1913 - 2001
Building the new school
The First World War
Between the Wars
World War Two
Renovations and an Addition
by Former Students
Saskatoon was one of the fastest growing cities in the world in the decade before the First World War. When it became a city in 1906 it had a population of 4,500. By 1914, when Buena Vista was opened, the population was about 21,000. In 1906 there were only 2 schools and 6 teachers and 296 students in Saskatoon. By 1914 there were 12 schools, 92 teachers and 3,412 students!|
The Buena Vista subdivision west of Lorne Avenue was marketed by three Saskatoon real estate men:
W.H. Coy, A. MacDougall and F.E. Guppy. All three eventually had streets named after them. Coy Avenue is still in existence a block west of the school. MacDougall Avenue, a northern extension of Coy, was where the Eighth Street and Freeway interchange is now. Guppy Avenue is near Market Mall in eastern
In 1910 house lots in the area were being advertised for $275. Buena Vista and Westmount were the first local schools named after their subdivision. There are other schools named Buena Vista, including two in California.
The Public School Board bought a whole city block for the school in 1911. It cost $10,000. The new site was on the very edge of the city. Even as late as 1914 there was only one house and one store on the other side of Lorne Avenue, and no houses across 5th Street.|
While the school was being built classes began in a frame building across the street, with 150 pupils in two shifts of 75 each. This building was possibly 1308 Lorne Avenue, which was a grocery store for many years and has recently been made into a private home.
Buena Vista's architect was David Webster, who had previously designed King George, King Edward, Albert,
Westmount, Caswell and Alexandra schools. The school's construction was supervised by Robert Blackwood, who was a prominent member of the Masonic Lodge. Mr. Blackwood also did the detailed design of King George School. This may be the reason for the
Masonic symbols on the chimneys and walls of the towers in those two schools.
Buena Vista has the same basic design as Westmount and King George schools. The details of the three schools differ, however. For instance, the towers of Westmount and King George have one more floor than Buena Vista's. The caretaker's apartment was located in the tower of all the schools built about that time, although at times the caretakers lived in the basement. The
Masonic symbols are in different places in King George and Buena Vista. The parapets and roof dormers are also different in each of the three schools.
Shannon Brothers and Cassidy got the contract for the Buena Vista's basement in 1912. It cost $5,263. The same firm then got the contract to build the rest of the school. The costs were $122,187 for the building plus plumbing and heating. Other costs included $4000 for desks, $1,500 for hardware, $600 for concrete sidewalks and $400 for blackboards. The total cost including all extras was apparently $145,093. The contractor used Saskatchewan brick for the rough work but imported the finishing brick. It was noted that the quality of the materials used was higher than in earlier schools.
Buena Vista's cornerstone was laid by school board secretary
W.P. Bate on the 9th of June, 1913. A school in west Saskatoon is named for him. The cornerstone contains copies of the two daily newspapers of the time, the Daily Star and the Phoenix, and photographs of the city. Six rooms opened for the first time on 1 April, 1914 . Six more rooms opened in September, four of which were rented to the Normal School, the teacher's college.
Buena Vista became known as a "white elephant" for a while when both the basement concrete floor and the heating system had to be replaced within one year of the opening. Problems with concrete were common in new construction at that time.
The school bell was bought by student fundraising. It typically rang half an hour before, fifteen minutes before, and at the beginning of school. The boys' and girls' entrances are at opposite ends of the school. For many years the students marched into the building in pairs at the beginning of the morning and afternoon classes.
Buena Vista pitched into supporting the First World War effort when a cadet corps was organized by principal Mr. William Holliston, in 1915. 52 boys enlisted. Grade five students raised money to buy magazines for soldiers training in Saskatoon throughout the war, and the whole school raised $600 to buy war bonds by hosting teas, concerts and bazaars.|
Mr. Holliston was not only Buena Vista's first principal, he also served at Buena Vista the longest. He served from 1913 to 1939 except for one year off to pursue his own studies. It was apparently Mr. Holliston who picked the school colours of green and white. An elementary school was subsequently named after him in east
Two governors general have visited Buena Vista.
H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, visited early in the war. His successor, the Duke of
Devonshire, visited in 1917. Commenting on his visit, the Daily Star newspaper called the school "the pride of Saskatoon."
In 1918 Buena Vista and Westmount began a "departmental system" for teachers of grades 6-8. This meant that teachers would specialize in certain subjects, to be taught to all three grades.|
Also in 1918, all schools were closed for almost a month beginning October 17 due to the great flu epidemic.
Buena Vista continued to be in the news during the 1920s. The school was used as a rural boys' dormitory during Exhibition Week. Separate classes for "Ruthenians" (Ukrainians) were held to help them learn English.
In 1926 Mrs. Grace Blue became the president of the Buena Vista Home and School, the first one in Saskatchewan. She later served on provincial and national Home and School organizations. The Home and School organized the first grade eight graduation banquet in the city in the late 1920s.
Buena Vista's primary rooms were organized on a half day basis in 1927 due to overcrowding. Since the auditorium on the third floor was being used for classrooms during the 1920s and 30s, the main floor hallway used for recitals, operettas, and physical education classes. In 1936 Buena Vista's students donated books and raised money to set up a library in the school.
The Canadian National Railway line into Saskatoon was where the Freeway is now. C. Sydney Frost (A Life Worthwhile, 1994) related that hobos were not the only ones riding the freight trains in the 1930s. Some Buena Vista students from Saskatchewan Crescent and Poplar Crescent also used southbound trains to speed them on their way to school since the trains would be moving slowly enough to climb on as the locomotive climbed the hill. The students would hop on boxcars at Main Street and jump off at 5th or 6th Street. Mr. Holliston quickly put an end to it when he found out!
Buena Vista got a proper library in 1965. In 1966 a ground level gymnasium and auditorium was built for $177,390. The whole school was renovated in 1974 and 1975. The Art Room was refurbished in 1992, a computer centre was added in 1993 and the Science Room was upgraded in 1994. The school received a new sprinkler system in 1999.|
Buena Vista teacher
Mr. Ken Marland won a Prime Minister's Certificate for Excellence in Teaching for his work in environmental education.|
Amongst the graduates of Buena Vista are many who have gone on to make significant contributions to their city, province and country. Amongst these are:
Sidney L. Buckwold OC (1916-2001) a Saskatoon businessman who became mayor of the city, and then a senator, attended Buena Vista. The freeway bridge has now been named after him.
The former Dean of Education at the University of Saskatchewan,
Murray Scharf, attended Buena Vista.
Buena Vista graduate Brent Ashton was drafted 26th in 1979 by the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL. He played for nine different professional teams and was inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Tom Porteous, who was a student at Buena Vista from 1917 to 1922, was the school's principal from 1954 to 1958.
22 November, 2001
by Margaret (Peg) Don, February 2000
Last fall I began taking a yoga class at Buena Vista School. I was unable to continue with it due to back problems, so I had to discontinue it with great regret.
The class took place in the main hallway of Buena Vista School. While I was stretching out, seated on my mat, something strange began to take place. I started to see ghosts. Little girl ghosts. Of me.
I cannot tell you how that made me feel. It was quite indescribable.
I was sitting cross-legged on the floor at a Friday Morning singsong. I was always so fascinated by my beloved grade one teacher, Miss Mary
Fidyk. I was intrigued by the way she could walk backwards while "conducting" us. Her wonderful clothes and her endless enthusiasm fascinated me.
I began to remember other things
The fall tea with bouquets of garden flowers (especially marigolds) and jars of jellies and relishes for sale,
The production of "HMCS Pinafore" in the third floor auditorium, prior to the construction of the new gymnasium,
Collecting pennies for Valentines Day, putting them in a line down the hallway floor, trying to reach the next classroom,
As a treat, hearing Peter, Paul and Mary sing "Puff, the Magic Dragon",
Spilling chocolate milk down the inside of my witchs mask at our Halloween party,
The day our wooden desks were replaced with "ultra modern" desks,
Cleaning blackboard erasers by pounding them on the cement banister at the back door,
How Mrs. Wilma Penner was always so calm and gentle,
Mrs. Llewellyn who had tidbits about growing up in Britain during the Second World War,
How Mrs. Rae always wore perfectly coordinated skirts and sweaters and she used a chalk holder! I had never seen such a thing!
I remember our trip to Regina on the rail liner. It happened shortly before the demise of that rail line what a lucky thing to be able to ride on it!
How Mr. Lane was so proud of his baby daughter that he brought to school to show us,
How full of lilacs the gymnasium was at our Grade 8 Graduation. To this day, the scent of l lilac bushes reminds me of that night.
And lastly, but far from the least, the after-lunch stories that teachers read to us. Over the years my favourite story was without a doubt Mr. Poppers Penguins by Robert Atwater. It definitely made an impression on me. I now have a substantial collection of penguins!
Memories of School Yard
by Mildred L. Derrick
The school that I attended as a child still stands in all its scholarly dignity as tho proud to have produced many illustrious members of the local, national, and international community. Buena Vista beautiful view. I wonder why it has not fallen to the wreckers ball, a victim of urban cancer. I do believe that it dares urban planners to mount an attack. It is impregnable to their overtures. It knows it has contributed too much to the fabric of the community to be destroyed by planners of the future. It is a monument to the past that turns back the clock for the visionists and gives them pause to think. It gives me pause to think, and recall the less academic pursuits that attended the hours passed in the confines of the school yard, the existence of which depended on the school, a more sophisticated extension of the space of my own back yard and the vacant lot at the end of my block.
Memories abound when I go back in time to those days then the schoolyard occupied a favourite place in my heart. They tumble out of the recesses of my mind scrambling for a place in the sun of my remembering, all eager to be recorded. Alas, but happily, there are so many I must leave out for another time and place.
Schoolyard ice rinks stand out cold icy pleasure waiting for skates to be donned. I learned to skate on that expanse of ice which was sometimes like a sheet of glass meant for fast blades, and sometimes
criss-crossed with myriad ruts meant for disastrous falls. It seemed to take forever for the ice to be prepared when the thermometer already indicated it should be ready. Steam would rise in ghostly vapour as the janitor held the hose from which water would pour to flow over the already-frozen ground. It was tried out long before its frozen state guaranteed optimal skating performance, and used in the spring when thawing guaranteed a good soaking. A heavy snowstorm meant a turn out of kid power behind a wooden scraper no front-end loader; technology had not caught up with us! The banks created by the snow pushed to the sides of the rink acted as a barrier for new flooding and as miniature sliding areas for the younger kids. Memories of skating in the dark of a cold winter evening bring with them nostalgic sounds of air snapping in the cold and the crackling under skate blades. Though fingers were numb and toes were tingling, our enthusiasm, and the fact of our youth, kept us skating round and round, oblivious of our discomfort, reveling in the fun to be had on a schoolyard ice rink til the joys of winter would melt into spring.
Warmer weather meant marbles, dibs, agates,
steelies. We guarded our horde jealously, had our
favourites, counted them assiduously, covered the prettiest ones, and felt wealthy because of them. Playing marbles at recess, noon and after four was the favourite spring pastime. We would start so early in the season that hands would get chapped and cracked from exposure to the cold and dirt. Some of the kids were such experts that to start a game with them was to ensure being skunked. I recall a game with one expert by the name of Frances. Needless to say, my carefully acquired collection was totally depleted. Trying to keep back the tears, I went home agonizing over my losses and wondering if it would be competent at anything.
A red jumbo knit sweater worn in that schoolyard inflicted my first remembered emotional scars, long since healed. Coming from a family of five children meant that one naturally acquired cast down items not by choice but by necessity. I felt comfortable in the sweater until, during a hygiene class, a well-meaning teacher talked about the necessity of wearing adequate clothing for the cold winter weather. For some reason, I felt the teacher was speaking specifically about my red sweater and that, because I did not wear a coat, I was not dressed warmly enough and was thus breaking all the rules of proper hygiene. I would have been most grateful if the floor had opened up and swallowed me, desk and all.
A fabrication originating in that schoolyard involved a "marcel" that masqueraded for a few days as a permanent wave. It weighs (only lightly) on my conscience to this day. To "get a permanent" then was what would now be called a status symbol. The marcel that I acquired was misrepresented by me as a permanent wave. For the uninitiated, marcels are far from being permanent, and I was hard put to justify the non-permanence of my permanent, thus learning early in life that dissembling is a precarious indulgence.
Physical pain was then, and still is, easily acquired in a schoolyard. "Crack the Whip:" in an excellent way to end up with your collarbone cracked and your right arm rendered useless so that you have to learn to write with your left hand. In order to achieve this awkward state of affairs, you must have a desire to join the fun of this potentially dangerous game and be dauntless enough to be the kid on the end of the human chain. When the whole line of kids gets going real good, you swing out in the air and unfortunately land on the ground on your shoulder with the result that you enjoy the schoolyard status of the kids with the broken arm. Two of my grandchildren have, like me, enjoyed this notoriety but not from "crack the whip". I hear it has been banned!
A jumbo red sweater, a bag full of marbles, agates and
steelies, a marcel that masqueraded as a permanent wave, an ice rink a broken arm. What significance do they have? Really v3ery little for anyone else but me. For they are memories that originated in the schoolyard of my childhood, a space in time that reflects, through the mirror of the past, beautiful pictures that I treasure from the vantage point of maturity. Is time made up of a series of spaces which when filled with memories, constitute the journey which we call life. I wonder if we can fill with memories that bigger space that awaits us all, and if so, will we then remember the space we occupied and made memorable in this, the current phase of our personal human journey.
From Former Students
I am a
long ago graduate of Buena Vista School (1944 to
1950) - Grade 3 to grade 8 then onto Nutana
Collegiate (1950-54) then College of Agriculture
U of S from 1954-58. I have lived in Ottawa
since then having worked for the Canadian Seed
Growers' Association for 42 years.
Edna Clayton, now 93, lives in the same house on
First street that we moved into in 1944. We just
had a visit with her last week.
teacher, Alice Plews (nee Wilson) was very kind
to me. ( She just died December 15, 2006) I used
to play the violin at commencement exercises
each week with Mrs. McMaster at the piano. Mr
Tansley was also one of my favourite teachers.
Mr Clark was the Principal during those years.
Another teacher I remember was Mrs. Garratt.
As I had
to catch up to my class as I moved into
Saskatoon late in the fall of 1944, Miss Wilson
asked Ruby Wakabayashi to lend me her books from
which I initially copied the assignments. I have
kept in touch with Ruby all these years. Other
class mates were Ken Harris and Stan Ward who I
also keep in touch with.
I would be
happy to recall more experiences for you if you
your website very interesting and well done.