Photo – The Kindergarten graduation class of 2017 … the last graduation to be held at the school for its youngest students was held in June of this year. These students and their older counterparts will be heading to S. Geiger School now that Webbwood Public has been closed due to financial constraints.
Part two continued from last week’s edition of Around&About September 5, 2017, Issue #36.
One of Webbwood Public School’s former students, Edith Presseau, keenly feels the loss of the closure of the school and took it upon herself to write a bit about the history and her time at the school. This is part two of a two-part series recalling her time as a part of Webbwood Public School.
Students from McKerrow soon learned that they had a place in Webbwood, so with them brought more families to join the Webbwood family. And in 1967, two portables were added to the east end of the school. They were to be there temporarily, but like many things temporary, ended up staying for over 30+ years.
Part of our portable experience included going up the ramp to get into them and sitting in our desks and rows singing along with Mr. Ouderkirk’s accordion and leading the chorus. But the absolute best part of being in the portables was having your very own escape to the outdoors and getting to the culvert first was a real likelihood. That was provided Miss Sloss hadn’t let her kids out first.
Webbwood kids were/are tough. Back in my day a big beautiful 36” or so diameter culvert sat on the tarmac. It was always time well spent rolling it, or getting inside and walking/rolling it from the top. Of course some days were more successful than others and a skinned knee or broken arm ….well that just built character. It’s probably best that it was removed in the 80’s.
It would be remiss of me not to talk about the hours of fun on the spider, swings and slide! Everything was big and incited risk taking. Baseball games filled hours of gym class and in the 1980s we worked together to put the track in the back forty. Hours of labour and collaboration were required that extended into evening and weekends. Giving to the school was never an issue though because we owned it. It was our home away from home.
My dad, aka Uncle Bob, frequently arrived with the grader and always gave time to connect with the kids who had a keen interest in heavy equipment. Constable “Community Liaison Officer,” whom shall not be named and his missing police car, never missed an opportunity to visit and connect with Webbwood’s kids – not really sure why?
Being a student at Webbwood was a huge deal, it meant that we were part of something bigger, that there were opportunities for us. If we could dream it, we could do it and we have. Webbwood PS graduates are: Engineers, Lawyers, Doctors & Nurses, chartered accountants, miners, construction workers, members of the armed forces, RCMP officers, Aviators, bankers & business people, mechanics and trades people, professionals and entrepreneurs … and of course educators – lots of educators.
Webbwood’s Alumni are found in all parts of the world and when we meet we are proud to share memories from this great place.
Memories that include; the “enter at your own risk snowball dedicated area (and don’t come crying to me)”, or the snow banks that were always huge, the ones we climbed and played on pretending to be explorers, Olympic athletes and superheroes. These times were made better by the inclusion of students from McKerrow’s Birchwood School in 1972. Ronnie could always be counted on spinning around and becoming Wonder Woman ready to offer assistance to anyone in need. Elizabeth would stand shyly on the perimeter waiting for Penny to give her the “okay” to come and play too. Lyn awed everyone with his cart wheels. All around the playground he would cartwheel and no matter how anyone would try, there was no way to match his skill. Everyone no matter of their intellect or ability was able to excel here… and in order to properly welcome Lyn, Ronnie, Elizabeth, Penny and the rest of the Gang to Webbwood, the gymnasium, kitchen and 3 additional classrooms were built. Again, new and exciting things were happening in Webbwood. The swish circuit was now complete… we could walk around the school hallways counter clockwise swishing fluoride to keep our pearly whites white! Glorious!
Outdoor week at McMillan’s farm, Friday afternoons at the outdoor rink or lunch in the Sloss’ backyard during the Espanola area Track & Field meet, baseball matches with Massey and cross-country in Nairn, Webbwood students competed and did pretty well…earning trophies & ribbons. The relationships that were built extended beyond the classrooms, they went out into the homes of the students, their parents to their grandparents, aunts and uncles and beyond. Webbwood School became a place for skills and talents to be shared: making kindergarten grad gowns to embrace equity and harvesting Christmas trees to ensure the real meaning of the season was shared. To give art lessons to spark creativity and host dances as evenings for families … an opportunity for growth was never missed by anyone and the fine china volunteer dinners were always the perfect way to show appreciation and gratitude.
The front library was built as a final salute to Webbwood’s time of growth. After that things started to slow down and it was then that I made my last bid to be a part of the Webbwood PS family. There was always some sort of a surprise waiting to greet me during that year of my professional growth.
On behalf of the Webbwood student and staff Alumni offer gratitude to the current staff and all of the considerations that they have made for the smooth transition of our school to join S.Geiger. To the former principals for their leadership and commitment to our traditions and values: Mrs. MacDonnell, Mr. Mitchell, Mrs. Hagan, Ms. Blackburn, Mr. Eadie, Mr. Boyko, Mr. Van Every, Ms. Jelly, Mr. Engel, Mrs. Paisley and to my elementary school principal, Mrs. Isabel Hobbs who taught me that if you want something, work for it! Be happy with what you have and embrace every opportunity to learn. Education is not hard to carry so get as much of it as you can. And now that Webbwood School’s days are at an end, I take her words and offer them to my community to pick up and move forward. It is exciting that the children of Sables-Spanish Rivers will begin to work together throughout their elementary education, further uniting the towns that make up our northern community of tall pines and sparkling waters. We wish the best of luck to the final graduating class of Webbwood Public School, and to all of those who leave these walls in pursuit of learning and this state of change.I thank the organizing committee for inviting me to share Webbwood Public School’s history and allowing me to reminisce on behalf of my family and friends.