Wolfville High School graduates held their first reunion during the town’s centennial in 1993. Since then, class reunions have become regularly anticipated events.
The gatherings occur despite the fact Wolfville high school students were moved to Horton District High School in 1976.
Last month, says David Young, everyone who was available representing the classes of 1955-1958 got together at the Old Orchard Inn.
Gwen and Dwight Grant chaired this year's reunion. There were 42 graduates who attended, some coming from as far away as Ireland.
“Remarkable, when one thinks that friends from 50, 60 plus years ago, are still interested in meeting those they made friends with during their school years. Much has changed; friendship and acquaintance remain constant,” Grant said.
At the reunion, Gwen Sweet from Avonport was honoured for her long-standing involvement in most aspects of the class events, said fellow graduate Bernie Hawkins.
After the town centennial reunion, luncheons became common in the mid-1990s for the 1956 graduating class, Young noted, and had about 38 members, as well as the 1957 class of 50 students.
“We expanded years later to the 1955 class and, within the past three years, to the 1958 class,” says Young. “The existence of email really has made constant communications possible and is responsible for the seemingly ever-present bonding among individuals.”
Major events, such as deaths and luncheon announcements, are communicated on a frequent basis to the class members on the email list.
“We hold reunions every four years on average. The closeness that has emerged has made the desire to actually see one another a driving force for reunions,” said Young. “Catching up, seeing those with whom you bonded in school, is compelling to many.”
The reunions follow a standard format: a reception, followed by a banquet the next day and a church service and farewell meeting on the third day.
The monthly luncheons offer an ongoing connection for many. An average of 20 to 25 members attend - not always the same people.
Young says he is expecting Mary Elizabeth (Olsen) Bruening, who lives in Michigan, for the November luncheon. Many others make similar plans.
The graduates started fundraising early.
“We produced a booklet on our class members showing their school data and what they had done over the 50 or so years since and videos of reunions,” he said.
The group asked Wolfville artist Jean Hancock to paint images of the Wolfville schools they had attended and sold copies. The proceeds fund the annual Christmas bulletin.
They also created a memorial fund, said Young. A donation is made from this fund for classmates who pass away, which is given to a selected charity.
Young, who was a school administrator, believes the number of classes that meet and the frequency with which they meet places Wolfville in a rare atmosphere.
He points out luncheons started with the 1930s graduates, who called themselves the 'old boys club,' and run right up to the early 1960s.
Young calls the number of classes who connect mind-boggling.
“I've asked others why this phenomenon? The answers include: small, stable classes, long-serving, common staff, geographic smallness, constant environment, to name a few. We like each other,” he said.
“I do believe the extent that our group has carried this closeness is probably unique. In truth, the reason much of the friendship status that has carried on for 60 plus years is elusive. We really enjoy meeting one another.”
Retired teacher David Sheppard was a member of the class of 1966 and he has made a hobby of collecting the educational history of his “much beloved alma mater.”
In fact, inspired by the late Scott Sheffield’s collection, Sheppard has an entire filing cabinet devoted to his hobby.
The Wolfville High School was built in 1956, then turned into a junior high facility and was torn down in 2016. Its memorabilia was transferred to the Acadia University Archives.
Wolfville educational history
The first school building in Wolfville was constructed before Confederation in 1864. The wooden MacKay School was built in 1893 when the town was incorporated. The principal was Robie Ford.
It accommodated 300 students and was “a big, old cavernous building,” says Sheppard, until it was demolished in 1972.
In 1921, the 10-room Munroe School was constructed and it had separate male and female doors. The sole use of the main entrance was devoted to high school students and staff. B.C. Silver became principal, followed by Rex Porter. Students came to Wolfville from adjacent areas and had to pay $30 in fees.
There was a school orchestra in 1928, but the first school band was not formed until 1937. The cadet corps was created in 1940. The cadets, says Sheppard, had a rifle range in both the Munroe School and the high school.
In 1973, an elementary school was attached to the high school. It experimented with open classrooms under principal Don MacPherson.
Probably the most famous graduate from Wolfville High School was the cartoonist Bob Chambers.