Oral history program focuses on Hatzic elementary

They’ll bring the pictures, you bring the memories to Lifetime Learning’s oral history program focusing on 100 years of history at Hatzic Elementary School.

Next Tuesday (Oct. 18), former students, teachers and Hatzic families can share those memories, and meet former classmates at Carrington House from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The program will begin with an overview of the early years when the two-room school was built for $3,000.

Children from the McEwen, Kirkpatrick, Watkins, Bradner and Ketcheson families formed the first classes in 1911, with teachers Miss E. Sterling and Miss Alice Horseman. The list of students over the years includes many well-known local families — Cox, Catherwood, Lawrence, Phare, Slack, and others.

No one remembers those first few decades, but many people have fond memories of their years at Hatzic.

“Back in the ’30s, there wasn’t much — just a few bats and balls, a couple of swings, and lots of room to run around,” recalls one early student. “Sometimes we had to share books, and if you broke a pencil, you just had to do without. There just weren’t all the extras that today’s kids enjoy. But we had fun, and made many friends — some still stay in touch today.”

Former students also remember coming to school in 1942 and finding that all the Japanese students were gone; they and their families had been sent east of the Rockies because of the Second World War.

Over the years, the Mission school district expanded and enrolments increased. In 1954, one room was added to the school, new water chlorination was installed, and in 1959 a two-room addition was built for $33,026. Aboriginal students, who had formerly attended St. Mary’s Indian Residential School were gradually integrated into public school and by 1978, another three-room expansion was needed. When the tender was awarded to a non-union company from Sardis, the local Construction and General Labourers Union held an “information picket” outside the school board office to point out that over 30 local union carpenters were unemployed and available. Construction went ahead, at a cost of $106,425.

From the beginning, a very active Parent Teacher Association was raising money for Christmas treats, sports days, and playground equipment. School concerts were a popular highlight to showcase students’ talents; in 1978, the intermediate choir won first place in the Upper Fraser Valley Music Festival in Chilliwack. The school also encouraged many successful athletes, bringing home ribbons and trophies from local and regional competitions.

Anyone who was involved at Hatzic is invited to attend and share what you remember about your teachers (good and bad), the field trips, your role in school plays and music programs, and sports teams. If you worked on any of the construction over the years, stood in the picket line, drove a school bus, or organized a fundraiser, organizers want to hear from you.

Copies of the Hatzic Centennial Memory Book will be available. And yes, you can bring your favourite pictures to share, along with your memories.

The Oral History program at Lifetime Learning currently includes over 130 tapes that capture the early memories of Mission people and places. If you would like to volunteer in the program, call 604-820-0220.

– Submitted by Sharon Syrette