Memories of Glamorgan and its Neighbourhood School
By Glenn P. Michell, whose family lived at 4208-45th Street SW from November 1958 to November 1997
Written April 2008 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Glamorgan Elementary School
Preamble: All of my life I have had an interest in my “local” community wherever I have lived and participated. I also have a gift of remembering what most people would call trivial events and happenings. Although I no longer live in Calgary, I visit frequently, including friends in Glamorgan. I knew this was the year the elementary school turns 50 and I would like to be able to pass on memories about the neighbourhood in its earlier years. From my memories, which do have some gaps, and perhaps one-sided inaccuracies about a few things, I have attempted to write here my recollections of what I experienced or others shared with me about Glamorgan and its school, as well as the community and city of the era I grew up. If I was to dedicate this to anyone, I guess it should be to my late grade one teacher, Mrs. Kevol, who first taught me reading and writing starting back at Glamorgan School in the fall of 1970.
We all have memories and a story to tell. It is fair to say that a school like Glamorgan and the experience of being in elementary school are typical. Yet, it is also fair to say that our particular school, its teachers, our friends, neighbours, family, and time period when we grew up are very specific to us. At the age of fifty years, Glamorgan Elementary School, located on 50 Grafton Drive SW, has had within its walls a contribution to the development in the lives and memories of thousands of former students and teachers. Some of us were there for a short time and some for many years. I and my two younger sisters were part of the Glamorgan School family for nine consecutive years. Indirectly, my family were part of the school community for over thirty years. This included thirty-nine years of paying school taxes, starting as a young couple with children yet to be born, having a family in school, voting in elections, honouring the school zone speed limit, being a Block Parent, serving on the Home and School Association, and being retired—but witnessing the next generation of students walk and ride their bikes to school. The fall of 1958 is a significant year for me as that is the year my parents purchased a brand new house on 45th Street SW, and the year Glamorgan Elementary School opened.
Post World War Two Calgary saw significant growth, as did all of Canada’s major cities. The soldiers came home, and in about 1947 the baby boom started and lasted until about 1964, the year I was born. In about 1947 Manchester Elementary school opened and it was the first new CBE school built and opened in Calgary since Rideau Park School opened in 1930. That was the only time in Calgary’s history, since the great sandstone school buildings were started, that there was no new school construction. In the decades that followed, numerous elementary, junior high and senior high schools were built and opened in Calgary. These schools, along with community halls, skating rinks, and playgrounds, became neighbourhood hubs with which each community could identify.
The greater area, bordered by Crowchild Trail, Glenmore Trail, 37th Street, and Richmond Road-33 Avenue was mostly leased to the Department of National Defence and was better known as Currie Barracks. Both the Army and Air Force were stationed there, as well as on a lease from the Sarcee (Tsuu T’ina) Nation in the Sarcee Barracks west of 37th Street and south of Glenmore Trail—where the new casino has recently been built. South of Glenmore Trail and West of 37th Street was mostly rural farmland and a few small pockets of light industry. Lakeview, Rutland Park (formally known as Sarcee Park), Lincoln Park, south-western Killarney, Shaganappi, Spruce Cliff, Wildwood, Westgate, Rosscarrock, Glendale, Glendale Meadows, Glenbrook and Glamorgan were yet to be built, and were to be located on lands mostly annexed by the city in 1954-56, part of one of the biggest annexations in the city’s history. By the mid-late 1950`s construction in each of these neighbourhoods was a continuation of Calgary’s post-war growth as part of a new era of affordable three bedroom bungalow family housing that was underway, just as it was on all of Calgary’s fringes, including Parkdale through to Thorncliffe in the north, Mayland Heights, the villages of Albert Park, Ogden and Forest Lawn in the east, and Acadia, Fairview, Oakridge, Chinook Park and Haysboro in the south, where thousands of new homes were being built. It is quite a change for the post war suburban neighbourhoods built east of Sarcee Trail to be considered “inner-city” neighbourhoods today.
Following the end of the war, over half of the Currie Base was turned over to the city or sold over to developers, but most development there would not happen until the 1970`s, and still continues to this day. In the early 50’s Killarney and Sarcee (Rutland) Park, part of Calgary since 1910, filled in and development west of 37th Street began in earnest. During the Prime Ministership of John G Diefenbaker, grants were given to build low cost cooperative type housing in the form of row-houses. Two groups of these were built in the area, including north Richmond Road between 33rd Street, 30th Avenue and 30th Street SW, and east of 37th Street between 44th and 45th Avenues. It was a 40 year low interest loan to the co-operative that would allow eligible renters to live and pay a reasonable monthly rent. In the 1990`s, when the mortgage was paid off, the co-ops were sold off and various renovations and changes were made to be what thy are today. Mount Royal College was built about 1972-73. Most of the “old timers” of the area will remember the chimes that used to play from the college during the day, and could be clearly heard throughout the neighbourhood. When we were younger we would ride our bikes on some of the old runways that were still there south of the college. Now, except of a few museums and converted buildings, the entire military presence is gone from Calgary and the entire Currie area is nearly developed or re-developed.
It was about 1956 when construction started on the first new houses built along/near 37th Street in what would become Glamorgan. Most of the original neighbourhood—to 45th Street—was completed by 1959. Previously, the land was agricultural, and a number of homestead and farm houses were still lived in. It was not uncommon along the fringes of the city for farms to be a quarter section in size or even subdivided into 80 acre, 40 acre or smaller acreage plots. There was also a gravel quarry along both sides of Sarcee Trail just south of Richmond Road. The part of it between 50th Street and Sarcee Trail closed in the 1960’s and was used as a “dump” for old concrete and fill. We used to play there lots as kids. It is my understanding that Glamorgan was named after the Glamorgan Dairy Farm originally located along the 37th Street side of the section. Glamorgan is also the name of Glamorganshire, a county in Wales, UK. If I remember correctly, the last owners were the Maidman family, and Mr. And Mrs. Maidman lived in a house on 37th Street until the 1990`s. Although a significant amount of the new construction west of 37th Street was to be built for working class families, many parts of Glamorgan were built to house the growing and rising post war middle class. Streets such as Gloucester Crescent, Gloucester Drive and Gissing Drive were not typical numbered straight lined ``grid roads`` such as those formerly built in Killarney, Glengarry and Shaganappi, and being built in Rutland Park, Glenbrook, and Rosscarrock. It was this time period that urban planning changed to include curved roads and streets with similar sounding names or starting with the same letter. Glamorgan would grow to become one of most preferred middle class neighbourhoods in the mid-southwest part of Calgary. This was due to the combination of being located in an area that easily accessed downtown and the highways west and south out of the city, the setting of being a suburb, the well built homes, view of the mountains, and the closeness to various services including good schools. Viscount Bennett High School opened in 1955, Glamorgan Elementary in 1958, and AE Cross Junior High in 1960. All three would develop reputations as excellent schools of high academic standards, good discipline, and programming. Just like today, neighbourhoods were built and grew faster than schools could be built. The key difference between today and the 1950`s, is that today, it is possible, although not always desirable, to bus students from areas of the city with out schools to areas with underutilized schools. Back in the 50`s bussing was not a considered option for younger children, and there was no such thing as an underutilized school building. Every building owned by the CBE that was habitable was used, including most of the old 1920’s cottage schools located throughout the older parts of the city. There were even cases of church and community halls being rented to handle the overflow of students, as portables were not yet in common usage. For a few years in some parts of Calgary, the elementary schools ran in morning and afternoon shifts as there was not enough room for all of the students to attend at once. As money had to be borrowed to build new schools, costs were saved on two fronts: First, a common architectural plan was used for many of the buildings. Common meant it had basically the same floor plan, but would be designed to adequately fit into topography and shape of lot. Secondly, the schools were first built with the basic parts of Gymnasium, staffroom-office, washrooms, and a wing of classrooms. As the need arose, and the tax base in a neighbourhood increased, more wings would be added on. Glamorgan School was built in four major stages, plus a number of minor renovations. Elementary schools in Killarney, Rutland Park, Glenbrook, Glendale, Glendale Meadows, Westgate, Rosscarrock, Wildwood, Shaganappi and Lakeview, were all built with the same basic ``cookie cutter`` floor plan with each added to as needed. A.E. Cross and Senator Patrick Burns Junior Highs were similar, as were the old parts of Viscount Bennett and Queen Elizabeth High Schools.
Two significances about the newly built post war schools in the early days of their operation is that up until the 1960`s there were still separate entrances for the boys and girls. (The junior high part of Viscount Bennett had separate boys and girls entrances its first year or two of operation.) And, the flagpole was located on top of the building rather than on the ground. (And thirdly, a number of neighbourhoods all over Calgary had air raid sirens on or near the elementary schools. I do not know if Glamorgan ever had an air raid siren. I do remember one being near the former Milton Williams School just west of Chinook Shopping Centre, and I think Wildwood School had one.)
A few other tidbits about our community of the 60’s and 70’s include that all phone numbers started with 242 or 249. Few people had pushbutton phones and few houses had more than one phone number. Further, most houses had just one phone, unless an extension(s) was installed; and all phones were hard wired into the walls. Phone jacks did not come until the late 1970’s. The postal code until 1973 was just the number “8”. Electric stoves and dryers were direct wired into the walls and special ground wires were run separately to them. Cable television did not come until the 1970’s. Until about 1970 we were still allowed to have burning barrels in the back alleys for our paper and other combustible garbage. Our old rusted out metal burning barrel was still used as a composter in our garden right up until we sold the house in 1997. Milk delivery was five times per week with no delivery on Sundays or Wednesdays. This was later dropped to four days per week and then to two. Milk came in quart sized glass bottles, and the used bottles were left for the milkman to pick up. By the mid 70’s bottles were replaced by milk in quart bags that were set in a pitcher and cut open. The real confusion (for nearly everything, including milk products) was switching to the metric system around 1974. My mother purchased milk tokens every two weeks and would then “pay” for the milk with the tokens instead of leaving money out for the milkman. Many houses in the neighbourhood had milk shoots built into them. Some people also had egg delivery. The bus route had a single digit number (#8, I believe) coming in from downtown from Richmond Road to 37th street, and then up 46th Avenue to 43rd Street, Galbraith Drive and 49th Avenue, to 45th Street and then 38th Avenue (now Gainsborough gate) to 44th street and down Richmond Road back toward downtown. The bus stops were just a white wooden fence post with a route number painted on it. Metal poles, benches and shelters came much later. The bus route expanded into Glamorgan Heights in the mid 1970’s turning on 40th Avenue and looping around to Richmond road via 50th Street. The bus route number changed to 110 sometime in the later 1970’s, and route was altered and routes were added in years that followed as more development was built. Glamorgan Heights was built in a number of phases starting about 1970. Most of the area between 45th and 50th Streets was built by 1972, with various parcels completed in the ten or so years that followed. Most probably do not remember that the L-shaped field in the middle of Glamorgan Heights was originally designated to have an elementary and junior high school built on the two ends, as Glamorgan and AE Cross were still so full at that time. West of 50th was constructed during the mid 1980’s. The gravel quarry that operated west of Sarcee Trail for about four decades closed around 1990 and West Hills Shopping Centre was built. This included re-aligning roads and highways such as Sarcee Trail, Highway 8, and Richmond Road giving a very different traffic flow pattern than what existed in the quieter and younger days of the neighbourhood. As a kid, I remember Richmond Road west of 45th being a gravel road, and petting horses at a barb wire fence where the townhouses in Glenbrook are on the NW corner of 45th and Richmond Road is today. Just west of Calgary on Richmond Road (Highway 8) was “Jackson Valley” and “Twin Bridges.” This was about the furthest we ever rode our one-speed bikes—about 69th Street or a little beyond. Jackson Valley is now the neighbourhood of Discovery Ridge, and Twin Bridges is no longer “twin” since Highway 8 was upgraded back and realigned in the early 90’s.
In the early days, Glenmore Trail and Sarcee Trail were then known as the Ring Road. Richmond Road wound westward around the outskirts of the gravel quarry to become Highway 8. The big green water tower along Glenmore trail, just inside Sarcee Barracks, was the land mark that identified where our neighbourhood was. “Kids” in Glamorgan had two towers to identify with. The other notable “tower” landmark was for all of Calgary, which was quite visible from a few parts of Glamorgan, opened in 1968 as the “Husky Tower,” but later, was renamed the Calgary Tower. It was purposely located along Ninth Avenue and Centre Street not far from the Palliser Hotel and the now long gone Robin Hood Flour Mills. Passenger trains brought thousands of tourists, visitors and migrants along the line which stopped not far from the Tower. Perhaps the greatest memory of the Tower was how it became the world’s largest Olympic torch during the 88 Winter Olympic Games. Places like Bowness, Montegomery, Forest Lawn, Ogden and Midnapore were separate towns when Glamorgan School first opened. (Both of my parents were residents of Montgomery when they got married in 1956.) Springbank was owned mostly by various members of the Copperthorne Family, descendents of three brothers who settled in that area back in the 1870’s and eventually owned over forty sections of land west of Calgary. The three sets of numbers on the hill on the corner of Richmond Road and Sarcee Trail were all that remained of the World War One training barracks where over fifteen thousand soldiers were housed and trained for duty in Europe back in 1914-18, including my grandfather. The original stones were replaced in the early 1990’s with the more elaborate memorial there today. Radio and Television were very different. Calgary had two T.V. Stations (CFAC channel 2 and CFCN channel 4) as well as about four radio stations—CFAC, CFCN, CHQR, and CKXL. CKXL was the rock and roll station the kids listened to. FM radio existed, but most listened to AM, as radios did not have stereophonic capability, and you often needed an extension antenna to get FM reception for household radios. By the mid-late 70’s more stations were added including the CBC in 1975. It is also noteworthy that TV and radio did not broadcast all night. We did not purchase our first colour TV until 1973, after I had accidently knocked over our old black and white clunker that my parents had on an unstable stand, and its picture tube “exploded” inside its box. These very heavy TV sets had three layers of glass and were full of vacuum tubes. Our older radios and stereos had vacuum tubes in them as well. One “bragging right” my age group has is we watched Sesame Street back when the episode numbers were double digit numbers. Most families had a huge collection of LP records, and the younger people in the early 70’s had their tape cassettes and 8-tracks. Regarding our TV, I remember we always unplugged it during lightening storms. Where the AMA is located today at 45th Street and 17th Avenue was a drive-in movie theatre. Oddly enough, it burned down (I think around Hallowe’en) about thirty years ago. In the “faith life” of people over 50% of the population were affiliated with a church and had some amount of regular attendance. Just as for schools, neighbourhoods were actually planned with land set aside for a church denomination to be able to purchase and build. Politically, Glamorgan was interesting as well, as former Premier Peter Lougheed was the MLA for many years. And, I believe, without exception, the area has been Social Credit, Progressive Conservative or Reform Party both provincially and federally from its earliest days as a neighbourhood. Ethnically, the vast majority of the neighbourhood was of European descent.
Shopping in the earlier days was a whole different world. With the exception of Fridays, nearly everything closed by 6:00pm, and except for the odd gas station, nothing was open on Sundays, including most restaurants. When 7-11 opened it really was open from 7:00am to 11:00pm. In the Glamorgan Shopping Centre, a number of businesses, including the Barber Shop and Eric’s Bakery, were closed on Mondays to give the workers a five day working week. Other memories of Glamorgan Shopping Centre include the old Economy Hardware store, where many of us got our first one speed bicycles. There was the Bowling Alley underneath, the old Royal Bank, The Glamorgan Drug Store, the Laundromat, Veterinarian Clinic, and a little pizza place called Olympic Pizza, plus other various businesses—one of our neighbours owned and ran a meat deli for many years. Olympic Pizza made the headlines during the run-up to the 88 games, as this establishment, which had been there for many years, was accused of using the name “Olympic” and the symbol of the five rings with out the permission of the Olympic Planning Committee. It was a rather silly controversy. Chris’s Barber Shop operated for over 25 years and was the only place I got my hair cut from when I was a toddler until I left home in 1988. Eric’s Bakery was eventually sold and became the Glamorgan Bakery and it is famous all over Calgary today. The Glamorgan Shopping Centre was originally anchoured with a Loblaws store. That was always special to me as my mother was a Loblaw and it was her great uncle who started the business back in the early 1900’s in Ontario. Along 37th Street between Glenmore Trail and Bow Trail were the following grocery store supermarkets: At 45th Avenue—Safeway; at Richmond Road—Loblaws; at 26th Avenue—IGA; at 17th Avenue—Loblaws on the SW corner and Safeway on the NE corner; and at Bow Trail as an anchour for Westbrook Mall—Safeway. Further there was a Safeway at 45th Street and Bow Trail, and a CO-OP was built on Richmond Road in 1972. That CO-OP was different from the other supermarkets in two innovative ways. First, they carried your groceries to your car. And second, this grocery store included dry goods, some clothing, toys, hardware, kitchen wares, a cafeteria, and Co-operators Insurance and a Credit Union, and a “Kiddie Korral” where parents could leave small children to play, all within its main store. By the late 70’s a number of the Safeway locations closed and a new Safeway was put into Richmond Square when it opened about 1980. Loblaws later became L-Mart in the mid 70’s and closed altogether in 1975. A discount lumber store called Cashaway moved in for a year or so, and by the summer of 1976 Sportcheck opened its first sporting goods store in the former grocery store location. Premier Lougheed officially opened the new Tennis Courts at AE Cross in June 1976. (Back in 1979, during PE class at AE Cross we were playing tennis, and a classmate, who would later become my brother-in-law, hit a ball over the fence so hard, and it was caught by the wind, that it landed just short of hitting Sportcheck.) Westbrook Mall was one of the first true shopping malls built in Calgary, and it was anchoured with a Woolco Store. Until 1973 Chinook Mall was actually two strip malls a quarter mile apart, one anchoured with a Simpson’s Sears and the other with a Woodwards. T Eaton, and The Hudson Bay Company in the downtown were still the true department stores, each being four or five floor buildings covering much of a city block. The 70’s were when large shopping malls became established with Chinook connected together—it seems like it has been under construction ever since—and the building of Market Mall and Southland Mall, with others to follow in the 80’s and 90’s. Sadly, Woolco, Woodwards and Eatons are businesses that are long gone.
When I started kindergarten in September 1969, we went to the old original community hall. My teacher was Mrs. Woolgar, a resident of Glamorgan. That year the original part of the current community hall was built, and if I remember correctly, our kindergarten class moved into it during December. The old hall became a storage building, skate shack and it was eventually torn down. At least two major additions have been put on the existing hall in the past 30 years making the building between 3 and 4 times bigger than when it was first built. The Kindergarten, later referred to as ECS, was moved into Glamorgan School in the fall of 1973. When I started grade one in 1970, Glamorgan included the area bordered by 37th Street, Richmond Road, 45th Street and Glenmore Trail. The only apartments/townhouses that existed were at the end of Glenway Drive and in the older part of Galbraith Park. The only development west of 45th street was the senior`s residence complex at the far south end. At that time the school had 650 students in six grades, and only from within the Glamorgan neighbourhood. As a child, I remember that there were so many kids to play with, and I was born later than the real boom that had occurred ten years earlier. One example of so many kids was Hallowe’en, when it was not uncommon to get over two hundred kids come to your door. School started at 9:00am. Lunch was 12:00 to 1:00. The afternoon was 1:00 until 4:00pm. Grade ones got out at 11:30 and 3:30. There were both morning and afternoon recesses. In 1972 the “day” was shortened slightly with the dropping of afternoon recess and slight shortening of the lunch hour so we were dismissed earlier. I remember that around 1974 school started at 8:45 and we got out about 3:15. No one stayed for lunch, and in spite of what our kids are told about the good old days being so harsh, it is a fact that very few parents drove their kids to school, and, it is true winters were longer and colder than today, but school was never cancelled. The first time in my life Glamorgan School closed due to weather was the day following the May 13 1986 blizzard that paralyzed the whole city (and much of Alberta) closing the Air Port, Greyhound Terminal, and the U of C, SAIT and Mount Royal College. There was one day in the winter of 1976 when there was a city wide power failure that started during lunch hour, and we got sent home at about 2:00pm. It was not a cold day, and I remember the whole staff doing outside supervision while we had a long extended lunch hour.
The first bussed in students to Glamorgan School came for the remainder of the school year in 1978 (or 79) when Glengarry School burned down. As Glamorgan then had enough space, it was decided to handle that crisis by running two schools in one building. I believe this was only for the few months of that one year. It was not until the early 1980’s that kids were regularly bussed in and stayed for lunch. This started from the westward fringes of the neighbourhood past 50th Street, as those students were outside the prescribed walking range. Also, with more single parent homes and/or both parents working, offering a lunchroom became a regular part of the school. Since then, many students have been bussed in from outside the Glamorgan Neighbourhood.
For a number of years, every classroom in the school was full with 25-30, or more, students in each. The Art, Science, and Music rooms were used for those subjects, and were well used by the 24+ homerooms that operated on a 6-day timetable. The grade six students were in the open area. For some reason the rooms were all renumbered in my grade three year. The open area had mobile dividers and it was numbered as rooms 25, 26, 27, and 28. In my younger grades we were taught to be quiet in the library because we were not to be disturbing the grade six students in the adjoining open area. The gymnasium and stage still had glass windows. In the hallways were clear glass windows along the tops of the walls to let in natural light from the windows in the classrooms. I remember the classroom windows being so big, from counter almost up to the ceiling, and almost the entire length of the rooms. The hallways still had the incandescent light fixtures. The “top of the line technology” the school had were five large black and white televisions, three film projectors, a number of filmstrip projectors, six record players, and a few tape recorders. I was in grade six the year they bought the brand new colour television with a video recording machine. It had what were called one-inch cassettes. I think the “one inch” meant one inch thick, as the cassettes themselves were about were 10 inches by 6 inches big. That is huge compared to VHS. For French, in grades 4, 5, and 6, students had to watch a 15-minute program on T.V. every third day. CFAC television broadcast at 9:00 to 9:15 a French teacher who would say things and we would have to repeat. Most of the elementary kids in Calgary had French that way. On a particular day all of the grade four classes would have the TVs. They had to be warmed up first so the teachers would turn them on and there would be this high-pitched squeal in the room. The next day it was the grade fives, and so on. The other two days our teachers would review the lesson and teach us the song of the month. When I was in grade one, about fifty of us were put into a classroom to watch one of the lunar landings on the TV. The TV’s had rabbit ears to pick up reception, which was in black and white. I remember thinking that NASA control was located inside the moon as I thought the moon was hollow—little did I know.
It was a big treat when the filmstrip projector would be in our room. It was an even bigger treat when the filmstrips had tape recordings to go with them instead of the students having to take turns to orally read the words on the screen that went with the pictures. But the biggest treat of all was when the film projector was brought in. Those old machines were everybody’s headache. It seemed that only the librarian knew how to thread them and fix them when they got jammed. During my division two years we started to use listening centers. These were boards plugged into a tape recorder with about 12 headphone jacks. We would put on the headphones, listen, and then answer questions on work sheets to see if we were listening to the stories. Calculators were “unheard of”, and computers, walkmans/Discmans, DVD’s, handheld video games, and cell phones were not invented or available to the average consumer. How did kids ever get through a day without all of that technology???
The first school day of each month we had the school wide monthly spelling test. We wrote the same set of tests from part way through grade one to the end of grade six. The fifty words started with grade one level words, and ended with grade 12 level words. In division two we also had a monthly school wide “times table” tests. I can remember some of the month’s tests had smudges or other identifying marks on them and actually memorized some of the patterns of answers, as the exact same tests were used more than once in a rotation. There was no photocopier back then, just a gestentner and a ditto machine. The gestentener made black letter copies and the ditto machine used an alcohol chemical and made purple letter copies. We had scribblers for each subject, and probably received a small fraction of the handouts students get today. Our report cards were filled in by the teachers and given out four times per year. There were no computer-generated report cards and all of the grades and comments were hand written. The secretary in the office still used an old manual typewriter for everything. There were only three phones. One was at the secretary’s desk, one was in the principal’s office, and one was in the sickroom. They were all black rotary dial phones. We lined up for everything. There was no problem with over 600 bodies all coming in at once, or moving to the gym for an assembly or doing a fire drill exit. The school year always started right after Labour Day and ended on the 28th or 29th of June. Christmas holidays would last 12 days including the weekends, and Easter holidays from Good Friday with school starting on Monday a week later. The only days off we had were two for Teachers’ Convention, three professional days, and two organizational days. They say we used to have a 200 day school year minus the seven days. Except for a very small number of students on the coldest days of winter, we all went home for lunch. Our winters were much colder then. It used to snow before Hallowe’en and in some years was not all melted until around mid-April. We also had a lot more days in the minus 30’s. But, we never had a “snow day,” and very few parents drove their kids to or from school. One of the best parts of the day was walking home with all of your friends, even when it was really cold. Spring was the best when the snow was melting because we used to make slush dams in the back alleys. On weekends or during summer we were never board. There were so many kids to play with. We watched very little TV—except for Saturday morning cartoons, and even in the winter, all dressed up in our snowsuits, we played outside. Riding our bikes was also a big part of playtime. Many kids rode their bikes to school. In the spring and fall there could be over 200 bikes parked in the bike racks and along the chain link fences.
On most Fridays we had school wide assemblies. It was the responsibility of grade six students to do the introductions and commentary. We always sang O Canada, God Save the Queen, and we saluted the flag: “I salute the flag, the emblem of my country; to her I pledge my love and loyalty.” Different classes would perform and we had lots of all school singing. One of the highlights of the school at that time was the Glamorgan Elementary School Choir. The conductor of the Choir was Mr. John Kuzmer. It consisted of about 70 of the grades five and six students each year. One of the social events of the year was the Spring Tea and Bake Sale. I can remember as a grade one student losing my mom, who was helping with the Spring Tea, and timidly going up to Mr. Kuzmer, who was just getting the Choir ready to sing, and thinking how “big” those students were. I was in the choir for both of my grades five and six years. We were on T.V. about nine different times; we performed at the Calgary Stampede, and for many community functions. When I was in grade four, the year before I could join, the choir got to go to the World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington. When I was in grade five, it was the 100th anniversary of the founding of Fort Calgary. We made a record telling the story of early Calgary through various songs. Proceeds from the record were donated to Rotary Calgary for the building of “Safety City” a place where kids were taught about traffic safety. (That same year the entire school participated in producing a film strip about the history of Calgary in honour of 100 years since Fort Calgary was built.) Two years earlier, in 1973, the Choir had also made a record. Mr. Kuzmer retired halfway through my grade six year so the choir ceased to exist. He was the principal of the school for six years. I have a copy of both of the records made by the choirs. I am in the picture on the cover of the second one. Another item of note is discipline was very strict. We still had the strap. I remember a few of my buddies getting into so much trouble that they got the strap. Rules were strict and enforced. Respect was very important. I can remember in grade one an important lesson: It was just before Remembrance Day. My mother worked for the man charge of the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Poppy campaign for all of Calgary. Back then the veterans used to make all of the poppies by hand. They were sold and the money was used to help support veterans who did not have much money. It was for buying medicines, giving Christmas hampers, or financial help in times of need. The school had poppies for sale. My Mom gave me five cents so I could buy a poppy. I came to school and once the day started, I went up to my teacher and showed her the five cents and told her what it was for. My classroom was on the west side of the building. I had never been to the office before. She told me that I would have to take my five cents to the office to go buy the poppy. She gave me directions and permission to leave the room. I found the office. To a grade one student, the counter by the secretary’s desk is quite high up. I stood there until she noticed me. “What can I do for you young man?” she asked. I told her I wanted to buy a poppy and showed her my nickel. She replied to me that they were in Mr. Kuzmer’s office. Feeling a little bolder, I walked in front of her. I was about to step into his office when her hand took hold of my shoulder and I came to an immediate stop. “Young men do not go into someone’s office unless they are first invited.” I stood there feeling timid again. Then she said, “Excuse me Mr. Kuzmer, there is a young gentleman who has a question for you.” He looked up and smiled and said, “yes.” “Can I buy a poppy?” I said holding out my nickel. He invited me to approach his desk and let me put the nickel in the tin can and pick out a poppy from the brown paper bag. Even to this day, I still wait for permission to enter a stranger’s or a superior’s office. I hope that each young person has “life lessons” being taught that build up their character and made them better citizens. That secretary was Mrs. Dandell. Mrs. Price became the secretary in the fall of 1972 and I believe was at Glamorgan for over 20 years. There were a number of teachers there for many years. Two to note include Mrs. Woodhouse who started the year the school opened and retired from there 25 years later. And Mrs. Linnimoler who was there before I started grade one and retired not very many years ago. Other long-timers included Mrs. Buchanan who was there for the first 18 years, and Mrs. Wirch, Mrs. Papp, Mrs. Baltgalis, and Mrs. Penworn who later was Mrs. Piquett—all teachers there during all or most of my time in Glamorgan School, and many years after. (My spellings might be incorrect on various names.)
Something happened during my grade six year that affected my class. There were about 25 of us in room 28. Mr. Buckley was our teacher. There were very few male teachers in elementary school. Mr. Buckley was a 28 years old French Canadian who loved kids and teaching. He was very strict, but also a lot of fun. He taught French to us without the T.V. He made French enjoyable. He loved sports, and was very personable with us. Our academic standards were quite high. Mr. Buckley made learning enjoyable. Mr. Buckley was married but had no children. He and his wife had two big sheep dogs. He would tell us stories about them. He also was a part of Uncles at Large, an organization similar to Big Brothers. For a hobby he did hang gliding. One Monday morning in mid-May, we came to school. The flag was at half-mast. The bell rang and we lined up at the doors and filed into class. Mr. Faytor, the new principal, was in our room. He broke to us the news that Mr. Buckley had been killed in a hang gliding accident the day before. (He was not harnessed in and the wind caught the glider and flipped him out and he fell about 60 feet.) We were devastated. There were no grief counselors in those days. We had a stranger for a substitute. At recess we all tried to stay in and she did not know what to do so she called Mr. Faytor. He made us go outside. We were very sad and did not know what to do. A few days later, it was the first funeral I ever attended. Someone in our class heard about giving money to a charity in memory of someone who died. The idea spread around and we decided to collect money to give to Uncles at Large. In those days our allowances were a nickel or dime per week, or a few kids got quarters. From our piggybanks and allowances, we collected from just among ourselves 42 dollars. In 1976 that was a considerable amount of money. The school secretary sent the money to Uncles at Large, and we later got a thank-you letter from them that we hung in our room for the last few weeks of school. The new substitute teacher turned out to be a nice person and the year ended fine.
In Memory of Mr. Buckley, two trophies were purchased. They were given to a boy and a girl in grade six who got the top marks and demonstrated a positive attitude toward school. The first year, the awards were given to a girl named Lana Schatkoski and a boy named Mike Volcko who both were part of our class. During these years, there was a caretaker named Mr. Frank Gemmil. He worked at Glamorgan for many years, possibly even since it had opened. Around 1978, he got sick and had to have one of his legs amputated, and was forced to retire. He loved the school and the kids. A trophy was donated in his name for school citizenship. My sister was either the first or second recipient of it. Being in AE Cross, I came back to attend the year end assembly. I remember Mr. Gemmil on his crutches from his wheel chair up in front of the whole school with a beaming smile and a twinkle in his eyes as all the kids clapped and cheered for him.
Mike Volcko was our class Valedictorian for both grade nine and twelve. My grade twelve year book includes a quote that was recited as part of his speech:
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool, shun him
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child, teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep, wake him.
He who knows and knows he knows is wise, follow him.
Jim Buckley taught us to enjoy learning. May we encourage our young people look forward to the lifetime of learning ahead of them. Frank Gemmil was a caretaker. He loved children. No matter what your career or calling, may we have a love for people and a desire to learn. I don’t know if the two Jim Buckley or Frank Gemmil awards are still given out. But I hope for two things for each of the Glamorgan students whom I have never met.
First, that each would make positive choices for their lives, and learn from any mistakes that are made. It would be very special 30 years from now for current students to be able to look back to at their schooling and remember good things about it. The second is that doing our best and/or being a good citizen will not always earn a trophy. But, it will make a difference in our lives, and in the lives of others around us. We live in a world where we see a lot of selfishness and a lot of sadness. Glamorgan School taught me to respect authority, respect other people, respect the rules that help manage our society, and to respect our selves. We were a community of people who knew each other and interacted with each other. Glamorgan was, and is, a special place. In the fall of 1976, I started grade seven at A.E. Cross. There is a plaque of photos hanging on a hallway wall there called the Class of 79. In that group of 250 or so students are about a hundred that came from Glamorgan. About 15 of those people were a part of my kindergarten class. There were still about 8 of us from my kindergarten class, and about 60 of us from my grade six group who graduated together from Viscount Bennett School. (Most of the others went to Earnest Manning or Central Memorial.) To this day, my very best friend is a boy I met on the playground in the fall of 1970. I have been a junior high teacher for 20 years. My best friend has been a paramedic for 19 years and is currently the Chaplain for EMS in Calgary, and is working for the administration. His oldest daughter is 20 this year, and mine is 18. I am married 19 years and have four children who are now in school. The two of us, and all 120 of us who were the Glamorgan class of 1976, and the few thousand other alumni each have a story to tell. Our parents, our churches, our clubs, our friends, our teachers, andGlamorgan School had a part of that story.
Glenn P. Michell