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Paul Kane memory lane

Joanne Dodd, former assistant principal at Paul Kane and Scott Gibson Dodd, former English teacher and English department head write the guest editorial this week to remember the old Paul Kane building before students switch to the new building.

With just over a month to go before students move their desks to the new Paul Kane High School, the Gazette offered two former PK staffers an opportunity to reminisce. The nearly 50-year-old hallowed halls of PK hold countless memories. Here’s a take from Joanne Dodd, former assistant principal, and Scott Gibson Dodd, former English teacher and English department head. Paul Kane is holding a special event tonight, and the Gazette's Kevin Ma gave us a sneak peek at the event in this week's paper. 

When we heard they were knocking down the old Paul Kane High School to replace the building, it was hard to believe that 46 years had passed since Scott first walked into Paul Kane High School as a student. The school was new then. The lockers were rich red, gold, orange, and blue. The hallways were painted with wild sixties swirls and murals of teenagers in bell bottoms. It was vibrant, exciting — a dawning of a new-age for sure. The radio club delivered the “Lunch Hour Music Show,” and the hallways and stairwells reverberated with Elton John’s latest: Rocketman!  The library had a spiralling staircase, and who could forget the smoke-pit sarcophagus in the back of the school (later becoming the band room).

When returning to PK as a teacher some fifteen years later, those bright-coloured lockers had either faded or been replaced with blue ones. The school was entering its golden age: teams were winning championships, the genesis of the musical theatre program was underway, and there was talk of starting our own football team. The school had found its stride with diploma, advanced placement, and French immersion scores climbing. The achievements were all thanks to the hard work of the staff and visionary leadership of our school. 

Later, with both of us as teacher-advisors to the Students’ Union, the students wanted to focus on school spirit, so we held monthly pep rallies, presenting slide-shows. We had huge dances and grad-dance marathons with fabulously loud, light-shows and video-shows with jam-packed, sweaty teenagers. The whole English hallway was converted to a giant coat-check, rivalling the Jubilee Auditorium. At one of the dances, a student tried to crash the party by crawling in above the ceiling tiles. He came crashing down, but was saved by his buddies cushioning his fall. The courtyard was made into a student lounge with a coffee-cart selling morning lattes. Students came with rolls of quarters to play the video games for the 15 minute break and lunch hour. Around this time, we also had many unplanned fire-drills, thanks to one student stringing fishing-line from classroom door knobs to the fire alarm pull switches.

Of course, these are only a few memories that have passed the toll of time. It’s hard to watch the old school close, even if there’s a phoenix of a new school rising from its demolition. Students spent three years there, coming together from all walks of life to learn and play both organized sports and some sports less organized, leaving with the fondest memories of their lives. A few teachers spent their whole working-life there, watching the carousel of kids come and go.  Emotionally, it’s hard to watch them leave, but you knew their future was calling. In every school, there’s a microcosm of life within: people with hopes and dreams, relationships, celebration, and yes, even the doldrums of another Monday morning.  If we choose to look, there’s always so much life, so many unexpected surprises. In the end, the building itself is not really Paul Kane High School. PK became a spirit, a community, a collection of memories; it is within us. As poet Marianne Moore said, “the power of the visible is the invisible.”