Happy 100th Birthday Hillhurst School!
Hillhurst School, the big sandstone school at the base of the hill south of the Jubilee Auditorium is turning 100 in 1912, along with the Calgary Public Library. Another connection with the Louise Riley Library is that both the school and library were built on Riley land. Ezra Riley sold the land to the school board for $10,000.
Eleanor Garrett wrote a fine history book in 1987 titled Hillhurst School: 1912-1987 for the school’s 75th anniversary. You can borrow a copy from Louise Riley branch. Her father Charles A. Richardson was the first principal when it opened in 1912. During World War I there were rifle drills for the boys.
Ernest Hilton Stephens, still known as Stevie the janitor also started in 1912. He died in 1928, and children in 2012 are still telling stories about his ghost.
In 1935, Hillhurst became a junior high school. While organizing the 100th celebration, it was interesting to speak with students from the 1940s. Here is Howard’s memory of learning to drive,
Driver training,courtesy of Alberta Motor Association and home room teacher, was provided to 5 boys.These training sessions were bi-weekly for several weeks. .The car was a 2 door 1936 Chevrolet sedan. It was equipped with a dual controlled clutch which enabled the instructor to assist beginners in operating the clutch smoothly along with gear selection of a standard 3 speed transmission. A milk bottle was often used standing on the floor to establish a smooth motion when starting.
In 1953-1957 Hillhurst became an elementary school, and then a combined elementary and junior high from 1957-1963, and back to just an elementary school from 1963-1967.
Terry, a student in the 1960’s remembers that there were separate playgrounds for the boys and girls, and that they were not allowed to intermingle at recess or gym. The principal Mr. Dibble took the boys out in the yard in June. He would hit balls with a baseball bat and pay them a nickle if they could catch one barehanded! This was also the decade that taxidermy animals are first mentioned in the display cases in the front hallway. Terry remembers owls, a bear, a cougar and a duck.
Here’s a memory from a student who started in 1968.
Some of my favorite memories are when we would sit in the hallway, drag out the old piano and all sing Christmas Carols. I remember the feel of the sheet music and just the camaraderie of everyone. Also, I always looked forward to the Christmas concerts.
Other memories include; playing baseball and the ball slamming into my nose, watching kids dare others to stick their tongues to the fence in winter. One student did this and his tongue got stuck. Had to get the teacher to bring out some hot water!
Having the park so close was a great bonus. I remember taking "field" trips to the park in the summer. And yes, the ghost stories were around even when I was there!
It was in 1964 that the gymnasium was added. In 1973 Erna Penner was the first female principal. In 1977 Hillhurst became a Community School
Robin attended in the 1970s. She remembers, “At Christmas, we all sat in the front foyer every day to sing Christmas carols. So much fun. Such a small group that we didn’t have to go to the gym.” She was taught by Ms. Jacqueline Robbins, one of a pair of actress twins who went on to star in movies and a famous Tom Cochrane video.
Here’s a recollection from Patti, the mother of students who attended in the 1980s:
My children went to Hillhurst Community School (as it was then known) between the years of 1980 and 1992. The word “community” in the name says so much about what I remember, as it truly was a warm, welcoming and wonderful school. As parents we were encouraged to volunteer and participate as much as we were willing and able.
Hillhurst Community School was a small school in the middle of a growing city. It was easy to get to know most of the students, teachers, staff and families. The school was interwoven with other aspects of the community such as childcare facilities, the HSCA community centre, Riley Park and Bowview Pool. Some of the families that I met during that time still pop into my life occasionally. I remember carpooling to the school, events, fieldtrips, extra-curricular events (gymnastics, swimming and soccer in particular). I remember walking with the children up the hill to SAIT for swimming lessons. I remember the end of year picnics in Riley Park when the families spread out on the grass to eat their picnic suppers, to visit and to go for a dip in the wading pool. I remember taking my turn volunteering for the lunch program, before they had paid employees. I remember having a candy-floss table at the Hillhurst/Sunnyside Fall Fair and a bake sale at Safeway. I remember being astounded and delighted by some of the plays and seasonal events in the gymnasium.
One hundred Happy Birthdays to you Hillhurst School! May you have 100’s more children fill your classrooms and hallways with their inquisitive minds, laughter and chatter, and may you continue to help generate well educated community oriented citizens with many fond memories of the time they spent within the walls of your beautiful sandstone building.
Nicolas was a student in the late 1980s. He remembers the taxidermy animals were still there, but they disappeared a while later when his sister attended Hillhurst. His favourite was the golden eagle. His mom made a stuffed mascot of Hooter the owl. He remembers the ballet students practicing in the upstairs auditorium.
Laura attended in the 1990s. Here are some of her memories,
“I remember helping to plan the new playground (it used to be wood and metal with gravel). I got to sit in the staff room and talk to the committee members about what kids liked and recommend pieces from the playground catalogue. Generally I was made to feel very important and special. This is a feeling that I got a lot at Hillhurst. I am incredibly grateful for the cool teachers, the library and librarians, the clubs and beautiful building/ big fields.
I remember so much more... the creepy basement and mudrooms. The science room filled with dead bugs and other specimens. The janitors' office. The 'bladder balls' we used for dodgeball. The worn-in wooden steps all the way to the 3rd floor (I counted once, there are about 75). The fire escapes. Rooftop picture day. The old IBM computers withblack and green screens (we used to fight to play the Tarzan game)
I am happy to report that everyone I know from Hillhurst is doing very well. The majority have or are nearly completed their University degrees, they are all creative and politically engaged, and most importantly, they have an appreciation for nature and the environment that I can't help thinking is, in some part, due to our unique education at Hillhurst. We were lucky enough to attend outdoor school, spend time in Riley Park, and learn about ecology from people like Mr. Smith and Mrs. Hudson.”
One of the popular volunteer programs is grandparent reading, and Hillhurst is fortunate that some of their school grads are volunteer grandparents who have returned to read to the children.
To celebrate the 100 years, the students are painting a historical mural for the outside of the gymnasium under the direction of artists Stan Phelps and Carole Bondaroff. Carole’s mother Francis went to the school in 1936, and is still in touch with two friends she met there.