Keith Balfour reflects on time at Creemore school

 In Community

In June, Nottawasaga and Creemore Public School held a very happy 50th Anniversary celebration.

Keith Balfour was the second principal at the school, the first being Jane Black who had tenure only for the first six months.

Keith and his wife, Janie, intended to attend the celebration but ill health kept them at home in Elliot Lake, where they now live.

With September and the start of a new school year it seems appropriate to share the memories of the first days of our Creemore school.

Here are Keith’s words:

In the spring of 1966 I was invited to an interview for a teaching position in the new, yet-to-be built central school in Nottawasaga Township’s Creemore.

I had applied for a teaching position with the Nottawasaga Township School Board earlier that spring. I had just got engaged to my now wife of more than 50 years and I had one year of teaching experience at SS#1 Kilkenny, north of Lake Superior on the shores of Lake Nipigon. (I now at the end of June 2017 will be starting my 20th year of retirement.)

My fiancee, Jane, and I drove to Creemore from London, Ontario with my mom coming along as chaperone. My job interview was to be held at the Creemore Public school (on Caroline Street).

My interview was held in the basement furnace room of the school with trustees Jack Heslip, Dalton Middlebrook, Bill Vancise and one other, conducting the process. School Custodian, Tom Montgomery, opened the building for us.

My mother and future bride went downtown to George and Noni Price’s snack bar and curio shop to have a break, a snack and to wait until the meeting was over.

I was hired there and then. I was told that I’d be in the new school when it was finished. In the meantime I’d be at the one-room Cashtown School, north of Cashtown Corners, with Grades 5-8 students gathered together from other township one-room schools, which were being closed.

The other Grade 5-8 pupils, who would eventually come with my crew from Cashtown were also gathered together into other one-room school locations in the Avening and Glen Huron areas with teachers, Audrey Timmons and Bessie Arnold, who later, like those of us at Cashtown, would head for the new school upon its opening.

The Creemore students from Grades 5-8 and their teacher, Jane Black, would be based at the Creemore Public School until amalgamation time. Jane Black was to be our principal.

That fall was an exciting period for me who’d only seen, but not taught in, a one room school during my teacher training. It would also be my first experience with school buses.

The youngsters, too, who were to be my new students, had been gathered together from several other one-room schools besides Cashtown and had new friendships to make, and for many, a new school to which to grow accustomed. Additionally they had a new teacher to break in, one who was an unknown commodity.

The excitement of a new school for us all with many new students and teacher faces was prominent in our minds all that fall of 1966.

Delays, of course, occurred. The contractors stopped work so they could go hunting.

The electrical system’s transformers were not available when promised.

The new heating system’s state-of-the-art unit ventilators had some fine-tuning issues. I can still vividly remember Mr. Beselink from the unit ventilators company puttering around with the system in each classroom during class time after we were finally in our new home.

Recesses at Cashtown saw us all outside together getting to know one another and playing games like Ante Over the Shanty over the school’s roof.

As Christmas approached we all realized that the hoped-for move to the new building would not be late fall, but, instead, after the Christmas break.

Due to the hands-on and personal nature of rural school communities the move of the school furnishings and materials, including the kid’s things, would happen over the holiday with the trustees, including the Secretary-Treasurer, W.D. McLeod, handling the bulk of the process themselves for all four to-be-located sites. They were aided, I know, by local farmers and other community members at times.

It’s amazing how smoothly it all went.

The first school day of 1967, Canada’s centennial year, saw us shuffling, searching, moving furniture and unpacking materials.

It was organized confusion but it was great fun! The moving job had been very well done.

Materials were usually located where they could be easily found, for the most part. Very little could not be found and those things were of little consequences.

We were, at last, as promised and hoped for… and dreamed of… all one school. Our Nottawasaga and Creemore Central School (NCCS).

I was transferred to Collingwood Senior Public at the end of June 1980 but we, the Balfour family, continued to live, love, learn and grow in Creemore until my retirement in June of 1998. We raised our two boys, D’Arcy and Devlin, there. Both boys are proud graduates of the school.

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