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Richmond High celebrating 90th anniversary

By Lorraine Graves

Published 1:24 PDT, Tue March 13, 2018

Our city’s oldest high school, Richmond Secondary, celebrates its 90th anniversary on Saturday, April 21 from noon until 6 p.m.

John Montgomery, from the school’s graduating class of ’58, has a long history with the school.

“My mom, Amy Edwards, was in the first graduating class in 1928 when it was still called Bridgeport.”

It was then on the old site, approximately kitty corner from today’s Costco.

Richmond Secondary later moved to a new location, near today’s Cambie Senior Secondary. That building became Cambie Junior High when, one last time, in 1952, the school site moved to its current location on Minoru Boulevard.

Montgomery recalls one of his mother’s teachers, Roy McNeill, was Montgomery’s principal when he graduated from the school’s third iteration, now torn down but on the same grounds as today’s modern building.

“That school has a spirit that is second to none. I’m probably going to get emotional here,” Richmond High alumni president Beth McKenzie says of the old building on Minoru. “It’s a combination of the dynamics of the building, the staff, the students and the camaraderie.”

That spirit encouraged students to taste all the opportunities the school offered.

“For me it made me become involved with different subjects and aspects of thing I never would have done. I became involved with acting. I was social but shy,” she says.

The school was different then, she says.

“It was only Grade 11 and 12 when I went there. It was only in the late 90s when the school changed to Grades 8 to 12.”

McKenzie, who grew up on Jones Road between St. Albans and Garden City Roads, said those were simpler times.

“When I went there in 1971 and 1972 all the kids walked to school. Nobody got dropped off.”

Montgomery grew up in Steveston.

“It was the only high school in Richmond so everybody in Richmond went to it.”

Later in 1956, Steveston Junior High School opened up, eventually becoming the high school for that edge of Richmond.

Steveston’s teams and logo referred to the village’s fishing past while Richmond High’s was a horse theme. Grad time and the annual football game between the two schools often occasioned some high-spirited hijinks.

“Rivalry with Steveston? I didn’t ever get involved but I heard the stories of loads of horse dung left on steps of Steveston High and loads of fish guts on steps of Richmond High,” McKenzie laughs.

McKenzie remembers the previous incarnation of Richmond High that opened in 1957.

“The floors creaked especially the ones in our snack shop. The old school was so small that it had 15 to 20 portable classrooms out the back. A lot of them didn’t have a washroom: how do you manage all of that, not only for the kids, but for the teachers?”

She says the playing fields were so full of portable classrooms in those days that “the Phys-Ed department had to go over to Minoru to do activities.”

The new school was finished ahead of schedule and the move accomplished over the Christmas holidays.

“They tried to bring parts of the school they were going to tear down and bring it into the new one. All the wooden seats, top of the bleachers, removed and milled for something else, part of gym floor and framed it, on wall of current school. Marnie Maitland took the time to make sure there was a place for every graduate composite photo from 1927,” says McKenzie.

Montgomery says of the April 21 event that runs from noon until 6 p.m.: “It will be a fun, friendly open house.”

For the event, open to all former Richmond High students and staff, the alumni association is hoping to have vintage cars in the parking lot along with some food trucks.

Inside, the group plans skits from the drama club, music from the band, as well as lots of old photos and memorabilia arranged by different eras.

If you would like to lend a hand or have anything from your era to add to the celebration, see the ad in The Sentinel’s classified section.

“It will be a very laid back day for people to come and celebrate the school being 90 years old,” says McKenzie.

Asked why she is doing it all, McKenzie replies: “It was probably one of the best times of my life.”

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