Centennial school brought area students under one roof

 In Opinion

The big yellow buses are passing by again this week on their way to Nottawasaga and Creemore Public School. We are used to seeing them, but years ago things were different.

All children attended a school within walking distance. That is the reason why we see so many closed one-room schools around the countryside.

By 1960, the Department of Education (now called the Ministry of Education) had made the decision to make these buses a necessity. Speakers were sent out all across Ontario to enlighten people about the plan to close all one-room schools. This plan met with some resistance. The local school was the community centre where meetings, dances and sometimes church services were held. Often the local school was the polling station at election time. The selling point the government speakers brought forth was that it would reduce taxes. And often school boards realized that with falling enrollment it made no sense to keep the school open. In our Creemore area the central school opened in January 1967.

Before that, however, some schools closed and transported the children to Creemore. The first to do this was Dunedin. A population boom in the village meant that there were so many children that an addition would have to be built. The school board came up with a better plan. The board made arrangements to amalgamate with the Creemore school section and in September 1954 the children werebussed to the Creemore school.

One school board, Bayview, found its enrolment falling to a low level. This is the school at the corner of Fairgrounds Road and Sideroad 12/13. The decision was made to take the pupils to Creemore. The year was 1964. Joining the classes in Creemore were Susan Lawson, Richard Anderson, James Lawson, Lyle Ayers, Helen Hisey, John Ferguson, Garry Ayers, Patricia Lawson, Brian Grant, Eddie Ayers and Rodger Giffen.

About the same year Madills school board made the same decision but in this case the students were transported to Maple Valley, quite a feat when winter hit the rural roads. But in 1967 they joined the Maple Valley students in the move to Creemore.

A four-room school was built on the present site on Collingwood Street. It has been enlarged three times. In 1967 the school on Caroline Street was used for Grades 1-5 and the older ones were housed in the new school.

Together, a new school song was composed. (The words follow.)

An explanation is required about the words, “Twenty-three has joined us too.” School Section #23 Nottawasaga was on the west side of Airport Road part way to Stayner. The school has been torn down and as I drive by I can’t identify its site. Perhaps someone can help. The song is sung to the tune of John Brown’s Body:

’Twas in the town of Creemore, 19 hundred and 67,
Behold there were the 10 of us, one more would make 11.

They hauled us off to Creemore, in those yellow trucks we’re driven, We all came marching in.

Avening, Banda and Mount Zion, Cashtown, Creemore Maple Valley, Bayview, Glen Huron and Dunedin, Twenty-three has joined us too.

So let us all cooperate, be Nottawasaga’s pride,

And celebrate our union here, with no regrets to hide.

We brought with us some memories that always will be dear,

We all came marching in.

Repeat chorus.

Many schools have joined together.

All for one will be our endeavour,

May it continue on forever,

Our own centennial school.

For more history of the local one-room schools access a digital copy of the book Has the Bell Rung Yet? By Helen (Blackburn) Hargrave on the Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society website at phahs.ca.

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

Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society is bringing back its Tea and History series with Learning and Teaching in a One-Room Schoolhouse featuring speaker Linda Hutsell-Manning, author and teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, with special guests and a driving tour of six local schoolhouses in the Purple Hills surrounding Creemore. This is a free event. Come to share and hear stories and memories from the past. Tea and History will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Station on the Green, beginning at 1:30 p.m. 

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