Gander Academy 1957-1997

(NOTE: This paper was prepared for distribution at the 40th anniversary of Gander Academy reunion, 1997)

In 1957 Gander was at the centre of a world in motion, consequently then, and in ensuing years, we were a cosmopolitan and a transient town. Our schools were instrumental in the education of children of the various airline employees and local parents who made their homes in Gander - "The Crossroads of the World".

This was a memorable year for Gander as our integrated school was under one roof at last. We moved from eight scattered airport buildings and makeshift classrooms to the new school officially named Gander Academy. It was just twenty years after Hattie's Camp was hewn out of the forest and the airport saw the beginning of a reality - a far cry from the days of 1940 when the only educational facility was the school on wheels - an old railway pullman car with five pupils.

Our school board consisted of 15 prominent citizens of the town, 28 teachers and 1030 pupils from Kindergarten to grade XI. We said farewell to our old surroundings of Hunt Memorial Academy which was our main centre on Foss Avenue, having been so named to commemorate the memory of the principal, William L. Hunt, who was drowned on April 23, 1951 while on an outing at a nearby pond.

Classes consisted of 40 pupils per classroom. Changes in the educational system promised a reduction to 35 per teacher ratio in the near future.

Great plans were in effect to build on our new facilities to a fully developed school with science laboratories, gymnasiums, resources centres, etc.

Also, 1957 saw the opening of the beautiful new R.C. St. Joseph's Academy. Since 1946-47 they had been operating from a large barracks on the American Side of our town, better known as the "Mess Hall".

In 1959 there was a three week delay in school opening in September due to a polio epidemic which was prevalent throughout the island. This shortened our year and required adjustments to completion of the year's program.

Student Council was introduced in 1959 with the 'one and only' George Baker as president. It was very successful in laying a foundation for future student unions.

On June 18, 1959 Gander was visited by the Queen and Prince Philip. Children assembled on the grounds of Gander Academy to greet the Royal Couple - a truly great finish to an eventful school year.

In 1960 the enrolment at the Academy had increased to 1135 students and 38 teachers. As George T. LeGrow, our business administrator remarked, "our enrolment soared rapidly with every arrival of the train."

Sport had become a vital part of our activities. Under the organized supervision of a physical education instructor many enjoyable hours were taken up with hockey - midget and high school, and basketball activities. Our students were very much involved with Junior Red Cross, as well as classroom promotions with focus on classroom libraries.

On February 5, 1962 our principal, Mr. Herbert Cramm died suddenly and for the second time we mourned the loss of a respected principal.

"We are experiencing serious over crowding in our school and plans are progressing well for a new high school in 1963", quoted Mr. C. H. Sutherland, chairman of the school board (1962).

In 1963 the enrolment at the Academy stood at 1251 and 40 teachers at the finish of the school year.

Gander Collegiate # 1 (later Gander Junior High and currently Gander Middle School) opened in 1963 for classes grades IX - XI. Approximately 300 students were transferred there from Gander Academy.

The compulsory adoption of school uniforms was introduced in October 1963. This uniform was in effect for many years and consisted of navy blazer, grey flannel pants, which shirt and red tie for boys. Girls wore navy tunics with white blouses. Jeans were strictly prohibited.

In 1964 children from Appleton, Glenwood and Benton were transferred into the Gander school system. Enrolment then was 1050 at Gander Academy and 350 at Collegiate #1. Gander Academy employed 35 teachers in that year.

In 1964 a music department was set up at the Academy, in which 900 students, grade I - VIII inclusive were given instructions over the course of a week. A temporary arrangement was made for kindergarten teachers to be responsible for the music program in their classrooms.

This year (1964) marked the 15th edition of our school year book - The Flight.

In 1966-67 we were again bursting at the seams and grade VIII students were transferred from the Academy to the Collegiate #1 in September '66 consisted of a total of 125 pupils and their teachers.

In 1969 portable classrooms - seven in all, were set up at the rear of Gander Academy. One of the above was used as a Art and Manual training room. The remaining six served to relieve the overflow at the Academy and children from the elementary department were transferred there. This was a temporary arrangement and in 1970-71 plans were already afoot to vacate the portable buildings as soon as more appropriate space could be provided.

In 1970-71 plans were in progress for an Elementary - Primary Library and Resource Centre.

Guidance counsellors were requested and approved by the school board and became a reality in the early 70's.

In the mid 70's pupils were placed in Learning Centres mainly for guidance and observation. Pupils were selected for special education classes normally at the Grades I - II primary level.

1971 marked the first edition of the Primary - elementary year book. Gander Academy could be no longer included in the "Flight". This year book was known as the Pri-Elem.

In 1972-73 the new primary addition running east from the kindergarten area was in progress and ready for occupancy in 1973, with financial assistance from the Department of National Defence. This new wing consisted of five new classrooms, an auditorium-gymnasium, music room and staff room. This addition made it possible to vacate classrooms in the central area of the school making much needed space for our Library-Resource Centre. This centre has mushroomed into one of the largest library centres for Elementary children in the province consisting of print and non-print materials for students and teachers.

In 1975 one remaining portable building was annexed to the basement area of Gander Academy, and used as an extra classroom and washroom. More adequate space was found in 1977 when the new high school - Gander Collegiate on Gander Bay Road opened in January of that year. The grade VI classes were then moved from Gander Academy to Gander Junior High (Middle School). Gander Academy then housed Kindergarten to Grade V classes, primary and elementary, an enrolment of 904 pupils.

1978 Kindergarten French Immersion was first introduced to Gander Academy with 29 children enroled in September. Seventeen of this class graduated from Grade XII in 1990. French immersion has been an integral part of Gander Academy since this date.

Core French was introduced to the Academy in the early 80's. Beginning in September 1987 the Gander school system embarked upon an extended university applied Core French program in all grades Kindergarten - Grade V.

Enrolment at the Academy remained fairly consistent in the 80's. They are recorded as follows: 1978 - 832, 1982 - 905, 1984 - 907.

In 1984 much as done (and had been done) towards computerization of the resource centre - materials were requested, space was provided and a survey determined the greatest need. Computer aided instruction was first introduced in the early 80's with the purchase of a single Commodore 64. Since then Gander Academy has been a leader in the area of CAI and now boasts one of the most modern designed computer labs in the province. This lab consists of 16 IBM computers and related hardware and software and is completely computerized as a Learning Resource Centre (1997).

In 1988 enrolment is recorded as 890.

In 1989-90 the most recent physical addition was added to Gander Academy in the form of a new wing to the rear of the building resulting in two extra classrooms, washrooms and a large gymnasium. The former elementary auditorium-gymnasium was now converted to offices, music and art rooms and a mini theatre.

In 1995 with the acceptance of reform in our Newfoundland schools and the closure of St. Joseph's Academy, schools in Gander are again operating under one system, 250 pupils and 11 teachers transferred to Gander Academy from St. Joseph's Academy Kindergarten to Grade V. The enrolment in June '97 stands at 985.

To summarize the life of Gander Academy - the rapid growth in enrolment and educational progress gave the school board and staff many problems in the early years. In 56-57 most children were in the early grades and are recorded as follows: Kindergarten - 140, Grade I - 147, Grade II - 113, Grande III - 155. One can imagine the problems experienced as these young children progressed to grade XI. In September 1957 fourteen students graduated from Grade XI in Hunt Memorial Academy. In all 1947-57 one hundred and five pupils had graduated from Hunt Memorial Academy.

In 1957 Gander Academy was indeed a 'dream come true'. The phenomenal growth in numbers and extra curricular requirements became an unending process for staff and administration. Gander Academy continues to function well and meet the demands of the students who come under its jurisdiction.

We cannot help but pay tribute to the many who worked so tirelessly for the welfare of this school over the years; namely our school boards consisting of personnel who gave so freely of their time and expertise. These people held responsible positions in our town. The Home and School Association was extremely active in early years and contributed largely to the growth of the school. The Department of Health provided competent nurses and health care at all times. Our secretaries, staff and administration were second to none in the educational system. Especially do we laud the parental respect and support which contributed largely to the success of Gander Academy.

Congratulations on the 40th Anniversary of Gander Academy.


Researched and compiled by

Rosalie (Patey) Spurrell

Shirley (Martin) Bailey