.
In two years time, he became principal with full-time teaching at a salary of $1,500 per year. When he retired in 1947, his yearly salary was $3,000.
In 1913, there were 80 pupils in the high school, with four teachers who were kept busy.
There was no equipment for any of the subjects. The science room had been made by a barn carpenter and a beginner at plumbing, said Mr. Hicks. River water was used, but not for drinking. It was brought by the boys to the school in pails from Seldon's pump, which was down the street from the Sachem building.
High board fences separated the public and high school grounds.
There were inspectors in those days, too. The inspectors all mentioned the need for better high school facilities, but money was scarce and many board members did not see the need for high school education. Mr. Hicks said at one hectic meeting, a board member actually moved that the high school be closed and the building given over completely to the public school. The motion didn't get a seconder and the meeting adjourned.
Fast forward to 1923-24, Caledonia High School, now River Heights, was built. When the new school opened in the fall, it was far from being fully equipped.
There was an objection at the time when the site chosen. It was too far from the railway station.
For some years, Jarvis and Hagersville students came by train to Caledonia to attend high school. There are stories from those days told by the students who came by train- how they sat on benches at the train station to do their homework, the long waits at times and their long walks to and from the high school, and especially having to cross the bridge during cold days in winter.
Bus lines were giving service to pupils living north of Caledonia, out beyond Mount Hope. They brought students to the front gate just before 9 a.m., and left with their load soon after 4 p.m.
Students from the York area and east of Caledonia had good service too, but many others had to provide their own transportation.
My father, who lived east of York, used to tell about driving his car to school loaded with pupils living in the same area. During the winter, there were occasions when he had to drive his car on the Grand River ice from York to the high school with his passengers in tow. Hard to imagine!
That was indeed another era.