Plenty of smiles, laughter and excited buzz filled a room at Crown Isle Resort as Courtenay High School graduates from 1963 gathered for their 50-year reunion.
The reunion, which was held a few weeks ago, kicked off with a meet and greet for grads and teachers only.
“A lot of us go right back to Grade 1,” said grad Bob Ash, noting the last class reunion was 30 years ago. “And there’s some people we haven’t seen for 50 years, so people are pretty excited.”
A number of past elementary, junior high and high school teachers attended the reunion, and two in particular added a special touch to the evening; Shirley Grant, (nee Banks), 83, and Anna Butler, (nee Golicz), 79, each taught some of the grads during their Grade 1 year.
“Absolutely wonderful,” said Butler of seeing her old students, after a presentation honouring her and Grant. “I think it’s the greatest thing for them to even think of inviting us, and to see them all — it’s just the loveliest feeling.”
Grant added her past students appeared to have achieved great things in their lives.
“They certainly all seemed to continue with their education and have accomplishments that they’re proud of,” she said. “How wonderful for them to come back and see their friends but for us to be able to see them after so many years it’s — you just want to hug them.”
Grant was in her early 20s when she taught these grads and Butler was just 19 and in her first year of teaching. The two teachers grew up in Cumberland and have remained close friends over the years, attending each other’s weddings, and regularly corresponding and visiting once Grant moved to the Okanagan in the late 1960s.
Grad Ross Dingwall spoke about grad class’ early schooling years, noting many of them started their schooling in Courtenay in 1951 and 1952. He added there was a shortage of elementary classrooms in Courtenay during these years and classes in the late 40s and early 50s were held in ex-military buildings located where the Lewis Centre parking lot now is.
He recalled entering Grade 1 and not knowing any writing, reading or math skills, and noted the skill and patience Grade 1 teachers, especially, would have needed to teach students those essential skills.
“I think we owe a big thanks to all the teachers that we had over the years but I think these two ladies are extremely special and I feel really honoured to have them here tonight,” he added.
A big banquet for grads and their spouses also happened.
Ash noted Courtenay High School’s graduating class of ’63 was the first year students from Cumberland and Tsolum high schools were transferred over to Courtenay High School, making a larger grad class than previous years.