IFSS Centre Block Falls Into History
by Alice Gray-Donald Appeared in The Enterprise (Iroquois Falls, Ontario) on February 14, 1990
The last remaining walls of the original building of Iroquois Falls Secondary School are being torn down to make room for an addition to the school. Part of this addition will include a new 400-seat auditorium which will be located in the former centre block of the school.
One of the school's former students; Noreen Boyle, was able to capture the history of the school before all of the original building was torn down. Boyle originally wanted to do an essay on the architecture of the school for her grade ten history class due to her interest in old buildings. However, she had a difficult time getting enough information and decided to do the project on the history of the high school instead including each of the additions and renovations of the school. Boyle spent between two to three weeks poring over old yearbooks and talking to school staff, as well as Dorothy Cournoyer, curator of Iroquois Falls Pioneer Museum. She received a great deal of help from Bill Allan, Vice-Principal of the school and Rick Gaudreau, head of the audio-visual department, who made a videotape of the remaining section of the school before it was torn down. Boyle plans to use some sections of the video to further illustrate her project.
During her research, Boyle discovered some surprising things about the school and its history. She was surprised to learn that part of the original school burnt down the night before the first day of classes. She was further amazed by the fact that the school had at one time, a total of 1,157 students and that some of the school's past sports teams had won the NOSSA championship title. Boyle was kind enough to share much of her information with The Enterprise.
The history of the Iroquois Falls Secondary School dates as far back as 1915. During that year, a tar paper shack was built to house a primary school for 23 students. Although another shack was added in 1916, classes soon overflowed to Orange Hall. Plans were made to construct a building large enough to accommodate high school students who were then studying at Monteith Academy.
The new school was completed and ready for occupancy by September 1920. However, the night before it was to open, a fire destroyed a large section of the building. The damage was soon repaired and the school year began at a later date under the direction of the school's first principal, Major John Day. In 1921, the school name was changed to Iroquois Falls Continuation School after grades nine and ten were added to the curriculum. A total of 15 high school students were enrolled during that year. Mr. N. C. Mansell took over as principal in 1923 and stayed with the school until 1935.
Enrolment grew to 84 students in 1931 when G. D. Adams became secretary-treasurer of the school board. Two full-time and one part-time teacher were employed at the school. Fifth form (Grade 13) was added to the school curriculum in 1932 causing the student enrolment to soar to 123 students. The school was credited as a full-fledged high school in 1935. During that same year, G.W. Cushie succeeded Mansell as school principal. E.T. Palmer joined the teaching staff in 1936.
The school began one of its longest standing traditions in 1936 with the establishment of its Literary Society Scholarship Fund. The fund was established under the direction of a small group consisting of Cushie, Adams, J. Cuthell, Dr. A. Boyd, A.J. Kelly and C.H. Stevenson. During the war, the school organized its own cadet corps training and aircraft spotting group nand was very active in the promotion of War Savings Stamps. One hundred and ninety-four former students served in the war.
The school numbered 213 students and ten full-time staff when V. E. Eisenbach joined the teaching staff in 1946. The school underwent the first of several extensions that year adding two classrooms to each end of the second floor. One of these rooms was used for commercial courses and the first graduation of commercial students took place in 1948. The building underwent its second renovation and extension in 1951 with the addition of a gymnasium, technical shop, home economics classroom and lunchroom. At that time, the student population included several students from Matheson and other outlying areas. In 1955, the senior class held the school's first spring prom in the new gymnasium.
G. Watkinson supervised the school's third addition shortly after becoming principal in 1956. The addition included two science laboratories, one classroom, a library and larger lunchroom. During the same year, the school board was reorganized to include representation from Calvert Township. The new board was headed by C.W.R. Day, as chairman and included W. Layte, G. Gelinas, J. G. McCharles, W. Sutherland and T. Landry.
The school's athletic and art departments flourished during the 1950's and 1960's. The school won the Northern Ontario Secondary School Association "B" basketball championship title in 1957, 1958 and 1959. The school also won the NOSSA "B" football championship title in 1958. The school won the N.O.S.S.A. championship title in football, basketball, track and field and cross-country running in 1964 and 1965, the N.O.S.S.A. "A" championship title in track and field and the All-Ontario Championship title in cross-country running, both in 1966.
The school also succeeded in the arts department. In 1964, the school won first prize in the Northern Ontario Collegiate Drama Festival. The next year, one of the students, Simone Doucet, won the award for best actress of the festival. Sharon Adamson won the Junior High Division of the Provincial Public Speaking Contest in 1965 which was sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion.
Another honour was bestowed on the school in 1961 when G.D. Adams received the Lamp of Learning award by the Ontario Federation of Secondary School Teachers for having made the most significant contribution to the cause of education in Ontario that year. In 1961, there were a total of 381 students and more emphasis was being placed on improving the school's commercial, technical and occupational courses. Between 1965 and 1968, the school underwent its largest extension which included the addition of administration offices, a new technical wing, classroom wing and a cafeteria.
Enrolment escalated between 1965 and 1970 and by that year, there were 1,157 students. Enrolment was expected to peak in 1978 with predicted population of 1,555 students. However, enrolment started to decrease in 1971 with the mechanization of Abitibi-Price and the declining birth rate.
The School Bell Project
Our school bell, cast in 1917 in Philadelphia, is the original bell, calling students to class in the Public School, built in 1919. The school burnt down the night before opening classes and was rebuilt by 1921.
Formal education began in Iroquois Falls in 1915. The first principal was Major John Day. The school become Iroquois Falls Continuation School in 1921 when Grades 9 and 10 were added. Previous to this all high school courses were taught at the Monteith Academy. Elementary Students were on the first floor and were summoned to class by this bell. Secondary Students were on the second floor. Enrolment continued to grow until in 1932 when Grade 13 was added. The School became Iroquois Falls High School in 1935 and Iroquois Falls Secondary School in 1968, when the existing complex was build.
The bell remained in the bell tower until 1990, when the original school was torn down and replaced by the Boyle Auditorium. The bell was stolen briefly by a visiting football team in 1964 and went missing for a few years in the 1990's. It was restored in 2008 by the IFSS manufacturing class and mounted in the fall of that year.
The bell is a lasting symbol for the institutions of learning that continue to teach and inspire students on this historic site in Iroquois Falls.
This is the plaque that has been placed beside the original bell outside Iroquois Falls Secondary School