It was a surreal and nostalgic experience for the graduating class of 1971, who toured the Ponoka Secondary Campus for their 50th high school reunion on May 14.
The old drafting room is now a weight room, and down the corridor there’s a washroom that used to be an art room. The mechanical room is now the fine arts department.
Walls have been taken down to create open learning spaces, and others now close off spaces. One alumnae noted you’d need a map to make it around campus now.
Among the reunion participants was Alan McLeod, who was the vice-principal the year the school opened in 1966. At the time, he was just 24, and may have been the youngest VP in the province.
McLeod saying being back in the school so many years later and seeing all the changes was a “mixed bag of tricks.”
While the first graduating class of the then-named Ponoka Composite High School (PCHS) was in 1967, the class of ‘71 claims the honour of being the first class that attended the new school for all three grades.
Before PCHS was built, the local high school was located where Ponoka Elementary School is now.
When the new building was completed, it served students who previously attended other county schools.
Later, Grades 7 to 9 were added and the name was changed to Ponoka Secondary Campus.
MacLeod applauded the school for having elders on their staff to better serve the Indigenous school population.
“Very smart, very wise … one of the best innovations they made,” he said.
In the school’s beginning, several advantages gave it a high academic reputation, said MacLeod.
PCHS was created through federal funding and programming to train teachers. Then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker came to the opening, McLeod said.
The school had an advanced placement agreement with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology for their technology graduates, such as automotive and cosmetology,
The school population was larger then, with as many in three grades as there are now in six.
There were 87 members of the 1971 graduating class, who are now in their 70s, though not all were present for the reunion.
Anne Matheson was the chair of the committee that organized the event. She was assisted by ladies both local and those scattered across Alberta and B.C.: Glynis Santee, Dianne Morrow and Roberta Clifford.
After the tour, the group buried a time capsule at the southeast corner of the school. The class had one 50 years ago, but no one remembers where it was buried.
Dale Jess was responsible for organizing the activities that were at the school. Later that day, the class enjoyed a dinner and dance at the Ponoka Golf Club.