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Elliot Lake Secondary School reunion meets expectations

Former student shares memories of school in the Alcan Theatre

Last weekend’s Elliot Lake Secondary School (ELSS) unofficial reunion may have been smaller than reunions in previous years, but organizers should be happy with how the two-day event went.

A surprise at Saturday’s events at Westview Park, was a visit by Art Brown who attended the original high school building known as the Alcan Theatre which is now the Masonic Lodge across from the arena. It was used prior to the new high school being constructed in the late 1950s. He has attended previous ELSS reunions and visited the weekend event along with his wife Bonnie making the trek from Niagara Falls.

His father Percy Brown became secretary-treasurer of the then Improvement District of Elliot Lake before it became a town and subsequently a city. Percy Brown was also a well-known Peewee coach.

“He (Percy) came in the fall of 55 when he was on council when it was first developing,” Art Brown recalled in an interview at the park on Saturday.

“It wasn’t realized there would be a high school here until the August of 1956,” he recalled. The decision to have a high school in Elliot Lake was made by a director in Blind River which already had a high school

“They scrambled for teachers and they ended up with three teachers,” he said of the decision to open a high school at the Alcan.

“There were nine in Grade 11 including me, there was one boy in Grade 12 and the rest were split between Grade 9 and 10,” he said of the 36 students who attended.

The high school was a far cry from what most would call a high school.

“In that building (Alcan) there was a two-table pool room, a one chair barbershop and like a canteen with a snack bar but the main feature of it was a 200 selection jukebox which was going constantly and miners would come in and put a handful of quarters in and the thing virtually ran all day including while school was in session so sometimes it was hard to hear what the teacher was saying or anyone was saying.”

With the completion of the new high school on Hillside Drive in 1958, Brown spent his Grade 12 school year there in 1958.

Current principal and ELSS graduate Rick Juuti also took some time to welcome those attending. Earlier in the day visitors and former graduates were invited to an open house at the high school.

“Thank you to all the organizers for putting this reunion together. I know how much work it takes,” he said.

He shared common memories shared by alumni of ELSS and took a moment of silence to remember students who have died, many of whose names are on the memorial wall at the high school.

Mayor Dan Marchisella also shared a welcome.

“Welcome home to many of you who haven’t been home for a few years and for those who have made their home here,” he said.

During the day there were several local entertainers, including singer, songwriter Kim Arnold and Ponto an ELSS graduate and singer-songwriter who performed. There was also a silent auction for gifts donated by local talent.

On Sunday the unofficial reunion wrapped up with a golf tournament and dinner at the local golf club.



About the Author: Kris Svela

Kris Svela has worked in community newspapers for the past 36 years covering politics, human interest, courts, municipal councils, and the wide range of other topics of community interest
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