This is the story of how I have gone full circle at Mt. Begbie School. I was a student when it opened, and now I am a teacher there as it closes. It doesn’t seem as though something like that happens too often.
I remember the fire. A new school was going to be built in our neighbourhood on the corner of Fourth and Downie, and there was a big old house there that the firemen used for fire practice. All the neighbourhood kids came out to watch and it was spectacular! Some portables were set up at Selkirk School during 1966-67 for the children that would be going to Mt. Begbie while the plans for the new school were finalized. Construction of Mt. Begbie started in May of 1967 by Kenyon and Co. of Penticton. They were the lowest bidder, at $267,247.
By September of 1967 the new school was completed, but not in time for school opening. One week of unscheduled holidays were the result. An article in an old scrapbook states: “When school opened, with a new principal, Mr. Harry Sayers, and seven classrooms enrolling Grades 1 to 6 and a library, there were still some unfinished jobs. For a time there were no doorknobs on doors, no pencil sharpeners up – and other minor inconveniences – but the building was new and it was all on its own and to students and teachers it was wonderful. Mount Begbie School was one of the first elementary schools to have included in its plans a Library. It was also first in this district to have wall to wall carpeting in the classrooms.”
I can also remember my first day of school at Mt. Begbie. I was at Selkirk School for Grades 1 to 3, and the routine was that after that we would go to Mountain View for Grades 4 to 7. There were many rumours about the Grade 4 teacher there, Miss Burn, and we all knew we had to have clean finger nails, behave ourselves, and if we liked science we would be all right. Well, the new school meant that we would not be going to Mountain View. I lived one block away from Mt. Begbie so I was pretty happy – I didn’t have to walk all the way to Mountain View every day and take my lunch. When the school opened, I remember walking up the steps on the first day to our new classroom and being so amazed at the beautiful blue shiny walls, and wow – the classroom had carpet – our house didn’t even have wall-to-wall carpet! We got new desks, and when we met our new teacher we were over the moon! She was a young teacher from England, and she wore mini skirts. Her name was Brigitte Saunders and the boys and girls in the class thought she was a movie star that just decided to teach us for a while. The girls all rolled up their skirts to make mini skirts and the boys couldn’t stop doing cartwheels on the playground to impress Miss Saunders.
At the end of the first year, a change in principal was announced. Mr. Sayers was leaving to become principal of Selkirk and Farwell Schools, and Mr. John Opra, “a native son” was to become principal of Mt. Begbie. Mr. Sayers was very nice, and we all loved Mr. Opra. In September of 1970 two Kindergarten classes were enrolled in the school, and it remained an eight room school with Kindergarten to Grade Six for many years. The grade seven students still all went to Mountain View.
Jump forward many years to September 1993, and there I was coming back from maternity leave to be a teacher at Mt. Begbie. I was hired as the half time teacher librarian, and very excited to be back. The school was about to go through some big changes to accommodate a grade 7 class – it was being renovated and going through several upgrades including a new gym, office, library and computer lab. Both of my kids eventually went to Mt. Begbie, and I was also involved in the Parent Advisory Council. Working on the Greening Project and improving the playground were the most memorable and rewarding activities that I was involved with on the PAC. Over the past six years I have taught kindergarten at Mt. Begbie, including many children of past students!
We are all looking forward to the new school that is being built, but there have been many great memories of Mt. Begbie Elementary for so many people. So it will be a bittersweet day on June 28 as Mt. Begbie closes its doors and my time at Mt. Begbie comes full circle.
Linda Dickson is a Kindergarten teacher at Mount Begbie Elementary School, which closes June 29.