OPINION: A look back at the first day of the new St. Clair high

St. Clair Secondary School opened on Sept. 5, 1961 when Murphy Road was still gravel. Submitted Image

Nadine Wark

The day after Labour Day of 1961 is a day I recall with fondness.

Nadine Wark

My friends and I had graduated from Grade 8 that June, had left elementary school behind and were about to embark on a new adventure — starting classes at the brand new school in Sarnia called St. Clair Secondary.

We had to take a bus from Corunna to Murphy Road, and the pickup was at the corner of Lyndoch and Hill streets, the location of our elementary school. I thought about the young students being welcomed there as they started their own new adventure.

The bus was noisy with soon-to-be Grade Niners, and an older, senior crowd. We’d been tipped not to sit near the back to avoid being ‘initiated.’ The very word struck fear in our hearts, with images of black shoe polish and flour coming to mind, or being forced to push a penny along with your nose.

The bus soon filled with the sound of transistor radios, plenty of obnoxious chatter and the cracking of gum —Double Bubble and Bazooka being popular at the time.

I looked down at the pile of schoolbooks on my lap and wondered how on earth I would ever learn all that stuff. All I wanted to do was study Tiger Beat magazine or anything else with the Beatles on the cover.

Before long, we were heading up an incline as the bus made its way onto the Indian Road overpass. The subdivisions of today didn’t exist then and all we could see was a huge stretch of land with scattered homes. Someone yelled out, “There’s the school!” I recall the bus driver slowing and we all looked to the east to see a long, modern building off in the distance. The driver turned onto Talfourd and a few blocks later stopped in front of the school, the place we would spend the next four to five years.

Coming from a small, old-style school to this amazing building was exciting! We walked through the main doors and knew right away who the Grade Niners were.

We picked up timetables, searched out classrooms for each subject and made our way to our lockers. It was tricky learning the combination but eventually everyone did. Sharing such a small space with another student was even trickier.

My old St. Clair High reopened this month as the rebuilt Great Lakes Secondary School. Once ‘the dust settles’ (more than one meaning here folks), the new building will hopefully offer many opportunities for education, activities, sports, art, music and friendships that last a lifetime.

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia