Published in the Montreal Gazette on December 7, 2013
Link to Gazette video below:
As colourful a commemorative ceremony as one could imagine took place eight days ago at Westmount Park School, located near the attractive recreational area of the same name. It was just one of many exciting activities planned to mark the centenary of the construction of the handsome Westmount building.
To open the festivities, a symbolic ribbon – cutting event took place in the presence of the requisite dignitaries outside the old main entrance of the former high school. Several EMSB officials were present along with a scattering of former principals, secretaries, and many others responsible for the putting together of the historic happening. Several Westmount city counsellors were also present.
The brief ceremony occurred just steps away from where a similar proceeding took place when the cornerstone for the new facility was unveiled on November 29, 1913 – exactly one hundred years earlier.
The entertaining occasion was broadcast to the pupils anxiously waiting indoors in the school’s auditorium. Interestingly, that very woody assembly hall is virtually unchanged since its erection a century ago.
Moments later, the enjoyment began in earnest in that same auditorium with a brief address by the Westmount Park’s principal, Ms Daniela Lattanzio. This was followed by the grade six students’ delightful rendition of ‘When Westmount Park Was Created’, the words to which were written by retired teacher Debbie Beitel and an assortment of the school’s pupils. Sung to the melody of ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’, the catchy tune was an immediate hit with all those present.
Dance was also on the bill of fare for the long anticipated afternoon. The Westmount Park School Dancers performed ‘Dancing for the 100th’ in a heart-warming style that was greatly appreciated by both students and invited guests alike. Enjoyed equally was a very compelling interpretation of ‘La Bamba’ by the ‘Westmount Park School Steel Pan Band”. Finally, the ‘Kindergarten Singers’ presented their rendition of ‘Westmount Park, a Place to Go”. Pupils were sporting their eye – catching 100th anniversary t – shirts, and all appeared to be having a grand old time!
In what is quite possibly the most multi-cultural elementary educational facility in all of Quebec, the school is certainly not short on talent. Hard working, dedicated teachers and other staff brought out the best in the young pupils on their very special day. The children were heartily rewarded for their efforts with 450 freshly – baked cupcakes, lovingly prepared the evening before by teacher Alexandra Zorbas and her brother, Mark.
Certainly, the event had a very particular significance for two individuals, both of whom learned about the celebration on the ‘Montreal Diary’ page of two weeks ago. Robert Brodie, 98, and Mabel McIntosh graduated from the enduring edifice when it was home to the old Westmount High School. Brodie matriculated in 1933 while McIntosh graduated in 1939. Neither had returned to the building since completing their studies within its walls during the Great Depression. Both were invited to address the pupils in that same auditorium that Brodie later said had changed so very little since he had last sat there some eighty years earlier.
Below, Robert Brodie, age 98, attends ceremony (Dave Sidaway photo)
Mr. Brodie, who made his career as a buyer with Dominion Textiles, spoke at length to the seemingly transfixed pupils about the strictness of the day-to-day routine in his time. General assemblies were held once a month to institute a sense of habit and discipline in the boys. He also pointed out that male pupils were taught by male teachers only, a revelation that seemed to astonish many of the youngsters present who are today very accustomed to being instructed by both sexes of a school faculty. Brodie further added that several of those same male teachers were World War One veterans, and they were not inclined to ‘go soft on the boys.’ Mr. Brodie, who was accompanied by two of his sons, also brought along his Grade Eight and Grade Ten reports cards. They vividly attest to the difference in the various approaches in the past to education.
Below, Brodie’s report cards and Department of Education papers from the late 1920’s, early 1930’s (Dave Sidaway, Montreal Gazette, photo)
Mabel McIntosh, who was at one time on the Board of Directors of Bird Protection Quebec, also talked to the students for a brief period. Mrs. McIntosh, who will be 92 on January 11 next, spoke as well of her memories of so long ago and how the girls never saw the boys apart from the one annual school dance. A close friend attended her to the commemorative event.
Throughout the academic year, a variety of happenings will mark the anniversary, culminating in an Open House next May 29 to which former pupils and staff members are invited.