Nickerson school celebrates 50th birthday
Mural and time capsule unveiled
Tuesday, Jun 24, 2014 04:45 pm
A St. Albert school celebrated its 50th anniversary this week with cupcakes, Lego and a giraffe in a tree.
More than 700 students and dignitaries packed the gym at Leo Nickerson Elementary Tuesday to celebrate the event. Among the guests were about 40 former students and staff members, plus Sylvia Nickerson, widow of the school’s namesake.
Nickerson herself laid the cornerstone of the school back on June 24, 1964, noted school principal Kevin Jones, addressing the crowd.
“I wonder, when she put down that stone 50 years ago, if she could envision what an amazing place this school would be today.”
Nickerson was the fourth school in what was then known as the St. Albert Separate School District and the first to be named after a city resident. Leo Nickerson was a Cub Scout leader who died in 1961 while trying to save three drowning children at Lake Wabamun.
Students and staff all wore blue kerchiefs with the school’s logo on it Tuesday to honour Nickerson’s connection to the Scouts.
Barrie Findlater, Nickerson’s first vice-principal, said he knew the man’s family well and taught high school math to his daughter Holly Nickerson.
“He was a very pleasant, quiet, sincere man,” Findlater said of Leo Nickerson – someone dedicated to serving others.
The school had roughly 200 students, 15 staff and eight classrooms when it opened in 1964, Jones said.
It also had a large open-air area by the principal’s office, Findlater recalled.
“Somebody had the idea of making it a little open area for science experiments. Never worked. It just filled with snow.”
Every classroom had a door that opened to the outside so kids could get out for recess, he added.
And at least one classroom had a live rat in it.
They brought in the rat to teach kids about science, Findlater said.
“It was very controversial at the time and a big mistake,” he continued, as school officials had no idea what to do with the rat at the end of the school term. (They euthanized it.)
The school expanded considerably in the 1980s, gaining its iconic rainbow logo in October 1985.
Karen Tubman, who was the school’s secretary during that time, recalls the renovations well.
“On the last day of school, we knew it was time to leave because they were carrying out the toilets and demolishing around us.”
The school now has about 700 students, 29 classrooms and 65 staff members, Jones said.
“The foundations of who we are have never wavered.”
Sylvia Nickerson, who has maintained close ties with the school over the last 50 years, said it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed.
“Having a school named for my husband is a wonderful privilege to him,” she said.
“He would be proud to be connected to such a hard-working, kind, generous (group of) students and staff as you.”
Students celebrated the day with cupcakes and a field day.
Students George Reid and Nathan Tinga also unveiled a large mural of the school’s logo made from 6,510 pieces of Lego.
Staff, students and guests gathered outside to see the reveal of the school’s new 50th anniversary mural, painted by the school’s students with the help of artist-in-residence Stan Phelps.
The mural depicts many happy children around a large tree full of fruits and animals, including an eagle, an alligator and (sticking out of the very top) a presumably confused giraffe.
Also unveiled was a time capsule assembled by students to commemorate the 50th anniversary. Its contents include scrolls upon which students have written their favourite memories of the year, a blue 50th anniversary kerchief, a pencil case full of typical school supplies and some Pokémon cards.
The wood and Plexiglas capsule will be glued shut and installed in a concrete bench below the large dedication plaque in the school’s lobby later this week, said teacher Christine de Wit. It will have a clear top so future students can look at its contents.