Memories of School Years in Gander 1948-1958

contributed by Roland Clarke

The international airport of Gander became, during the era of commercial aviation, a stopping off point between the old world and the new. As workers were required to operate this busy airport, there was an influx of families to the area.

In 1948 there were 193 students with five teachers. The numbers greatly increased from year to year with an enrollment of 1030 students and 27 teachers in 1958. Most of these children were in primary and elementary grades. The need for classroom space posed problems for the school board. The original school on Chestnut Street and the former Mess Hall #107 Foss Avenue, which had been converted to an all-grade school, soon became overcrowded. This led to classroom space being obtained in the building known as Duffy's Tavern, Building #5 and the Airlines Hotel on the American Side, East Bound Inn, Building #105, the Drill Hall and Building #108 on Foss Avenue.

The rapid growth of the school system in Gander demanded a very devoted school board. The secretary, George Legrow, worked diligently to see that space was provided.

Although pupils were scattered all over the airport, junior high and high school grades remained in the main building. I am sure you remember the small Grade Eleven classroom which the boys called "The Caboose".

Hockey teams were formed, and many hours were spent endeavouring to make a rink at the back of the school' only to find it snow covered the next morning. The boys of the hockey team should remember our trip to Buchans, and getting snowbound at Millertown Junction on the return trip. The players, tired and hungry, tried to sleep in spite of the cold waiting room. The next day, Cy Hoskins discovered he had broken his nose while playing. Another memorable occasion was our trip to Botwood by train when we left our coach behind at Bishop Falls. Who can recall gathering outside the school to see the first jet plane to land at Gander from England? Who can recall the fishing stories told by the Bursey boys? Who can recall being pin boys at the bowling alleys in the old drill hall, operated by the school board as a fund raiser for the new school? No automatic pin sets in those days!

Among our public speaking students we had a budding politician, George Baker. He was selected in 1957 as the Canadian representative to take part in a Youth Forum in New York. Those of you who were students at the time remember the sadness of the tragic drowning of your principal William Hunt on April 23, 1951, St. George's Day. Our main building was dedicated to his memory, Hunt Memorial Academy.

My responsibilities at that time included the duties of principal as well as teaching all high school grades. Student participation and cooperation deserved great credit.

In the late fifties, a new educational era was about to occur in Gander as a school building was being constructed at the new town site. Gander Academy opened in 1957. Student accommodation had at last been solved.

The years from 1948-1958 were momentous years to have been a teacher in Gander. I feel sure that all who taught here during this period have lasting memories of the early school system. My memories are still very vivid, and I am sure, as I meet former students at this reunion, these memories will further come alive.

Roland Clarke
Assistant Principal, Gander Amalgamated School (1948-1951)
Principal, Hunt Memorial Academy and Gander Academy (1952-1958)

This article was originally prepared for inclusion in the souvenir booklet that was available at The Flight Reunion, August 18-21, 2005