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"Bittersweet": Paul Kane alumni take last trip down memory lane

Where's the home-ec room again? Where's your locker? Let's go to the cafeteria!

Paul Kane's Last Look event on Nov. 23 felt like the first day of school for returning alumni.

Where's the home-ec room again? Where's your locker? Let's go to the cafeteria! 

When the clock struck 5:30 p.m. the halls were packed, the parking lots were full, and old classmates were catching up with one another. 

There was even a faint smell of marijuana in the student parking lot. Some things never change. 

Indeed, many alumni who spoke with The Gazette said they couldn't believe how little the school had changed since they last walked the halls. Hundreds of former students showed up to say their final goodbye to the building. 

“It’s amazing how much the same it is," said Sharon Martin, class of '85. "The bathrooms are the same, the cafeteria is the same, even the office furniture."

"The toilet seats, literally, are the same," joked Lori Forster, Martin's classmate and longtime friend.

Martin said the Last Look event was the first time she'd been back since graduation, and she even flew in from Vancouver to say goodbye. 

From the class of '86, Jackie Bottomley agreed that things haven't changed.

"I got caught smoking in the bathroom over here," Bottomley said with a laugh. "We went in there and I said, ‘that was the same toilet.’"

"I was sitting on the top smoking a cigarette when Mrs. Powell — 'Powell on the prowl' —came in and she said, ‘come with me.’”

Saying goodbye to the school with Bottomley was her daughter, Jessica Thompson, from the 2014 graduating class.

Thompson said one of her favourite memories of her time at Paul Kane was meeting her significant other, and that the couple is approaching 10 years together.

The school's announcement that alumni had one last opportunity to say goodbye confused some folks like Elaine Allen (née Gray); Norma Jones; Susan Fairbairn (née Kaupilla); Gayle Schneider (née Brewster), and Gary Baden, who thought the original Paul Kane High School (now Lorne Akins Junior High School) was being closed.

"This one doesn’t mean anything to us,” Jones said with a laugh. She and her fellow class of 1966 schoolmates arrived thinking they were saying farewell to the first Paul Kane, not the second. The Paul Kane school closing its doors this year was opened in 1973 and was the second version of the school. The original Paul Kane school was at the Lorne Akins Junior High School location. 

Fairbairn chimed in that she was somewhat familiar with the school as she taught home economics for a couple of years. "This one I know a little bit but I (forgot) where the home-ec room is,” she said.

When asked what some their favourite memories were of Paul Kane (the first school, not the second), Allen was quick to remind the group of their years hitting layups for the basketball team. 

“The basketball team trips for me were so much fun," Allen said. 

“Let’s put it this way: we had a very low-populated school so anybody that had any aptitude was recruited," Jones said. She added that after the girls' team played, they would have to change out of their uniforms quickly as they were also the cheerleaders for the boys' team.

Favourite teachers 

Some alumni who spoke with The Gazette shared memories of their favourite teachers. A few names were mentioned multiple times, such as the late Roy Gouchey.

“I loved my biology classes with Mr. Gouchey," said Karen Fairley, from the class of '83. 

"I still to this day remember some classes and things that we talked about, and it means a lot because it made such an impact on me.”

Forster also said Gouchey had made a big impact in her life. 

"He influenced my career choice,” Forster said, adding that Gouchey was "just a great human being, wonderful man, and we miss him. He just passed away this spring."

Other teachers mentioned as favourites included a social studies teacher by the name of Mr. Smith; a math teacher by the name of Mr. Wilkshire; and despite her no-nonsense attitude, multiple alumni shared fond memories of the late Donna Powell, who passed away in 2017.

Generations

For some alumni, it had only been a year or two since they last visited, as their own children also attended Paul Kane. 

Nicole, from the class of 1990, who requested her last name not be printed, said all three of her children attended Paul Kane, with two having graduated already and one still attending. 

“Lots of great memories," Nicole said, adding she remembers how tasty the cafeteria's fries and gravy was. 

From the class of 1992, Jody, who also requested her last name be withheld, said one of her two children also attended Paul Kane. Her son decided he wanted to go to "a cooler-looking school," Jody said through chuckles.

"It will be weird for me because I grew up across the street and I’ve always looked at the school, so it will be really weird once it’s taken down,” Jody said. "It's bittersweet."

For other alumni, like Adam Ursulak from the graduating class of 1987, the closing of Paul Kane's current campus means his own daughter won't walk the same halls as he did, as his daughter won't start high school till next year. 

“We just wanted to come and recap some memories and look at some of the old classrooms," Ursulak said of why he decided to go and say goodbye. 

Current Paul Kane students will make St. Albert history on Jan. 9, 2023, when they begin classes in the new building. Perhaps in 2073 or whenever the new school runs its course, The Gazette will interview them when they go back to say goodbye. 


Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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