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Oral History Interviews

These interviews were recorded on cassette tapes by students in 1984 for an oral history project under Mr. John Currie.  They were transferred to MP3 format in 2017.  The time period discussed is from the 1920’s until 1984, when the school was 130 years old.

The audio interviews are only available to listen to from the Library Archives at this time. These are some Interesting Facts from the interviews.

Many of the interviews spoke of the buildings and changes that were made while each person was here. The 1854 building originally had no electricity and plumbing so there were oil lanterns in classrooms for lighting and heating as well as outhouses outside the building, which we have pictures of in the Archives. Students also speak of using the gym and PT (Physical Training) and that could be in either building depending on the time they attended. Originally gym classes were in the Drill Shed that was a wooden building built behind the 1854 building and seemed to be used both for the Cadet Corp and gym classes because boys and girls were separated for gym classes for many years.  The 1923 building seems to have been known as the “new” school throughout the 50’s.  Until the Tech wing building was built the auto and technology classes were on the bottom floor of the 1923 building. (That’s why there are double doors in room 13.) A wall seems to be built in the middle of the hallway, separating boys and girls lockers on either side on the bottom floor.  It is hard to say how long that was there as it was only mentioned in one interview.  It seems from interviews that the 1854 building was not in use for a few years after the 1923 building was built but then had to be used again off and on until it was demolished in the early 60’s. An article submitted to Wikipedia on the history of GCVI will help clarify some of this information: “The wooden gymnasium (Drill Shed) was added in 1886, and the school remained the same until 1906, when a large new wing was added to the left of the bell tower. The older buildings were connected to the school and used periodically before they were torn down in 1962 to facilitate several more additions including a modern gym, business and science wing, and tech wings.”  With GC being the only high school, including Catholic, the population was over 1,700 a few times with class sizes also much larger (some mentioning 55 in a class) and for a time boys and girls also in separate classes (one teacher mentioning teaching 55 grade 10 boys!) From what students remember, grade 9 and 10 classes were held in the 1854 building and they even speak of a cafeteria at the bottom of it, the only one in the province at the time. They had to run outside from building to building because there was no covered walkway. After the war, more students, even older students, came back to school so the school was very full in the 70’s with major social changes also affecting the school.

The 1923 building was built with glass skylights and completely open from one side of the building to the other. There were 3 balcony’s all surrounding the top floor walls, with classrooms around the perimeter but no walls or hallways as it presently stands. The huge skylight was said to be “spectacular” but unfortunately, often leaked. In the 20’s it was the only auditorium of that size in the city of Guelph so was used for many special events, including political rallies. Weekly school assemblies were held in the Auditorium until the 70’s. Many interviewees spoke of the Assemblies: requirements in how they marched in (and down the hallways), the band, special assemblies, weekly assemblies, the dress codes for special assemblies, etc. Walls were built enclosing the auditorium in the mid 70’s. No one liked it but the “auditorium acoustics and more emphasis on drama” made it a necessity to close it in. The 1854 building was demolished around 1961 and the “new building,” the Business wing, gymnasium and Tech/Music Hall were built and fully in use by 1963. Fortunately some of the huge lime stones were preserved and placed in the Japanese Gardens when they demolished the old school.  They were unearthed at the time of these interviews in 1984. In the 1990’s they were relocated above our Auditorium entrance in a similar style to the 1854 building entrance.

Most of the discussions from the tapes included topics such as: curriculum changes, departmental exams, Inspectors, class sizes, the dances (which changed from generation to generation), the Symphony (who played the music for dances), the Auditorium and the swimming pool (Mrs. Finkbiner speaks of paying a yearly fee as a Guelph resident, not as a student, and swimming in the pool). As well as football and all the excitement that went with the games, stories about the VP’s and discipline that changed from one generation to the next, clothes and dress codes were discussed frequently, student life, changes in the 60’s and 70’s that brought about the biggest changes to dress. The 50’s and 60’s spoke of walking from class to class in rows,  the 30’s and 40’s generation stayed in their classes and the teachers came to their classroom. For a few years it seemed that boys and girls were separated in classes but that was only for 2 years in the 40’s.

The GC population was noticeably affected by changes and additions of other schools in Guelph through the years.  It wasn’t until 1953 that boys could attend the Catholic school system in Guelph; some of the Catholic boys then left GC.  John F. Ross CVI opened its doors in 1956 to 460 students, all from GC who had to reluctantly leave GC to attend Ross because of the new school boundaries. Then in 1967 Centennial CVI opened so boundaries changed again. The student population seemed to fluctuate between less than 500 and up to 1,715 all during the time of Mr. John F. Ross (1923-1945). Before these days, every student in Guelph and the surrounding area only attended GCVI (except for some girls who went to Loretto, the Catholic Girls School).