River Hebert school demolition stirs memories

Andrew Wagstaff awagstaff@citizenrecord.ca
Published on January 6, 2012
Eben Lennox was a member of River Hebert District High School's first graduating class in 1947, and was sad to see the building coming down this week.
Andrew Wagstaff - The Citizen-Record

RIVER HEBERT - While there is some excitement in this community for the creation of a new P-12 school, for some, there is sadness to see the walls fall on the building where they received an education.

Eben Lennox remembers when the school was built, and was a member of its first graduating class in 1947.

"I'm very sad to see that," said Lennox, watching the machinery work in the rubble of the former school. "Having been a pupil here, and later teaching here, I spent a lot of my life in that building."

The older portion of the current high school is being demolished, while the remaining portion is to be renovated and transformed into a new P-12 school for the community. Ironically, the former school was originally a P-11 school when it was first built in 1946, according to Lennox.

A Grade 11 student at the time, Lennox and his classmates helped move books and other items into the new school, which was considered quite modern at the time.

"It was really quite a thing at the time for us," he recalled. "We were really fascinated with it. Of course, everyone wanted to go to all parts of the building to see what it was like."

The school had come about in large part due to the friendship of Nova Scotia Premier Angus MacDonald and Dr. D.M. Cochrane, a physician in River Hebert at the time. The pair had attended college together, according to Lennox. Although they were not aligned politically - MacDonald was a Liberal and Cochrane was a Conservative - the village doctor was able to convince the premier to build the school and make it the first rural high school in the province.

The newer additions to the school were added in the 1950s and 1960s.

At the time of the school's construction, it only offered studies as far as Grade 11, and students had to travel to Amherst if they wished to finish Grade 12. After graduating from the school's first Grade 11 class in 1947, Lennox took a year off from school and then returned when Grade 12 started being offered in River Hebert, graduating from that class in 1949.

The school's first principal was Herman Feavyour, before Freeman Beardsley took over for 30 years. When it opened, the school staff included the principal and nine teachers.

After graduating in 1949, Lennox attended Provincial Normal College in Truro and then taught in rural schools for three years before returning to teach in River Hebert. He taught geography for 30 years before retiring in 1983.

Although sad to see the old school go, there is one thing he admits he won't miss about the building - the blue siding added to it a few years ago.

"That looked terrible," said Lennox.

(For more, see the Jan. 12 issue of The Citizen-Record)