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Thursday, 13 June 2013 15:52

Central School Centennial Committee is Solving the Mysteries of Central School – Can you help?

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The Central School Centennial Committee is looking for the public’s help in answering some of their many questions and to verify some of the information that is currently only speculation.

While a lot of the school’s 100-year history has been pieced together from the Central School vault, books on Swift Current, and information received from Central School Alumni, the committee is looking to have some of their biggest mysteries solved in time for the school’s 2014 Centennial Celebrations.
“We don’t know exactly how many people have been principals of Central School and what their names are, for one thing,” says Centennial Committee chair Cheryl Wilhelm. “We have six pictures of past principals hanging up in our hallway: Mrs. Sharon Mayall, Mr. Dan Kerslake, Mr. Keith Ahrens, Mr. Ron Meyers, Mr. K.S. Lewis and Mr. Hutchings, but who was the very first principal and how many others were there?” 
That mystery that was partially answered, when two scanned yearbooks for 1919-1920, and 1920-1921 were sent to Central showing Mr. D.L. Milne was principal in 1919 and E.L. Jordan was principal the year after. But when their principal ships began and when they ended are still unknowns.
The school’s name also tops the committee’s list of mysteries to be solved. While a newspaper article from 1914 awarding the contract to build Central refers to the building as Central School, just four years later the 1919 yearbook calls it Swift Current High School, while in 1920 it’s referred to it as the Swift Current Collegiate Institute. It wasn’t until 1921 that the school’s attendance records stored in the school’s vault refers to it as Central School for the first time.
“What we’re looking for here is for someone to clarify why the school had several different names,” says Wilhelm.
Other intriguing bits of history that raise almost as many questions as they answer were also found in the attendance records that are located in the vault and date back to 1914.
“We have noticed that some of the registers from the Second World War era show a bit of an increase in student population,” says Wilhelm. “Was there an influx of British students sent to Central School during those years? The records also show the very first English as an additional language class in the 1950s. All of the students in this register have Chinese surnames and are aged 19-21. Were these students who emigrated from China during the Communist Revolution? We would love to hear more about these students.”
The attendance records also indicate school holidays that include the King’s birthday, and Arbor Day which was celebrated in early April. A day that encouraged tree-planting in North America, Wilhelm wonders if any of the large trees on the front lawn were planted during Arbor Day celebrations, or if there are other ceremonies that were held at Central school in honour of this day?
The flu epidemic that swept world-wide can also be seen in the attendance records for 1918 which show the school as being closed as a result. How did this epidemic affect Central school students and their families?
But perhaps one of the biggest mysteries that the Committee is hoping to solve, above and beyond all others is the mystery of what happened to their bell.
“We still have access to our bell tower but there is no longer a bell there, and we have no idea what happened to the original bell,” says Wilhelm. “There is a bell on display at the Comp that says it once hung in the Swift Current Collegiate Institute, and we know that the high school was once housed in a different building that no longer exits. So, did the bell leave the first High School location to Central, then to Beatty, and then to the Comp when it opened?”
Other mysteries revealed as the Committee researched the history of the school included the discovery that the school’s auditorium once had slanted floors for theatre style seating, which they believe was changed in 1935. 
“Our auditorium is the hub of our school’s music program and we continue the tradition of many types of student productions, but some alumni visitors to our school have told us of stories of putting on operettas and Christmas concerts in that theatre-styled auditorium which also had a spiral wrought iron staircase that lead to dressing rooms, and a passageway underneath the stage so performers could go from one side of the stage to the other. We would love to hear stories and see pictures of these features, if anyone has them to share.”
They’re also looking for those who might have information on the” record hops” that were put on at the school in the 1960s which also featured live student bands, and information about the “singing principals” from Central, Elmwood and Beatty, who were said to have put on regular singing performances in the auditorium that were open to the community in the 1950’s.
“We would love to hear more details and see photos of any of these events,” says Wilhelm. “And to find out what other kinds of performances were given in our auditorium space.”
Over its 100-year history, the school has had many renovations to it, above and beyond their auditorium including: the gym space which was added in 1979, and some major renovations in 1984 which included new windows, heating, electrical and other interior improvements. Any other information on older renovations remains virtually unknown.
“We know that Central once had a suite that housed the caretaker and his family. But we’d love to know what his apartment configuration look like. Or find out when the caretaker stopped living in the school? We think it was when the old boiler system was replaced in the 1970’s but don’t have anything to verify that.”
“The school grounds have also undergone changes over the century,” adds Wilhelm. “There was once a barn north of the school to stable horses that students rode to school, which was where the current swing set is located, and while excavating to install the swings, we even found pieces of bridle and bit!”
“We also discovered that the playground used to be much larger than it is at present. It stretched east to Central Avenue before the First Ave one-way system was built in the 1960s. But when was the first playground structure installed? We are looking for information on playground projects and improvements pre-1999.”
In addition to hoping to present the answers to some of their mysteries in various forms throughout their year-long celebration, the committee is also hoping to present as much as they can about the history of some of their more famous alumni.
“We have been in contact with award winning poet Lorna Crozier, and former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Lynda Haverstock, who were both students at Central School, inviting them to come and speak to our students and the public during our Centennial Year,” says Wilhelm. “We’ve also been in contact with other alumni families who have offered to share their passions and talents with our students, including local artist Jean Cyca who has created a beautiful pastel image of Central School in honour of the centennial, reproductions of which will be offered up for sale in time for Christmas 2013.
 “We welcome any of our past alumni who are willing to share their passion for the arts with us,” says Wilhelm. “We just don’t necessarily know who they are. It would be wonderful if more alumni step forward and offered to help us celebrate.”
Other noteworthy alumni the committee plans to profile include R.C. Dahl, a former mayor of Swift Current, and Eric Malling and award-winning reporter. But if anyone knows of any other alumni from Central School who went on to excellence in their careers, the committee would love to hear from you.
With over 100 years of learning and history to try and recreate, these are only some of the questions the committee is looking for answers to, and Wilhelm says, as with any historical research, the more you learn the more you want to know.
“We are fascinated at how major world events touched our school population over the past century. We want to learn more about local events and local people from our community. If anyone out there has information or memories to share that are a part of Central School’s history, it would help us immensely to fill in the gaps and solve our many mysteries!”
If you or someone you know has information to share, please contact:
Cheryl Wilhelm 778-0536 or Central School 778-9255 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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