Memories relived at Mine Centre School

Peggy Revell

Photos galore, slide shows, scrapbooks, friendship, and laughter filled the bustling corridors and classrooms at Mine Centre School last Thursday as people came out for a walk down memory lane.
“Wow,” Ted Menson told those on hand for the celebration to mark the closing of the old Mine Centre School before students and staff move into the new building on the same site this fall.
“40 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long,” added Menson, who was one of the school’s first graduates, has three children who now attend the school, and also drives the bus for Mine Centre students.
“Where has all the time gone? It’s really amazing.
“If only the walls in this school could speak,” he remarked. “Oh, it’s amazing how much stories it would tell, how much secrets would be revealed.”
More than 150 past and present students, their families, teachers, and more followed footsteps cut out of construction paper down the school’s hallways—leading them into classrooms each decked out for a decade and with slide shows from bygone eras for the evening.
In the library, they could sign their name and dates they attended the school onto fabric squares, which will be transformed into a quilt that will be hung in the new school that currently is under construction.
“Probably the bigger gym,” Grade 4 student, Ryan Stewart said about what he was looking forward to most with the opening of a new school, saying it’s “exciting” to be able to move to he new school “because hopefully there will be more fun.”
He said he’ll miss the old school “a little bit,” with his favourite memories being the field trips and just being used to the school itself.
“All the kids” and the fun events are favourite memories for fellow student Prudence Kabatay, along with field trips and the design of the school, including the artwork, and paintings which “make [the school] look good.”
But she is looking forward to being able to help decorate the new school with art, as well as more space it will have.
“I’d like a bigger gym, more space to play volleyball,” Kabatay said.
Sharing his memories during his speech, Menson spoke about the time he spent sitting “behind his desk,” listening to his teacher, learning his ABC’s, 123’s, and “do-re-mi’s,” and about the world.
He recalled how students from Seine River and Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation first attended the school when it opened in the spring of 1971.
“The little time that we did spend here produced a ton of experiences,” Menson said, noting it was both a place where his “teenage rebellion kicked in” as well as his hormones—and where he had his first crush.
“My class was a very special one, a small group of people who I always remember as the group I grew up with, a group that will forever be etched in their own little history, my own legacy,” he explained, noting that earlier that day, he had tried—with no luck—to find some of the graffiti he had scratched onto the school when he was younger.
Menson recalled one of his own bus drivers, who played John Denver, Johnny Cash, and Glen Campbell, and carried a shotgun on the bus with him so he could pull over and shoot partridges.
Or the field trip to see the new Mine Centre School where 16 kids were squeezed into a small blue Volkswagen.
Menson also spoke about the emergence of the sports program there, which has “moulded many students” and made today’s Thunderbirds one “heck of a team,” as well as all the graduates from the school who have gone on to lead and work in the community.
“I’m sure the 38 classes that graduated after us have the same kind of a memories of the school and forever remember the experiences that we had,” he reasoned, adding he’s thankful the name of the new school is remaining the same to carry on the legacy.
Former Mine Centre principal Brian Love also took time to speak last Thursday, thanking all those who made the school’s closing celebration a success.
“There’s three things I know for sure. Not very many, but I know three,” quipped Love on the topic of success.
“One: that success breeds success, that good schools provide the opportunity for that success, and that all students can achieve success.
“That’s what a good school is, that’s what Mine Centre is, and what I continue to believe it will be,” Love added.
He said it isn’t things like money and standardized tests that make a school good. Rather—like Mine Centre—it’s about people.
“That’s something that we need to remember,” Love stressed. “We’re not in the education business, regardless of what the bean counters and the paper pushers will tell you.
“That’s also what the politicians like to believe.
“We’re not in the education business,” he reiterated. “We’re in the people business, and we always need to keep that in the forefront, looking back and looking forward.”
Love spoke about how 30 years ago, he would take students across the road where he would show them how to snare rabbits—something he was invited to do again this past winter with current pupils.
They talked about weather, snow depth, snowshoeing, animal behaviour “on and on and on,” he recalled, and then they went out and set snares, caught rabbits, cleaned them, and cooked up a “great stew.”
“There’s no standardized test for that. You can’t put a dollar figure on that,” said Love, noting that each of the Grade 1 and 2 students afterwards came up and thanked him for taking them out.
“I believe that that experience will stay with those kids forever. They’ll remember that,” he noted, hoping that one day, some of those children will return to the school—this time to teach the next generation.
Love also thanked the families, bands, and all the people who have been a part of the school community—many who have graduated from the school who are now police officers, community workers, health-care workers, social workers, teachers, and more.
“To those young people who are parents now, who did such a fantastic job at representing our community, our school, and our selves, I want to thank you,” Love concluded.
“It was privilege and an honour for me to work with you and share in a little way your success,” he remarked, charging the current staff and board to continue to provide opportunities for the students at the school to be successful.