Every week, I share an excerpt from my Great Aunt’s book, As the Story is Told: A History of Morpeth and Community, which was printed in 1986. This week is the first part of the account of the closing of the Morpeth School in 1967.
To mark the closing of S.S. No. 2, Morpeth Public School, a centennial reunion was held on the school grounds, Saturday, July 15, 1967. Over eight hundred students, former students, and friends attended this outstanding event.
A forty-float parade heralded the start of the festivities for the day as it wound its way along Talbot Street and up the back streets to the school. The parade convener was Max Smith.
The master of ceremonies for the afternoon proceedings was William T. Hall, chairman of the Centennial Reunion Committee. During the program the early history of Morpeth was retold, with the school chorus singing appropriate songs intermittently throughout the narration. Also featured during the performance was a fashion show when several of the younger people modeled fashions of by-gone times. After the program the crowd gathered at tables to enjoy a picnic supper and renew old acquaintances. Can’t you imagine all the “Do you remember when’s?” that went on that day!
Former teachers of the school attending were Mrs. Clarence Stirling, Mrs. Robert McKinlay, Miss Helene Duck, Mrs. Bill Campbell, Mrs. John Dell, Mrs. John Johnston, Mrs. Alvin Rose, and music teachers Mrs. Clifford Ashton and Mrs. Myrtle Ellsworth.
The festivities continued on Sunday with an outdoor church service held on the school grounds. The service was conducted by Rev. Harold McKillop of St. John’s Anglican Church and Rev. John Wood of Morpeth United Church. Mrs. Douglas Smith led the choir.
“It was just a great time for young and old,” noted William Hall, commenting on the week-end. For all it was a happy occasion but with it there was also an air of nostalgia. It is usually with mixed feelings that we see changes take place. The closing of the country schools and the new consolidated school coming into being opened up a new era in our educational system. It was a time when many adjustments were necessary.
Today, the only tangible reminder of the old red-brick school is the large bell that hung from the belfry. It was the wishes of the community to keep the bell belonging to the Morpeth school in the section. With a collection taken at the reunion and other donations the bell was purchased at a public auction held on July 18, 1967.
The plan was to have the bell mounted in a prominent location in Morpeth. It was however several years before this was accomplished. There was much discussion as to where the bell should be placed. Some favoured the Morpeth Hall, others thought the cemetery, but when the Board of the United Church offered a piece of ground on the north side of the church, a place on which the tower could be constructed, it was finally decided.
The Bell Tower was designed by James Buckler, who also supervised its construction. The extraordinary spirit of cooperation found in small towns was evident then as it is today. Through the combined efforts of many in the area, donating time and material, the tower was completed in 1977 and the bell finally hung in its place as a reminder of the past.