The ‘new school’ is now fifty years old

 In Community, Events

There’s an old saying. “Old habits die hard.” It’s one of my failings. For fifty years I have been calling Nottawasaga and Creemore Public School on Collingwood Street, the new school. That was to differentiate it from the old school on Caroline Street, which was used until recently. Time to change my ways. The “new” school is now fifty years old.

The search for information about the closing of the one-room schools in this area and about the building of the new consolidated school in Creemore has been a two-month affair. School board minute books are missing and very little was found in old Creemore Stars. Fortunately there is good information in Has the Bell rung Yet? and Nottawasaga’s Let’s Celebrate, published in 1984. Of most help were the conversations I had with local people. There were many.

Before delving into all the circumstances of the schools in the 1950s and 1960s perhaps a geography lesson is needed. Dunedin, Avening and Cashtown don’t need explanation. Glen Huron is easy to find but the school is some distance south on the Eighth Line. At the time it was built it was considered the finest one-room school in Ontario. The other little schools do need an explanation. Maple Valley school was on highway 124 just north of the intersection with County Road 9. Madill’s school was on the Tenth Line west of Dunedin. Bayview was at the intersection of Fairgrounds Road and Sideroad 12/13. Number 23 (that’s what it was always called) was halfway to Stayner on Airport Road and Banda was hidden away west of Airport Road on the townline of Nottawasaga and Mulmur townships. No sign of Mount Zion school is left. It was on a lot on top of the Fifth Line hill adjacent to the farm locally known as the Eagle’s Nest.

The small multi-grade schools that once housed up to fifty pupils and sometimes more, were finding enrollment dwindling to four or five. The schools that were so proudly built and maintained and were the locality’s community hall were now too costly to maintain. The local trustees were scrambling to find accommodation for their pupils.

They negotiated with other schools to accept them. The children were driven in private cars.

An example of the most muddled up schooling is that of Irene Walker Davenport. She attended Slash school (yes, that was its name) in Sunnidale Township for two years. She lived in Nottawasaga but Slash was easier to get to than #23 which was her school section. Then she was driven with five others to Banda to help boost that school’s population. The second year there Grades 5 and 6 from #23 joined them in Banda. After that the children who were the outsiders were driven to Byrnes Avenue school at the west end of Wasaga Beach. With plans for the new Creemore School in the works she went to Cashtown school for four months, finally arriving in Creemore in January 1967.

Mount Zion was the first to close in 1958. Madill’s closed in 1961 and the children were driven to Maple Valley over those stormy country roads. Maple Valley closed in 1965, Bayview in 1964, Banda in 1965. All found room in Creemore.

Dunedin is another story. They had too many pupils. In March of 1952 Grades 6 and 7 were driven to Creemore in Earl Millsap’s mini bus and in September of that year Grades 5-8 went by big yellow bus to Creemore. The bus also picked up the Creemore Continuation School pupils who lived in the area. Finally in 1954 all pupils were able to attend Creemore, using the rooms vacated that spring by the high school pupils so they could attend the new high school in Collingwood just opened.

Between June and December 1966 the new four-room school on Collingwood Street was built. It opened in January 1967, when students from Glen Huron, Cashtown, #23 and Avening arrived in brand new buses.

Terry and Trudy Gowan and Heather Weatherall Rowell recall that the first day was a stormy one with lots of snow. The old school’s Grades 6, 7 and 8 students walked through the snow to the new school carrying their books in bags. Heather arrived by bus from Avening with her belongings in a cardboard box and was met by an unpleasant welcome at the old school. She had to stay outside in the deep snow holding her box until the bell rang.

Finally the difficulties of the past few years came to an end and before long the two Creemore schools were running smoothly. And here we are fifty years later ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary at Nottawasaga and Creemore Public School on June 8, our little school that grew.

Thank you to all the many people who helped me with information. You answered my questions patiently until finally I understood.

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to The Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

Photo: The Dunedin bus breaks down in Websterville, May 1953. From left: Yvonne Bennett, Allan Rowbotham, John Montgomery, Dalton Cleary, Oscar Weatherall (bus driver), Mervyn Metheral and Alex Royal. 

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