School on a Saturday? You wouldn't see very many young people excited about that prospect but on Saturday October 5th former students and teachers alike could be seen flooding into Leduc Composite High School to reminisce about their happy days in those hallowed halls.
Hundreds of people took advantage of the opportunity to stroll the hallways, hunt down their photo in the Hallway of Graduates, and check out classrooms both old and new when the doors were thrown wide to celebrate the 50th anniversary of LCHS.
Beginning at 2pm people were welcome to take a tour of the school in anticipation of the formal ticketed dinner taking place that evening, but the busiest spot in the entire building by far was the foyer of the Maclab Theatre as old friends reconnected and remembrances were shared as alumni received lanyards with their names on them and recently donated historical photos and documents from years past were on display for everyone's enjoyment.
At 4:30 pm approximately 350 people crowded into the Maclab to enjoy the formal presentation portion of the afternoon which included a couple of very pleasant surprises. The ceremony was opened by former Vice Principal and Organizing Committee Member Chris Stiles, explaining how this event had all begun with a simple phone call early this year "reminding" him that it was the High School's 50th anniversary and maybe they should "have a little celebration or something", and it had rapidly snowballed from there.
Retired LCHS teacher Mr. Jim Montney then stepped in front of the microphone to lead the crowd in a stirring rendition of O' Canada just prior to the LCHS Choir taking the stage to perform two traditional African songs to the delight and hearty appreciation of the audience.
Several dignitaries then spoke of their admiration for the school and memories there-in beginning with MP James Rajotte who suggested that everyone check out Mayor Greg Krischke's old high school photos and see what he had written in his High School Yearbook, which drew quite a laugh from the crowd. He then stated that as the son of two teachers he was especially honoured to be at this particular event.
MLA George Rogers was the next up to the podium and also received a good laugh from the audience as he shared that he and Jim Montney have a running joke of how "Mr. Montney keeps insisting that I call him Jim but it just doesn't work for me as he is my old English teacher!" He went on to thank all the teachers for the inspiration that they had provided to him over his years at the school.
Last but not least of the opening speakers was our own Mayor, Greg Krischke. Greg spoke of how he had graduated from LCHS in 1970 and in 2013 was "Thrilled to be standing before you as your Mayor." He continued on to say that "People from every gamut in life have come from this school and they make Leduc a great community. I am very proud to say that both myself, my wife, and both my kids are graduates from LCHS."
One of the Comp's Social Studies teachers, Mr. Larry Sherwood, had put together a 12 minute promotional video for the school which was then aired on a large overhead screen. The video showcased an impressive list of activities, classes and educational opportunities available to LCHS students. Chris pointed out that this is what the "C" in "Composite" really stands for.
It was then noted that LCHS is the largest High School in the Black Gold School Division with five additions to the building added on between 1967 and 2005 to accommodate the growth in the area. To give an example of the growth they had experienced over the years it was explained that the first graduating class from LCHS had just 30 students but the graduating classes of recent years have had 250+ students. The Superintendent for the Black Gold School Division, Mr. Norman Yanitsky, called LCHS their "shining star".
One of the biggest surprises of the entire afternoon was an appearance by one of Leduc Comp's first football coaches Mr. Andy Puczko. Mr. Puczko and his son had driven out from Kelowna the night before just to attend this event. Mr. Puczko was involved in forming the first football team in the summer of 1956. The historical photos of that team, which he has since donated to the school, were marked as 1954 but he apologized and joked that it was a long time ago and his memory might not be quite as sharp as he wanted it to be anymore but he now remembers that the year was actually 1956.
He was very funny in his delivery of his memories of the team that was originally called the "Leduc Lions Football Club". They included the story that in the first year the team could only afford to buy 12 helmets so the offensive and defensive teams had to hand off the helmets to one another as they exited and entered the field during game changes, which was a source of much amusement for the crowds.
After Mr. Puczko finished his presentation Chris Stiles thanked Mr. Puczko for the helmets and joked that today's teams were still using them, just with a fresh coat of paint on them.
Former Principal Mr. Don Williams, who served from 1999-2004, then came to the podium to introduce all of the Principals, former and current, that were in the audience that day. Present in the room were LCHS's first Principal Mr. Rene Marrinier who served from 1963-1968, Mr. Orest Aponiuk, LCHS's longest serving Principal from 1968-1987, Mr. Don Williams from 1999-2004, Mr. Dennis Nosyk from 2004-2009, Mr. Bill Romanchuk from 2009-2012, and Mr. Dennis Dunlop from 2012- present. Mr. Les Ellsworth who served two terms, 1987-1988 and 1992-1994, was not able to be present on this day, and Mr. Jim Giles who also served two terms from 1988-1992 and 1994-1999 had unfortunately passed away a few years ago.
It was at that time another surprise was made known to the audience in the person of former teacher Marg Campbell. Ms. Campbell began her teaching career in the 1940's and was a very popular teacher at LCHS from 1967 until her retirement in the late 1970's. As she stood up in the audience to acknowledge her presence Ms. Campbell received by far, the loudest round of applause of the day.
Nearing the end of the ceremonies Principal Dunlop unveiled a plaque that commemorated the fifty year milestone of Leduc Composite High School and announced that it would be hung beside the original plaque at the East entrance which commemorated the opening of the school in 1963.
In conclusion, Chris Stiles summed up the impact that LCHS has had on its students over the years by stating that "There have been lots of changes. But while the school has changed the experience has not." Leaving everyone with a sense of pride and accomplishment from the previous 50 years of Leduc Composite High School, and looking forward to helping create many more success stories over the next fifty.