A century of learning is celebrated at Rocky Mountain House School – Red Deer Advocate
A central Alberta school that survived a cyclone, fire, measles and polio outbreaks is celebrating 100 years of learning with a reunion of staff and students dating back to the 1930s.
Dozens of former students gathered Friday in the Rocky Elementary School gymnasium to pay tribute to their school and remember former classmates and teachers.
“I have nothing but good memories here,” said 91-year-old Helen Zander, who started freshman year in 1938.
“I remember every teacher and every friend I made here and was still friends with for years,” Zander added.
Notable students who learned at the facility are remembered over the years, including former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, former Alberta Lieutenant General Helen Hunley, Rocky MLA Ty Lund and electronic music pioneer Bruce Haack, who once appeared on Johnny Carson’s show.
Tim Bowman, the current and 19th Warden, said there have been many changes over the years, including to the building itself.
The modern exterior is very different from the original Confluence School, which was built on the same site in 1921 and demolished in 2005.
But the school retains its place as a community center. “We always had Christmas concerts here, the teachers built the first hockey rink, there were dances, meetings and a library – as well as a literary club and a drama club,” he said. he adds.
In 1918, Rocky Mountain House had only a one-room schoolhouse, but grew rapidly as young families moved into the former fur trade fort. Although community leaders were initially reluctant to shell out the money to build a larger school at the end of World War I, the need was soon unavoidable, Bowman said.
When Confluence School was built, it was built to last: the structure survived a 1927 cyclone that snapped large trees on the school grounds.
Bowman said that two years before, in 1925, a local women’s group had to raise money to buy a school bell that cost $140 and weighed 740 pounds. “Nobody can find that bell. Maybe he got caught in the cyclone,” he joked.
His historical slide show chronicled how the 1930s and 1940s before vaccination were marked by outbreaks of measles and polio in classrooms across Canada, including Rocky School.
A fire in 1940 destroyed 300 school desks. And by 1943, all male teachers had left to join the World War II effort.
With the post-war baby boom, the school was expanded considerably in 1949 and again in 1956. It became a full-fledged primary school after a separate grammar school was built in 1962.
During all these decades, student life has flourished. Students were treated to field trips to the fairgrounds and to Crimson Lake. Bowman recounted how the school developed an acclaimed music program – the boy band played for the Queen when she visited Calgary in 1954.
Gail Stewart, 68, who started the first year at the school in 1959, recalled that canoe races were held on the river to celebrate Canada’s centenary in 1967.
His mother, Dorothy Williams, 89, was also a student at the school from 1944.
Many other Rocky Mountain House families have multi-generational ties to the school, including Mona Medin, a former student who is now an Indigenous storyteller. She said three generations of her family members have taken classes at the site. “I have good memories…”
Rocky Mayor Debbie Baich was a student there in the 1970s. “One of my most vivid memories is in music class, singing love is like a butterfly — to a record! Baich said.
Another reminder of the change came when school officials opened a time capsule from 1989 that included a six-foot roll of a “letter.” Former manager Bill Snyder joked, “Kids, this is what the paper coming out of the printer looked like in 1989.”
Bowman noted the school’s emphasis on teaching students respectful behavior. Sister Margie, a nun, who came to the school as a counselor in the 1980s, taught ‘peace education’ with mantras that include ‘hands are there to help, not to hurt’.
Current Grade 5 student Layla Mooney said she looks forward to coming to class because she loves learning science and social studies and loves the teachers. “They care and they help a lot.”