Recently I attended my high school reunion. This was a bittersweet event because my old alma mater Hill Park Secondary School is being closed and demolished.
This reunion was the last opportunity to walk the halls and the rare chance to toast with alcohol in the school cafeteria. I estimate that over a thousand people attended during the evening. The Alumni Association did a bang-up job organizing the afternoon walk down memory lane through the halls, gyms, library, and classrooms. In the evening, the girls gym was set up with displays by decades (50’s and 60’s; 70’s, 80’s, etc.) and the cafeteria hosted the bar and outside teachers’ parking lot sported food vendors. I attended with my sister Faye who was a student in the early sixties while I was a student in the late sixties and early seventies. It was awesome.
When it was built in 1955, Hill Park was a state-of-the-art school and the first high school on the Hamilton mountain. Later, long after I graduated, a community center with pool was added as well as an Early Childhood Center.
My years at Hill Park were probably one of the best times of my life. I met my first husband there. I actually don’t remember much of what I learned but occasionally something from that era will pop out of my head, like a quote from Shakespeare or the simple typing skills I learned which I’m using right now. I know I retained a lot regardless. Some friends that I knew in high school have reconnected through Facebook while others have slipped from my life long ago. In high school, I LOVED sports.
I was on most of the girls’ school teams, played all intramural sports, and even refereed intramural games of volleyball and basketball. I was on the basketball team (yes, I’m only 5’2”), volleyball team, track and field team, and gymnastics team.
I recall that many winter nights after practice, I’d phone my sister Faye and ask her if she could pick me up at school to save me the 5 mile walk home in the dark – bless her heart, she never said no and always came to get me even in her bathrobe and hair curlers.
I LIVED for sports. Our school teams were called the Rams. Classes where a way to pass the time until gym class or after school for team practises or games.
My favourite teacher of all time was Miss Joyce Reynolds, my gym teacher. Long after I left Hill Park and was married with children, I found out that Miss Reynolds lived beside my mother-in-law. I was able to tell her then how much she meant to me and the important impact she had on my life. Another teacher I ‘admired’ (okay, was gaga over), was a young British lad who seemed not much older than us students – now, remember, this was during the decade of the Beatles and other British rock groups and ANYONE with an English accent was SO cool. He was dreamie………. I worked so hard in his class dissecting my and other classmates dead specimens (for ‘brownie points’ I’m certain), that I ended up with 92% in that biology class. Even though I was in the course stream which was destined for post-secondary education, I loved Home Economics class and Art the best. At the reunion, I met someone at the ‘70s display who didn’t even know that Hill Park offered Art class. I still love art and practice ‘home economics’ on a daily basis lol.
I remember that I spent a lot of ‘spares’ in the cafeteria or the library with friends. In my final year there, I was part of the ‘Soc Club’ that helped organize various events like the Christmas toy drive where some of my fellow students had tons of fun playing with the toys like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot. Or Grad Day where I was JestHer and my boyfriend was JestHim – we made bristle board size playing cards and hats for costumes. It was great to have the day off to just goof off and spend time in the exclusive ‘Grad Lounge’. Ahhh, those were the days with nothing much to think about ……..
As Faye and I walked the halls and visited the library a few weeks ago, I noticed that all the years worth of student councils photos were on display on the far wall. I remembered that I had been on student council one year and there I was, all this time on display and I didn’t even know it, Sentinal Executive of 1969-70, grade 11 Rep.
We also walked into the Auditorium where we proudly graduated on stage after grade 12. The Board of Education made a completely brainless decision that year to make all the grade 13 students attend one of two schools downtown the next year which meant that we couldn’t finish our high school career in our beloved Hill Park. I had to leave the school that I loved, the friends that I had, and take public transportation to a foreign school – I lasted until the new year then eloped, quit school, and moved to another city.
Sadly, I didn’t get to see any of my old friends during the reunion – there were SO many people there! I guess we should have planned a meeting spot but I didn’t expect such a crowd. Actually, I didn’t recognize anyone anymore. However, one gentleman at the sixties display remembered my other sister Betty who wasn’t there because she lives on Vancouver Island! lol Everyone remembers Betty!
I will always remember Hill Park, those teachers, and friends who left a tremendous impression on my life. Cheers to Hill Park! Go Rams Go!!