The town is located at the junction of Highways #3 and #73, in Elgin County, Province of Ontario, Canada. It is 9 miles north of Lake Erie and 9 miles east of St. Thomas, the county seat. The CNR-Wabash Railroad ran through the northern part of the town, while the New York Central Railroad was located a short distance farther north.
It is located on the south side of Talbot Street in the western part of the town. At that time, it was set back a short distance from the street. Two cannons were mounted on the lawn on either side of the sidewalk leading to the front door. Students who traveled by bus used the west entrance to the school. Outside this door was where the buses loaded and unloaded.
At the entrance was a stairs going down to the basement and one going up to the first and second floors. Downstairs were the boys’ washroom, a room with a long table, the shop (industrial arts room), the gymnasium, a cafeteria, and students’ lockers. Some of the boys sat at the tables to eat lunch. Having not been on the east side, I do not know the specific layout.
On the first level of the building were classrooms 1 to 4, the principal’s office, and lockers. On the south side of the hall between rooms 3 and 4 were two doors leading to narrow balconies in the gymnasium.
On the second floor were rooms 5 to 9 and staff rooms. Room 6 was a small library which was sometimes used as a classroom. However, when English classes required outside reading by the students, we went to the old public library for books. Room 8 was the home economics room, and Room 9 was the science lab.
This is a list of the teachers who were at the school for one or both years that I attended there. I have placed the names of the subjects beside the names of the teachers in whose classes I was a part. All are grade 13 courses, except the two Latin classes, which were grade 12. The subjects are listed as they were represented on the final examinations.
- Alice Ball (French Authors, French Grammar)
- Helen Barnum (Music)
- Charles Belchamber (Physical Education)
- J. J. Campbell (Botany, Chemistry, Zoology)
- Stuart Clarke (English Composition, English Literature)
- Miss Coghill
- Elaine Grandy (History)
- D. M. Halpenny (Algebra, Analytical Geometry, Trigonometry and Statics)
- Mr. Kerwood
- Mrs. Lenz
- Colin McIntosh (Physics)
- Herbert Stevens (Principal)
- Janet Watson (Latin Authors, Latin Grammar)
Other Associated People
- Fred King (Janitor)
- Vern Chalk (Owner of a few buses)
- Joe Kaleada (First driver of our bus)
- Bob Nicholson (Second driver of our bus)
Students were picked up by buses across Malahide Township, South Dorchester Township, Village of Springfield, and the western Bayham Township communities of Corinth, Richmond, and Calton. Students living in or near eastern Bayham Township communities along Highway #19 attended high school in Tillsonburg. Corinth is about 11 miles northeast of Aylmer by road. However, with the roundabout route each year, it took nearly one hour to arrive at school and somewhat less to return home in the afternoon.
Depending of the time of the year, there would be softball, flag football, and track and field. For inter-school track and field meets, there was an association called TINDA, involving the high schools at Tillsonburg, Ingersoll, Norwich, Delhi, and Aylmer. I can recall going to Ingersoll for one meet. The first year that I was there, our high school boys’ hockey team played in an area adults’ league.
I remember, in particular, there were house leagues – juniors and seniors, boys and girls – for basketball. There was also volleyball. My claim to fame occurred when, as a substitute during basketball season, I was called in to fill a vacant position. I scored my only basket – to the surprise of everyone. It turned out to be the winning basket in the only game that our team won. There were also teams in inter-school basketball and volleyball leagues.
There was a students’ union that was active in various social events and was responsible for the yearbook, The Argus. Since I was not involved in the Students’ Union, I cannot provide further information on it. Some of the boys had a rifle club. I was a part of the philatelic club. There was a school orchestra conducted by Mr. Stevens. Each spring, there was an army cadet programme. There were probably other activities, but I cannot recall what they were.
If it were known that one of the boys had a birthday anniversary that day, the other boys would remove their belts and line the sides of the table where we ate lunch. The honouree would be required to take a run toward one end of the table and slide its length on his abdomen. The other boys would pelt him with their belts.
These were held in the gymnasium – I believe weekly – at the beginning of the school day. The students from the various homerooms, in turn, were responsible for the conducting of them. It involved four or five students each time. I cannot recall all that would take place. However, when there was singing, the orchestra accompanied. One time, a Canadian poet was the guest.
At one end of the gymnasium, a portion of the floor could be raised a short distance to form a stage at the front. The student body stood throughout an assembly. The boys were on the west side, and the girls were on the east side. Grade 9 students were at the front, and grade 13 students were at the back. Staff member usually stood along one side.
On an evening in early autumn, the graduating ceremonies when high school certificates were presented, would take place. Since most students were not far away, they would be able to attend. However, in my case, I could not attend since I was teaching school in Manitoba after spending a summer in a crash course in teacher training. My certificate was forwarded to me by Mr. Stevens.
University of Western Ontario
This was our closest university. One autumn day, through prior arrangements, the grade 13 students were given a tour of the campus as some students would be attending there the next year. I obtained my degree elsewhere, but one of our sons obtained his here.
In the morning, we were taken on a tour of the buildings and, among other things, saw some classes in progress. In the afternoon, we attended a football game at Little Stadium between this university’s juniors and the juniors from McMaster University, Hamilton. At night, we had a lecture at the observatory and were given the opportunity of viewing the stars through the large telescope. I recall that the professor pointed out, in passing, that he was a co-author of our analytical geometry text. We were shown how the dome opening was moved to coincide with the earth’s rotation. Earlier in the day, we had been shown how sunspots could be viewed without looking at the sun.
In order to graduate, each student was required to write eight final examinations that had been sent to every high school in Ontario that had a grade 13 class. Honours students were required to write nine. Because I had to catch up with grade 12 Latin, Mr. Halpenny set up for me a schedule of five grade thirteen subjects for the first year and seven for the second year. This provided me with more than what was required to graduate.
The timetable for the finals was the same for every school in the province. Depending on the subjects taken during the year, a student could have no, one, or two examinations to write in a given day. At the appropriate time, the supervising teacher was given an envelope containing the papers of the subject for that hour (9:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.). That teacher and at least one student had to sign it across the sealed flap, showing that it had not been opened previously. Then the envelope was slit open and the papers handed out. We had three hours to write. No one could enter after the first hour, and no one could hand in the finished paper before the end of the first hour. Thus, after we entered, it was not possible to leave until the paper was handed in.
I can remember a few types of questions asked. On the English composition paper, the first question was a test of our knowing the meaning of a specified number of listed words of the English language. There was also an essay with a few topics from which to choose, which was worth the most marks. Three faulty sentence structures in that essay constituted a failing mark. The history paper had five questions, with some choice, four of which required essay answers. The first question required short answers. There was no multiple choice or true/false on any paper. Abstract data was given in some papers, for example, algebra and botany. The grades allowed by the department were as follows: I , II, III, and C. Anything below 50% (less than a C) meant failure. Difficult as the examinations were, I received a passing grade on all.
In 1949, we used a classroom at the west side of the building, mainly because the construction of the first addition on the east end had commenced. We managed to concentrate despite some noise. In later years, other additions brought the school out almost to the street in front, thus eliminating the lawn that I knew.
Staff and Graduate Banquet
At the end of each of the school years, there was a supper for the teaching staff and the graduating students. It was held in the library. I believe that the caterers used the Home Economics classroom almost across the hall as a kitchen. I was invited to attend both years, even though I really did not graduate until the second year. Each student was presented with a small pin with chain that had the year and the Aylmer High School name and crest upon it. I cannot recall anything else that transpired that evening.
(This page was updated in December 2012.)