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: Sharon Mayall, Dan Kerslake, Keith Ahrens, Ron Meyers, 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 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 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,” says Wilhelm, “is for someone to clarify why the school had several different names?”

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.”

CONTINUED NEXT PAGE

Organizations: Swift Current Collegiate Institute, Central School Centennial Committee, Central School

Geographic location: Swift Current

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Recent comments

  • Roger Maley
    March 05, 2014 - 21:40

    Central School, I called Tom Wong out at first base in a Central School ball game, I had to run in the school and hide in the Vice-Principal's office, Tom Wong and I had many run ins! Ha!

  • Roger Maley
    March 05, 2014 - 21:30

    We moved to Swift Current in 1952 and lived 1/2 block from Central. I knew Skippy Brown the caretakers son, we were all over the school. I remember Joe Brown hauling out the ashes, and Girdy, Joe's wife. I got in trouble with Ken Lewis the principal, he said; "Have that art assignment in , 5 minutes is all the time you have. So I took crape paper with a black background, cut 3 yellow circles, one big, two small. I signed it, handed it in, two minutes later, Maley come back here, what is this?? Mr. Lewis it is an owl sitting in a tree at night, there is a full moon up there, see the owls eye's reflecting in the moonlite! Mr. Lewis had nothing to say, but he told my mother with a chuckle at parent teacher interviews . Roger Maley

  • Dale Wilson
    June 11, 2013 - 15:57

    There is a facebook page called North Hill Gang...couple of hundred members at last count....all Swift Current current and former residents...you might want to try posting any questions there, pretty much guarantee you'll get answers.

  • Shanon
    June 10, 2013 - 12:20

    Talking to Jerry Smith, Swift Current. J.H. Carefoot was also principal. Jerry thinks the 30's to 45. Ralph DesBrisay was the next principal.