life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
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Education Begins in Walkerville

by Al Roach

F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes “The Beautiful and Dammed”; Harold Lloyd has ‘em rolling in the Aisles with his silent movie “Grandma’s Boy”, and Alexander Graham Bell dies at the age of 75 in Nova Scotia. And in the little town of Walkerville (population 7500) a controversy is stirring over the cost of the new high school - $600,000 (equivalent to over $6,000,000 in the distant year of 1982).

Robert Meade M.A., principal-designate of the new Taj Mahal (on Huron Street, later called Richmond) is busy in his office conferring with the officials of the architectural firm of Pennington and Boyde regarding final touches to be completed before 195 students burst through the doors on September 5.

It’s down to business immediately in the school which will become Walkerville Collegiate Institute one year from now and which will make its mark scholastically from the 1920s through the 1950s as one of the top-half-dozen schools in the province.

Walkerville Public School built 1880 on s. w. corner of Devonshire and
Wyandotte (future site of Walter. D. Kelly Funeral Home)

This is not suprising considering that the leaders of this little town (having all studied Greek and Latin in their schooldays) are imbued with the Plutarch philosophy: “The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in the felicity of lighting on a good education.”

The ubiquitous strap in every teacher’s desk will guarantee that homework is done; stern teachers’ eyes will guarantee that students walk quietly in single file between classes; the rigid detention system will guarantee that no gum is chewed.

In addition, the student body will develop a fierce pride in their school -– with its motto, Nil Sine Labore – developed around provincial champion basketball teams and the famous Cameron-kilted cadet corps, easily the best in Ontario.

All of which is in the future on this autumn day in 1922. Now it is time to show off this addition to the long tradition of excellent education in the town.

It’s Elementary

It all began in 1877 with the formation of the first school board of Walkerville with its three democratically elected members – two of whom just happened to be Franklin H. Walker, son, and Hiram A. Walker, nephew of the town’s founder, Hiram Walker. The third member is prominent citizen Thomas Reid.
The first school is located in the basement of St. Mary’s Church on Sandwich Street (later called Riverside Drive) where the Grand Trunk Railway Station will one day stand, across from the main office of Hiram Walker and Sons Limited.
It is heated by a big, pot-bellied wood-burning stove. The principal teacher is paid $500 per year. His “lady assistant teacher” receives $250. The secretary is paid $1 a month.

In 1880, the first regular Walkerville Public School is built, a wooden structure costing $1,600 constructed on land donated by – who else – the town’s great distiller and founder, Hiram Walker. This building, on the southwest corner of Devonshire and Wyandotte, is replaced in 1886 with a handsome brick structure sporting an impressive bell tower.

In 1905, the 16-room King Edward Public School is built on beautiful elm-shaded Victoria Road (formerly Second, then Susan Avenue and later, Chilver). The cost is $50,000 to accommodate an opening year enrolment of 280 pupils. The usual outcry is heard from the public. But the trustees know what they are talking about and the burgeoning town fills the school with 548 pupils by 1922.

The first principal of King Edward is Hugh Beaton, later to have a school named after him. On the staff is Oliver Stonehouse, later the principal, and K.C. Hortop, destined to make is mark in educational circles.

In 1914, King George Public School with eight rooms, makes its debut on Ottawa Street. Again the cry: “The school is too big for our needs!” But again the trustees are right. Two wings are added in 1920 and by 1922 the school has 580 pupils.

The first principal in this modern second decade of the 20th century is – can you believe it? – a woman, Miss S.A. Ward. A.R. Davidson is the 1922 principal and long-time teacher, Miss I.M. Kimmerly, is there with him.

Meanwhile, on Monmouth Road, just south of Huron and kitty-corner from the site of the future high school, the Sisters of St. Joseph have been operating St. Edward’s Separate School, erected as two rooms in 1905 with three rooms added later. There are 225 students there in 1922.

Showing Off

The time has come to show off the new Walkerville High School to an admiring public.

Mr. Meade entertains the Border Cities Chamber of Commerce (president: Walter L. McGregor) at a luncheon in the school cafeteria followed by official opening ceremonies. Mr. Stevens is the chairman. Mayor Stodgell is there, of course, and Rev. M. Gordon Melvin, B.A.

Members declared themselves suitably impressed with the beautiful library, on the second floor at the front of the school, with its rich wood paneling, that will double as a board meeting room, the 48- by 80-foot gymnasium “with all of the most modern equipment, the plunge (already being used by 16 Walkerville swimming groups) and the 800-seat auditorium, with its 42-foot stage (“widest stage in the Border Cities, including the theatres”).

At 4 pm the pupils of the public schools arrive (having completed their school day – no need to miss any classes) to see motion pictures of the recent Walkerville Public Schools Field Day.

At 8 pm “public entertainment” draws Walkerville’s denizens decked out in their finest dresses and Sunday-go-to-meetin’ suits. A few remarks are delivered by Rev. E.C. Coughlin, C.S.B., Professor of Ethics, Assumption College – invited, of course, to demonstrate there is no prejudice in WASP Walkerville. The good burghers of the town do not yet appreciate the importance of their guests. This is the same Father Coughlin who from his base at the Shrine of the Little Flower, in Royal Oak, Michigan will gain continent-wide fame – loved and hated by millions – for his vitriolic, coast-to-coast radio attacks on President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the mid 1930s.

The evening concludes with dancing in the gymnasium. The accompanist, G.T. Jarvis, may well be playing some of the hit tunes of the day: “Somebody Stole My Gal”, “‘Way Down Yonder in New Orleans”, “O-o-oh Ernest, Are You Earnest with Me?” and – are you ready for this – “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate.”

And now it’s all over. The crowd trails out of the double front doors and onto the brick streets surrounding the school. Turning west past Willistead Park (donated to the town only a year ago by the widow of E. Chandler Walker – Hiram Walker’s fifth son – when she returned to the States). Or turning east to catch the Walker Road streetcar home.

Despite the earlier criticism, Walkervillites (or Walkervillians, if you prefer) are proud and happy with their new school. Their children will no longer be dependant on Windsor Collegiate for their secondary education. They will educate their own.



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